The most widespread form of interspecies bonding occurs between humans and dogs. These intelligent, social, emotional and playful creatures have learned to communicate and interact with humans in a way no other species can.
The genius of dogs is that they use humans to get what they want. At one point in wolf evolution, a group of wolves decided to take advantage of humans. Dogs domesticated themselves through a natural process and have become a part of the human family.
No other species can read our gestures as well as dogs can. It allows them to be incredible social partners with humans. Their ability to interpret our gestures also helps them complete tasks they can’t complete on their own.
FASCINATING DOG FACTS
The largest breed of dog is the Irish Wolfhound. The St. Bernard is the heaviest.
The world’s smallest dog breed is the Chihuahua.
Dogs experience all the same emotions humans do, especially love.
While dogs are better at living in the moment than humans, it's a myth that dogs have no sense of time.
Dogs have their own complex language that includes vocal sounds, body postures, facial expressions and scent.
Feral dogs have figured out how to use subways to travel to the best food sources.
Dogs chase their tails for a variety of reasons: curiosity, exercise, play, anxiety, predatory instinct or fleas.
Different smells in a dog’s urine tells other canines whether the dog is female or male, old or young, sick or healthy, happy or angry.
Male dogs raise their legs while urinating to aim higher to leave a message that they are tall and intimidating.
Puppies have 28 teeth, while adult dogs have 42.
Dogs and humans have the same type of slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) when sleeping. Twitching and paw movements are signs that a dog is dreaming.
Dogs can be trained to detect epileptic seizures and diseases.
Dogs’ eyes contain a special membrane that allows them to see in the dark.
Dogs can detect when storms are coming.
A dog’s normal temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dogs only sweat through the pads of their feet.
Dog nose prints are as unique as human finger prints and can accurately identify them.
Dogs have three eyelids: an upper lid, a lower lid and a third lid which keeps the eyes moist and protected.
A dogs entire body, including the paws, is covered with touch-sensitive nerve endings.
Dog noses secrete a thin layer of mucous that helps them absorb scent. They lick their noses to sample the scent through their mouth.
Petting dogs is proven to lower human blood pressure.
A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 – 100,000 times more acute than humans.
When dogs kick after defecating, they are using scent glands on their paws to further mark their territory.
Dogs can detect cancer too small to be detected by a doctor, and can detect lung cancer by sniffing a human's breath.
A LONG HISTORY OF COMPANIONSHIP
The keeping of dogs as companions has a long history. Dogs began from a single domestication thousands of years ago. They are not a descendant of the Gray wolf as previously believed. They were originally domesticated from a now extinct wolf.
Dogs were the first domesticated animals and have been widely kept as working, hunting and companion animals. Domestic dogs have been selectively bred for millennia for various behaviors, capabilities and attributes. There are currently up to one billion dogs around the world.
Domestic dogs inherited complex behaviors from their wolf ancestors which were pack hunters with complex body language. These sophisticated forms of social cognition and communication may account for their trainability, playfulness and ability to fit into human households and social situations.
Dogs still share some behaviors with their wild relatives. They defend their territories and mark them by urinating, serving notice to other animals that it is their territory. Many dogs also bury bones or toys for future use, just as wolves bury a kill to secure the meat for later.
Modern dog breeds show more variation in size, appearance and behavior than any other domestic animal. They are highly variable in height and weight. The smallest known adult dog was a Yorkshire Terrier that weighed only 4 oz. The largest known dog was an English Mastiff which weighed 343 lb. The tallest dog was a Great Dane that stood 42 inches at the shoulder.
Most dog breeds have good vision. Dogs do see in color, but not the same way that humans do. A dog's vision is similar to people with red/green color blindness, meaning they can see bluish and greenish shades but not reddish ones.
Dogs can detect sounds far better than humans, hearing sounds at four times the distance. They have ear mobility, allowing them to rapidly pinpoint the exact location of a sound. Eighteen or more muscles can tilt, rotate, raise or lower a dog's ear.
While the human brain is dominated by a large visual cortex, the dog brain is dominated by an olfactory cortex. The olfactory bulb in dogs is about forty times bigger than in humans, with 125 to 300 million smell-sensitive receptors. Their sense of smell is one hundred thousand to one million times more sensitive than a human's. Their wet nose is essential for determining the direction of the air current containing the smell. Cold receptors in the skin are sensitive to the cooling of the skin by evaporation of the moisture by air currents.
The average lifespan of dogs is 10 to 13 years, however, many live much longer. The world's oldest living dog lived 26 years, 9 months.
Dogs are omnivores and can adapt to a wide-ranging diet. They are not dependent on meat nor a very high level of protein as was once thought. Dogs will healthily digest a variety of foods, including vegetables and grains. Unlike wolves, dogs have adaptations in genes involved in starch digestion that contribute to an increased ability to thrive on a starch-rich diet.
PART OF THE FAMILY
Companion dog populations grew significantly after World War II as suburbanization increased. In the 1950s and 1960s, dogs were kept outside more often than they are today. From the 1980s, there have been changes in the role of the companion dog, such as the increased role of dogs in the emotional support of their human guardians. The broadening of the concept of the family, and a better understanding of dog intelligence and emotions, have led to dogs actively shaping the way a family and home are experienced.
Studies show dogs help to mediate family member interactions. Most dogs also have set tasks or routines undertaken as family members. Increasingly, humans are engaging in activities centered on the needs and interests of their dogs. An estimated 1 million dogs in the United States have been named the primary beneficiary in their guardian's will.
Dogs have the same response to voices and use the same parts of the brain as humans to do so. This gives dogs the ability to recognize emotional human sounds. They have over 100 known facial expressions, many of them made with their ears. They also communicate with a variety of vocal sounds. One of the primary functions of a dog's tail is to communicate their emotional state.
It is estimated there are 77.5 million people with dogs in the United States. Nearly 40% of American households have at least one dog. 67% have just one dog, 25% two dogs and nearly 9% more than two dogs.
Every year, between 6 and 8 million dogs and cats enter US animal shelters. Approximately 3 to 4 million of those dogs and cats are euthanized yearly in the United States. However, the percentage of dogs in animal shelters that are adopted has increased since the mid-1990s, from around 25% to 40% or more.
Cats have long been valued by humans for companionship and are the most popular companion animal. There are over 500 million domestic cats throughout the world. Descended from African wildcats, they began to share homes with humans about 10,000 years ago.
Domestic cats are still similar in anatomy to wild cats, with strong, flexible bodies, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws and teeth adapted to killing small prey. They have excellent hearing, sense of smell and night vision.
Cats are felids, which are mammals that include lions, tigers, cougars, jungle cats, wildcats, mountain cats, sand cats and other wild cats. They all share a common ancestor that lived around 6–7 million years ago in Asia. Domestic cats are not radically different from wildcats, so they can interbreed. Unlike dogs, cats have not undergone major changes during the domestication process. They are still capable of surviving in the wild.
Despite being solitary hunters, cats are social animals and communicate with a variety of vocalizations, as well as cat pheromones and body language. They are known for their love of play. They also engage in play fighting with each other, other species and humans.
FASCINATING CAT FACTS
A group of cats is referred to as a "clowder", a male cat is called a "tomcat", an unaltered female is called a "queen" and a baby cat is referred to as a "kitten".
Most cats weigh between 8.8 and 11 lb, though some, such as the Maine Coon, can weigh over 25 lb. Very small cats can weigh 4 lb or less. The largest cat on record weighed 47 lb. The smallest adult cat on record weighed 3 lb.
The average lifespan of a cat is 12.1 years, while some live much longer. The oldest cat on record lived 38 years.
Female cats tend to be right pawed, while male cats are more often left pawed.
Cats have the cognitive ability to sense human emotions and mood.
Cats can travel at a top speed of approximately 31 mph over short distances.
Cats greet one another by rubbing their noses together.
Cats usually only meow to communicate with humans, not other cats.
Cats sleep 70% of their lives.
Cats make over 100 different sounds.
Cat brains are 90% similar to human brains — more similar to human brains than dog brains.
Cats have survived falls from over 32 stories onto concrete, due to their “righting reflex.”
The ability of cats to find their way home is called “psi-traveling.” Cats either use the angle of sunlight, or magnetized cells in their brains, as compasses.
Most cats don't have eyelashes.
Cats dislike the water because their fur does not insulate well when wet.
Cat noses are ridged with a unique pattern, just like human fingerprints.
Cats rub against humans to be affectionate and to mark their territory with scent glands located around their faces, tail area and paws.
Adult cats have 30 teeth; kittens have 26 teeth.
Cats are extremely sensitive to vibrations and can detect earthquakes 15 minutes before humans.
Eating grass rids a cats' system of fur and aids digestion.
In one litter of kittens, there can be multiple fathers.
A cat's back paws aren’t as sharp as their front paws because the back claws don’t retract and thus get worn.
Cats have 1,000 times more data storage than an iPad.
Cats can change their meow to manipulate humans.
Cats can detect cancer.
Extra lumbar and thoracic vertebrae account for the cat's spinal mobility and flexibility. Unlike human arms, cat arms are attached to the shoulder by free-floating bones that allow them to fit through any space they can fit their heads. A cat's skull is unusual among mammals, having very large eye sockets and a powerful and specialized jaw. Within the jaw, cats have teeth adapted for killing prey and tearing meat.
Cats, like dogs, walk directly on their toes, with the bones of their feet making up the lower part of their leg. They are capable of walking very precisely by placing each back paw directly in the spot of the corresponding front paw, minimizing noise and tracks. This also provides sure footing when navigating rough terrain. Unlike most mammals, cats move the two legs on one side of the body before the legs on the other side. Camels and giraffes also walk this way. As their walk speeds into a trot, a cat's gait changes to that of most other mammals.
Cats have protractable and retractable front claws. In their normal position, the claws are retracted to keep them sharp by preventing wear. This allows the silent stalking of prey. Cats can voluntarily extend their claws on one or more paws for hunting, climbing, self-defense, kneading or for extra traction on certain surfaces.
Cats are able to tolerate quite high temperatures. They conserve heat by reducing the flow of blood to their skin and lose heat by evaporation through their mouths. They can only sweat a little, with sweat glands located primarily in their paw pads. They pant for heat relief only at very high temperatures. Their kidneys are so efficient they can survive on a diet of meat alone, with no additional water, and can even quench their thirst by drinking seawater.
Cats are carnivores and have difficulty digesting plants. About 20% of a cat's diet needs to be protein. They are dependent on a constant supply of the amino acid arginine and cannot produce taurine. They do eat grass occasionally. Since cats cannot fully close their lips around something to create suction, they lap with their tongues to draw liquid upwards into their mouths. Cats have relatively few taste buds compared to humans and cannot taste sweetness. Their taste buds instead respond to bitter tastes, acids and amino acids.
Cats have excellent night vision and can see at only one-sixth the light level humans require to see. Unlike some big wild cats, domestic cats have slit pupils. They see in color, but have limited ability to distinguish between red and green.
Cats have excellent hearing and can detect an extremely broad range of frequencies. They can hear higher-pitched sounds than either dogs or humans. They do not use this ability to hear ultrasound for communication, but it aids in hunting since many rodents make ultrasonic calls. Cat hearing is extremely sensitive and is among the best of any mammal. Their movable ears amplify sounds and help them sense the direction from which the sound is coming.
Cats also have an excellent sense of smell. They are very sensitive to pheromones which they use to communicate through urine spraying and marking with scent glands.
To aid with navigation and sensation, cats have dozens of movable whiskers on their bodies, especially on their faces. Their whiskers are highly sensitive to touch and provide information on the width of gaps and the location of objects in the dark. They work by touching objects directly and by sensing air currents. They also trigger protective blink reflexes to protect the cat's eyes from damage.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Free ranging cats are active both day and night. A house cat's activity is quite flexible and varied, and often synchronizes with their human family. Cats allowed outdoors are known to establish territories from 17 to 69 acres in size.
Cats conserve energy by sleeping more than most animals, usually 13–14 hours per day. They dream often throughout the day.
Cats use many vocalizations for communication including purring, hissing, growling, snarling, trilling, grunting and many forms of meowing. Different body language, including position of ears and tail, relaxation of their body and kneading of paws, indicate their mood. No one knows how a cat purrs. Cats have no unique anatomical feature that is known for causing the sound.
Cats are known for their cleanliness, spending many hours licking their coats. The cat's tongue has backwards-facing spines which act like a hairbrush.
Cats hunt small prey, primarily birds and rodents. They use two hunting strategies, either stalking prey actively, or waiting in ambush until the animal comes close. Many present their prey to their human guardians. Some experts believe this is done because the cat is trying to teach its human to hunt, or is trying to feed their inept human.
Most cats have a fondness for perching in high places. In the wild, a higher place may serve as a concealed location to hunt from and gives the cat a better observation point. During a fall from a high place, a cat can reflexively twist its body and right itself using its acute sense of balance and flexibility.
Among domestic cats, males are more likely to fight than females. Cats arch their backs, raise their fur, turn sideways and hiss to appear more impressive and threatening. Often, the ears are pointed down and back to avoid damage and to listen for any changes behind them. They may also vocalize loudly and bare their teeth to further intimidate their opponent. Fights usually consist of grappling, slapping and biting. Serious damage is rare, as the fights usually don't last long.
Female cats are seasonally polyestrous, which means they may go into heat over and over during the course of a year. The mating season begins in spring and ends in late autumn. Heat periods occur about every two weeks and last around 4 to 7 days. Multiple males will be attracted to a female in heat. The males will fight over her and the victor wins the right to mate. Cats are superfecund; that is, a female may mate with more than one male when she is in heat, and different kittens in the litter may have different fathers.
The gestation period for cats is about 66 days. The size of a litter is usually three to five kittens. Babies are weaned between six and seven weeks old, and teens normally reach sexual maturity between 5–10 months. Females can have two to three litters per year, so they can produce up to 150 kittens by the time they reach ten years old. They can be spayed or neutered as early as 7 weeks to limit unwanted reproduction. This surgery also prevents undesirable sex-related behavior, such as aggression, marking (spraying urine) in males and yowling (calling) in females.
Feral cats are domestic cats that were born in, or have reverted to, a wild state. They are unfamiliar with and wary of humans and roam freely in urban and rural environments. There are 25 to 60 million feral cats just in the United States. They usually live in colonies, occupying a specific territory with a source of food. A grass roots effort to humanely reduce the feral cat population is called 'trap-neuter-return'. Cats are trapped, neutered, immunized and then released. Volunteers continue to feed and care for the cats throughout their lives. An established colony helps to prevent other feral cats from moving into an area.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, distressed animal guardians across the country call the Pet Poison Helpline. In addition to dealing with the stress of an emergency situation, they are often forced to cope with feelings of regret in light of a mishap that, in most cases, could have been avoided. It takes only a few minutes to educate yourself on how to pet-proof appropriately and avoid the inevitable heartache that so often happens when a beloved animal is accidentally poisoned.
Awareness is the key to preventing poisoning emergencies. Most animal poisonings involve dogs – a testament to dogs’ curious nature and indifference to eating just about anything. Most of these poisonings involve ingesting human medications. It’s clearly wise to keep medications out of their reach, but there are many other common, household substances toxic to dogs and cats.
The items below are presented in order of frequency, with number one being the item that causes the most emergency calls to Pet Poison Helpline.
Dogs: Top 10 Toxins
Chocolate: Dark equals dangerous! Bakers and dark chocolate are the most toxic, and milk chocolate if ingested in large amounts.
Xylitol: This sweetener found in sugarless chewing gum and candy, medications and nasal sprays causes a rapid drop in blood sugar and liver failure only in dogs (not cats).
NSAIDs: Ibuprofen, naproxen, etc., found in products like Advil, Motrin, and Aleve. Dogs don’t metabolize these drugs well; ingestions result in stomach ulcers and kidney failure.
Over the counter cough, cold and allergy medications: Those that contain acetaminophen or decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, are particularly toxic.
Rodenticides (mouse poison): These may cause internal bleeding (brodifacoum, bromadiolone, etc.) or brain swelling (bromethalin), even in small amounts.
Grapes and raisins: These harmless human foods cause kidney damage in dogs.
Insect bait stations: These rarely cause poisoning in dogs – the bigger risk is bowel obstruction when dogs swallow the plastic casing.
Prescription ADD/ADHD medications: These amphetamines such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death in companion animals.
Glucosamine joint supplements: Overdose of products typically only cause diarrhea; however, in rare cases, liver failure can develop.
Silica gel packets and oxygen absorbers: Silica gel packs, found in new shoes, purses or backpacks, is rarely a concern. The real threats are the iron-containing oxygen absorbers found in food packages like beef jerky or pet treats, which can cause iron poisoning.
Cats: Top 10 Toxins
Lilies: Plants in the Lilium species, such as Easter, Tiger, and Asiatic lilies, cause kidney failure in cats. All cat guardians must be aware of these highly toxic plants!
Household cleaners: Most general purpose cleaners (e.g., Windex, Formula 409) are fairly safe, but concentrated products like toilet bowl or drain cleaners can cause chemical burns.
Flea and tick spot-on products for dogs: Those that are pyrethroid based (e.g., Zodiac, K9 Advantix, Sergeant’s, etc.) cause tremors and seizures and can be deadly to cats.
Antidepressants: Cymbalta and Effexor top the antidepressant list. Cats seem strangely drawn to these medications. Beware – ingestion can cause severe neurologic and cardiac effects.
NSAIDs: Cats are even more sensitive than dogs to drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. Even veterinary specific NSAIDs like Rimadyl and Meloxicam should be used with caution.
Prescription ADD/ADHD medications: These amphetamines such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death.
Over the counter cough, cold and allergy medications: Those that contain acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) are particularly toxic, as they damage red blood cells and cause liver failure.
Plants containing insoluble calcium oxalate crystals: Common houseplants like the peace lily, philodendron, and pothos can cause oral/upper GI irritation, foaming at the mouth, and inflammation when ingested, but severe symptoms are uncommon.
Household insecticides: Thankfully, most household sprays and powders are fairly safe, but it’s best to keep curious kitties away until the products have dried or settled.
Glow sticks and glow jewelry: These irresistible “toys” contain a chemical called dibutyl phthalate. When it contacts the mouth, pain and excessive foaming occurs, but the signs quickly resolve when the cat eats food or drinks water.
The best thing concerned animal guardians can do is get educated on the most common companion animal toxins, which are listed above, and then pet-proof their homes. However, accidents happen and if a companion may have ingested something toxic, Pet Poison Helpline recommends taking action immediately. Contact a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680.
Gerbils are small rodents, similar in many ways to hamsters and mice. They are naturally found in the sandy plains of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Originally known as desert rats, they were commercially introduced to North America and bred as “pets”.
Gerbils have long tails that they are able to shed, allowing them to escape predators. Their tails also help them balance when standing on their hind legs.
They have sharp claws they use for burrowing into desert sand to escape predators by quickly disappearing under the sand. Gerbils build extensive networks of tunnels and rarely surface other than to find food and water.
Over 100 different species of gerbils live in the wild. Most “pet” gerbils are Mongolian gerbils, found in their natural habitat in the 1860s and first captive-bred in the 1930s. Most gerbils are diurnal (active during the daytime), though pet gerbils are often more nocturnal.
Because of their size, gerbils are mis-perceived as being “low maintenance” animal companions. Gerbils often bite and do not make good companion animals for children.
Like all rodents, they can carry rabies and other diseases and, if released into the wild, pose a threat to established ecosystems.
If, after carefully considering these factors, you are sure you want to bring these delicate creatures into your home, avoid pet shops and adopt from a shelter or rescue agency.
Gerbils do not like to be alone and live in families of up to 20 members in their natural habitat. If kept in a solitary environment, a captive gerbil will become depressed. If you’re planning to adopt gerbils, two males or two females from the same family will bond together.
Their dietary needs include a variety of greens, fruits and seeds, some of which are available in packages formulated for hamsters or birds. Their teeth never stop growing, so it is imperative that these animals be provided with hard, digestible items to chew.
A large wire-mesh cage with a solid base works best. Colorful plastic cages may be enticing, but they are difficult to clean, and gerbils may chew their way out.
You’ll need a water bottle, nonwood-based bedding such as straw or shredded white paper, chew toys and an exercise wheel. Wooden ladders and toilet paper rolls also make great toys.
Only use solid exercise wheels for gerbils, since their long tails can become entangled in wire wheels.
Do not let gerbils become too cold or they will go into hibernation.
About 4 million "excess" dogs and cats will be killed in shelters this year, while millions of homeless animals live short, hard, hungry lives on the streets, only to die miserably from disease, injury, or predation. About 1/3 of animals in shelters are purebreds, either intentionally or accidentally bred.
By being a responsible caregiver and sterilizing your companion animals, you avoid contributing to this terrible problem of pet overpopulation. Unsterilized (intact) dogs and cats usually find a way to get out and breed. Then, even if you could find good homes for the entire litter, each of your babies would displace another puppy or kitten that will then have to die.
Not all kittens and puppies taken to a shelter get adopted. If you take your litter to a typical, overcrowded shelter, it is likely that the entire litter of kittens or puppies will go straight from your hands to the killing room - they must be destroyed immediately, due to lack of cage space. (And don't think you can avoid the fatal consequences by taking them to a "no-kill" shelter - they may not have space. Even if they do accept your litter, that means other animals will be turned away, and taken to a shelter that may indeed kill them.)
WHY SPAY & NEUTER
Dogs and cats should be surgically sterilized to prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as undesirable mating-related characteristics and behaviors. In females, this operation is called "spaying" and involves removal of the ovaries and uterus through an abdominal incision. For males, "neutering" involves surgically removing the testicles. In most cases, your animal companion will be able to go home either the same day or the next day, and within a few days will be fully recovered. Young animals bounce back much quicker from these surgeries than older ones.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SPAYING & NEUTERING
Neutered cats have a much lower risk of being infected by the deadly Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) (also called "Feline AIDS"), because they are much less likely to engage in fighting, which spreads this disease. Decreased roaming and territorial behavior in cats also lowers the risk of bite-wound abscesses. Neutering male cats stops spraying or urine marking in over 90% of cats, and solves this problems in female cats, who often will begin spraying when they go "into heat."
Spaying eliminates the "heat" cycle, which causes crying, pacing, and erratic behavior, especially in cats. Dogs in heat also produce a bloody vaginal discharge that can stain furniture and carpets. Cats and dogs in heat can attract persistent and often obnoxiously loud "suitors" from all over the neighborhood, even if they're kept indoors.
Spayed females are not susceptible to life-threatening uterine infections and reproductive tract cancers that can occur in breeding females, as well as mastitis, ovarian cysts, miscarriages and delivery complications. All these can be expensive to treat, and dangerous to your animal's health. Almost half of unspayed female dogs will develop breast cancer, while spaying before first heat reduces the incidence to almost zero. Even later spaying greatly reduces the risk. Spaying also decreases the risk of developing breast cancer in cats, for whom it is usually fatal.
Neutered male dogs are less apt to develop prostate cancer, and the risk of testicular cancers is eliminated. Up to 60% of older, intact dogs will get enlarged, painful prostates. Neutering male dogs greatly decreases the potential for aggressive behavior and biting, and tends to calm overactive dogs as well. It also decreases or eliminates "humping" behavior.
Some people think that their female dog or cat "should have at least one litter" before she is spayed, that it "settles" a dog or cat, or that she "needs" this experience to be a good household companion. This is completely untrue and there is no evidence, medical or factual, that supports this belief. Spayed and neutered dogs and cats are calmer, less frustrated, happier family members.
WHEN TO HAVE YOUR ANIMAL SPAYED OR NEUTERED
In the past, veterinarians recommended that a cat or dog be at least six months of age before they were sterilized. However, many cats and dogs reach sexual maturity before they are six months old, and many unplanned litters have resulted from this standard. Today, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends "early spay/neuter," which is the sterilization of puppies and kittens between 8 and 16 weeks of age. This has proven to be very safe, with rapid recovery. Many shelters now require adopted animals to be spayed or neutered before they can go home. This policy has begun to make a noticeable difference in the number of unwanted litters, but overpopulation is still a very serious problem.
CHILDREN & THE "MIRACLE OF BIRTH"
This is a completely unjustifiable excuse, as there are numerous videotapes available for children to watch if they are interested in seeing animals being born. There is no guarantee that the mother won't give birth in the middle of the night, or while the children are at school. To experience "the real thing," consider doing foster care for your local shelter. Foster homes willing to take pregnant or nursing animals are rare - they will be delighted to hear from you!
SPAYING & NEUTERING PROBLEMS
People often worry that sterilizing their dog or cat will cause obesity. It's true that spaying and neutering does change an animal's metabolism - more or less instantaneously - but it may take the animal several weeks to adjust its appetite "thermostat." A spayed or neutered animal requires fewer calories for maintenance than an intact one. Some experts recommend cutting the amount you feed by 1/4 to 1/3 for 4 to 6 weeks post-operatively. By doing this, chances are good that he or she will be able to self-regulate at that weight the rest of his or her life. Also, animals, just like people, need exercise and physical activity to maintain their ideal weight. We as caregivers are responsible for keeping our cats and dogs active. A companion animal's metabolism, just like that of humans, tends to slow down as we get older. Therefore, less food and more exercise may be appropriate for your cat or dog as he or she matures.
THE COST OF SURGERY
It is actually much cheaper in the long run to have your companion animal spayed or neutered. If your female does get pregnant, you would bear the cost of veterinary care, raising and placing the litter, and medical bills for the mother should pregnancy or delivery complications arise. For males especially, infections and fight wounds can take a bite out of your wallet. There are also all the other health risks for intact animals. In many communities, the law requires dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered unless a special license or breeder's permit is purchased. Annual license fees may also be significantly less if your animals are altered. Spaying and neutering are preventive measures that will save you money.
If the expense of the surgery is a problem for you, there are many low-cost spay and neuter clinics throughout the country, and many veterinarians offer discounts. Contact your local shelter or animal control agency for a referral.
Fireworks are meant to represent “bombs bursting in air”—and to dogs and cats, that’s exactly what they sound like. When animals hear the cracks and booms in the sky, many of them panic and jump over fences, break chains, or even break through glass windows in an effort to escape the terrifying sounds.
Many animals who run in fear are never found. After fireworks displays, animal shelters nationwide report an increase in the number of lost animals, some of whom have bloody paws from running, torn skin from breaking through wooden fences, or other serious injuries. Some animals are hit by cars or killed in other ways as they attempt to escape.
Take the following precautions to ensure the comfort and safety of your animal companions during fireworks displays:
Keep cats and dogs indoors, and if possible, stay with them.
Leave your animals at home during the celebrations—never take them with you to watch fireworks displays!
Never leave animals tethered or chained outside—they can hang themselves if they leap over a fence while trying to run from the noise.
Close your windows and curtains. To help drown out the sound of the fireworks, turn on fans and air-conditioning units as well as the TV or a radio that’s tuned to a classical-music station.
Consider purchasing a Thundershirt to help your dog or cat cope with the stress of the fireworks.
Other ways to keep animals calm include playing specially formulated CDs from Through a Dog’s Ear and giving them a natural supplement called melatonin, which is available at your local health-food store (but consult your veterinarian first).
Make sure that your animal companion is microchipped and wearing a collar or a harness with an up-to-date identification tag—just in case.
Some people enjoy taking their dogs along on errands, but leave them in the car. This can be deadly. A little heat outside the car can quickly make it very hot inside. On a summer's day of only 85 degrees, for example, even keeping the windows slightly open won't stop the inside temperature from climbing to 102 degrees in 10 minutes, to 120 degrees in 20 minutes. A dog whose body temperature rises to 107-108 degrees will, within a very short time, suffer irreparable brain damage - or even death. Never leave your dog alone in a car, even for a few minutes, in the summer months.
If you see a dog alone in a hot car, write down the car’s model, make, color and license plate number. Attempt to have the animal's guardian paged in the nearest buildings and call the police. Don’t leave the scene until the dog has been rescued.
Heatstroke symptoms to look for are thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, restlessness, dark tongue, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lack of coordination, excessive thirst, lack of appetite, rapid heartbeat and fever.
Provide the dog with drinking water. Spray the dog with water, immerse him in a tub of cool (but not iced) water for a couple of minutes, or apply wet towels to the stomach, chest, paws and groin area. Do not use ice or cold water, and don’t overcool the dog.
If the dog shows any symptoms of heatstroke, get her to a veterinarian immediately.
How To Legally Help Dogs In Hot Cars
What can you do, within your legal rights, if you see an animal in distress in a locked car? The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a legal advocacy organization for animals, has some tips.
If you see an animal in distress, call 911. Most states allow a public safety officer to break into the car and rescue an animal if its life is threatened. Calling 911 is the first step to saving that animal’s life.
Know your state laws. More and more states are adopting “hot car” laws that prohibit leaving a companion animal unattended in a parked vehicle. Although 22 states have some form of “hot car” laws, the laws differ drastically from place to place. Only four states—Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee—have “Good Samaritan” laws that allow any person to break a car window to save an animal.
In 17 states, only public servants such as law enforcement and humane officers can legally break into a car to rescue an animal (Arizona, California. Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington.) In New Jersey and West Virginia, although it is illegal to confine an animal in a hot car, no one has the authority to break into a vehicle to save the animal, not even law enforcement.
Legislation is pending in California and New York to give any concerned bystander the legal right to help an animal in distress. Pending legislation in Pennsylvania would make it illegal to confine a dog or cat in a vehicle in conditions that would jeopardize its health and would empower a police officer, a volunteer or professional fireman, a humane officer, a security guard, or a first responder to rescue the animal.
Penalties for hot car deaths of companion animals are still limited. Most states limit penalties to misdemeanors or civil fines and infractions, even for repeat offenders. Maine and South Dakota’s laws don’t impose a penalty at all (although an animal guardian in Maine may regain custody of an animal removed from their vehicle only after they pay all charges that accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment and impoundment of the animal).
Let people know it’s not okay to leave their animal unattended in a car. When an animal dies in a hot car, most of their humans say they left them “just for a minute.” If you see someone leave their companion animal in a parked car, tell them that even if it’s a pleasant day outside, the temperature inside the car can skyrocket fast. Cracking a window doesn’t eliminate the risk of heatstroke or death.
Many companion animal guardians will celebrate July 4th with barbeques, pool parties and fireworks, but they may not realize these seemingly harmless traditions can have catastrophic consequences for their four-legged family members. Nearly one-in-five lost companion animals first go missing after being scared by the sound of fireworks, thunderstorms or other loud noises.
Losing your companion animal is heartbreaking, but there are other dangers lurking in your own backyard that might not cross your mind as you celebrate this 4th of July. It’s critical that animal guardians consider their animals’ well-being during holiday celebrations, and when enjoying the outdoors all season long.
Below are the top five tips animal guardians need to know to safely enjoy the dog (and cat) days of summer:
Traveling can be highly stressful for our animals. If you’re planning a road trip, prep your companion in advance by taking short rides in the car and getting them used to riding in a crate or car harness. Animal guardians should never leave their animals unattended in a parked vehicle. Parked cars, even with windows open, become very hot in a short amount of time and could lead to heatstroke or death.
Dogs and cats can become dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of water when the weather is is hot. Always make sure your companion animal has a shady place to escape the sun and don't let your dog linger outdoors, especially on hot asphalt. Being so close to the ground, your dog's body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can get burned.
Watch What They Eat
Summertime can be perfect for backyard parties, but the food and drinks should be served only to people, not companion animals. Keep alcoholic beverages away from animals, and remember that any change of diet – even just treating them to a bite of your festive food – may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Make sure to avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol, all of which are toxic to companion animals.
Beware of “High-Rise Syndrome”
During warmer months, many animal hospitals and veterinarians across the country see an increase in injured animals as a result of “High-Rise Syndrome,” which is when animals fall or jump out of windows and are seriously or fatally injured. Keep all unscreened windows in your home closed and make sure screens are tightly secured.
Love the Leash
Warm weather can inspire longer walks, and while this is exciting for both dog and human, it’s important that dogs are always kept on leash – with collars and up-to-date ID tags and microchips – to protect them from getting loose and injuring themselves or others.
More than 10 million dogs are killed every year across China for their meat, with thousands slaughtered for the annual dog meat festival in Yulin. Most of the dogs are stolen companion animals and strays grabbed from the streets, still wearing their collars when they reach the slaughterhouse where they are typically beaten to death. Most people in China do not eat dogs, and there have been numerous violent clashes between animal guardians and dog thieves.
Many Chinese animal campaigners vehemently oppose the Yulin dog meat festival, and initiate protests and dog rescues all year round. Hundreds of dogs are rescued from trucks headed for slaughter by activists each year.
The Yulin dog meat festival is not a traditional festival, it was only invented in 2010 by dog traders to boost profits. Before the festival started, Yulin had no history of mass dog slaughter and consumption. Dog meat is only eaten infrequently by less than 20 percent of the Chinese population.
Thirty million dogs a year are killed across Asia for their meat, some 10-20 million in China alone, and thousands die just for Yulin. The World Health Organisation warns that the dog trade spreads rabies and increases the risk of cholera 20-fold.
China’s dog meat trade is animal abuse and criminality on a massive scale, and a stain on China’s international reputation. There is no good reason for the Chinese government to tolerate this cruelty any longer. Animal activists are urging the president to protect the people from this illegal and unsanitary trade, and to protect innocent animals from such wanton cruelty.
Millions around the world are standing with millions across China calling for an end to the gruesome Yulin dog festival and the unregulated dog meat trade. The campaign inside China to end the dog meat trade continues, with Chinese animal activists staging protests and dog rescues all year round. The stealing, beating and cooking of these dogs is not a centuries-old tradition, but a barbaric business practice that must end, now.
When outdoor temperatures reach the 80s, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to well over 100 degrees in just minutes—and asphalt temperatures can reach 140 degrees, causing pain, burns, permanent damage, and scarring on dogs’ paws after just a few minutes of contact. Locking dogs in parked cars and walking them on hot pavement places them at risk of deadly heatstroke.
If you see a dog showing any symptoms of heatstroke—including restlessness, heavy panting, vomiting, lethargy, and lack of appetite or coordination—get the animal into the shade immediately and lower the dog’s body temperature by providing the dog with water, applying a cold towel to the animal’s head and chest, or immersing the dog in tepid (not ice-cold) water. Then immediately call a veterinarian.
Remember: When dogs’ long tongues hang out, it means they are uncomfortable, even in danger.
Follow these suggestions for safeguarding animals during hot weather:
Keep dogs indoors: Unlike humans, dogs can only sweat through their footpads and cool themselves by panting. Soaring temperatures can cause heat stress, injury, or death.
Provide water and shade: When outside, animals must have access to fresh water and ample shade, and the shifting sun needs to be taken into account. Even brief periods of direct exposure to the sun can have life-threatening consequences.
Walk—don’t run: In very hot, humid weather, never exercise dogs by biking and making them run alongside you or by running them while you jog. Dogs will collapse before giving up, at which point, it may be too late to save them.
Avoid hot cars: Never leave an animal in a parked car in warm weather, even for short periods with the windows partially rolled down. Dogs trapped inside hot cars can succumb to heatstroke within minutes—even if a car isn’t parked in direct sunlight.
Never transport animals in the bed of a pickup truck: This practice is dangerous—and illegal in many cities and states—because animals can be catapulted out of a truck bed on a sudden stop or strangled if they jump out while they’re tethered.
Stay alert and save a life: Keep an eye on all outdoor animals. Make sure they have adequate water and shelter. If you see an animal in distress, provide him or her with water for immediate relief and contact humane authorities right away.
Avoid hot pavement: When outdoor temperatures reach the 80s, asphalt temperatures can reach 140 degrees, causing pain, burns, permanent damage, and scarring on dogs’ paws after just a few minutes of contact. Walk on grass when possible, and avoid walking in the middle of the day.
"Pet shops" use the natural appeal of puppies, kittens and other animals to sell them at an inflated price, often several hundred dollars for "purebred" animals.
The vast majority of dogs sold in pet shops, between 350,000 and 500,000 a year, are raised in "puppy mills," breeding kennels located mostly in the Midwest that are notorious for their cramped, crude and filthy conditions and their continuous breeding of unhealthy and hard-to-socialize animals.
Other common problems in the pet shop industry include selling sick and injured animals to the public, failing to provide proper veterinary care, unsanitary conditions and inhumane methods of killing sick and unwanted animals.
You can help bring about changes in local pet stores, if you know what conditions to look for and what steps to take.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Healthy young animals are usually energetic and shiny-coated. Look for signs of ill health, such as listlessness, diarrhea, emaciation, dull coats, runny eyes and dry noses. Sick animals should never be housed with healthy ones.
Check the general sanitation conditions; notice signs of cockroach infestation, rodent droppings on the floor and rusty or dirty cages.
Also look for algae or scum in water bottles, empty water containers, or animals having difficulty drinking from them.
Dogs and cats must have water (it can be in a bottle), and there must be some sort of solid flooring (if a tray is used, it must be flat on the floor). There should be no more than one large dog in a single cage. Look for signs of distemper and parvovirus: runny stool and clogged, dry noses. Cats should have an elevated surface (above the litter area) to rest upon. Water must be in a clean water dish rather than in a bottle. Also, watch for signs of upper respiratory disease (eyes covered with inner membrane, runny eyes and nose and sneezing).
Rabbits should have a water bottle, not a dish. They should not be listless. If an animal is sick, you may notice other animals in the cage walking over him/her. Watch for runny noses and excessive sneezing.
Birds must have a properly sized perch (birds' feet should go three quarters of the way around the perch). Check for others beating up on one - especially common in zebra finches (you may see feathers missing from head, back, etc.). A bird should not be resting on the bottom of the cage (a sign of illness or of having been thrown off the perch by others). Cages should not be overcrowded.
Check fish tanks for overcrowding. Generally, an inch-long tropical fish requires a minimum of 12 square inches of water surface to breathe comfortably; a two-inch fish needs at least 24 square inches of surface area, and so on. Look for dead fishes in aquariums.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Find out who in your town, county or state enforces the anti-cruelty codes. Report abuses to them. Often, these people work for local humane societies or animal shelters. Once you have located the proper law enforcement officials, provide them with a concise, factual, written statement of what you have observed, giving dates and approximate times. Try to get short, written statements from witnesses. Statements should be notarized. Ask sympathetic veterinarians to visit the pet store and write an "expert statement" as to the conditions and health of the animals.
If you have been sold a sick or injured animal, go to your local courthouse and fill out a small claims form (no attorney needed). When you file the form, you will be given a court date. At the hearing, present all your veterinary and related bills. (Be sure to get a statement from your vet.) Though it's difficult to put a monetary value on your animal's health or life, this simple action can bother a pet store owner enough to prevent him or her from being irresponsible and inhumane in the future. Also, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. If the store is in a shopping mall, complain to the mall manager (and ask all of your friends and neighbors to do the same). Ask the mall management not to renew the store's lease.
Find out if a division of your county or state health department licenses pet shops and, if so, request that they conduct an inspection.
Even if the health department does not specifically license pet shops, it should still inspect for dirty conditions that may pose a health risk to the public. If the pet store sells wild or exotic animals, it is required to be registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and violations should be reported to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office in your state (usually in your state capital). To locate your state office, look in the federal government section of the phone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Educate the public: Write letters to the editor, distribute leaflets outside the store, organize a demonstration, etc. Department stores that have a pet department may be especially susceptible to a boycott, since the revenue from the pet department may not constitute a large portion of overall profit.
If all else fails, contact local television and radio stations and newspapers and try to interest reporters in the story. A news story may force officials to act or scare the person causing the abuse into stopping.
Above all, don't patronize pet stores. You can purchase supplies for companion animals from "pet" supply stores or catalogs which carry full product lines but don't treat living beings as merchandise.
Iguanas are native to the jungles of the Caribbean and central and South America. Green iguanas are forest lizards who live high in the South American rainforest tree canopy. Young iguanas live lower in the canopies, while older adults reside higher up in the tree tops. Iguanas bask in the sun, with little need to visit the forest floor below other than when female iguanas lay their eggs.
The green and brown scales of iguanas allow them to blend extremely effectively into the surrounding forest. Iguanas will remain extremely still, going unnoticed, until predators pass by. They often chose basking spots on tree limbs hanging over water so they can dive into the water to escape predators. Iguanas are excellent swimmers and go beneath the water surface to avoid predators.
Iguanas have excellent sight able to detect movement from incredibly long distances to seek out prey and detect approaching predators. They use visual signals to communicate with each other through a series of rapid eye movements. They are considered omnivores, but most iguanas in the wild tend to eat an herbivorous diet. They feed on ripened fruit and leafy green plants.
These large, docile lizards are often a popular choice as exotic “pets”.
Green iguanas are some of the most frequently abandoned companion animals, likely because people find out too late what is required to care for them. A properly cared for iguana can live for more than 20 years and grow to be more than 6 feet long. The enclosure for a full-grown iguana should be at least 18 feet long, humidified, and maintained at a particular temperature with specific timetables for darkness and ultraviolet light.
Common problems for captive iguanas are metabolic bone disease from calcium deficiency, mouth rot, respiratory disease, abscesses, and ulcers. Wild iguanas do not suffer from any of these illnesses. They’re also strict vegans, limited to a very specific range of greens and fruits.
Costs for food, an enclosure, lighting, and vet bills can total hundreds of dollars per year. It takes about a year of daily interaction to socialize an iguana, and even then, sexually mature males will be very aggressive six months out of the year if they see their own reflections or if confronted with other iguanas.
There is a health risk associated with keeping any reptile. Seventy thousand people in the U.S. contract salmonellosis from direct or indirect contact with reptiles and amphibians every year. Children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illness or death. If you or anyone close to you is in one of these categories, rethink bringing a reptile into your home—even healthy looking animals may be carrying the disease. Many reptiles are brought into the country with little or no inspection or quarantine.
Purchasing a reptile caught in his or her natural habitat encourages the removal of wildlife from delicate ecosystems. Buying captive-bred animals only encourages breeders to replenish their stock. If you must have a reptile as a companion animal, adopt from a local shelter or rescue group.
Declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain, manifesting as unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination (soiling/urinating outside of the litter box) and aggression/biting.
Declaw surgery (onychectomy) is illegal in many countries but is still a surprisingly common practice in some. It is performed electively to stop cats from damaging furniture, or as a means of avoiding scratches. Side effects of the surgery include lameness, chewing of toes and infection. Long-term health effects can be even more devastating.
According to research published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain, manifesting as unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination (soiling/urinating outside of the litter box) and aggression/biting. This is not only detrimental to the cat (pain is a major welfare issue and these behaviors are common reasons for relinquishment of cats to shelters), but also has health implications for their human companions as cat bites can be very serious.
Inappropriate toileting, biting, aggression and overgrooming occurs significantly more often in declawed cats than non-declawed cats. A declawed cat is also almost 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with back pain than a non-declawed cat (potentially due to shortening of the declawed limb and altered gait, and/or chronic pain at the site of the surgery causing compensatory weight shift to the pelvic limbs).
The surgical guideline for performing declawing, as recommended by Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, is to remove the entire third phalanx (P3), which is the most distal bone of the toe. Despite this, P3 fragments are found in 63% of declawed cats – reflecting poor or inappropriate surgical technique. While the occurrence of back pain and abnormal behaviors is increased in declawed cats, even optimal surgical technique does not eliminate the risks. The removal of the distal phalanges forces the cat to bear weight on the soft cartilaginous ends of the middle phalanges (P2) that were previously shielded within joint spaces. Pain in these declawed phalanges prompts cats to choose a soft surface, such as carpet, in preference to the gravel-type substrate in the litter box. Additionally, declawed cats may react to being touched by resorting to biting as they have few or no claws left to defend themselves.
Scientific evidence proves that declawing is more detrimental to our feline patients than originally thought. Veterinarians should reconsider declawing cats. The procedure is unethical and inhumane.
Turtles are reptiles with hard shells that protect them like a shield. Their upper shells are called a ‘carapace’. Their lower shells are called ‘plastron’. The shell is made up of 60 different bones all connected together. Many turtle species are able to hide their heads inside their shells when attacked by predators. Their hard shells enable them to live without fast reflexes and elaborate predator avoidance strategies.
Turtles are highly intelligent and social animals. They sometimes switch between monogamy and promiscuity in their sexual behavior. They enjoy playing. They have good eyesight, hearing and an excellent sense of smell. Their shells contain nerve endings, aiding in their sense of touch.
Some aquatic turtles can absorb oxygen through their skin so they can remain submerged underwater for extended periods of time. They can even hibernate underwater.
The largest turtle is the leatherback sea turtle, which can weigh over 2000 lb. Several species of turtles can live to be over a hundred years of age, including the American Box Turtle.
Some turtles lay eggs in the sand and leave them to hatch on their own. The baby turtles make their way to the top of the sand and scramble to the water while trying to avoid predators. In some species of turtle the temperature determines if the egg will develop into a male or female. Higher temperatures lead to females; lower temperatures lead to males.
Most of the North American species of turtles available in pet stores have been taken from their natural habitats. Other species are usually captive bred—most likely in Louisiana, which has dozens of turtle factory farms. Most states have laws either banning or restricting the sale of turtles, so it is likely that any you see at a pet store have suffered illegal capture or were raised in less than humane conditions. Since parasites, bacteria, and fungi prey on weak or stressed turtles, the health of a store-bought turtle is questionable.
Just like any other reptile, a turtle’s needs are very specific: thermostatically controlled temperatures, enough water to swim in, a large housing area, and a varied diet. The average lifespan of an aquatic turtle is 25 years, while a land tortoise could outlive you.
There is a health risk associated with keeping any reptile. Seventy thousand people in the U.S. contract salmonellosis from direct or indirect contact with reptiles and amphibians every year. Children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illness or death. If you or anyone close to you is in one of these categories, rethink bringing a reptile into your home—even healthy-looking animals may be carrying the disease. Many reptiles are brought into the country with little or no inspection or quarantine.
Welcoming a reptile into your home means a commitment of time, space and money. You’ll need to provide the right temperature and humidity and specific light/dark cycles that may not coincide with your own or be convenient to you. Backup power is necessary to keep a constant temperature in the event of a power failure. In all, costs for food, an enclosure, lighting, and vet bills can total hundreds of dollars per year.
Purchasing a reptile caught in his or her natural habitat encourages the removal of wildlife from delicate ecosystems. Buying captive-bred animals only encourages breeders to replenish their stock. If you must have a reptile as a companion animal, adopt from a local shelter or rescue group.
While some wildlife groups may use media attention to speculate that cats are causing species loss, leading biologists, climate scientists, and environmental watchdogs all agree: endangered species’ fight for survival rests in our own hands.
Focusing on cats diverts attention from the far more dangerous impact of humans. Too many media stories sidestep these realities to focus on sensational issues like cats’ imagined impact on birds. But cats have been a natural part of the landscape for over 10,000 years—that has not changed. What has changed in that time is how we have re-shaped the environment to suit 21st century human needs—at a great cost to the other species that share our ecosystem. Our direct impact on our environment is without a doubt the number one cause of species loss.
Make no mistake—habitat loss is the most critical threat to birds. With this exponential human population growth comes massive use of natural resources and rampant development: industrial activity, logging, farming, suburbanization, mining, road building, and a host of other activities. The impact on species from habitat destruction, pollution, fragmentation, and modification is alarming. According to the World Watch Institute, “people have always modified natural landscapes in the course of finding food, obtaining shelter, and meeting other requirements of daily life. What makes present-day human alteration of habitat the number one problem for birds and other creatures is its unprecedented scale and intensity.”
Human activities are responsible for up to 1.2 billion bird deaths every year. Nearly 100 million birds die annually from collisions with windows; 80 million from collisions with automobiles; 70 million from exposure to pesticides. Millions of birds are intentionally killed by U.S. government-sponsored activities each year.
The human population continues to grow, threatening other species. Exponential population growth has left little land untouched by human development. In America alone, the population grew by 60 million people between 1990 and 2010, and experts predict we will add 23 million more people per decade in the next 30 years. That kind of growth—the equivalent of adding another California and another Texas to our already teeming population—is unprecedented in American history.
Killing cats will not save wildlife. Studies have shown cats to be mainly scavengers, not hunters, feeding mostly on garbage and scraps. When they do hunt, cats prefer rodents and other burrowing animals. Studies of samples from the diets of outdoor cats confirm that common mammals appear three times more often than birds. Additionally, scientists who study predation have shown in mathematical models that when cats, rats, and birds coexist, they find a balance. But when cats are removed, rat populations soar and wipe out the birds completely.
Some wildlife organizations and media outlets continue to quote scientific studies that have been proven inaccurate. A careful analysis of the science concludes there is no strong support for the viewpoint that cats are a serious threat to wildlife.
Although human civilization and domestic cats co-evolved side by side, the feral cat population was not created by humans. Cats have lived outdoors for a long time. In the thousands of years that cats have lived alongside people, indoor-only cats have only become common in the last 50 or 60 years—a negligible amount of time on an evolutionary scale. They are not new to the environment and they didn’t simply originate from lost pets or negligent animal guardians. Instead, they have a place in the natural landscape.
Thousands of greyhounds are killed each year as the greyhound racing business struggles to stay alive. Although only about 30 percent of the greyhounds born in the industry will ever touch a racetrack, greyhounds who do qualify to become racers at 18 months typically live in cages, some as small as three foot by three foot, for roughly 22 hours each day. Some are kept muzzled by their trainers almost constantly. Many exhibit crate and muzzle sores, and are frequently infested with internal and external parasites. Greyhounds are forced to race in extreme weather conditions from sub zero weather to temperatures reaching over 100 degrees.
Greyhounds are "retired" when they become unprofitable through injury or failure to win races. Few make it to the mandated retirement age of five years. Injuries and sickness - broken legs, heat stroke, heart attacks - claim many dogs. Some are accidentally electrocuted or otherwise injured by lures during a race. Most dogs who slow down and become unprofitable are either killed immediately or sold to research laboratories.
A few of the big winners are kept for breeding. Because of the all-pervasive economic interests, many greyhound owners and trainers have kept dogs in deplorable conditions and killed them in cheap, cruel ways.
Thousands of additional animals - most of them rabbits - are used as live bait each year to teach dogs to chase lures around the track. The dogs are encouraged to chase and kill live lures hanging from a horizontal pole so they will chase the inanimate lures used during the actual races. "Bait animals" may be used repeatedly throughout the day, whether alive or dead. Rabbits' legs are sometimes broken so their cries will excite the dogs; guinea pigs are used because they scream. When animals are "used up," dogs are permitted to catch them and tear them apart.
Trainers claim the use of live lures is necessary to teach dogs to be champion racers, and the cost of "bait animals" is low compared to the potential earnings of a winning dog. Less aggressive dogs are sometimes placed in a cage with a rabbit or other animal and not released or fed until they have killed the cage companion. Only a small percentage of greyhounds are trained using an artificial rabbit lure.
Because greyhounds are usually gentle, quiet, and friendly, some of the lucky dogs are placed into caring homes through rescue organizations. But only a very small percent of retired greyhounds are adopted. Although adoption helps, the only way to protect greyhounds from abuse is to put an end to racing. Due to the grassroots efforts of concerned citizens, live dog racing has been banned in several states and greyhound racing is losing its popularity.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Boycott the animal entertainment industry.
Leaflet at a local track.
Lobby for a ban in your state (whether there are currently dog tracks or not.)
Write letters to the editor opposing greyhound racing.
Geckos are small to medium sized lizards naturally found in temperate and tropical regions. They are more commonly found around the Equator and in the Southern Hemisphere. Some species also live north of the Equator in warmer regions. They live in a wide variety of habitats including jungles, rocky deserts, rainforests, mountains, grasslands and even urban areas.
There are over 2,000 known different species of gecko found in a wide variety of colors and markings. They range considerably in size. Geckos are able to walk up vertical surfaces because they have feet covered in tiny hairs that stick to surfaces like suction cups.
They are carnivorous reptiles, feeding on insects, worms, small birds, reptiles and small mammals. Some geckos eat plant matter such as moss.
Snakes are the main predator of geckos. Large spiders, mammals and birds also feed on geckos.
Female geckos lay 2 sticky eggs with a soft shell that quickly hardens. Within 1 to 3 months, depending on the species and habitat, babies hatch.
Many gecko species are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and pollution and the exotic pet trade. Geckos are very popular reptiles in pet stores. These small, frail-looking lizards can often live up to 30 years and require a very particular environment without the slightest variance in temperature. They feed on insects and baby mice.
There is a health risk associated with having a gecko. Seventy thousand people in the U.S. contract salmonellosis from direct or indirect contact with reptiles and amphibians every year. Children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illness or death. If you or anyone close to you is in one of these categories, rethink bringing a gecko into your home—even healthy-looking animals may be carrying the disease.
Welcoming a gecko into your home means a commitment of time, space and money. You’ll need to provide the right temperature and humidity and specific light/dark cycles that may not coincide with your own or be convenient to you. Backup power is necessary to keep a constant temperature in the event of a power failure.
In all, costs for food, an enclosure, lighting, and vet bills can total hundreds of dollars per year.
Purchasing a gecko caught in his or her natural habitat encourages the removal of wildlife from delicate ecosystems. Buying captive-bred animals only encourages breeders to replenish their stock. If you must have a gecko as a companion animal, adopt from a local shelter or rescue group.
Dogs are social animals, just as we are. In the wild, dogs live in packs and form bonds among themselves. But domesticated dogs were bred, over thousands of years, to form strong attachments to human family groups. Yet in the U.S alone more than 200,000 dogs (this number could be much higher) are chained, tethered or penned outside 24/7. This is inhumane treatment. It is solitary confinement in shackles.
Tied-up and isolated dogs become lonely, bored, depressed and anxious - the same feelings human prisoners in solitary confinement feel. Otherwise sweet and friendly dogs will often become neurotic and aggressive. Studies show that chained dogs are much more likely to bite than unchained dogs. And if you care at all about your dog, consider that a chained dog is at the mercy of predators like coyotes or those humans that would harm them. Tethered dogs have also harmed themselves by pulling at their chains. They develop neck problems at the least and, at the worst, can hang themselves trying to escape.
It is morally wrong and incredibly selfish for anyone to actually acquire a dog with the intent to keep it outside as protection for a home or property. This is not the role of dogs in our lives. If you have security fears, buy an alarm system that has no need of love, companionship, warmth or shelter. Dogs are also put outside because the people who have them could not, or would not, address bad behaviors such as soiling or nipping. It is the responsibility of everyone who has a dog to train the animal. If you are unable to train your dog, take the animal to obedience classes or bring in a trainer. If you don’t have enough money for this, then do the right, humane and kind thing. Find the dog a new home. Never surrender your dog to a pound or high kill shelter. This is the coward’s way out. Contact a no-kill shelter or rescue group in your area. Be honest about any behavioral problems. People devoted to rescue are willing to work with most animals.
Another all too common reason that dogs are chained or penned outside is because someone in the family, or even a regular visitor, has allergies. If you suspect that anyone in your household will not be able to tolerate the presence of a dog (or cat) inside your home, find the animal a new and loving home. If you choose to place the animal yourself, never advertise a dog or cat in a newspaper or online without charging a small purchase amount. Few people value what they get for free. Also, there are the horrible people known as “bunchers” who acquire “free to good home” animals and sell them to laboratories for experimentation. This is the worst fate possible for your animal. Place your animal with compassion and care and donate the purchase price to your local shelter or an animal welfare organization.
Not only do tethered and penned dogs suffer from isolation, but they also are very likely to have poor, if any, shelter, dry bedding or even clean water. As people learn that chaining or tethering dogs is animal cruelty, a growing number of anti-cruelty laws and ordinances have been passed in communities nationwide. These laws include "adequate care standards" that make it illegal to keep a dog outside in inclement weather or dangerous temperatures without proper shelter. “Dog House” ordinances, as some are called, also require the guardian of the dog to provide dry bedding and clean water. If you see a tethered dog that you believe is being exposed to extreme heat or cold, call animal control in your area. Even if the dog's guardian is not violating any laws, an animal control officer or cruelty investigator may be able to convince the dog guardian to take steps to improve the situation. However, the best outcome is always to persuade the individual to voluntarily give up the dog. No one that keeps a dog outside 24/7, chained or fenced in, should ever have an animal.
You can make a positive impact in your neighborhood by educating people about the cruelty of tethering and the needs of dogs that spend their lives outdoors.
If we can reach the heart of just one person who keeps his or her dog chained, and that dog’s life is made better, then we will have made a difference. For all those who love animals, spread the word. Please help chained dogs wherever you find them, and prevent more dogs from suffering this sad, solitary life.
The fate of the world’s richest biodiversity of salamanders and newts is in the hands of “pet” collectors across North America. At issue is salamander chytrid disease, caused by a fungus that infects both salamanders and newts with near total lethality. The fungus, known as B.sal, infects the skin, causing wart-like lesions. As the disease progresses, the animal stops eating, becomes lethargic, loses control of its body movements and eventually dies.
Originally from Asia, the disease – spread by the pet trade – has completely wiped out wild populations where it has appeared in Europe and the U.K.
Experts are raising the alarm, urging immediate action. The threat is similar to invasive fungal disease that all but wiped out entire species of frogs in South and Central America, and white nose disease, which has killed entire colonies of bats – millions of animals – across North America.
Scientists are warning people who already keep salamanders or newts to make sure any water or cage wastes are properly disinfected before discarding them. Always seek appropriate veterinary care for sick salamanders and newts.
The fungus makes little zoospores that can even swim on their own a short distance. They can live in water and in mud and are easily spread.
Experts advise to never handle wild salamanders, and never, ever release pet animals into the wild.
With their shy nature, salamanders keep a low profile that belies their importance to the ecosystem, where they occupy a niche similar to that of frogs and toads. They eat insects and other aquatic invertebrates and are in turn eaten by fish, birds and small mammals.
Amphibians are key components within the food web. A decline or elimination of even one species will have some impact, a trickle-down effect on other species within that food web.
Many people appreciate the mystic and beauty of exotic animals such as reptiles, amphibians, birds or mammals of non-native species or individuals of native species that have been raised in captivity. They succumb to the temptation of purchasing critters, reptiles, amphibians and other exotic animals, often on impulse. Too often little thought is put into the care and commitment necessary to properly provide for these animals. Parents frequently purchase the animals as learning aids or entertainment for their children who are far too young to be responsible for an intelligent, emotional, living being.
If you have the time, resources and compassion to make a home for a critter, reptile, amphibian or exotic animal, adopt rather than supporting the inhumane pet trade industry. Like dogs and cats, millions of mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, reptiles, exotic animals and "pocket" pets are available through humane societies, shelters and rescue groups each year.
The topic of feral cat predation on wildlife, especially birds, has become a battleground of competing opinions on whether feral cats should be trapped, neutered and returned to their environment, or if they should be viewed as invasive species and eradicated. A careful analysis of the science concludes there is no strong support for the viewpoint that cats are a serious threat to wildlife, except in certain instances of fragile populations in isolated or fragmented ecosystems.
Hundreds of news outlets reported on a Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study in 2013 claiming “free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals annually” in the U.S. The absurd estimates presented in the study of bird mortalities represented 28.5 to 75.5% of the estimated 4.7 billion landbirds in all of North America. If these figures were even remotely accurate, birds would have been wiped out in North America long ago. A careful examination of the mathematical model developed by the researches revealed one inflated input after another. Yet, this bad science continues to be quoted over and over again by the media and wildlife organizations.
Too often, very flawed science is used to wrongly blame cats for declining wildlife populations and to bolster the false case against Trap-Neuter-Return. The so-called “Wisconsin Study” is one of the most misquoted and misunderstood of these studies. It is not reliable scientific research. The Wisconsin Study is not even a real study—in fact, it is a proposal for a study that never actually took place. The Wisconsin Study’s “data” has never been peer-reviewed, and only parts of it have been selectively published.
The authors published several articles attempting to project the potential impact of free-ranging cats on the bird population in the state of Wisconsin. The authors themselves identify their estimates of cat predation on birds as guesses. When interviewed about the estimates of cat predation from the study, one of its authors, Dr. Stanley Temple, disavowed them, saying, “Those figures were from our proposal. They aren’t actual data; that was just our projection to show how bad it might be.”
As this false data circulates, people aren’t getting the truth about wildlife and cats. The American Bird Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other groups have carelessly wielded these flawed statistics when opposing Trap-Neuter-Return. Such high-profile sources have a responsibility to properly examine their sources and provide Americans with scientifically-supported information.
Worse, the data is circulated by unknowing media. Both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have repeatedly cited statistics attributed to the Wisconsin Study in the past—but their reporters and editors have apparently failed to investigate the accuracy of these numbers.
Bad science robs communities of real solutions—and costs cats their lives. Trap-Neuter-Return is the only effective approach for managing feral cat colonies. Sound policy decisions about animals’ best interests cannot be made based on unsound science.
Real science shows that removing feral cats creates a “vacuum effect”: Cats from neighboring areas move into the newly available space to take advantage of food and shelter. These cats soon begin to breed to capacity. Before long, just as many cats can be found in the area as were there before.
Scientific research has observed the vacuum effect across many species. Removing cats from an area is a futile effort—one that cannot succeed. Municipalities engaged in any type of catch and kill efforts are fighting a cruel, endless, losing battle against nature that is a gross waste of taxpayer dollars.
One of the few documented efforts to remove a population of cats by catch and kill occurred on a uninhabited (sub-Antarctic) island: Marion Island. It took 19 years of ruthless methods—methods impossible to recreate in areas inhabited by people, such as introducing disease and poisoning—to clear the island of cats. Over those 19 years, scientists noticed that when cats were cleared from a “preferred” area of the island, cats from another area took their place. In other words, even as scientists worked to kill the cats, they observed the vacuum effect.
Trap-Neuter-Return avoids the vacuum effect. Trap-Neuter-Return stabilizes the population, which then decreases over time. It also improves the cats’ health by ending the stresses associated with mating and pregnancy.