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Here at the Bureau of Animal Alarm we have received a disturbing Associated Press photograph sent in by alert journalist Russ Williams of the Asheville, N.C., Citizen-Times (motto: "A Newspaper Whose Staff Has Too Much Spare Time"). This photo shows a goat, looking fairly calm under the circumstances, hanging by its horns from a rope going through a pulley attached to the side of a building. Two men in a window are holding the other end of the rope. Here is the caption:

"Spain -- A goat hangs by his horns from the bell tower of the church in Manganeses de la Polvorosa, some 200 miles northwest of Madrid. Villagers, who open the religious festival of St. Vincent by dropping a goat from the church belfry, attacked police who tried to block the tradition. The goat was uninjured as villagers caught the goat with a tarp."

As sensitive and broad-minded humans, we must never allow ourselves to be in any way judgmental of the religious practices of other people, even when these people clearly are raving space loons. We are sure that the people of Manganeses de la Polvorosa would be amused by some common American religious practices.

"We may drop goats from belfries," they'd probably say, "but at least we don't thank the Lord for touchdowns."

Nevertheless we here at the bureau feel that the Immigration authorities should keep a sharp lookout for Manganeses de la Polvorosa tour groups coming to the United States, particularly New York. Because they might decide to visit the Empire State Building, and while they're up on the observation deck they might suddenly smack their foreheads and realize that it's time to open the festival of St. Vincent, and the next day's New York Post might print the following tragic headline:




Another animal menace that we all need to be more concerned about is giant toilet snakes. This is a growing problem, as can be seen by the following statistics:

*Number of Articles About Giant Toilet Snakes We Received Prior to 1992: Zero.

*Number of Articles About Giant Toilet Snakes We Have Received in 1992: One.

Statistically, this represents an increase of infinity percent in the number of giant toilet-snake reports. The most recent one, sent by alert reader Jack Sowers, was written by reporter Mike Leggett for the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman. It concerns a man named Steve Ashenfelter, who used to manage an Oklahoma hunting and fishing club. One day he went into the clubhouse bathroom, and, in his words, "there was a big snake lying in the toilet. As soon as he saw me he just swirled around and went down the pipes."

So Ashenfelter did exactly what you would do; namely, he moved to another continent.

No, really, he followed standard toilet-snake procedure, which is to go around flushing the three clubhouse toilets in an effort to get the snake to come out.

"I went in the bathroom upstairs, and there he was, lying in the toilet up there," Ashenfelter recalled. "So I went and flushed all the toilets, and he came back up in the toilet where I saw him the first time."

Eventually Ashenfelter got the snake, but it took him two days, and he ended up using -- we are still not making this up -- two fishing poles, chlorine bleach, muskrat traps in all three toilets, an 8-foot piece of lumber, rope and heavy metal hooks. The snake turned out to be over 7 feet long.

We do not wish to create a nationwide panic, but apparently there is a new breed of large, commode-dwelling snakes that have figured out how to move from toilet to toilet, which means they could easily travel across the country via the Interstate Plumbing System.

Something must be done. One practical approach would be for the government to require all U.S. citizens to put muskrat traps in their commodes. The only problem here is that if the trap is not removed before commode usage, there could be severe consequences for guys of the male gender. On the other hand, many women might view this as a fair punishment for all the billions of times that guys have left the seat up. It's definitely something to think about as each of us, in his or her own way, prepares to celebrate the festival of St. Vincent..

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