Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pic of the Day: Red-breasted Robin

Another songbird I wish we had over here! :)


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pic of the Day: European Blue Tit Mouse

These are my favorite little birds! I with we had them over here. They are related to chickadees (which are my favorite of the North American songbirds)


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Feral Cats

As an avid conservationist, I am very interested in the protection of our natural places and wildlife species. One of the biggest threats to our wildlife is the feral cat population. Hardy, wily, and efficient hunters, the domesticated cat could easily be considered the most destructive and invasive of the non-native species that threaten our wildlife. Here is an article from Rhode Island where there is current debate on what to do about them:

It is heartening to see the recent interest in the feline and canine populations in Rhode Island. We are faced with many discouraging problems as we become more exposed to growing animal populations that have been losing their usual environments. Aside from our dogs and cats, deer, geese, vultures, coyotes and other populations of animal species sharing our environment have become pressing problems, with very little being done by the state to address them. We often provide forage for these populations with our lawns and golf courses. The loss of a predator population has exacerbated this.

State Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. has stated that he is withdrawing legislation regarding the feral-cat population because he “is starting to get some calls and complaints.” He also apparently will withdraw a “handful of other animal-related bills.” He goes on to state that he “can’t be chasing around feral cats when I’ve got people out of work.”

Yes, jobs, the economy and the state budget are certainly priorities.

But so is our public health and welfare. They can’t be put on a back burner, Senator. The feral cats are a definite health menace to people and their domestic pets. There are numerous diseases transmissible to man and other animals from feral cats. They also endanger our wildlife balance: It is well documented that cats take a heavy toll of our wild-bird population and other desirable species.

Veterinarians are very familiar with the sadness of having to destroy stray cats that are severely injured or mutilated by cars or other traumas. Our domestic-cat owners are urged to keep pets out of harm’s way by keeping them indoors. The rising coyote population in the state has been cited in urging owners not to let their beloved cats and small dogs roam. The American Veterinary Medical Association urges cat owners to keep their pets indoors.

Some reports indicate that the population of feral cats may be rising as irresponsible cat owners release their cats into the community when they can no longer afford to feed and maintain them. The studies of publicly supported spay and neuter clinics indicate that there is a drop initially in the feral population when the clinics comes on line, but in a short time, the population rises to its prior level. The checks and balances that occur in our wild populations of animals seem to account for many of the phenomena that we see in our feral-cat and -dog populations.

Emotional outbursts decrying measures to address this dangerous situation as “inhumane and outrageous” are not helpful or productive. That there is no rabies epidemic in our state is not comforting, since we know that there is an almost constant number of rabies cases in our state that threatens to expand into a much more dangerous problem.

A discussion of the problem of feral cats would really be helpful. A bill, such as proposed by our state veterinarian, Scott Marshall, should have the opportunity to be heard. But comparing the bill to a “Final Solution” lends little to rational discussion and will not contribute to any solution.

There are many concerns about importing dogs or other animals into Rhode Island without proper health and other safeguards. Knowing the environment where these animals originate can flag a potential hazard. These animals may not have been vaccinated or checked for the multitude of diseases that could threaten both the human and other animal populations. Even if examined and found to be without symptoms of disease, they may be in the incubation period of a disease, and a quarantine of such animals should be considered. State and federal regulations limit the importation of animals, but they are clearly inadequate, and some have loopholes that should be closed.

These issues should be considered in future legislation. The Department of Environmental Management’s recommendations need to be taken seriously. We should also confront other species with problems, indigenous to Rhode Island or not. Dr. Marshall’s call to form a working group is an excellent starting point.

Stan Fellenbaum, DVM, is a veterinarian in Narragansett.


picture source

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pythons in the Everglades

Florida's naturally and consistently warm climate allows for many species to thrive in the wild, even non-native ones. This causes a huge problem for local wildlife as people unable to care for their pets (especially large reptiles) turn them loose to fend for themselves. Of particular concern is the now thriving population of burmese pythons that inhabit the Everglades, a huge and constant threat to all of the wildlife that relies on that fragile habitat. These snakes can get so big that they have been documented to eat alligators!

Due to unseasonably cold weather over the winter, however, it is estimated that up to 90% of the these huge snakes may have died (though that was only documented from a total of 10 of these large snakes that are tracked with radio transmitters as a way to study them). There is fierce debate about ways to further decrease the population of these snakes, ranging from bans on owning them in the state to having a "snake hunting season."

Read more here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pic for Today: Sparrowhawk


Combat dogs take to the skies for secret missions in Afghanistan

(Article Link)

Two members of the Austrian special forces join Nato’s Operation Cold Response, one of Europe’s biggest military exercises, in Narvik, Norway.
Dropping from 10,000ft, they glide in order to land unnoticed. The dogs often carry cameras and are trained to attack anyone carrying a weapon.
“Dogs don’t perceive height difference, so that doesn’t worry them. They’re more likely to be bothered by the roar of the engines, but once we’re on the way down, that doesn’t matter and they just enjoy the view,” said the dog handler. “It’s something he does a lot. He has a much cooler head than most recruits.”
Commandos from 14 countries, including British special forces and Royal Marines, took part in the Nato exercise. The use of dogs in High Altitude High Opening missions was pioneered by America’s Delta Force, which trained the animals to breathe through oxygen masks during the jump.
The SAS has adapted similar techniques and, according to special forces sources, bought a number of American-trained dogs for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. The dogs used by the British are fitted with a head camera, allowing special forces to see inside insurgent compounds, and Kevlar body armour.
As well as reconnaissance, the animals are trained to attack anyone carrying a weapon, although it is claimed that they will not attack those who are unarmed.
Two SAS dogs are reported to have died on raids in Iraq. Thor and Scotty were killed in 2008 when British special forces waged a successful campaign to destroy al-Qaeda’s bombing networks in Baghdad. Both animals are remembered on a stone memorial at the SAS headquarters in Hereford.

Underwater Cat


Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rock Hopper Penguin Chick

A nice video from the St. Louis Zoo about a rockhopper penguin chick.

Monday, March 15, 2010

War Dog Wins Medal for Bravery

Article Link

The heroic nine-year-old black labrador twice averted catastrophe by seeking out rigged devices with his handler Sergeant Dave Heyhoe.
And today loyal Treo — who is now retired — was handed the highest honour for a military dog, the Dickin Medal, by animal charity PDSA.
Labrador Treo, a Army explosives search dog, now retired, who received the Dickin Medal, with his handler Sergeant Dave Heyhoe
Friends ... Treo with handler Sergeant Dave Heyhoe
Devoted Treo saw frontline action patrolling with soldiers in Sangin, Afghanistan, in 2008 — dashing into danger with his super-sensitive nose to sniff out deadly devices.
And his handler hailed the four-legged bomb detector at the special ceremony at the Imperial War Museum, London.
Sgt Heyhoe said: "Treo's work involves searching for arms and explosives out on the ground to the forefront of the troops.
"What we're trying to do is make sure there are no death-dealing agents out there to make sure there is no harm to the troops behind us.
"It's very important. We are part and parcel of the search element. We're not the ultimate answer but we are an aid to search.
"Another aid would be the metal detector - but Treo is a four-legged variety."
Treo and his handler have now returned to their former base 104 Military Working Dogs Support Unit, in North Luffenham, Rutland.
Sgt Heyhoe added: "Treo and I have been working together for the last five years.
"We started our time together in Northern Ireland, then moved to North Luffenham, where we then went out to Afghanistan in 2008."
On August 15 2008, Treo found a deadly "daisy chain" of IEDs that had been hidden at the side of a path.
And the gallant mut repeated the feat just one month later — saving more troops from death or injury.
Treo started his career at the Defence Animal Centre, based in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, when he was a year old.
He did 12 weeks training before going to Northern Ireland, where he worked for three years with his first handler before Sgt Heyhoe took over.
Doting Sgt Heyhoe said: "Basically, me and the dog have got to get a rapport. We've got to understand each other and without that we can't be effective on the ground.
"He must know when I want him to go somewhere to search, that's where he goes.
"Everyone will say that he is just a military working dog - yes, he is, but he is also a very good friend of mine. We look after each other."
Treo is the 63rd animal to receive the Dickin Medal — introduced by animal charity PDSA founder Maria Dickin in 1943 to honour the work of animals in war — and the 27th dog to receive the honour.
Since its introduction it has also been presented to 32 Second World War messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.
Sgt Heyhoe said the praise was symbolic for all dogs and their handlers working in warzones.
Major Chris Ham, officer commanding the Canine Division at the Defence Animal Centre, said dogs were playing an increasingly important role, particularly in Afghanistan.
He said: "It's being recognised more and more in this day and age that the key capability the armed explosives dog does have lies particularly in finding IEDs.
"They give a unique contribution to the troops on the ground searching for these devices on a daily basis.
"This medal is a unique honour for all of our dog handlers, particularly all the military working dogs and their handlers that are serving in Afghanistan."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Elephant Antics

Now almost seven months old, the Taronga Zoo's animated little elephant calf, Luk Chai, is growing up to be more than a handful. Thanks to keeper Bobby Jo Vial, we have these wonderful photos of Luk Chai taken a few months back. (article link) Luk chai baby elephant calf taronga zoo 1
Luk chai baby elephant calf taronga zoo 2
Luk chai baby elephant calf taronga zoo 3
Luk chai baby elephant calf taronga zoo strip

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cute Baby Meerkat

This adorable pair can be seen at the San Diego Park Zoo.

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Pet Choices?

Goats and chickens are all the rage right now as pets to have, especially in suburban areas. Many areas are looking at changing their regulations to allow these animals.

"Looking for a pet that can live in your urban yard, answers to its name, wears a leash for strolls — and might produce milk you can drink or turn into cheese?

Meet the miniature goat.

That's the case goat fans are making to city officials across the USA. Hillsboro, Ore., held three community meetings this year, including one last week, to ask residents whether goats and chickens should be added to a list of acceptable pets. City spokeswoman Barbara Simon says views run "more pro than con."

The Carbondale, Ill., Planning Commission was debating this month whether to allow residents to keep chickens when Priscilla Pimentel, a member of the city's Sustainability Commission, added goats to the mix.

"If you can have a 250-pound dog in town, why not a miniature goat that can produce milk?" she says. "It's just common sense." The Planning Commission hasn't made a recommendation yet." full article here

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pets Contribute to Good Health!

Pet Power! Good Animal Companions Enhance Human Health

Iolanda Celikkol knows the power of a good pet.

The Toronto-based 45-year-old suffers from osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, and she says were it not for her dog Rayne, a two-year-old Labrador retriever-Great Pyrenees mix, she likely wouldn't get out of her home during the day.

"Without my four-legged friend, I wouldn't do anything," she says. "She makes me more social, and she makes me more active."

A new study is finding many tangible physiological benefits to pet ownership.

Conducted by Erika Friedmann, a professor and human-animal interaction expert at the University of Maryland, the study followed Baltimore-area cat and dog owners over 50 years suffering from mild hypertension to determine the effect pets have on blood pressure levels.

Throughout Friedmann's study, pet owners were tracked every 20 minutes of their waking hours on three different days over a three-month period using ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. The participants also recorded how often their pets were with them.

After analysing her preliminary data, Friedmann says her findings are showing that pet owners had lower blood pressure when their pets were present in a variety of situations.

A recent report by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada revealing that high blood pressure and obesity have risen dramatically, especially among younger people, suggests more Canadians might benefit from a four-legged friend.

Friedmann has also conducted studies that found people of all ages experience reduced stress responses in mildly stressful situations when in the presence of a pet. For instance, her subjects felt more comfortable engaging in small talk when a friendly animal was present.

"The presence of a pet can moderate these responses and, if repeated over time, that has the potential to slow the development and the progression of hypertension (high blood pressure)."
Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University in Indiana, calls pets a positive distraction.

He says they are stimulating enough to hold our attention without being stressful.
"We're in the present (with a pet), and we can't worry about the past or the future -- so much of anxiety is the mind worrying about the past or the future."

Friedmann agrees, explaining a pet forces people to focus on something outside of themselves and their problems, even if only for a short time.

Having a furry companion around can also motivate people to exercise and increase fitness levels.
Rebecca Johnson, director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri, has been studying community residents of all ages who walk shelter dogs once a week, for the past four years.

Johnson found that if they participated in weekly walks, volunteers also increased their physical activity outside of the dog-walking program and felt motivated to think more about their personal fitness.
In a separate study, Johnson looked at residents from retirement facilities who walked shelter dogs five days a week for 12 weeks and compared them with other retirees who walked with human companions.
The study found the dog-walking group gradually increased their speed by 28 per cent, whereas the human walking group increased their speed by only four per cent.

In addition, the dog-walking group grew more enthusiastic and more motivated, requesting an earlier start so they could beat the heat and provide their dogs with longer walks.

The human group, in contrast, often discouraged each other from walking and complained about such factors as the heat, says Johnson.

"There are physical benefits if you make a commitment to your dog. You just have to realize animals need to be walked and reinforcement from the animals and exercise feels good."

Celikkol, whose physical limitations prevent her from working, is able to walk her dog and enjoy social interaction with Rayne at her local dog park.

She says owning a dog helps her relax, gives her a sense of security and makes her happier overall.
"She (Rayne) picks up my spirits. You know how you can depend on a family?" In the same way, she says,
"you can depend on a dog."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tickle Time!

This young gorilla is being raised by a surrogate mother after being abandoned by his biological mother at the San Francisco Zoo. Following are some more pictures of these great apes and how amazingly human they are in their interaction with their babies.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Animals and Lawyers

Another interesting article regarding whether animals need lawyers can be found here.

"If enough Swiss citizens check the "yes" box in a referendum to be held this Sunday, cats, chickens and pigs across Switzerland will be entitled to state-appointed legal representation.

The Swiss Animal Protection (STS) league, which gathered the 100,000 signatures required for the referendum to be held, hopes that appointing attorneys to represent animals in court will lead people to take infringements upon animal rights and animal abuse more seriously.

The canton (or state) of Zurich appointed the first animal-welfare attorney in 1992. But the model for the current initiative is Antoine Goetschel, a Zurich-based lawyer who was appointed to the position in 2007. In this function, Goetschel acts much like a public prosecutor, representing the state's interests in animal-welfare cases. Over the last three years, he has worked on wide array of cases, ranging from the one about the woman with 149 cats to the bizarre incident of the fish that a fisherman kept dangling on the line for too long.
Not everyone backs the plan. Farmers, hunters and pet breeders have voiced their opposition to the idea, believing it will result in more legislation and stricter rules, and some opponents have even launched a campaign called "No to the Useless Animal Lawyers.""

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Doggie Dental Disease

To those of you who own small breed dogs, it will come as no surprise to you that they are very susceptible to dental disease. A recent study found the following breeds as being the top 10 when it can to tooth problems:
  • Toy Poodle
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Maltese
  • Pomeranian
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Papillion
  • Standard Poodle
  • Dachshund
  • Havanese
 All dogs should have their teeth checked regularly to make sure there are no problems. If you have any of the above breeds, plan on having a dental cleaning yearly, if not twice a year!! And, even then, your dog may lose teeth.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Animal Abuser List

There is a national effort to create a list on animal abusers, according to this article.

"A nationwide campaign is under way to create mandatory state registries for convicted animal abusers, modeled after those in place for convicted sex offenders. The first such legislation may soon pass in California.

On Feb. 22, California state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, introduced a bill to create a publicly accessible registry for animal abusers. The legislation, Senate Bill 1277, would be the first in the nation, if it passes.

Anyone convicted of felony animal abuse could be tracked in a state database, which would serve to alert communities of the abuser in their midst and allow animal control officers to, for example, check if a convicted hoarder is taking on animals again. It would also allow animal shelters to perform background checks on potential adopters."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Large Animal Vet Problem

The Carolinas, like many states, are suffering from a shortage of large animal veterinarians.

Full article here.

North Carolina’s pork, poultry and livestock industries could face major challenges in coming years as the number of food animal veterinarians dwindles and a shortage looms.

Veterinarians are needed to care for and oversee food animals to ensure they remain healthy before being taken to the slaughterhouse. But fewer students nationally are going into food animal care, opting instead to go into companion animal practices.

North Carolina officials say there is not yet a shortage of vets within the Tar Heel State, but there are currently 18 counties with more than 25,000 food animals per veterinarian.

Monday, March 1, 2010

State vet cites euthanasia to cut feral cat numbers

Full article here.

One outraged animal-rights advocate is calling it the “Final Solution” for feral felines.

But Rhode Island’s top veterinarian says that efforts to reduce the state’s population of wild cats have fallen short, and that euthanasia may be the answer.

“I’m not a cat hater. I’m a vet. I’m cat lover,” said state veterinarian Scott Marshall. “I just don’t see another solution to it. The solutions we have tried are ineffective.”

Marshall says feral cats are a health risk to humans and other animals because of the diseases they potentially spread, including parasites, feline HIV and rabies, which has been detected in a few cats in the past few years. He has proposed requiring animal-control officers to impound “roaming and feral cats” and mandating that animal shelters accept them and put them to death.

Dennis Tabella, director of Defenders of Animals, calls the idea “inhumane and outrageous” and says that “no cat, domestic or feral, that spends time outdoors, will be safe.”

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sea Otter Pup

Here is some video of an adorable otter pup at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Red Panda Born

There may be no cuter animal than the Red Panda, and a new one was born at the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Vicious Dogs in Veteriary Settings

This week, the internet became inflamed from the story of a dachshund named "Spork." According to this article, Spork bit a veterinary technician and now faces "euthanasia or kenneling." He even has a Facebook page. The veterinarian is being defamed as incompetent and uncaring, and Spork and his owners are being portrayed as innocent victims of circumstance.

Sadly, even without knowing the particulars, it is very clear to me that this story has been misconstrued and blown out of proportion by the media. I don't know the veterinarian involved, but I definately sympathize with her. I'll list the inconsistencies and the problems that the media (and, apparently, the general public) do not understand.

1. First, it is important to realize that, if an animal bites anyone in a veterinary clinic, the practice owner is liable. Though slightly different in different states, this fact is widely understood in the veterinary community and precautions are made to minimize the risks. Even an owner that walks into the waiting room and is bit or scratched by their own pet can hold the vet liable, as inane as that sounds. It is for that reason that most veterinary clinics enforce rules such as making sure all animals are properly leashed or confined in a carrier at all times, and that only the hospital staff is allowed to hold any animals for treatment, even if it is something simple. The veterinary staff is trained in ways to safely restrain animals to minimize the risk of injury to any humans or pets around, and workman's comp insurance will cover injuries to staff but not to a client. Even with precautions, occasionally someone will get injured.

2. Secondly, most communities require the reporting of any animal-related injuries, especially if the person bit seeks medical treatment. I do not know how severely this tech was bitten, but many animal bites require copious flushing plus antibiotics if not stitches and the like. The report is made to the local animal control or whatever the local authority is that monitors such things. Then, depending on the community, several routes are taken. For example, in my community, if a dog bites someone, they need to be quarantined for rabies (more on that later) for a period of time, even if they have a recent vaccination. If an animal bites three people causing injury, he may be deemed "vicious" by the city and potentially face euthanasia. Though I am having difficulty wading through the gobs of hype related to this issue and finding out exactly what the regulations in this community are, I have a feeling the vet did as she was supposed to do in reporting the incident and it is the city's business what the next step is.

3. Thirdly, a word or two about rabies...The biggest fear whenever an animal bites someone is the spread of rabies. Though it is very rare now due to good vaccination protocols, rabies is still around. Rabies is always (for all intents and purposes) fatal and hugely difficult to test for. The only was you can test for rabies is with brain, it is always a post mortem diagnosis.

However, for all of its difficulties, rabies follows a fairly predictable course. When an animal is bit, the virus is transmitted via the saliva into the blood and nerve cells of the animal. It then travels via nerve sheaths to the brain. Distance does animal bit on the face will develop rabies faster than an animal bit on it's hind leg due to the proximity to the brain. The virus must enter the brain and multiply before it is then shed in the saliva. So, for an animal to transmit rabies, it must be present in the brain first.

For this reason, in most cases, animals that bite someone are put in a 10-day quarantine (at home or in a veterinary clinic, depending on the community and the situation). The reason for this is, if an animal bites you and is shedding rabies at that time, it will be dead or showing signs of rabies within 10 days. The only other way to test for rabies it by sampling the brain so if the animal cannot be quarantined for some reason, they may be euthanized. This is important because, if a person is bitten by a rabid animal, treatment must be started (which is both painful and expensive) ASAP or the bitten person risks contracting the disease.

4. Any dog can bite...and will! No matter the size or breed of the dog, there are circumstances that will trigger even the nicest dog to feel threatened and, if they cannot flee they will fight. Circumstances are everything!!! Small dogs can bite just as easily as big dogs, but the difference is that big dogs are much more likely to cause serious injury. In my experience, smaller dogs can be harder to restrain than some bigger dogs, so sometimes the risk of biting is greater when dealing with small dogs. Dachshunds are especially tricky because they can be a "bitey" breed (related to their history as being bred as hunters of aggressive badgers), and their anatomy puts their very long nose very near you, especially if you are trying to do something like take a blood sample from their jugular vein or placing an IV catheter in their front leg.
There is a substantial difference between a "normal" dog bite and a bite from a dog that can truly be deemed a "vicious" dog. My own dachshund bit me once. I had him at the clinic for something and it was slow appointment-wise, so I decided to practice performing an abdominal ultrasound on him. He was terrified and I could see it, but I ignored it. Abdominal ultrasound is uncomfortable, but not painful, so I figured he could handle it. Since I ignored his signs, he escalated his behavior and bit my hand. It was nowhere near a serious bite, and I think he and I were equally as surprised. However, it was completely (1) predictable and therefore preventable, and (2) controlled and appropriate to the situation. Those two points are what make that bite "acceptable" versus the unacceptable bite of a truly vicious dog.

The bottom-line of this story is that we do not have all the facts. There are clearly extenuating circumstances in Spork's case that are not being adequately aired and recognized. Spork would not be facing euthanasia for biting one person once unless there is some very serious issue the we don't know about.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Antiobiotic Use in Agriculture

A veterinarian's perspective on the issue: (link)

By Alyn M. McClure, DVM with Herd Health Management, LP

Recently, CBS News producers created a special report on the use of antibiotics in livestock production. The piece, reported by Evening News anchor Katie Couric, is not a factual representation of the scientific, safe and careful use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

My lifetime of experience in animal agriculture makes their report seem to me biased and misleading. My parents who migrated from family farms in Oregon raised us in a small Southern California community with chickens and rabbits for meat and eggs. I worked my way through high school and college on farms and fruit orchards, a 12,000 head beef feedlot, and a university owned dairy and milk processing plant. Professionally I have worked for 36 years with dairies, feedlots, cattle and sheep ranchers in 12 states in the U.S. and in Mexico.

Without exception I have found these owners and managers to be very concerned about the ethical treatment and welfare of their animals including the responsible use of antibiotics. They have been interested in scientific and applied research, and have worked diligently to improve every aspect of herd health and implement management programs to prevent disease and minimize the need for the use of antibiotics.

Last week I was leaning against a fence post on a third-generation family dairy farm in Arizona pondering how I might respond to the CBS report since I’d gotten word they’d be airing a story on the subject. While I was reflecting, I was watching cows returning from the milking parlor playfully loping back to their pen and rapidly placing their heads side by side through the self-locking stanchions to eat. They were voraciously consuming a well-balanced total mixed ration of locally grown forages, processed grains and agricultural by-products. They had just been calmly milked by caring professional milkers using state-of-the art milking equipment. These cows walk to and from their pen twice a day on dry, padded concrete walkways to be milked. They are bedded on clean, dry and comfortable bedding in open dry lots and under shades that protect them from the elements in the winter and cool them with water spray and fans in the summer. This family has implemented many technologies to now efficiently and humanely manage thousands of milk cows better than when they started with 40 cows years ago. These cows have never been fed antibiotics, and are only treated with antibiotics when needed to cure or prevent a bacterial infection to prevent pain, suffering and death, to enable these cows to achieve their potential to feed us and a starving world with safe, wholesome, and affordable food. That is how less than 1% of the U.S. population is involved in agriculture and can provide for the other 99% and have surplus to export to developing nations.

How are antibiotics used in animal agriculture? Besides treatment of an individual sick animal, after every possible effort has been made to successfully manage genetics, housing, environment, nutrition, feeding, vaccination and other herd or flock health practices, antibiotics may be used in feed or water to treat, control or prevent disease and to promote growth and feed efficiency. This use has been proven to improve animal health and welfare (less disease and mortality), improve growth and feed conversion (reduces bad bacteria; promotes good bacteria), and improve food safety.

I welcome open dialogue and evaluation of our agricultural production practices. It can only make us better. I do ask the evaluation to be scientific and objective, and the reporting to avoid sensationalism, hyperbole, and misleading statements aimed at inflaming opinion. The CBS News report is extremely critical of the use of antibiotics in agriculture, repeating the oft-stated but unsupported assertion that there is an alarming rise in the incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria among farm animals. I have not recognized this as a problem in 36 years of dairy practice. Surveillance data regarding bacterial isolates from cattle by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System does not support their claim either.

Opponents of antibiotic use in food animals claim that we don’t need antibacterials to produce meat and eggs, that their use has lead to a significant increase in antibiotic resistant bacterial infections in humans, and that their use reduces the effectiveness of human medicines. In 1999, the Heidelberg Appeal Nederland Foundation, renowned for its unbiased scientific research, conducted a study on the effect of antibiotics used for growth promotion in food animals, and concluded that there was no conclusive evidence that their use contributed to human disease or compromised the efficacy of related antibiotics in human medicine.

After growth promoting antibiotics were legislatively banned in food animals in Denmark in 1999 in an attempt to protect public health from antibiotic resistance, there has been no reduction in the incidence of antibiotic-resistant hospital isolates in humans. In some cases resistance has increased and the incidence of some types of infections in humans has also increased. Unfortunately, disease and mortality have increased among animals, producing adverse animal welfare conditions. As a result, to treat the higher incidence of disease in animals in Denmark, it has been necessary to increase the use of antibiotics for therapeutic treatment in animals. The use of antibiotics in humans has also increased. The increased health costs and labor and the reduction in growth and feed conversion in pigs have resulted in increased production costs of $5.29 per pig.

Some purport that antibacterial-free farming makes food safer. The truth is that antibiotic use in food animals makes them healthier which makes our food safer. Chickens raised without antibiotics are three times more likely to carry bacteria that can make people sick. When the EU phased out certain antibiotic uses there was no discernable improvement in food safety. Food handling and preparation has a much greater impact on food safety. In the U.S., food-borne pathogens decreased by 15 to 49% from 1996 to 2001 following the implementation of the new FSIS/HACCP (Food Safety Inspection Service/Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) regulations. Proper food handling and cooking prevents human infection by food-borne pathogens.

Some bacteria are naturally resistant to certain antibiotics; others acquire resistance by genetic mutation over time; and some acquire resistance after exposure to an antibiotic used in human medicine or animal production. For a person to have an antibiotic treatment failure due to acquiring a foodborne bacterial disease from eating, for example, pork, the following things would have to happen:
- The antibiotic would be used in the animal
- The animal would have to develop a resistant bacterial strain
- The resistant strain would have to survive through food processing/handling
- The resistant strain would have to survive through food preparation
- The resistant strain would have to transfer to the human
- The resistant strain would have to colonize
- The resistant strain would have to cause a disease
- The antibiotic treatment would have to fail

What is the probability of a person experiencing a treatment failure due to antibiotic use in swine? Here are some risk comparisons:

Risk Comparison
Annual Probability
Being struck by lightening
1 in 550,000
Dying from a bee sting
1 in 6 million
Dying from a dog bite
1 in 18 million
Acquiring resistant campylobacter from macrolide-treated swine resulting in treatment failure
<1 in 53 million
Acquiring resistant E. faecium from macrolide-treated swine resulting in treatment failure
<1 in 21 billion

It’s easy for me to say that antibiotic resistant bacteria are not a problem when I haven’t personally experienced such an infection, but that’s meaningless to a person who has. It’s like trying to console a person who has been unable to find work for six months by informing them that the national unemployment rate is only 10%. In fact, while competing in high school athletics my daughter got a nasty skin infection on her leg caused by antibiotic resistant staphylococcal bacteria (MRSA). A few months later my wife got a lip infection caused by the same type of bacteria. These infections did not come from animal agriculture nor did the antibiotic resistance. The resistance is real but many scientists believe the primary cause is misuse (over prescribing) of antibiotics in human medicine and/or failure of patients to complete the prescribed regimen.

Antibiotic use in animal agriculture is by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian using antibiotics approved by the FDA, having passed its stringent testing requirements for efficacy and safety (for animals, our food and the environment). All major industry associations have established prudent drug usage guidelines: the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, American Association of Avian Pathologists, National Chicken Council, National Pork Board, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and others. These guidelines and FDA oversight insure that antibiotic use in food animals will protect animal health and welfare leading to production of safe, affordable and abundant food, critical to our U.S. food security.

Maintaining the health of U.S. herds and flocks requires agriculture producers and their veterinarians to have all approved safe and effective technologies, including animal health products, available to us. It would be a tragedy for misconceptions, misrepresentations or non-science based political agendas to deprive us of any valuable tools for preventing animal disease without substantial evidence of a benefit to human health.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wild Pigs in the Dakotas

Feral swine population growth is a problem that many states face. Here is an article about the issue from North Dakota: link for source
An animal estimated to cause $800 million damage in the U.S. annually first appeared in North Dakota in 2007 and state animal officials are strongly urging the public to report all sightings. After feral swine moved into the state, the Legislature passed a bill last session, in 2009, to regulate the animal.

“We’ve had a few situations that have come up recently in which individuals saw wild pigs on their property, or on property they were hunting, yet did not report it to the BOAH (Board of Animal Health),” said Greg Link, assistant chief of wildlife for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “There will be serious consequences if feral pigs establish a permanent population in the state.”

Ryan Powers, wildlife disease biologist for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, said there have been reports of feral swine across the state, including Billings, Rolette, Sheridan and Nelson counties as well as in the Turtle Mountains.

During hunting season last fall, sightings of feral swine in the Badlands were reported, NDGF Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Dan Grove said, adding they were later thought to have been escaped domestic pigs.
But, their presence leaves something for concern.

“Anytime that you introduce anything that’s that large and sizeable and destructive into an area that it’s not native to you going to have some major problems,” Grove said.

Officials say the animals can cause complete destruction.

“They’ll pretty much eat anything they come across,” Grove said. “They destroy native habitat. They’ll kill native species. They tear up the native prairie as well as being a potential source of disease for our domestic livestock as well as our wildlife in the state.”

Aside from the damage, disease-related issues are a major concern.

“Feral swine are capable of carrying 30-some different viral and bacterial diseases in addition to parasites and some of those diseases can be passed on to domestic livestock, wildlife, humans, pets … ,” Powers said.
Officials are unclear as to how the animals landed in the state.

“Usually they are escapees,” Grove said. “Sometimes they are released for the purpose of hunting which has actually been banned in the state.”

The newly-passed legislation regulates several aspects concerning feral swine.

It is illegal to possess live feral swine and to hunt or trap the animal.

Powers said while the wild swine existed in southern states for many years, their numbers have gradually increased along with their distribution shifting to the north.

“We don’t want feral swine to become established in North Dakota because of the potential impacts they could cause,” Powers said.

More than 4 million feral swine are estimated to be across the U.S., existing in at least 40 states, Powers said.
“They are probably the most prolific large mammal we have in the U.S.,” Powers said.
And here is an article addressing the issue in South Carolina. These pigs are everywhere! Article Link

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Puppy Mill Regulation in Iowa Tightening

Full Article Here

Iowa is one step closer to tightening regulation of puppy mills, in a bill approved Wednesday by the House.

Iowa would pick up the responsibility to inspect roughly 450 breeders who currently are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under House File 2280.

Advocates say the bill would save millions of dogs from cruelty at the hands of irresponsible breeders who have little oversight.

Opponents argue that the federal government has failed in its responsibilities and that that failure will cost innocent Iowa operations - such as nonprofit pounds and animal shelters - new $75 fees.

In total, the bill would cost Iowa businesses $335,000 a year, mostly in new license fees. It also would require the state to hire five new inspectors.

"Yes, I love dogs, and yes, I care about whether or not they're getting the proper care, but there needs to be more work put into this bill," said Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant. "The way it sits right now, I can't support it."

Advocacy groups such as the Iowa Voters for Companion Animals have lobbied for several years to tighten regulation of some Iowa breeding facilities. Documentation in video and public records on the group's Web site show emotional scenes, such as a dog that grew permanently deformed because she lived too long in a small cage.
"We have an epidemic," said Rep. Mark Kuhn, D-Charles City, whose wife rescues dogs from puppy mills. "There's an overpopulation of these animals. If we are concerned about the humane treatment of these animals, it's imperative that we pass this legislation."

A 10-member study committee of Democratic and Republican lawmakers voted unanimously in September to recommend that the 2010 Legislature authorize state inspectors to begin inspecting federally licensed dog breeders when they get complaints.
Committee members said their appeals to U.S. regulators largely are ignored.

The bill passed, 77-22, and heads to the Senate for further consideration.

"Saving one animal will not change the world, but it will change the world for that animal," said Rep. Jim Lykam, D-Davenport, who led discussion on the bill.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yet Another Elephant Picture

You all may be sick of the elephant pictures....but I'm not! Here is an adorable one of the calf mentioned in earlier posts that was born in Australian recently. She almost looks like she is smiling!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Elephant Calf at San Diego

There was another elephant calf born, this time an African Elephant at the San Diego Park Zoo. One of the especially neat things about this birth is that the elephant park at San Diego is a very large, naturalistic enclosure. The entire herd of elephants, now numbering 13, was present for the birth as is common in the wild. Also, the herd apparently did some very loud trumpeting after the birth, announcing the new arrival to the world!
You can also view the elephants 24/7 via a live webcam! Click here for the link.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Baby Tamarin Monkeys

Tamarin monkeys (of which there are many species) are one of the smallest species of primates. These new little babies born at the Antwerp Zoo would easily fit in the palm of your hand!


This one looks a little crabby!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tiger and Child

Adorable picture...this here is one of the strongest things that can be said in support of zoos. Zoos and such organizations provide opportunities for us common folk to come up close to some of the most amazing and exotic animals in the world, and to develop an appreciation for them (in a safe environment!). You just have a feeling this little girl will grow up with this as being one of her favorite pictures of her childhood, and tigers being one of her favorite animals.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010