March 23, 2010

"Nature by Numbers"

Here is a terrific little video from Cristóbal Vila of the graphic and animation studio Etérea. You can visit the most excellent website for more about the math, and to grab some gorgeous stills and screen captures of the work in progress. H/T to Boing Boing — I don't usually repost BB stuff, since so many internautas go there, but I liked this video too much not to share. [It's bigger and even beautiful-er on Vimeo.]

March 21, 2010

A home run of cuteness

Awesome shot by Steven J. Kazlowski, who somehow survived the cute overdose and has the photos to prove it.

Did I say home run? This is an out-of the-park, extra-innings, World Series grand slam of cuteness. From the Mail Online:
Photographer Steven Kazlowski, 40, snapped the otters drifting across Saw Mill Bay, in Prince William Sound, off the south coast of Alaska. The sound has more than 3,000 miles of shoreline and is home to around 70,000 sea otters.
[Whoa, dudes. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service [pdf link], "Three population stocks of sea otters exist in Alaska today. The statewide population is believed to number around 70,000 animals." Thousands of sea otters died in Prince William Sound as a result of the Exxon Valdez disaster, and research indicates that the population has not recovered fully. The current sea otter population of PWS, according to a 2003 aerial survey quoted here [pdf], is estimated to be nearly 12,000.]

Steven, from Seattle, United States, said he had to wait for almost eight hours before he got the snaps of the otters.

He said: 'I had watched this area for several days and I found a rock which I thought would make a great place to watch the otters from.

'I had been hiding there for about eight hours one day when I saw the otter with its baby drift by.

'It was fantastic that after all that time I was rewarded with these images.

'The baby was just sleeping in the sun as its mother she floated in the sound on her back. It was something I will never forget.'
Visit the Mail Online to see the cuteness in all its embiggened glory. [H/T: Petville.]

Tonight: new wildlife series from the BBC, Discovery Channel

"African straw-coloured fruit bats in flight, Kasanka National Park, Zambia." Photo by Kieran Dodds for Discovery Channel / BBC.

This Sunday, from 8-10pm ET/PT on the Discovery Channel, catch the premiere episode of Life.

From the NY Times review:
Fans of programs like “Nature” on PBS are already aware of just how exquisite the best wildlife filmmaking is these days, thanks to ultraportable gear and high-definition video, but the wealth and variety of material in “Life” may surprise even those viewers. (“Life” was made in partnership with the BBC, as was an earlier series, “Planet Earth.”)

The scale is among the most striking things. We’ve long been used to seeing big cats run down antelopes, and there are plenty of large animals here. But there are also insects, hummingbirds, fingernail-size amphibians. Who shot the rollicking images of an inchlong pebble toad rolling like a small stone down a mountainside in Venezuela? Someone with a heck of a lot of patience, that’s who.
Honestly, what kind of person is following inch-long pebble toads as they go rollicking down mountainsides in Venezuela? Funny you should ask. Here's a NY Times profile of The Calm Men Who Bring You Exotic Animals.

March 20, 2010

I could just die

One of the lucky ones found alive at a hoarder's "sanctuary." Photo from the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County, Ohio. They were able to save 162 dogs and dozens of other animals — you can drop off a donation here.

What's the old saying? "Our prayers are answered when we are motivated to do all that we can." Bad Rap tells why help is needed: a self-described "no-kill, non-profit organization" billing itself as a "humane sanctuary" was raided on Feb. 12 by police and the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County, and 162 dogs, 18 cats, 14 chickens, 5 ducks and 2 horses were found struggling to survive in horrifying conditions.

A third of the dogs were pit bulls. No surprise, says Bad Rap — pit bulls have nowhere to go in Ohio:
Courts found the sanctuary owner guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty and sentenced her to five years probation. Yes, she got in over her head. Typically, hoarders are treated as people with mental illnesses, and you can certainly understand why an animal lover would lose their marbles in a state with rampant puppy mills and laws that send families with pit bulls into a desperate tailspin. Hell, I might turn into a psycho hoarder in her shoes.
And you know you're a psycho hoarder when there are dead dogs in your bedroom. Graphic photos here: feel free to give them a miss. More from Bad Rap:
The surviving animals from this death camp are being cared for by the now very crowded Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County. This struggling organization has an antiquated shelter, a tiny operating budget of only $350K, and now they have the weight of the world on their shoulders as they try to sort out all the animals from this raid, including and especially the pit bulls. Send them your donations, good people. Here they are in the middle of BFE Ohio trying to help pit bulls that no one else wants. I mean, I could just die.
I know times are tough, but if you have a few bucks to spare, the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County could sure put them to good use.

[Also: is it just me, or is March turning into Sicko Hoarders and Troubled Sanctuaries Month? In the news lately: hoarder in San Diego; [Toronto] Animal shelter turned into a ‘house of horrors’; Orange [County, New York] could seize no-kill animal shelter; and now this from Ohio. Holy crap, people. Let's pray things improve for homeless animals.]

Trumbull County OH: where BSL victims went to die

March 19, 2010

My spring-fu is strong

No more winter browns. American Goldfinches are going through the closets, doing some spring cleaning, getting rid of the old stuff. [My local Goldfinches are a tad further along than this.] Photo by Doug Greenberg on Flickr.

What the well-dressed male Goldfinch will be wearing in a few weeks. Photo by Eric Bégin on Flickr.

Western Bluebird [and House Finches] by jek in the box on Flickr.

And they say we don't have seasons!

It went from wet and cold and dark to warm and sunny overnight. Birdsong everywhere, bazillions of birds, everything insanely green and sunny and beautiful. Hawks are nesting, turkey vultures are soaring, owl chicks are growing [owlets will be banded tomorrow [March 20] at 3:00 PM Pacific Time, webcam fans], and life is good.

I can't believe the Project FeederWatch season is almost over.

I looked out the kitchen window this afternoon and saw a big crowd bellying up to the birdbath: a flock of maybe 30 Cedar Waxwings, half a dozen Western Bluebirds, a Robin, some American Goldfinches, a warbler or two, all at the same time, everyone banking and landing, or drinking, or diving in and splashing. It was beautiful. All photos from Flickr/Creative Commons, because I don't digiscope. Yet.

Cedar Waxwing by ru 24 real on Flickr.

Cedar Waxwings by drewweber on Flickr.

American Robin. Beautiful photo by cruadinx on Flickr.

March 18, 2010

I knew Bill Koehler. Bill Koehler was a friend of mine.

All-time closest-to-my-heart dog movie, and not just because they filmed the mountain lion scenes near our cabin and Dad took us to watch. Also, check out the spray-painted forest floor as the continuity people try to make SoCal's San Bernardino National Forest look like green Quebec. I LOVE THIS MOVIE SO MUCH. Awesome Irish Setters trained by, who else, William Koehler. Click to embiggen.

I'm lying. I did know Bill Koehler, and I admired and respected him, but I was eleven years old when I took my beagle to his Novice Obedience class, so it wasn't like we were friends or anything. I like to imagine, though, that if you'd asked him years later about a kid and a beagle in some class back in the day, he would have said, "I remember them. They got a passing score, didn't they?"

"No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake." [Daniel J. Boorstin]

We did. Like most Koehler grads, that beagle and I could have walked into a Novice ring the day after obedience class ended and walked out with a qualifying score. Her spirit was not damaged by Koehler obedience. She was a spoiled, fat, happy little hound, as smart as any dog I've known, a beloved family member, an eager hunter, a champ at stealing food she couldn't get by begging, and the Koehler method, at least as it was applied by an eleven year old, didn't change any of that. The class made us both a lot smarter, and a lot closer. I loved it.

I think Bill Koehler was a genius with dogs. He taught every session of the class and worked with every type of dog and every type of handler under the sun. I saw no dogs ruined, no spirits broken, no "learned helplessness" — and I was an observant, kind-hearted youngster. I got the impression that Bill Koehler respected the intelligence and the character of each dog he worked with, and he wanted us to do the same.


"But... but... that thing he did!" Well, yeah. My second dog I trained at home so I wouldn't have to pitch a throw-chain in her general direction. But I took her to a Koehler class after that, and we had fun and she did great.

"But... what about that other thing?" I found something that worked a lot better. Not everything Bill Koehler advocated was right for me and my dogs.


A friend who shows her dogs in AKC obedience overheard the following exchange at ringside at a recent show, where one poorly-trained Novice dog after another was coming to grief:

"What has happened to Novice? The dogs used to do so much better than this."

"Well, yeah! They used to be trained by the Koehler method."


I used a clicker to train my pit bull Bounce [who had no interest whatsoever in retrieving toys or tennis balls] to fetch. After two sessions of maybe fifteen minutes each, two evenings in a row, she would fly to pick up a wooden dumbbell and return it to my hand. If I remember right, I used broken-up pieces of potato chips for treats. Huge fun, clickers.

On the other hand, anyone who says you can train a working border collie to work livestock using a clicker is talking out of his elbow. It simply can't be done with a clicker, for a host of reasons, and anyone who says it can has never gotten a dog around a USBCHA Open course. There are aversives in stockdog training. Sometimes there are rather strong aversives. And there are no food treats, ever — the dog wouldn't take them if you offered. I'm sure you can use a clicker to teach a dog to be obedient around stock, but obedience on stock is for conformation-bred dogs and AKC trials, not for Zamora.


Ian Dunbar says that a puppy should meet 100 friendly people of every size, age, appearance and ethnicity by the time the pup is three months old. I think this is possibly the greatest advice you can give to the owner of a new puppy, and I think if everyone in the country actually did this and did it right, the number of serious dog bites would approach zero. The socialization window slams shut by four months, people. Git 'er done.

On the same topic: the third chapter of Jean Donaldson's book Culture Clash — the chapter entitled Socialization, Fear and Aggression — is possibly the most important thing a first-time dog owner should read.

I'm not saying we should have mandatory classes with reading assignments, or anything like that. [On the other hand, is it a jungle out there or what?]


My sister has an awesome pug. Her pug is spoiled and happy and sleeps on the bed and goes on fun hikes and has her own wardrobe. Lily MunsterPug also sits politely at the door and comes when called. She's perfect, really. My sister follows some of Cesar Millan's training recommendations. She does not, however, poke dogs with her fingers and go "Tzchttt!"


I love when someone tries to defuse a religious argument by saying, "I think we all can agree that there are many paths to enlightenment."

Boom! "You know you're going to hell, don't you? Straight to hell." "Truth, not tolerance! Only one truth!" [opponents pound chests, walk away on knuckles]

Right now, advocates of different dog-training methods might as well be arguing about religion. They look like Oneness Pentecostals and Apostolic United Brethren hollering at each other, "Not Christian!" "Am too!" "Not Christian!" "Am too!" It's embarrassing to watch. Seriously. Not to mention that 99% of the dog owning public does. not. care.

Dogs are individuals. Handlers are individuals. A training method that suits one dog may not suit another. Combining techniques from different methods may work best. Whether disciples of the First Regular Church of Jesus Alive like it or not, there are many paths to enlightenment — and thank God for that. I mean, thank doG.

Cesar Millan: his dog, and his critics. Brent of KC Dog Blog rounds up the usual suspects.

Dog Training Symposium - First of It's Kind, Cesar Millan and American Humane Convene the Event. Its, dammit. Holy Mother of God, check out this comment.

H/T to Calvin Trillin for the First Regular Church of Jesus Alive.

U.S. Customs Canine Enforcement Training [video]

"Lab mix" when he's keeping the nation safe — "pit mix" if you're the nitwit: Rocky [former shelter dog], an explosive detector dog for U.S. Customs.

Time sink city — for the wonks, anyway ;~) To quote the most awesome and excellent Ta-Nehisi Coates:
C-SPAN has uploaded much of their video library. It's searchable. There is only one sensible reply to this information--Oh. My. God.

"Each dog is a unique individual, and so is each handler." Eugene Kerven, U.S. Customs Service Canine Enforcement Training Center Director.

So I ran across a 22-minute vid on dog training and training facilities operated by the U.S. Customs Service filmed back in 2001. At the time, 87% of the dogs used by U.S. Customs were from pounds and shelters — the type of dog Area Man turns in because Scout is bouncing off the walls and tearing the house down. [Scout is the kind of easy-to-motivate dog that trainers love. That I love, anyway.] The video is unembeddable — click on the link to view.

Read more here: U.S. border security canine programs

March 17, 2010

"Dr Jalloh is the only vet in the country"

Abass Bangura and Forget.

Street clinic in Rokupa, East Freetown, August 2009.

Dr. Gudush Jalloh operating on a puppy with a hernia during one of his "street clinics" in Freetown.

First you notice the dogs. In all other ways Freetown is a West African city like any other, of red dust and raised cries, forty-degree heat and a year neatly segmented into two – hot and dry, hot and wet.

Today water tips from the sky. Beneath the canopy of a local store three street dogs and a man holding a briefcase stand and contemplate the rain. Another dog shelters beneath the umbrella of a cigarette seller. A fifth follows a woman across the street, literally dogging her footsteps, using her as a beacon to navigate the traffic and the floodwater.

In the dry season the kings of the city are the dogs. They weave through the crowds, lie in the roadside shade watching through slitted eyes, they circle and squabble, unite in the occasional frenzied dash. For the most part the people and the dogs exist on separate planes. The dogs ignore the people, who likewise step around and over them. On the road the drivers steer around reclining animals. This city has more street dogs than any I have known.

It is eight o’clock on a Wednesday morning. Torrents of water sluice off the hills and rush down the cross streets. The force of the rain has swept the traffic off the road, and now threatens the battered Peugeot ahead of me. Inside his clinic Dr Jalloh has placed his plans on hold, waits for me in his tiny surgery surrounded by dogs, waits for the rain to stop.The whole city waits for the rain to stop.
Dr Jalloh is the only vet in the country. No, that is not quite true. There are three government vets, employed by the Ministry of Agriculture. They wear rubber boots, but mostly deal with figures, with capacities, stock and yields. There are also a small number of charlatans. Gudush Jalloh is the only qualified vet in private practice. The single person in the country to whom you might bring your sick dog, cat, monkey or goat.

First must-read of spring break: The Last Vet. From Sierra Leone, Aminatta Forna writes about an extraordinarily dedicated veterinarian, about dogs, people, Africa and the West, and "considers why caring for animals is essential to being human." In Granta's Work issue -- H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.

March 13, 2010

Irrational and unjust

A few years ago, someone I know — a latina, a friend of a friend — was mugged by a black man in a mall parking lot. The attack transformed her. She began to speak of black people as n*****s. She considered her mugging to be proof of black people’s innate criminality, and she condemned them as a group: she blamed, and hated, all of them.

I suspect that when the victim and aggressor are from different backgrounds, this sort of emotional reaction to the pain and shock of a mugging may be fairly common.

It is also so irrational and unjust a response that most of us hope we'd never be guilty of it.

Dogs aren't people, of course, but non-human animals can also be the target of hostility and stereotyping. Writer Charles Leerhsen has anger to spare: his dog was attacked by a pit bull, he writes in The Daily Beast, and therefore we should get rid of all pit bulls.

I'm sorry Leerhsen's dog was hurt, and furious at the owner who not only failed to control his own pit bull, but through his lack of control put my good dogs at risk from hate-mongering like Leerhsen's. And I'm sorry it didn't occur to Leerhsen to pick up the phone and talk to the CDC or experienced dog trainers or veterinary behaviorists.

Because the truth is, no one knows whether pit bull-types bite at a higher rate than, say, shepherd-types [though the ACOs I know would beg to differ: they say shepherd-types win, hands down].

No one knows, because it is impossible to know the number of dogs of each breed or type in the general population, though we do know that "pit bulls" make up one of the most numerous types of dog in the country.
Dog bite statistics are not really statistics, and they do not give an accurate picture of dogs that bite. Invariably the numbers will show that dogs from popular large breeds are a problem. This should be expected, because big dogs can physically do more damage if they do bite, and any popular breed has more individuals that could bite. [From the American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions: A community approach to dog bite prevention.]

Leerhsen is agitated by "people, groups and Web sites that defend Pit Bulls from those who would criticize and legislate against them." He thinks we are hypersensitive. But we love our dogs as much as he loves his, and we know far more about our dogs than he does. We know that BSL — legislation based on ignorance, hysteria and urban legend — has killed tens of thousands of good dogs in places like Denver, Colorado and Lucas County, Ohio, and subjected law-abiding citizens to considerable anguish.

If he were a dog person, Leerhsen would know that breed specific laws are over-inclusive, in that the vast majority of dogs targeted will never hurt anyone, and under-inclusive, in that a great many dangerous dogs will be overlooked. As veterinary behaviorist Karen Overall has said, "Breed specific laws are not based in science. [Laws] banning breeds will not make you safer, and the illusion that they will do so is dangerous to humans and unfair to dogs."

As I've said, if Leerhsen were a dog person rather than a distraught man who loves one dog and knows very little about dogs in general, let alone pit bulls, he would be aware of all these things. But in his present state it doesn't matter to him that my dogs, like the overwhelming majority of the millions of pit bulls and pit bull mixes in the U.S., have never harmed or threatened to harm anyone. It doesn't matter to him that I love my dogs at least as much as he loves his. All that matters to him is that his dog was hurt, and in his grief and anger Leerhsen wants me and my dogs, and you and your dogs [provided their heads are broad enough], to pay dearly for his pain.

This exchange from the Daily Beast comments section deserves to be reprinted:

"Each dog is an individual and should be treated as such."


Dear Mr. Leerhsen,
I think you might be letting your emotions get the best of you here. You obviously love your dog, and I am sorry that she is hurt. However you are incorrectly focusing on the breed more than the individual dog and idiotic, irresponsible owners in this case. Count me among the "PC Urban professionals" (I am a Pediatric Cardiologist) who in my lack of imagination and intelligence decided to go to the ASPCA and rescue a beautiful and sensitive pit bull puppy named Ace one year ago. He is 75 lbs of pure muscle, but uses his strength primarily for cuddling. If I were to drop his leash, all you or your dog would get is a wet kiss. He rarely even barks, let alone growl or bite. He goes to "doggie daycare" and gets along with dogs of all sizes, and once let a Yorkie chew on his neck to the point that the collar broke off. Most of the other pit bull owners I meet at the dog park have the same experience with their loving pets.
So why should is my pet less deserving of life and love than yours??
Do you know how judgemental and condescending your article sounds? You look down your nose at the rest of the world as "rednecks", insecure yuppies, or "unattractive" people from (gasp) somewhere other than New York. It must be easy to look down coming from such intellectual and moral high ground of Brooklyn, but the most scientific way you can gather statistics on how dangerous pit bulls are is a Google search? Do you think that there is a possiblity that a news story is more likely to make it to the wire if it contains a controversial phrase in it like "pitbull?"
Dogs are a product of breeding, experience, and responsible or irresponsible ownership. If a dog, whatever its breed attacks other dogs, it should be kept away from them. If it is hostile to people, it should be put down immediately. If a dog attacks a child, the owners should be thrown in jail as if they did it with their own hands. But to focus on the breed alone is to oversimplify the situation, as if Pit Bulls having some sort of collective conscience that tells all of them to attack everything that is alive. Its breed-racism.
My dog was attacked as a puppy at the dog park by a Golden Retriever-Labrador mix. He needed 4 stitches on his neck, but of course, I didn't run crying to the New York Times with a vendetta to get the two breeds exterminated.
I hope your dog Frankie recovers fast and well, and after you've had some time to let your anger disperse I hope you might be less encouraging of the killing/eradication/illegalization of my dog, Ace. I think he would appreciate you not convictging and sentencing him to death based on his race.

1:40 am, Mar 13, 2010



You claim to be in Pediatrics and making these statements about pits?? Here is something you can sink your teeth into before your pit does and it is from your fellow physicians. Bite_Injuries__A_5_Year_Review_of.28.aspx

Pediatric Dog Bite Injuries: A 5-Year Review of the Experience at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

More than 30 different offending breeds were documented in the medical records. The most common breeds included pit bull terriers (50.9 percent), Rottweilers (8.9 percent), and mixed breeds of the two aforementioned breeds (6 percent).

Now do the math. If pits, rotties, and their mixes are doing over 66% of these attacks, that leaves 34% to be divided between 27 other breeds or about 1% or so per breed. Read it again, pits did over 50%, one breed. Seems your fellow physicians might disagree with you.

Believe it or not, there never has been a worldwide conspiracy to "get the pits". The media reports because of the severity of the attacks by pits. They would do the same if it were another breed and do.

Racism applys to humans, Doc, not to animals. Your version of racism is my version of saving human life. Isn't that what you are supposed to be doing?

4:47 pm, Mar 13, 2010



Its impossible to know if someone is who or what they claim to be when they are posting things on the internet, so I will put aside my initial reaction of anger to you questioning my dedication to caring for children. How could you know that I worked in an indigent medical clinic for 3 years before training in Cardiology or know that I was one of the first physicians on the ground in Port Au Prince after the earthquake? (send me your email, and I'll send you the pictures)
But let me bring focus back on my actual point, which is that each dog is an individual and should be treated as such. Why you think my pit will eventually "sink his teeth" into something is beyond me. A dog with a bad temperament who is aggressive to other dogs should be kept locked up, and a dog who is aggressive to people should be destroyed, whatever the breed. But taking a percentage of a small group of dogs (dogs who bite people) does not mean that that percentage applies to the total number of dogs of that breed. To dumb it down for you, if, for example, there are 10,000 pitbulls in the US and there were 600 dog bites with 50% of them being from pits, it would still leave 9,700 pit bulls that had nothing to do with the problem. Oh, and in the CHOP study that you site, 72% of the victims were African American in race. Does that mean that dogs like the taste this race more, or could it merely be a function of the catchment area of the hospital in downtown Philadelphia where the study sample was taken (as pointed out by the authors in the results section of the article)? Could this possibly mean that in a low income environment where dogs are less supervised and well trained and where aggressively raised pit bulls are a status symbol and therefore more prevalent? Nah, its easier to just read the abstract of the article and blame genetics. Of course,as a University employed physician, I have access to the full article and so I can read the authors describe the fact that "these types of dogs with aggressive reputations are popular in crime- and drug-ridden communities" and that "as guard dogs to the criminal element, these dogs may be selected or trained to be violent, bite-prone animals.Children living in these areas may therefore be at higher risk for bite injuries, and these breeds may be unfairly blamed for the bad behavior of their owners." So my "fellow physicians" might just be more advanced thinkers than you give them credit. Did you by chance actually read this whole article?? Again, send me your email address (or a fake one that you can check, whatever) and I will send you the whole article as a PDF. The article also cites a study done in Denver that cites Chow Chows and German Shepherds as the breeds most likely to bite, and an article from Austria cites German Shepherds and Dobermans as the culprits. My point isn't that Shepherds or Chows are bad, but rather that dog behaviors and bites are variables of communities, training, living conditions and owner responsibility and breed specific reactionism is over-simplification and arbitrary generalization. Breed-specific legislation and its "justification" of reasons that pit bulls are more dangerous than other dogs are pointed out in the article as being from a law journal rather than from a veterinary journal. I don't think there is any conspiracy to get the pits. I just know that my Pit Bull loves nothing more than to lay on his back and let Labs, Wheatens, French bulldogs, and daschunds jump and nibble on him, and I've also treated a little girl in the emergency room who needed reconstructive facial surgery from a daschund bite. I don't blame daschunds, I blame the parents who kept a mean daschund in their house allowed their daughter to, while unsupervised, bring the dog to her face. (See how that works? A horrible situation created by irresponsible humans). Gross generalizations of breeds are the product of simple minds who are looking for simple answers to complex problems.

March 10, 2010

Damn sad news [x3]

A wolf may have killed a young woman in Alaska. Operative word: "may."
Authorities were in an Alaska Peninsula village Tuesday investigating whether a 32-year-old schoolteacher, found dead off a road leading out of town, was killed in a wolf attack, according to state and local officials.
Read the rest here, at the Iditarod-covering ADN.


This next item is so stupid and so hateful that I can barely comprehend it. Former UK pol Kenneth Baker explains how he came to introduce the execrable legislation known as the Dangerous Dog Act, with a few yuks along the way:
The animal lobbies were very divided on the issue of controlling dangerous dogs. The Kennel Club supported the idea of pit bulls being put down. They did not register pit bulls as one of their recognized breeds and felt that as fighting dogs they have no place in our society. The RSPCA, while having no love of pit bulls, shrank from the physical elimination of the breed, preferring instead that the dogs should be neutered and then die out over time as the breed became extinct. Furthermore the RSPCA used the opportunity to raise its cherished aim of the introduction of a dog licensing system - which I opposed. I was not in the business of legislating to control chihuahuas when I wanted to rid the country of pit bulls. The vets were also reluctant to destroy pit bulls en masse, believing that this went against their version of the Hippocratic Oath. But one dog expert assured me that "All pit bulls go mad". Unlike any other recognized breed they were unpredictable and could not reliably trained. Steering a course acceptable to all these differing viewpoints strained patience as well as imagination, and I knew that whatever course of action I took I would be attacked by one group or another.

On May 22 I announced to the House of Commons my intention to introduce legislation to ban the breeding and ownership of pit bull terriers and other dogs bred especially for fighting. I then embarked on further meetings with the animal interest group which, in addition to the RSPCA and the Kennel Club, included the Joint Advisory Committee on Pets in Society, the Canine Defence League (now Dogs Trust), the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and the British Veterinary Association. The issues we debated included whether to identify dogs by implanting Micro-chips under their skin, or by tattooing them. This led to humorous exchanges about exactly who would volunteer to tattoo a pit bull's inside leg, and whether the dog's tattoo should match that of the owner. Would pit bulls have 'love' and 'hate' inscribed on each knuckle.

On 10 June I introduced the Dangerous Dogs Bill in the House of Commons.
Ignorance, prejudice and stereotypes — and as always, it really isn't about the dogs, is it? Wonder who the cretin was who told Baker that "all pit bulls go mad." Wonder whether that "dog expert" even existed. Most of all, I wonder how a hack as stupid and vicious as Baker gets elected in the first place. Read more at Beverley Cuddy's Cold Wet Nose Blog.


This story is just heartbreaking
A do-it-yourself animal rescuer keeping 60 dogs penned inside her 750-square-foot East County house was arrested today on suspicion of animal cruelty and neglect.

Authorities found the canines — mostly boxers and Chihuahuas, along with a few small terriers — in dirty cages stacked throughout 65-year-old Alice Via’s two-bedroom Moreno Avenue home, Dan DeSousa of San Diego County Animal Services said.

“Many of the dogs have skin conditions, upper respiratory disease or other illnesses,” DeSousa said. “In addition, most … have injuries to their feet and noses from trying to escape from their crates.”
Animal Control Officer Mitchell Levy says the dogs were stacked in crates at least two high throughout the home. "A lot of them had no water. A lot of them had feces, a lot of them had two-, three-day old vomit in them. It's an unusual situation."

The news comes as a big shock to others in the rescue community. They say Via had such a good reputation for rescuing dogs, that she was allowed to take animals from local shelters.

"They start with the best of intentions. They think they can provide the best home for these dogs, but obviously this person got overwhelmed," says Lt. Dan DeSousa.
Operators with other rescues say Via had recently contacted them asking for help and wanting foster homes for some of her dogs. [source]

On the one hand, this woman is a textbook example of a 501(c)(3) rescue that is indistinguishable from a case of hoarding. On the other hand, if comments on news sites can be believed, she placed a number of dogs in loving homes and no doubt saved many from death, though what will happen to the dogs now remains to be seen. She's not a Michael Vick. I don't think she belongs in prison. Bad enough that she might be prevented from keeping a dog or cat for the rest of her life. “'She got way in over her head,' [Dan DeSousa of San Diego County Animal Services said, in a masterpiece of understatement]. 'She had nobody to help her.'” Maybe the rescues she contacted will step in and help her now.

Proud parents of a small egg

California Condor country: Sunset at the Pinnacles National Monument, by StefanB on Flickr.

This story is great, and the headline rocks: Calif condor couple lays first egg at Pinnacles National Monument in more than a century. Congratulations to the happy couple!
A female released in 2004 in the Central California park and a male released the same year 30 miles west at Big Sur had been observed engaged in courtship behavior earlier this year, park spokesman Carl Brenner said.

"They are now the proud parents of a small egg," Brenner said.

Biologists confirmed the presence of the egg after hiking to the site on Friday.

In 1982, the last 22 California condors were placed in a captive breeding program. Today, there are 348 in the world, with about 180 flying free at three locations in California and at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Another dozen are in Baja California.

The goal is to have 450 birds in three distinct populations, with 15 breeding pairs in each group.
Read it all here.

Above left: Condor buddies, by Doug Greenberg on Flickr.

March 8, 2010

Monday's big box o' links

Musher Sebastian Schnuelle [first in the 2009 Yukon Quest, 2nd in the 2009 Iditarod] rocks the earflaps-up look at the Iditarod restart in Wasilla. ADN photo by Bill Roth.

The official Iditarod site is awful, and not just because of a certain inescapable quitter. So ditch the official site, race addicts, and click on this link for awesome Iditarod coverage courtesy of the Anchorage Daily News. Feature stories, a blog, tweets, interactive maps: ADN wins it in a walk. I'm cheering for DeeDee Jonrowe [and her mom] and Colleen Robertia:
Several dogs in Robertia's Rogues Gallery Kennel — mostly "runts, rejects, retirees or rescues," she said — were rescued from the Kenai Animal Shelter and Alaska's Extended Life Animal Sanctuary in Nikiski. Others weren't wanted or needed by area mushers.

"I think they ended up taking two or three dogs from us," Tim Colbath, founder of the sanctuary, said of the Robertias.

"I hope she can finish it. To be able to take the time and knowledge to go through the rescues and get them to work together like that is just phenomenal." [Source: ADN.]
Penny, Colleen's lead dog, weighs a whopping 29 pounds — all of it heart. [That's Penny, top left, from the ADN.] Go, Colleen and Penny!

A few fave photos from the ADN:
The dangerous Mr. Mackey
Team Jonrowe
OMG, this is begging for a caption
Karen Ramstead's gorgeous Siberians


Have an elderly Rottweiler? Dr. David J. Waters [pdf] really wants to meet you. Actually, he wants to meet your Rottie. Dr. Waters is traveling from coast to coast in order to see as many geriatric Rottweilers as he can:
The complete itinerary of the tour includes: March 11, Harrisburg, Pa.; March 12, Holliston, Mass.; March 13, Philadelphia; March 15, Keysville, Va.; March 16, Columbia, Tenn.; March 19, Cambridge, Wis.; March 20, Riverside, Iowa; March 21, Alma, Kan.; March 23, Red Oak, Texas; March 24, Castle Rock, Colo.; March 27, Colorado Springs, Colo.; March 28, Tijeras, N.M.; March 29, Waddell, Ariz.; March 30, San Diego; April 1, Pacific Palisades, Calif.; and April 3, Seattle.

Waters leads a research team that studies aging and cancer in pet dogs. The research includes the study of exceptionally long-lived Rottweilers - individuals that have lived to at least 13 years, which is equivalent to a human living to 100.

"These exceptional dogs have lived at least 30 percent longer than average for their breed," Waters said. "They have dodged cancer and other life-threatening diseases of aging. We believe studying them can shed light on what it takes to live well."

Over the years, Waters and his team have tracked the lives of more than 140 long-lived Rottweilers. Today, however, their database is down to just 15, hence the tour to meet these exceptionally aged canines.

"From questionnaires completed by owners and veterinarians, my team has validated dates of birth and collected a mountain of information about these dogs, including medical history, diet and dietary supplement usage, and parents' longevity," said Waters, who is also associate director of Purdue's Center on Aging and the Life Course and professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.

At each stop, he will perform a physical examination, collect DNA samples, and record measurements such as height and chest and belly circumference. He will observe each dog in its home environment and query owners on what makes their dog exceptional.
Read more here, from Jennifer Viegas at Discover News: Oldest Rottweilers Inspire 'The Old Grey Muzzle Tour'.


Keep. your dog. on a damn. leash. [H/T: DeltaBluez Stockdogs.] Heather points out that a little training wouldn't hurt, either. Speaking as one who has owned sheep: most people who say their unleashed dog has a reliable recall are either delusional or lying.


Canadian dude needs some viral help for a worthy cause. You got it, dude.
I love Local Commercials salutes Butt Drugs of Corydon, Indiana.
OK Go - This Too Shall Pass - Rube Goldberg Machine version. Yes, 20 billion people have seen it already, but maybe you missed it. I'm here to help.
A journey through Asia. Moving and beautiful.


What an 8.8 [and the ensuing tsunami] can do, from The Big Picture.
  • Conception, Chile, shifted 10 feet to the west.
  • Santiago, Chile’s capital, was displaced about 11 inches to the west-southwest.
  • Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, moved about 1 inch to the west.
Sure am glad a 7.5 is the most we can expect in these parts! [See A Faults (pdf).] Oh, yeah, nothing to worry about here.

Seriously folks, those of us along the southern [strike-slip fault] San Andreas will never experience the kind of subduction zone thrust-faulting they have in Chile [and in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest]. San Andreas — big-ass quakes. Subduction zones — frikkin' humongous quakes.


Last, but not least — if you plan to be in the San Diego area in late March, you might want to attend Safer Pet Vaccination and Health Care: An Educational Seminar and Benefit. You'll spend the day with pet vaccination experts Drs. W. Jean Dodds and Ronald D. Schultz, and proceeds will go to the Rabies Challenge Fund. The seminar/benefit will be held at the Del Mar Hilton [across from the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack] on Sunday, March 28, 2010.