Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lake Eola at night.

I did This sketch before the Orlando Drink and Draw (ODD) at Falcon Bar and Gallery (819 E Washington St, Orlando, FL). I got to Falcon Bar early and it wasn't open yet. So, with an hour to kill, I walked to Lake Eola to do a nocturnal sketch. The park had Christmas light decorations up and the loud speakers were blaring sappy holiday tunes. I wonder how these ducks, swans, geese and grebes can stand listen to the mall music all day. They must feel like disgruntled store employees who have to listen to the same music over and over again during the holidays.

A lone man with a backpack was feeding the ducks, so he became my reason to stop and sketch. There are signs all around the lake that stress that the ducks and swans are on a very strict diet. Feeding them bread is harmful their health. That doesn't stop well meaning people who perhaps can't red or don't care.

In 2010 about nine swans were stolen from Lake Eola. Four swans were recovered from an exotic-animal rescue in Lake Butler, a small town about 30 miles north of Gainesville. The birds had been purchased for $700. The owner of the animal rescue was in shock. He was not a suspect in the theft. The birds were easy to identify because they each have an embedded micro chip. One of the birds, a blind black Australian swan named Bruno, has lived at Lake Eola for years. That same year, two suspects stole two docile black swans by corralling them into their car. These two swans were recovered and returned to the lake.

In 2011 Goeffre Peter Smart, 24, stole a large white swan. A witness saw him walk in down Robinson street with the swan. A trail of fed the lead the police straight to the suspects home  in the Eola Heights neighborhood at 1023 Ridgewood Street about three blocks from Lake Eola. The swan was in Smart's backyard unharmed. It is safe to say Smart wasn't that smart. He faced charges of grand theft, grand theft of a commercially farmed animal, being in a park after hours and animal cruelty. His bail was set at $3,050.

In 2012 Another man, John Wynne, waded into the lake and sieved a black swan named Ruffles by the neck and pulled it to shore. He held the bird hanging by its neck and said to passers by, "Hey look at this.'' He was charged with animal cruelty and grand theft with a $1,000 bond.  He was about to face trial when a key witness backed out, and Wynne walked free. In 2013, Lawrence Labonte, 51, was accused of deliberately allowing his dog to attack one of the iconic swans at Lake Eola Park, named Joe, who later had to be euthanized. He unleashed his Dachshund and encouraged it to attack. A witness took photos of the attack and Lawrence's face. So what is the penalty for cruelty to animals in Orlando? From my quick research, it is just a $5000 fine.  In none of the above cases, did I read about a conviction.

In researching the history of abuse and theft it becomes clear that the captive Lake Eola swans face danger every day from the citizens of Orlando. This is animal abuse or par with keeping Killer Whales in captivity at Sea World. About 40 swans have been kept at Lake Eola since the 1920s. Does this history of cruelty date that far back? I bet it does. If swans attack, they have every reason to defend themselves. The swans have had their wings clipped, an amputation that prevents them from flying and escaping from danger. If the swans had all their flight feathers, they certainly wouldn't stay at Lake Eola.

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