Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kindness Ranch

It is often assumed that at the end of an experiment when the animal is not longer useful, painlessly killing the animals is pretty much the only option. However increasing numbers of researchers are finding ways to rehome or retire research animals. One example if the Kindness Ranch sanctuary for ex-research animals, currently housing dogs, cats, pigs and horses. For relatively short-lived animals such a within-lab retirement cage is also sometimes an option, allowing animals to be euthanised according to the original meaning of the word--when it is in their own best interests.

You can see some blog posts by visitors to the sanctuary here and (briefly) here.

The Dogs of Store

Some more fashion brand dogs:


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"A science background"

Sometimes I think the science professions don't get respect much as "real" scientists.

Case in point, Markus Chown was just talking on Radio New Zealand.  He has written an interesting-looking book called What a Wonderful World: One Man's Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff which attempts to explain important fundamental science in simple ways.  Which is great.

But in discussing how people develop their ideas in discussions, including with avergae members of the public, he said:"I write to my wife who is a nurse and doesn't have a any science background"

I really hope I heard that wrong, because do I really want to read a book by a man who thinks either:
1) Medicine is not predominantly a science, or
2) Nurses are not highly trained practicing medical professionals.

Human and Animal Health symposium coming up

Global Development Symposium: Critical Links between Human and Animal Health, May 4-7, 2014, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Canada. This symposium will bring together social, environmental, medical and veterinary scientists with policy makers, students and community members who have an interest in positive global development. Underscoring the "Critical Links between Human and Animal Health," the symposium will explore interdisciplinary approaches to improving public health and food security while empowering communities for lasting change. Abstracts for oral and poster presentations are being accepted through January 14, 2014.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Some sights at the Field Museum

If I had discovered a new dinosaur I would let people know.  At least put up a poster "we discovered a new dinosaur; Merry Christmas, buy some dinosaur-shaped cookie cutters".  But the Field Museum didn't feel like making a big deal out of it so I looked at some other things instead. It is an amazing collection. Here are just a few of my favorites.

Hopewell antler headdress (replica)
Man-eating lions, despite having no manes they are males

Extinct Irish elk
Fox-shaped vessel

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nano Aquariums

Mr. T in DC / / CC BY-ND
I pick up articles about nano (a.k.a. small, 10 gallon or less) aquariums with an uneasy feeling.  Small tanks are considerably harder to manage than larger tanks and unsuitable for most fish sold in the aquarium trade.

But kudos to Edward C Taylor who wrote an article called Little Tanks, Big Opportunities for the November 2013 issue of the magazine Pet Business.

The article has a generally upbeat tone but Taylor was also pithily emphasize that the goal is for the tank to be successful long after it goes out the door.

For these reason he recommends that nano tanks are really only for freshwater unless you are a marine aquarium expert, that they need to be sold by trained staff who are willing and empowered to refuse to sell livestock not suited to mall tanks, and that the ideal nano species are often hard to get in the trade.

It is a short but informative article and I found that it is also available online here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

No, these are not my "Furkids"

redjar / / CC BY-SA
Okay, let me start by saying that people should define their relationship to their pets however best pleases them.  Parents of fur-babies.  Sure, why not?  Knock yourself out.

But can I please have the same respect in return?

I own dogs.  They are full adult canines, and I assert property ownership rights over them as a conscientious and highly committed head (and only human member of) the household.

They are not my children.  They are not even like children to me. They are like dogs. This is because they are dogs.

I am becoming a little frustrated that all pet owners are increasingly shoveled into a category of "pet parents"--complete with mountains of anthropomorphism and infantalizing baggage.  And when I protest this I get treated like the devil-spawn reincarnation of Descartes.

Yes, dogs have feelings, thoughts, expectations and personalities.  But they are the feelings, thoughts, expectations and personalities of a non-human (albeit domesticated) dogs.  And I choose to respect that by speaking of them at all times as dogs, not proxies for juvenile humans--not even metaphorically.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Operation Free TV -- Day 7

Seven days into Operation iPad and I have had to redefine the mission as Operation Free TV as NCP stopped offering iPads as rewards.  The new goal is a 32 inch television.

Goal: 290,000 Pts
Progress:  1,800 Pts (0.6%)

Teacup Great Dane

I guess I should have been focused on the happy message of this story, but my attention was diverted at the mention of a "teacup Great Dane."

Teacup Great Dane.

This is apparently a real thing.  With intrepid breeders filling a need for people who want a really small giant dog.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dog in the Hood

It is never, and I mean never, a good sign when a catalog does not have a photograph of a product--just an illustration. And feeling the need to point out what part of a hoodie is the hood does not really bode well either.

But my main concern would be: is there an, um, well, a poop hatch?

National Consumer Panel a.k.a. Operation Mini iPad

As an undergrad I once joined one of those programs were you fill out online surveys to get an iPod shuffle.  It was clearly designed to make most people give up long before they got their iPod.  You even had to get a notarized document to make them send it.  Fortunately I was at a University where I could get that for free.  I did get it in the end, completely free, but boy did it take some determination

Now I have an even more ambitious plan.  I have been accepted as a member of the National Consumer Panel where you scan your groceries and do surveys for points.  If you earn 278,000 points you get a mini iPad.  This is day number 1 of Operation iPad.  I wonder how long it will take?

Friday, October 25, 2013

New Book

The book "Laboratory Animal Welfare" is out.  This includes a chapter by Gail Golab and myself called "Chapter 1 – History, Philosophies, and Concepts of Animal Welfare".

I can't claim this chapter is a thrill a minute.  But it is a useful exercise, I think, to sit down and think: 'how did we get here?'.  That essentially is what this chapter is, when it comes to how we deal with the welfare of laboratory animals.

It includes a brief timelines of the major developments in the three dimensions of public events (history), the work of philosophers (philosophy), and the word of scientists and regulators (concepts).  I hope putting this all in one place, rather briefly and as clearly as possible, will be useful to some people out there.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Vera models her new snood....

Courtesy of my Mom.

What's my motivation?
The model needs a treat.
This is moi's best angle

When good data gets over-hyped

State Library of New South Wales collection / Foter
I love this study which showed:
1) You can train conscious dogs to cooperate with an MRI
2) As with humans, the dogs caudate nucleus lights up when they sense something or someone they like.

But does this mean:
1) Dogs are "like humans"
2) Therefore dogs should not be property
3) Dogs should be legal persons.

Um, no.  It has no really baring on this issues because:
1) We already knew dogs were sentient and had likes and dislikes
2) Thus animals can be, and are, sentient property, and
3) Domesticated dogs will continue to need legal guardians preventing them from being full persons under the law.

We can debate how the legal status of all animals could be changed. But this particular studies contributed approximately nothing to this debate as even the most strict of animal laws does not deny that animals have emotions and feel likes and dislikes.  That is not the issue here.

I really wish both the academic literature and the popular media would just let research data be what it is, and not make wild claims about its earth-shattering higher meaning.  Dogs like stuff, we can tell which stuff by doing MRIs.  Is that not cool enough?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cherchez the Ingredients?

"Paleo to Go: Caveman Crunch" has fine natural, gluten free credentials.  It lists only three unprocessed ingredients.  Specifically: almonds, cashews and coconut.

But wait a minute.  How does an product with a sum total of three ingredients also very clearly also contain raisins, pumpkins seeds and sunflower seeds?

And as far as I could taste, no coconut.

It's a mystery.

The "vicious" horse issue

Powerhouse Museum Collection / Foter
It first sight it may simply seem bizarre, the parents of an injured by trying to have a court determine that horses are innately vicious. From their point of view, it would allow them to make the farm pay for the child's medical treatment.  Because while the speicifc horse is not known to be aggressive, if all horses are vicious he would still be negligent and allowign the child near the horse.

This situation echoes the ruling by some courts that bit bull-type dogs are innately vicious (must be assumed to be vicious regardless of their personal history).  This ruling also stems from a suit to cover the costs of medical treatment of a child.  A suit not against the owners of the dog but the landlord that allowed their owners to become his tenants.

While I am sympathetic with parents needs help dealing with a serious injury and the resulting costs, this is not the way to deal with it.  "Vicious" rulings lead to the deaths of animals, draconian rules that punish responsible and irresponsible owners alike, and cutting choildren off from animals.

marystachowiak / Foter / CC BY-SA
If horses are deemed vicious there will be no insurance for people who use them a therapy animals, recreation animals or indeed pets.  People who benefit from horses will lose those benefits, horses will be homeless and often end up euthanized or in inappropriate housing.  And if all horses were innately vicious would we not all know about it?  Wouldn't the responsibility to keep kids away from them fall at least as much on the parents as the horse owner?

When will the US system of "justice" realize that not every harm has a corresponding blame?  When will there be a system to provide healthcare based on need not ability to pay (thus requiring people to sue their way out of crippling debt)?  How many ridiculous court cases will it take for reform to come?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Decorating for Dogs

There is an app called CVSimulator which will filter your pictures to show various kinds of color-blindness.  If you select 'P' for protanopia you get an approximation of how dogs see colors.

Here are the colors I recently chose for decorating my apartment:

And here is how they might look to the dogs:

So, basically I choose to focus on the two colors, red and green, that humans and dogs see completely differently.  Oops.

For more about color vision in dogs visit my post "In Case You Were Wondering: Here's How Colors Look to "Color-Blind" Dogs"

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Reiki for Rats

Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious / Foter / CC BY-SA
My jumping off point for this post was Orac’s post about Reiki for rats (and to some extent this related post at Dr Aust's blog). The study in question is:

ResearchBlogging.orgReiki Improves Heart Rate Homeostasis in Laboratory Rats. Ann Linda Baldwin, Christina Wagers, Gary E. Schwartz. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. May 1, 2008, 14(4): 417-422. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.0753

But I am going to immediately jump back to a slightly earlier study in the same vein by the same first author, which is:

ResearchBlogging.orgPersonal Interaction with a Reiki Practitioner Decreases Noise-Induced Microvascular Damage in an Animal Model. Ann L. Baldwin, Gary E. Schwartz. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. January 1, 2006, 12(1): 15-22. doi:10.1089/acm.2006.12.15

I recently went to a talk on alternative medicine for pets where the speaker asked any skeptics in the room to raise their hand. Like any self-respecting scientist I am pretty skeptical about things so I (and only I) raised my hand. The speaker then illuminated for us all that some skeptics are simply debunkers, which made me feel very welcome indeed. But I will say that I am not a debunker, what I am is a great fan of parsimony and a person with an immense and abiding respect for rats. Not, I hasten to add, respecting rats as if they were little people, but because they are rats--and rats are some of the most successful, adaptable and sensitive animals on the planet.

So my skeptic node starts to twitch when I read that rats are employed in study to avoid "complications with attitude that are encountered when using human subjects". Because rats have a lot of attitude, and they have a lot of opinions about people. Rats coming straight out of rodent supply companies like the ones in the Reiki study tend to stereotype people as predators, but are touchingly quick to change their minds and treat humans as friends. They distinguish between people easily and a rat I have gentled (over a few days) will make an amicable ultrasound 'tick tick' call when I hold it, but be silent when held by a stranger. However they can also form rapid and lasting enmities for some people for reasons I couldn't always work out--I had one rat that would run a maze happily for one handler, but refuse to move for another. So while rats undoubtedly neither know about, nor have opinions about, Reiki--it is utterly inevitable that they will notice and have opinions about every person whose presence they detect. (Or as Orac wrote: "Of course, rats react to the presence of humans, and if the reiki masters were sufficiently soothing to the rats, that could have had an effect.")

These will tend to be strong feelings, specific to the person, and they will tend to change rapidly over time. This is why when a battery of tests is done on rats, the open field fear test is always done first. Because if you do it after running, for example, a three day maze test by the end of it the rats will be much more relaxed and have come to like you or at least get used to you, or at least associate your presence with food rewards, and so they just won't be very afraid any more. But I digress.

The initial Reiki study used four groups of 4 rats over a three week period
1) undisturbed rats
2) rats exposed to 15 minutes of 90bd noise daily
3) Reiki, then noise
4) sham Reiki, then noise.

I would note that the sham condition is described thusly: "The student imitated the physical movements of the Reiki practitioner" ... "The sham Reiki practitioners were asked not to think about the rats, whereas the Reiki practitioners focussed their full attention on the pair of rats to which they were sending Reiki". Thus the sham condition controlled mainly for the general positioning of an adult human being. Oh and interestingly the Reiki practitioners filled out a questionnaire that showed they was far more mentally and emotionally positive than the students were. (well, you know how undergraduates are).

Is this "a sham Reiki group [that] provided an excellent control"? It would say it is an adequate control only if all that rats react to is the presence of an adult human and their approximate posture. However this simply isn't the case. Take, for example, the 'maze bright' effect. Rats run through a maze by a handler who has been told their rats were bred to be ‘maze bright’ out-performed genetically identical animals whose handler was told their rats were ‘maze dull’ (Rosenthal & Lawson,1964)--even though all handlers followed a standardised protocol and aspired to collect scientifically valid data. This and a great many other studies show that rats and many other animals respond to our interest, emotional responses and expectations. This can be seen in anything from the caretaker effect (rats bias their position in a maze or other equipment to stay near a familiar handler, animals are more likely to die immediately after a change of caretaker) to the Clever Hans effect (animals can seem to perform complex arithmetic just by stopping their response when the handler unconscious relaxes at the correct answer). This type of effect is hardly unknown to science and is one of the key reasons behind double blind study design--yes, even with studies using rats.

You might object that most of these effects involve people who have touched and handled the animals. And yes, there is as far as I know a paucity of data relating to the effects of simple presence and movement in the animal's proximity. However I think the same principle applies due to the importance of the 'flight zone' in prey species. In my own experience with rats they respond very strongly to the way people move and smell, and to a lesser extent how they look. For example they seem to notice eye contact and they react poorly to jerky movements compared to smooth movements. In fact novice handler often have trouble imitating good caretaking movements at first which involve not the speed or breadth of how you move, so much as the manner. Temple Grandin gives some very good talks on this issue. But again, I digress.

Thus, is Reiki the only--or even the most plausible--explanation of the effects of the proximity of attentive humans prior to or during a stressful effect. I would say no. I would say the social buffering effects of sympathetic human presence is sufficient explanation. And in fact an appropriate control might just have been an matched age and temperament human who really likes rats but is confirmed to be a complete muggle with no Reiki powers. Or the Reiki practitioner focusing on the rats but with their powers 'off'. Or indeed as the researcher's mention: "Reiki given remotely, so that the practitioner does not have to enter the room." (Or whatever would work best for the putative way Reiki works. I admit to being very familiar indeed with how rats work but admitted fairly ignorant of Reiki but if it can be given remotely then that would be a nifty solution).

Which it is all the more confusing that the 2008 paper not only keeps the practitioners in the room, but also dispenses with a simultaneous design (albeit one without direct counterbalancing for position) for a sequential design where all animals experience first real and then sham Reiki over a much short time scale. Again I must agree with Orac, with this second study "Most importantly, though, there's no way of telling whether this is a period effect, or not." For example, the main thing happening with a commercial source rats in a quiet room is habituation--habituation both to the effect of noise and the effect of human presence could in itself cause the Reiki condition to be more effective.

I also note that in the second paper it appears that Reiki is not just given prior to noise exposure, but during--and not for the whole period but for half of it. Was this intended to be a within session control? Data related to this does not seem to be presented and I think perhaps it should have been? In fact on the whole I am not entirely clear in reference to which data heart rate is deemed to have decreased. It seems to me that with three subjects and eight experimental sessions each only 45 minutes long, we might just be shown the data.

Back in the old (behaviorist) days I think this would have been seen as a replicated case study design with potentially confounding time trends--thus visual analysis would be a must. A graph, that is, with hearty rate etc plotted over time and dotted vertical lines to see when Reiki or Sham reiki is being applied.

In my opinion, what the statistics in both studies indicated, albeit only in a general way and if one assumes the potential confounds had no great effect, was this. Rats are stressed by noise. Rats in the presence of a disinterested undergrads waving their hands experience a reduction in stress which was in many cases statistically significant. Rats in the presence of presumably older, mentally happier people who were paying them close attention and moving their hands in a very well practiced soothing way experience an even greater reduction in stress. Rats left alone in a quiet room are the least stressed of all.

Am I a debunking? I would say not. Despite some methodological flaws which are, for some reason, more severe in the more recent paper than the earlier paper, I find the experimental outcome plausible. I think the quite significant effect of human presence, type of human presence, and attitude and behavior of animal handlers on animals such as laboratory rats is very rarely fully taken into account--it deserves a great deal more attention. Clever Hans is often taught to undergrads as a lesson in how to debunk, not a demonstration of the immense sensitivity of some animals to the attitudes and so behavior or people--which is the very reason why rats are not the ideal way to do away with the problems of human attitude. After all, most of us have some innate understand of at least the gross aspects of human attitude and how to control for it in a medical trial--very few people have the slightest notion about rat attitude and temperament. I would also argue if the point of a study is to demonstrate the effect of Reiki in particular, the effect of human presence in general needs to be much better understood and controlled.

Take home message: rats don't just know that we are there, they know if we care. In the absence of evidence to the contrary it is reasonable to assume they come to know this approximately the same we we do, using their normal senses.

The Enrichment Record Fall Webinar series

I will be acting as moderator for a series of webinars on research animal well-being produced by the Enrichment Record and sponsored by Charles River. Registration is $50 per webinar or $175 for the full series of four.

The first webinar is:
September 12, 2013 • 10AM EST 
Facts and Demonstrations: Exploring the Effects of Enrichment on Data Quality
Presenter: Penny Hawkins, BSc PhD, Deputy Head, Research Animals Department, RSPCA, UK


Getting ready for Halloween

Vera the Wonder Woman greyhound:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Velvet Antler

Dog with arthritis -- Craige Moore
Velvet antler and products made from it (glucosamine, chondroitin etc) are starting to appear a lot in products made for animals.  One application is to help dogs suffering from arthritis.  But there is one thing that I feel needs to be cleared up.

Many makers of antler product make claims about what it can be used to treat or prevent disorders, and even claim it is FDA approved.  This is not the case.  Velvet antler is approved only as a nutritional suppliment and in the United States claims that it can treat a disorder may not (legally) be made. Specifically the manufacturer may not claim the product is "a treatment, prevention or cure for a specific disease or condition." [link]

Users can of course develop their own understanding of how this product might help their dog.  But producers, in my opinion, should respect the law.  After all, if they ignore labelling laws what is to say they are meticulous about formulating their product and ensuring it is safe for your pets to consume?

For those interested in more of the details:

TheFDA have been petitioned as suggested by these statements:
"Recently, the ability for Velvet Antler to support and restore joint structure and function” (as a result of Osteo-arthritis) was substantiated by scientific evidence in compliance with the FDA regulations. Velvet Antler is a significant anti-inflammatory agent for the symptoms of Oste-arthritis and possibly other type of acute chronic inflammation as well." [Matejcek Elk & Deer Ranch]

"The use of velvet antler was scientifically supported in compliance with FDA regulations for its beneficial effects in treating arthritis." []

"Many of the nutrients found in velvet antler are important for arthritis sufferers. Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, collagen, essential fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, growth hormones, and growth factors are all vital for growth and maintenance of joints, tissues and synovial fluids. In 1999, velvet antler was scientifically substantiated by research and clinical studies in compliance with FDA regulations to prove that "velvet antler provides nutritional support for joint structure and function" in people suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis." [MnEBA]

But the FDA did not accept that application and  has not endorsed therapeutic claims associated with this product or its constituent parts.  Therapeutic claims about these products may not be (legally) made in the United States.

"Yes, even the FDA says that the chondroitin sulfate and the collagen that velvet antler contains can help joint function." [Betty Kamen]

"Velvet antler has met the rigorous standards of structure/function claims, as required by the FDA, for arthritis symptoms" []

What the FDA has actually concluded:

"In summary, FDA has tentatively concluded that a relationship between glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate and a reduced risk of OA is not established." [link]

And that is all.  Saying this product prevents or treats any disorder is not legal.  Saying it is endorsed by the FDA in any way is flat out incorrect. The strongest statement that might be considered legal is that these products may "provide nutritional support for joint structure and function"

Elk in velvet antler
 And keep in mind that to make this product living tissue (the antler while still covered in skin, with blood and nervous supply) was amputated from a non-domesticated species of animal.  If you wish to use this product please consider seeking out a more humane source such as seafood byproducts.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Recently I was reading through the 2nd (2006) edition of Suckow, Weisboth & Franklin's The Laboratory Rat. I had been thinking about the contribution of obesity to disease in rats so I flicked through to that section. I find it interesting that the chapter Spontaneous, surgically and chemically induced models of disease (Owens) is the only place obesity is covered. Owens states "Obesity is a common disorder that is rapidly increasing worldwide. It is estimated that 60% of the population of the United States is overweight or obese, and the number of individuals with this disorder is increasing."

It is only predictable that this chapter goes on to discuss only genetically abnormal rats that are obese or prone to becoming obese. It is also predictable that only human health consequences are discussed. However if one steps back a little from the subject, what is it the causes a large and increasing number of people to be overweight? Is it genetics? Certain individuals do suffer genetic abnormalities but when talking about 60% of the population I think it is clear that the predominant cause here is environmental. And it is an environment that we are, often without much thought, sharing with other animals.


When I watch dogs shows it seems to me that most of the animals being held up as paragons of their breed are, in fact, overweight--and in some cases obese. This is something a few commentators are beginning to recognise but so long as fat pedigree dogs are described coyly as having "excessive substance" I don't expect much progress. I see a similar effect in the dog park where predominantly well-padded pooches lumber around. Several studies suggest pet obesity prevalence is around 5% but I think it runs a little higher in my neck of the woods--more like our own human 60% or so. Owners of perfectly healthy slender dogs are subject to hostile stares and whispers. 'Does she ever feed it' 'You can see the ribs!' (of a whippet).

Being moderately overweight is not really a big deal so long as there are not serious health consequences and the person is happy with themself. However I do think we are losing our sense of normal body condition in both people and animals. We are poor judges of whether we and our animals are obese--and we seem relatively insensitive when weighting (so to speak) the health risks of obesity versus the abuse potential with under-feeding.


When I started working with rats in the laboratory one of my first concerns was their restricted diet. In many place rats are given about 75-80% of ad libertum. That is, you give them all the food they want and weigh how much they eat over a period long enough that the amount is stable day to day. The you take an average of the last week or so and feed them 80% of that amount each day. As a person used to feeding my pets pretty much anything they wanted this seemed a little mean. So I did a study to look at whether the rats would still work in the experiments if they were fed ad lib (demand curves shown below, for those interested). Because the rats were working for a preferred food during the study (sweetened condenses milk), I found the would still work hard enough for it to run an experiment, even when they had free access to diet pellets.

However, I was making the mistake of conflating what animals want and enjoy, for their overall welfare. It is quite clear that rats fed ad lib become fat, in fact the males become undeniably obese. And this obesity does have health consequences for the rats themselves. Obesity is a risk factor in many diseases that can be terminal or reduce quality of life in rats.

So the advice I have is not that we need to feed rats in the laboratory as if they are pets, but we should feed pet rats as if they were in the laboratory. A diet of 80% of free-feeding amounts is ample for rats (remembering to recalculate the amount several time a year to allow for growth). We should look at their body condition and actively question whether the rats is too thin or too fat. No one wants rats to be too hungry but energy-restricted diets can be chosen that promote feeling of satiety without those unhealthy consequences. And occasionally having time to anticipate a meal will only let them enjoy it more when it arrives.

As Richardson states in Diseases of Small Domestic Rodents (1997): "Care must be taken when feeding biscuits or treats that rats do not become obese. Obesity will lead to a shorter life span, poorer breeding capacity and sore hocks. Tumour development is also more common in obese animals. Obesity can be corrected by feeding a ration restricted in calories, and introducing more fruit and vegetables..."

And Me....

Yes, we want animals to be happy and have things they enjoy, but health and longevity need to be a balanced part of the picture. So if you have pets, please consider their body condition and look into providing diet and exercise that will support their overall health. It can also help us. I know that having a border-collie-cross (exercise is a must!) certainly helps keep me active. Although while I am sitting on the sofa I would rather eat a box of cookies and watch TV I always feel better after getting outside for a while and entertaining myself through activities... and a cookie tastes all the better for it when I get back. :)

ResearchBlogging.orgOWENS, D. (2006). Spontaneous, Surgically and Chemically Induced Models of Disease. DOI: 10.1016/B978-012074903-4/50026-1

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Greyhound Brooch

This is my first foray into doggie crafting.  With some sheet metal, tin snips and metal glue.  Maybe a bit rough around the edges, but so is the model....

The Chicago Declaration

The International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO) is an international group that hundred of small and large organizations belong to. IAHAIO aims to provide international leadership in advancing the field of Human Animal Interaction (HAI) and promotes research, education and practice development. IAHAIO communicates.

This July the met in Chicago. This was the first time IAHAIO has held it's triennial conference in the United States.  The following resolution and guidelines for action were approved at the IAHAIO General Assembly held on July 20, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

"Companion animals play a key role in One Health through the documented health and social benefits of the human-animal bond, through the role of service/assistance animals and through exchanging information on the etiology and treatment of naturally occurring disorders in companion animals and humans. Interactions between companion animals and humans can have a positive influence on human and animal health through similar processes."

It seems as if we are coming into a new era of interest in human animal interactions at all levels.  Not since the advent of the field in the 1970s has been been so much buzz, research, non-profit activity and funding available in this area!

Thursday, August 8, 2013


The nice thing about Instagram is that even if you post a picture of your pet every single day, nobody thinks that is unusual.  [@thebunnyhugger]

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

To Kill a Rat

cheesechoker / Foter / CC BY
It seems that any time someone wants to justify using a method of killing that causes suffering, they wheel out the rat.  A few years ago a bill that would outlaw killing an animal by drowning was opposed as it might deprive us of the right to drown rats (despite the fact that vermin were already specifically not covered by the law). 

More recently a man in Australia who set illegal steel traps on his property argued this was acceptable because "rats had infested his home from a neighbouring property."  It seems there is no cause of death too egregious, if the animal in question is a rat.

Even more strangely, a man was recently charged with animal abuse when he laid out rat poison and it killed some wild squirrels--which are essentially rats with fluffy tails and also considered 'vermin' when troublesome.  I can only assume that as the poison was sold for the purpose of killing rats, if it had killed only rats there would have been no charges brought? 

Wild rats are very tenacious and adaptable, frustrating moochers to some, terrifying nocturnal intruders to others.  But ultimately they are sentient mammals just like the fluffy squirrel, cat or dog.  So when it comes to deciding whether a method of killing is humane or not, 'it was only a rat' should be no justification, and 'it would be okay for a rat' no defense.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What Dog Blog Posts do You Want to See?

Monsieur Gordon / Foter / CC BY
So I am looking for some new ideas for my Dogster blog posts.

Are there any burning dog-related questions you have or issues you would like to discuss. 

Please comment!