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Tag: monkeys

Maniacs, monkeys and the Motel 6

 

In a way, this might not be the best time to sing the praises of Motel 6 – it being in the news now for leaving the light on for one Jared Lee Loughner.

Authorities say the Tucson man rented a room from America’s most affordable motel chain to plot the final steps of the horrific shooting spree that left six dead and 14 wounded, including U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords.

In another way, though, there’s probably no better time to stand up for a dependable, if imperfect, friend than when that friend is being tarnished with the broad brush of guilt by association.

A recent Washington Post story started out this way: “Room 411, a king-bed single in a dark and grimy Motel 6 near the railroad tracks on the western edge of Tucson, served as the staging ground for Jared Loughner’s series of pre-dawn errands before last Saturday’s shooting spree outside a suburban supermarket here.”

Pretty good writing, and — assuming it was really “dark and grimy” — nothing wrong with it, unless you’re Motel 6, in which case you find yourself, through no fault of your own, in the thick of a dark and grimy story you’d rather have no part of.

So I’m here — even though it has always been Tom Bodett’s job — to speak up for Motel 6, a topic on which I consider myself an authority. What makes me such an expert?

In the last eight months, my dog and I have stayed in Motel 6′s in Biloxi, Mississippi; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana;  Flagstaff, Holbrook, Yuma and Tucson, Arizona; Tucumcari and Albuquerque, New Mexico;  Oklahoma City and Midwest City, Oklahoma; Lewisville, Dallas, Hunstville and Houston, Texas; Greensboro, Statesville and Raleigh, North Carolina; Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia.; New Cumberland, Pennsylvania; Niantic, Connecticut; Portland and Bangor, Maine; Syracuse, New York; Brattleboro, Vermont; Fargo, North Dakota; Billings and Butte, Montana; Spokane and Kirkland, Washington; Coos Bay, Oregon; Ukiah, Monterey, San Bernadino and Bakersfield, California; and Russellville, Arkansas.

Seventy nights in all.

Crime struck only twice, and only in the most minor of ways, both times in Texas when ohmidog! door magnets were removed from my Jeep — one in Lewisville, one in Huntsville. Then again, with a 130-pound dog at your side, folks tend to not mess with you.

During our 22,000 miles of travels, I poked a lot of fun at the chain, with its bare bones ambience, and near total lack of amentities. They’re not always in the greatest of neighborhoods. Their pools aren’t always pristine, or even open, or even there anymore. There are no ”continental” breakfasts, or in-room coffee makers at the Motel 6. You can walk to the lobby and serve yourself some, but it’s in tiny Sytrofoam cups that are empty by the time you get back to your room.

The quality varies widely from motel to motel, and the only consistency, chain-wide, is in the spartan furnishings and the tacky polyester bedspread. You get a small bar of Motel 6 soap, a couple of plastic disposable cups and, if you’re lucky, an ice bucket. I’ve gotten rooms without chairs, without hot water and, several times, with remote controls from which the batteries had been removed.

If there is a step that can be taken to conserve costs, Motel 6 has taken it.

And yet, as basic and humdrum as staying at the Motel 6 became for me (and maybe Ace, too), while there were nights I thought checking into another of its lookalike rooms would send me over the brink, I love Motel 6 — for two reasons.

It is consistently dog friendly, with no fees for pets and no restrictions on size or breeds. Most of the motel staff we encountered — with the exception of one employee who shrieked and ran away when encountering Ace — seem to like dogs. There were so many times that desk clerks passed him treats over the counter that Ace now jumps up and puts his front paws on any counter he encounters.

And it is consistently cheap — almost always under $50, often under $40, sometimes under $30.

On our trip, Motel 6 served as a huge comfort to me. Not the rooms, necessarily, but knowing it was there, in most towns, to take me in when others would turn me away because of my dog, or charge pet fees that nearly doubled the cost of a room, or just plain charge too much for our budget.

More important, it’s there for the growing masses who — foreclosed upon, laid off, or otherwise caught up in some bad luck — can get out of the cold for less than the cost of a tank of gasoline.

In a way, by not catering to the more upscale crowd, Motel 6 provides a public service — especially during the down economy. We met more than a few people who, with nowhere else to go, were calling their motel room home for now.

That Motel 6′s are more likely to be the scene of crime or other malfeasance is to be expected — in the same way poor neighborhoods have more problems than rich ones. People with criminal records and drug histories, people who are economically desperate or just plain desperate, end up there more often than, say, the Hilton.

Motel 6 deserves no blame or ridicule in connection with the shooting spree in Tucson. (Let’s save that for Sportsman’s Warehouse, where Loughner bought his Glock, and the Arizona lawmakers who have worked to make gunslinging so easy achievable in that state.)

I did a Google news search on Motel 6 earlier this week, and found most of the stories that popped up were, as I expected, about crimes: a man found bound and gagged inside a Motel 6 in Utah, an attempted robbery at a Motel 6 in Kansas, a man and woman arrested for using their Motel 6 room to print counterfeit money with an inkjet printer, a couple arrested with  2,000 illegally obtained pain and anti-anxiety pills at a Motel 6 in Alabama, a woman arrested on a prostitution charge after allegedly propositioning a plainclothes officer to join her in her Motel 6 room in Iowa.

One of the few non-crime stories that mentioned Motel 6 was about a colony of wild vervet monkeys, some of whom have chosen to live behind a Motel 6 in Dania Beach, Florida.

Nobody’s sure how the monkeys ended up in South Florida. Some say they are descendants of those used in a Tarzan episode once filmed there; some believe they are descendants of monkeys bred for research that helped lead to a cure for polio.

In any case, at least two of the monkeys live behind the Dania Beach Motel 6, where motel visitors look forward to watching them come out each afternoon. I’m guessing the monkeys find the Motel 6 guests equally entertaining.

What’s great about Motel 6 is its total lack of snobbiness. Desk clerks don’t look down their noses at you, or crinkle it up when you have a dog along. If you have credit card or cash, you’re in, which is as it should be.

It’s not a motel’s job — at least one at the bargain basement level — to monitor or screen its customers.

For business that are selling guns, as opposed to a night on a mattress, there is more of an obligation to screen customers, or at least there should be, in my view.

Motels 6′s don’t kill people. Guns do. Any monkey knows that.

(Vervet photo by Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald)

PETA seeks probe of Texas researchers

PETA has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for an immediate investigation of how the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston is treating the dogs, monkeys, sheep, goats, ferrets and mice being used in experiments.

PETA says a whistleblower has informed them that the animals are being intentionally burned, mutilated, and cut open for experiments the organization describes as “cruel.” Also at issue, PETA says, are claims that the animals are receiving inadequate veterinary care, and are being neglected and handled carelessly by improperly trained staff.

The unidentified whistleblower told PETA that researcher Daniel Traber has subjected sheep, pigs, and mice to third-degree burns on up to 40 percent of their bodies and forced the animals to inhale smoke from burning cotton. UTMB experimenters also intentionally caused spinal cord and sciatic nerve injuries in sheep, PETA says.

“Our source also reports the following: UTMB faculty members cut open dogs and surgically implanted tubes into their colons for irritable bowel experiments. One dog reportedly died during surgery, and another died in pain following surgery when staff members did not provide anesthetics and were apparently unable to use the monitoring equipment correctly.”

PETA says it has has repeatedly reached out to UTMB through letters and phone calls to discuss the alleged violations, but has gotten no response. A PETA petition urges  UTMB to “immediately conduct a thorough investigation of the university’s laboratories and dismiss any employees whose incompetence, negligence, or outright cruelty are found to have contributed to increased pain and misery for animals.”

PETA highlighted Traber, of UTMB Department of Anesthesiology, two years ago in its “Vivisector of the Month” column, which reported that:

“Traber … has made a living for almost three decades by burning animals’ skin off. In a recent experiment, he either torched mice with a Bunsen burner until more than 40 percent of their bodies was charred or forced them to inhale smoke. A few select mice got the full treatment—they were both burned and forced to inhale smoke. Some died during the experiment, and survivors were subsequently killed.

“In another study, Traber heated an aluminum bar to nearly 400 degrees with a Bunsen burner and roasted the skin of live pigs on it for 30 seconds, creating a series of deep burns that covered 15 percent of their bodies. In order to repair the deliberately injured animals, Traber and colleagues then removed skin from the pigs’ legs to graft over the areas that had been burned off. After living through all this torture, the pigs were killed. Again, this is only his most recent work—Traber has been burning, mutilating, and killing sheep for years.”

Welcome to the monkey house

The Humane Society of the United States says a 9-month undercover investigation has revealed routinely unlawful mistreatment of hundreds of chimpanzees and other primates in a federally funded research project at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana.

As a result, HSUS has forwarded a 108-page complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alleging at least 338 possible violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act at the center. The law sets minimal standards for the treatment of animals in labs.

The HSUS covertly videotaped the lab, gathering evidence of severe distress of primates in isolation, including self-mutilation — tearing gaping wounds into their arms and legs in what the HSUS says could be a result of the center’s failure to provide adequate environmental enhancement.

In addition, the report says, dart guns and squeeze cages are shown causing acute psychological distress to chimpanzees and monkeys.

“These experiments come at an enormous short-term and long-term expense to taxpayers, and an even greater expense in suffering and anguish to chimpanzees and other primates forced to live in this pitiful laboratory,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO.

“Our investigation found an abject failure on NIRC’s part to attend to the psychological well-being of primates as dictated by law, a lax USDA attitude about enforcing that law, and a knowing and gross violation of the federal government’s pledge to stop breeding more chimpanzees for research.”

The center cages about 6,000 monkeys and 325 chimpanzees on its 100 acres, but in the span of nine months, an HSUS investigator saw only about 20 of the chimpanzees used in active studies. The majority of chimpanzees at the facility appeared to be warehoused or used for breeding – at a time of fiscal crisis and when no other developed nation uses chimpanzees in experiments.

The chimps in New Iberia are among more than 1,000 chimps kept in laboratories across the United States, HSUS says.

Part of the the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the New Iberia Research Center is located on a former naval base outside of New Iberia, Louisiana.