If We Could Talk to the Animals...

If you listen carefully as you lie in bed tonight, and if the wind is blowing just right, you may be able to hear an extraordinary chorus of animal noises drifting in from south Broward County. Not the usual nocturnal screeching and caterwauling of the wild, but the joyous sounds of celebration.

In a bold and progressive stroke of municipal government, the City of Hollywood has decided that mankind's reign of vehicular terror on the lower phyla must come to an end. Declaring "No More Roadkill!" the city's leaders, in the past few weeks, have had all city vehicles outfitted with sonic devices that warn animals of their impending doom.

The small, cone-shaped "Animal Avoidance Device" is attached to the vehicle's front bumper, fender, or side mirror, among other possible locations. When traveling at speeds greater than 30 miles per hour, the contraption produces high-frequency sound waves as air passes through it. Most animals reportedly hear the ultrasonic signals (most humans do not) and sprint quickly for roadside cover. The mechanism's manufacturer claims that particularly alert animals can pick up the warning more than a mile away. Available for only a few bucks, it's an ingenious and sophisticated piece of modern technology -- or, depending on how you look at it, just a glorified dog whistle.

The decision to install the implement was the initiative of Hollywood City Commissioner Cathleen Anderson, an eighteen-year veteran on the commission and an avowed animal welfare activist who recalls with no small amount of horror that a bird once smashed into her car windshield. "I take all the animal magazines and I'd seen the devices advertised there," Anderson recalls. "They've been used for years in towns up north and in Canada." About a year ago she brought the issue before the commission, which approved the purchase by unanimous vote. Anderson blames the typically slow-turning wheels of bureaucracy for the delay in implementation. "It takes a long time for cities to do things," she shrugs.

In addition to utilizing the animal-friendly gizmos, which cost about two dollars a pair wholesale, the good city leaders of Hollywood have begun selling them to the public for five dollars a pair. (Who ever claimed animal welfare wasn't a profit-making industry?) Officials say it's too early to tell whether the gadget has reduced roadkill statistics. According to the director of Broward County Animal Control, the county scrapes about 5000 carcasses off its roads every year. By comparison Dade's roadkill specialists annually handle about 4500 animals who have met their maker under the tires of a car. As yet there is no indication that any Dade cities intend to institute similar safeguards, and no evidence of a mass animal migration to the potentially safer tracts of Hollywood.


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