A recent photo story in the Wall Street Journal shared some gorgeous dog pictures and some very predictable news on Greyhounds the other day. In the United States, Greyhound racing has faded in popularity over the last half century, a decline capitalized on and greatly accelerated by the actions of animal rights activists, legislators, and other interest groups.
Correlating with the drop in popularity and availability of the sport was a rise in “racetrack rescue” Greyhound adoptions, but we’ve reached a point where – surprise! – there are now more people who want to adopt Greyhounds than there are available Greyhounds. Further, there are also fewer reputable breeders maintaining these dogs… and to get one of their puppies, you’ll need to hop on a waitlist and fork over a lot of money! Meanwhile, there are concerns that “cash crop” breeders will fill in the void, capitalizing on the popularity of this beloved breed (they aren’t numerous like Labradors or Frenchies, but the people who love Greyhounds really adore them – and will find a way to get one), while rescues have modified their business model by switching to importing retired racing dogs from countries where the Greyhound racing is popular. If this all seems so very familiar, it’s because, well… it is.
According to the EPA information on vinyl chloride, the greatest risk is for the gas to seep into soil and get into the groundwater where it cannot dissipate. It will evaporate from water quickly, but it will not break down. Since it is a gas, it dissipated soon after the incident into the surrounding air, and the remainder was incinerated. The air contamination concerns were for the first night, when low temperatures and light winds would have kept any remaining gas close to the ground.
Unfortunately, it is still too early to tell the long-lasting effects of the spill and fire. The most casualties found have been minnows, since the streams close to East Palestine are small enough that large fish do not live in them. Other affected wildlife are amphibians, which are used as indicator species of environmental quality due to the fact that they absorb water through their skin. Overall, environmental experts say that this will take a very long time to heal.
Ever know someone with a reactive or aggressive dog who makes their pet everyone else’s problem? Who are we kidding? Of course this is something you’ve seen or experienced before. Sometimes, the owner denies or minimizes their dog’s behavior (“Don’t be afraid. He’s just playing!”); they may also make excuses for their dog (“He’s being triggered by past traumatic experiences!”), or, in some instances, the owner may even blame the victim(s) (“Why did you let your dog aggravate him!”). The lack of accountability and excuses are all too familiar.
Pets are part of the family, and our protectiveness and desire to paint them in the best possible light comes from a good place. That’s completely understandable. It is also true that our pets may act differently around us than with unfamiliar people, pets, and places. But regardless, the behavior of our pets is our responsibility. At a bare minimum, we have a duty to make sure our pets are under control when dealing with the public and strangers. And not to let smaller pets off the hook (which is a topic for another article), but this responsibility is doubly important when we’re talking about large dogs that can more easily cause grievous injuries to other pets and people.
Upon questioning, Mr. Irvin admitted he entered the Dallas zoo after hours to cut the fence and take the tamarins, then used the commuter train to travel back to Lancaster with the monkeys in tow. It is a short distance from the tamarin exhibit to the zoo perimeter, and then a short walk to the train station, which has a zoo stop across the street from the front entrance. Mr. Irvin also admitted to the attempted catnapping of the clouded leopard Nova, as well as cutting the langur fencing. It has not yet been determined if he has any connection with the intentional killing of the lappet-faced vulture, Pin. Mr. Irvin did make it clear, however, that he would continue to seek out animals to take upon release, as he is a self-proclaimed animal lover. He has now been charged with six counts of animal cruelty and two counts of burglary.
This string of incidents has rippled across the country. Several similar events have occurred within the same time frame, only adding to the mystery: 12 squirrel monkeys were stolen from a zoo in Louisiana, a Eurasian Eagle Owl got out of a vandalized exhibit at the Central Park Zoo in NYC, a pelican exhibit was vandalized at the Houston Zoo, and an Andean bear got out of its enclosure through a corner of fencing at the Saint Louis Zoo.
An exciting new program was unveiled two weeks ago at the Rose City Classic dog show in Portland, Oregon: the testing and grading of respiratory function in brachycephalic dogs. This was launched by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), in conjunction with the Bulldog, French Bull Dog, and Pug Dog Clubs of America, as well as the AKC itself.
If you are subscribed to this blog, you probably already know what a brachycephalic breed of dog is and the health concerns and controversies that swirl around them. What you may not know – what too many people, frankly, don’t know – is that reputable breeders and their breed clubs have been hard at work to address and breed away from health issues associated with shortened snouts when present, and to, ahem, clear the air regarding some of the exaggerations surrounding brachycephalic breeds. This test, the Respiratory Function Grading Scheme (RFGS), provides the public and prospective dog owners with objective proof of that work, and ideally, opens the door for constructive conversations on health testing and issues with purpose-bred animals.
For dogs and their breeders, the RFGS objectively measures and grades brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) using a dog’s rest state and its breathing after exercise. This gives breeders valuable information on their dog’s overall health, provides guidelines for which dogs they should breed, and as a bonus, serves as a reference that sets themselves and their breeding programs apart. While it is true many top breeders were already focused on this issue, this tool offers them the opportunity, through a veterinary assessment, to certify that their dogs have normal respiratory function.
Over time, this can’t help but contribute to the advancement of good health in well-bred brachycephalic dogs both in reality as well as in public consciousness, which would be fantastic. To quote Eddie Dziuk, OFA’s chief operating officer, “There’s no reason a Pug shouldn’t be able to run around and breathe easily.” A majority already can, and with programs like this and smart choices by breeders, even more will be!
Hunting has a long history and remains popular in Spain, generating a respectable 5 billion Euros annually. But just as in many other Western countries, hunting is considered a more rural activity, while urban folks are less likely to hunt and more likely to look down on or even disapprove of it.
A recently proposed animal rights law in Spain places this urban-rural divide on stark display. In a nutshell, a law was proposed by the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), that reads as if someone tried to thoughtlessly cobble together every low-hanging concession to animal rights activists they could come up with before lunch break. Unfortunately for the PSOE, this law contained provisions about abandoned animals, training, and breeding that really ticked off a group of key supporters: rural voters. More specifically, hunters. Hunters considered the law an attack with the potential to “legislate hunting out of existence.” This led to a last-minute amendment excluding hunting dogs and other rural activities… and raised questions about the viability of the proposed law as a whole.
It is a positive that the disagreement between the party’s urban and rural bases led to a favorable amendment (and, ideally, towards the law being shelved altogether). However, this example also serves as a troubling reminder of how non-stakeholders often feel perfectly fine about passing their values onto others. “I live a different lifestyle than you, and, for various reasons, have never or will never hunt. But never mind that: let me tell you how you need to do it.” If you are involved in animal sports or hobbies of any variety, you know you’ve heard a variation on that theme before!
We are all probably aware of avian influenza, at least to the extent that it exists and makes birds sick. But there’s a lot more to it than that. There are several strains of the virus, and more importantly, it is split into two groups: low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). LPAI, as you may have already guessed, is not as lethal and has a wide range of outcomes: infected birds may suffer from zero clinical signs of the virus, they may sicken enough to die from it, or fall somewhere in between on the spectrum. Despite the fact many birds recover from it, it is still a problem as well as worrisome, since two of the strains are known to mutate into highly pathogenic forms. HPAI, the group threatening farmer’s flocks right now, spreads more rapidly and is far more deadly – especially to domestic poultry.
Since last February, more than 58 million birds have been culled due to the virus, 40 million of them egg-laying chickens. These numbers are despite improvements in monitoring and biosecurity protocols since the last major outbreak in 2015. And unfortunately, preventing and limiting outbreaks could become even more difficult as time progresses, since HPAI appears more and more prevalent in wild birds. Unlike chickens, numerous wild birds carry HPAI without showing serious signs of illness… and they migrate all throughout the world.
Commercial and backyard farmers, the USDA, researchers, and others are all working to find ways of protecting the animals we care for from this terrible illness, but it has been a painfully difficult path, and sadly, there is no obvious quick fix on the horizon.
The legislative season is underway in many states and cities, which, of course, means hundreds (thousands!) of pages of proposed laws and ordinances governing animals and animal enterprises.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, the number of dogs or cats a person can own without a permit increased from four to six, while new regulations on groomers and boarding facilities were rejected. In Monroe, Georgia, a 2014 ordinance was updated, banning the tethering of unattended pets. Meanwhile, a leash law was narrowly rejected in Clarinda County, Iowa, and Pierce County, Georgia, discovered their new ordinance on animal burials was unnecessary: there has been one on the books since 1991. And these examples are just from the last few days.
Laws regarding animals and animal issues are nothing new. The Code of Hammurabi dealt with – rather forcefully – the theft of livestock and working animals nearly 3,800 years ago! Animals play such a vital role in our day-to-day lives, it is essential that a legal framework exists to define our relationship with them. At the same time, it is important to be aware that many laws pertaining to animals, even if they sound great on the surface, can be arbitrary, redundant, or too one-size-fits-all to be fair or practical. They may be left unfunded and unenforced (or simply be unenforceable), pushed by business interests with ulterior motives, or by activists whose end goal is destroying (or possibly supplanting) a popular hobby or industry. They are also quite often crafted by lawmakers who possess little to no hands-on experience with the issues they are attempting to rectify – so even if their efforts are entirely heartfelt and come with the best of intentions, they are often operating without the full picture.
Keep this in mind. And when you hear about a new animal ordinance and wonder if you should support it or not, ask yourself a few questions. Does it seek to remedy a legitimate public health and safety or animal welfare issue? If so, will the ordinance actually be enforced? What, if any, unintended consequences or “camel’s noses under the tent” can you see? Laws are necessary, but they must also be reasonable, solve real issues, and be enforced. If they are not, they probably create at least as many problems as they solve.
It’s a new year, meaning lots of new laws are taking effect throughout the land, including a ban on fur in California. More accurately, a ban on the sale and manufacturing of new fur products. This kind of thing has become par for the course in California, so it shouldn’t be a surprise – though it should be troubling to you, regardless of whether or not you choose to wear real fur. The hubris of a congresswoman from sunny Glendale, California announcing to the rest of the world that fur is over – and further, that it has no place in a “sustainable future” (how many hundreds of years will it take for that faux fur coat to biodegrade, again?) would almost be laughable if there were no real-world consequences or precedents from her bill.
Unlike animal issues related to things like food production or pets that virtually everybody has a stake in, fur can be exploited by its opponents by tying it to displays of ostentatious wealth and its lack of functionality in many climates of the world (see: Glendale, California). Combining divide-and-conquer tactics with a side of pragmatic-sounding “and do we really even need this?” can be really effective. This means that as far as cause-marketed issues go, fur is fairly low-hanging fruit. Opponents of the ban were correct in saying it ultimately boiled down to one class of people wanting to tell another class what they could buy/wear…. which, again, should be highly concerning, regardless of one’s feelings about wearing fur.
We have become all too familiar with sad tales of people relinquishing their dogs due to economic and housing pressure over the last year. Dogs want to stay with their people, owners are often filled with sorrow or even shame at the choices they must make, and amid the fallout numerous shelters across the country report being filled to capacity or beyond. But what about the cats? Cats, despite being the second most popular companion animal in the United States, are an animal we have heard precious little about in recent months.
Indeed, in Vermont, humane societies and shelters aren’t reporting the same difficulties with cat relinquishments and adoptions as with dogs. And this makes sense: cats are less expensive and lower-maintenance than dogs. Cat-owning renters also face fewer hurdles when moving. It comes in handy that landlords often view cats as cleaner, quieter, more out of the way, and less of a liability than dogs. So maybe cats simply aren’t facing the same economic and housing pressures?
It’s certainly tempting (and comforting) to think so. However, smaller cat rescues in the state tell a much different tale: while it was hard for many rescues to keep cats “in stock” during 2020-21, adoptions in 2022 are way down and relinquishments are up. And at least one rescue owner is asking why some of the state’s humane societies still import cats from the southern United States while rescues and fosters are at capacity, and locals face growing wait times to surrender their own pets or strays. This isn’t an idle concern. You can argue the ethics of rescue importation until blue in the face without changing anyone’s mind, but you can’t change the math. If there isn’t enough room to house and adopt out local cats because you’re hauling in dozens of cats from out of state each month, you simply aren’t serving your community.