No rescue for Ashley Pond fish

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Yesterday at the grocery store I stopped at the customer service counter to ask if someone could maybe water the plants outside. It was hot and they were really droopy. 

The lady was nice and she said she would try. We started talking and I mentioned that watching the plants wither bothered me after what had happened at Ashley Pond — all the fish and crayfish having been bagged in burlap and taken off to the Eco-Station.

The lady at the counter said “no, no” and insisted she had seen them netted and heard they were rescued. I told her that this was, unfortunately, a rumor. All the fish and all the crayfish were killed. Unlike the ducks, they did not get to live happily ever after. 

A lot of people who followed what happened at Ashley Pond a couple of weeks ago might say that the mass slaughter was necessary because the fish were “diseased.” 

This idea appeared in the local newspaper. The pond’s non-feathered life was portrayed as being everything short of radioactive. 

Diseases mentioned included staph, E-coli, giardia and fish tuberculosis. Whoa! Because of the severity of the near cesspool situation described to them, local rescuers were not permitted, despite long days of letters, phone calls and e-mails to offer new homes for the animals. The situation was portrayed as being simply too dangerous.

Pretty scary huh? I, personally, had written every county councilor, talked with various county officials, and shared information with other animal advocates. Only two councilors even took the time to respond to my queries: Kristin Henderson and David Izraelevitz. 

Everyone, except for some in the local animal rescue community, seemed to believe the same story though — that the animals were too sick to save. Somehow, though, I found this difficult to believe. 

My family had fed the ducks and fish at the Elks Easter Egg Hunt and I was amazed at the abundance of schools of healthy little fish gobbling up our breadcrumbs. They sure didn’t look sick to me. 

When I pushed hard to find out precisely which diseases were present in the pond in the days before it was drained, I was amazed to discover that no actual lab tests had been performed. No animals were tested. As far as I could determine, a lab employee/amateur aquarian walked around the pond a bit and concluded that disease was present because the water did not smell fresh enough. 

Anecdotal stories circulated about people taking fish home to their aquariums and ponds with all sorts of grotesque consequences.

One might expect, however, that in a town full of scientists a more scientific method might have been used to prevent the mass slaughter of animals. Anecdotal stories and one amateur aquarian who performed no actual lab tests hardly warranted throwing around words like staph and tuberculosis.

Local animal advocates and rescuers do amazing work. Lots of people take in cats and dogs. Some people take in snakes injured by roaming cats, or simply no longer wanted as pets. 

Others take in birds hit by cars. My family definetly has our share. Pet Pangaea has a wonderful board, which hooks up homeless pets with new homes. There was no dearth of space, or love had the county agreed to accept the assistance of local rescuers. 

It simply was easier to kill everything. Not the ducks of course. Ducks have “buddies.” It’s just a bit too gruesome to stuff the little quackers into burlap and cart them off to the dump. 

So what’s to be done? No one can really attend every county council or CIP meeting. When I heard Ashley Pond was being renovated, I simply assumed it would be done in an ethical manner. I thought I had read in the Los Alamos Monitor last year that the Pajarito Environmental Education Center was involved. When I stopped at the PEEC booth in early June at Chamberfest and asked if they were assisting to re-house the pond’s current residents, they were not. The lady working said PEEC wanted the pond to be “more natural.” Whatever.

The situation is sad. Had county officials simply trusted local animal advocates to be the responsible, compassionate citizens I know them to be, things could have been different. 

Instead we were handled as if we were well-intentioned fools.

Lynn Hanrahan

Los Alamos

Well said Lynn!

Thank you Lynn for expressing my thoughts on this subject so well!