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.”