For livestock, this means making sure their housing is dry and insulated, that they have plenty of food and water – and that their water isn’t frozen. With animals that require heat lamps or heaters, care must be taken to make sure to avoid fire hazards, too – make sure the cure isn’t worse than the disease!
When it comes to our pets, care is simultaneously simpler and more complicated – use our eyes, knowledge of our companions, and a healthy dose of common sense. Don’t deny a young and healthy Alaskan Malamute a chance to rollick in the snow for a bit. That’s literally what they are made for! On the other hand, an older, short-haired pet might only be comfortable going outside for a minute or two.
Also, make sure to keep their feet clean and dry (this is especially important if you live where deicers are used). Our pets all have different needs and preferences; being aware of them and employing common sense will go a long way toward keeping them comfortable and safe during this cold snap!
Every December, we get a new set of think pieces on the topic of adopting pets during the holiday season. In the world of animal lovers, this may be as traditional as a 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon. Historically, discussions of holiday pet adoptions have come in the form of waggling fingers, or at the very least warnings that prospective owners be extremely thoughtful when acquiring their new pet. Blessedly, the rhetoric has become less judgmental and heated in recent years. Nevertheless, if you are a pet lover, these warnings about “Santa Cats” are the Holiday Special version of a “Never, ever leave your dog in a hot car” admonition – we’ve all heard it countless times, but its potential consequences make it worth heeding and repeating.
At NAIA, we don’t take the absolutist, finger-waggling approach toward this topic – no two people or pets are the same, and let’s be honest: if someone really wants a puppy for Christmas, they’ll find a way to get one. What we do appreciate, are collections of thoughtful and encouraging advice for prospective pet owners, such as the ones listed in this article by the Atlanta Humane Society. Instead of saying you must do this or that, they ask you to ask yourself some questions. Serious questions about how much time you have available to care for a pet. Questions about whether your living space is appropriate for pets – or if it even allows pets. Questions about safety for your family and potential pet. And finally – quite topically – asking yourself whether caring for a pet is something you can afford to add to your monthly budget?
Adding a pet (or pets!) to the family is a wonderful thing that we hope everyone gets to experience. But it is easy to be blinded by the stars in our eyes when falling in love with a puppy or kitten – especially during such a festive time of year. Asking ourselves some pertinent questions before taking the plunge can be just the splash of cold water to the face we need… or, even better, a great way to help us realistically prepare for a new companion.
Saying “The Devil made me do it” is a well-known and lighthearted – but ultimately meaningless – way of exploiting theology to avoid accountability for our actions. But saying “The protozoans made me do it,” even if it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily, actually has some scientific backing. There is a growing body of evidence that parasites play a large role in influencing animal behaviors… and one of the best known, Toxoplasma gondii, lives in the bellies of North America’s second-most beloved pet: the common housecat.
Many animal lovers already know about the effect of toxoplasmosis on rodents. In a nutshell, cats are the only host T. gondii can reproduce inside of… and wouldn’t you know it: toxoplasmosis-infected rats don’t show the same aversion to cat urine, making these rodents (and the parasites they are carrying) more likely to find their way into a cat’s stomach. This is a convenient coincidence (except for the rat)!
But such convenient coincidences may be just the tip of the iceberg. Newer research in the wild shows T. gondii-infected chimps and hyena cubs attracted to the urine of large, predatory cats. And infected humans display differences in behavior, too. While the odds of us being eaten by a cat are quite small, people suffering from toxoplasmosis engage in notably more risk-taking behaviors, and demonstrate less fear of failure when compared to the general population. Past experiences, our environment, genes, and social expectations are well-known factors that shape behavior, but as we’re learning with parasites like T. gondii, there may be numerous lesser-known – but significant – factors at play, as well!
The story has garnered local and national notoriety and the destination shelter, Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS), reported hundreds of inquiries about the dogs, which means they’ll all be adopted. So – from certain disaster to hunky-dory-happily-ever-after, yes? Maybe not. The primary question remains: are loosely regulated rescue pet transports appropriate, humane, or even safe ways to deal with surplus pets? The fact is, of all the sources of dogs available to the public, these are among the most challenging because they have a demonstrable record of significant health and behavioral problems.
Concern over disease and parasites in rescue imports is often dismissed or even belittled by rescue activists, though it’s maddening to the scientists and agencies that are forced to deal with the fallout (HAWS was quarantined a few years ago when South Korean rescue imports brought canine brucellosis with them – a disease that can utterly destroy breeding programs). Canine rabies infection is fatal without post-exposure treatment, but even if exposure doesn’t result in infection, it often causes a follow-up investigation and cleanup that costs a fortune. But rabies and brucellosis are just two of many diseases found in unvetted pet transports – and many of these are not endemic to their destination sites. Importing dogs from foreign countries can put US agriculture at risk with diseases such as African swine fever, which has killed millions of hogs worldwide.
If you are adopting a pet, we urge you to seek out locally sourced dogs and cats in need of permanent, loving homes. Rescue transport may get some great headlines (just follow how this story is being covered elsewhere!), but the resources that go into it would be much better spent solving surplus and homeless pet issues at their source, via outreach, education, improving animal services, and providing low-cost vaccination and spay & neuter services.
Have you ever wondered about the animals who work for our military veterans? No better time to ask this question than Veterans Day! There are, of course, dogs – therapy dogs and service dogs, most often – but there are also cats, birds, reptiles, and, in the case of this story, horses.
A few years ago, it seemed like we were standing at the precipice of a major scandal after the Washington Post revealed that rescues were buying and reselling dogs from their avowed mortal enemies: commercial breeders. Yikes, can you imagine that? But this practice had been going on for some time, and by 2018, the shadow market it created had become so large, some breeders claimed to be breeding more dogs specifically for the “rescue market!” For rescue, whose goal is (or at least was) to do such a great job of emptying the shelters that they put themselves out of business, buying puppies from commercial breeders is a curiously sustainable business model.
Of course, no matter how noble and humane a veneer you place on it, rescues buying and reselling “overstock” (or even deliberately bred) dogs from breeders or importing unvetted street dogs from overseas are not engaged in the business of solving problems. Taking and rehoming individual pets brings good feelings and is great marketing, but relying on this model means that substandard breeding operations remain in operation (or even grow), and dogs and cats in foreign countries continue to reproduce unchecked. You can look at this from a compartmentalized perspective and celebrate the individual animal rehomed, as well as taking action for action’s sake (and many people do), but again, this simply allows the underlying issues to persist. Practices like these are short-sighted at best, and cynical at worst.
To quote our own peer-reviewed dog study on the outdated perceptions that shape today’s dog marketplace: “As Rhode Island state veterinarian Dr. Scott Marshall put it, ‘…There’s some evidence that the rescue groups are a new model for the pet shop industry.'”
Signed into law in 1992, the WBCA is meant to protect bird species bred in human care from having their wild populations affected by the wildlife trade. It also established the Exotic Bird Conservation fund for in situ conservation efforts. There is an approved list of birds from CITES that can be imported.
The plaintiffs state in the lawsuit that FWS denied their application to import birds already on the approved list, and that it is the duty of FWS, as per the act, to publish notice of list changes and invite public comment. It has been 30 years since that last happened. It will be interesting to see what happens with this lawsuit, as FWS has been remiss in their duties to not only revise the lists over time, but to implement key parts of the act.
Some of the top threats to elephants are poaching, habitat loss, and human-elephant conflict. However, western Twitter users are concerned primarily with poaching, and show far less interest in the other key threats. Most troubling, some westerners demonstrate a callous, or even hostile view toward communities that live near elephants. Nobody wants to see these majestic creatures go extinct, but when more concern is shown over the life of an elephant than a dead farmer, it is understandable when bad blood arises.
We can’t say this study’s findings come as a surprise (are you surprised?). However, shining an academic flashlight on these misunderstandings is vitally important when it comes to preserving elephants and the communities that live near them. Successful conservation efforts require both political will and a clear understanding of the problems at hand. Preserving elephants is a huge task. If resources are misallocated and resentment festers between the stakeholders (the sacrifices made for conservation by communities in Batswana which are rarely acknowledged on social media, for example), that task becomes even more difficult.
Of course, nobody expects – or should expect – to get rich working at an animal shelter, and the last year has been especially hard on shelter animals and workers in numerous locales across the country; the situation in Las Vegas is just a particularly rough and well-publicized example. However, it is worth pointing out that there were multiple dire signs (as there often are) prior to the walkout. Last July, for example, The Animal Foundation’s former COO submitted a report that the shelter’s staff was nearing their breaking point and would leave without improvements in conditions and pay. The COO was fired days later, and the walkout occurred as prophesized. Meanwhile, the shelter’s CEO acted surprised and “shattered” after the walkout, despite presumably being aware of employee complaints and the COO’s report. With so many warnings and several months to work toward a solution, this does seem like a crisis that could have been averted.
This article lamenting the CDC’s suspension of dog imports from high-risk rabies countries makes a rather curious argument. Apparently, because a small increase in the already tiny number of dogs denied entry into the United States due to invalid/incomplete/false paperwork was not accompanied by an increase in the number of rabies cases, the suspension was clearly an overreaction and needs to end. Well, at least that seems like the argument it was making. We’re not exactly sure, and while we could lay out a myriad of reasons that bad paperwork and rabies cases don’t need to add up, it probably wouldn’t matter. For groups whose business models depend on importing dogs from high-risk countries, all equations inevitably equal “end the suspension.”
It is worth noting that rabies is merely the most dramatic and well-known disease that can accompany imported animals. And for good reason: rabies is horrific and fatal, and decades of funding and effort went into making the United States canine-rabies free. But there are also diseases like African Swine Fever that could be devastating to agriculture, bacterial infections like brucellosis that can render breeding stock infertile, and a host of other communicable diseases and parasites (some zoonotic) that we simply don’t want to mess around with when possible. It is not a matter of being uncaring or overly cautious – the stakes here are very serious.
And further, while we always encourage adopters to make homeless local pets their first option, those options are – sadly – greatly expanding right now. Current economic and housing insecurity has led to massive numbers of pet surrenders, and numerous shelters and rescues across the country would love to see you adopt a local dog or cat… maybe one that used to live just down the street from you!