Tag Archives: animals

Baldwin, Johnson introduce bill to lift protections for wolves

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin are co-sponsors of legislation that would lift federal protections for gray wolves in the Midwest and Wyoming.

The other sponsors are John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Similar legislation was introduced earlier this year in the U.S. House by Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy.

The aim of these lawmakers is to prevent courts from overruling a decision by the Interior Department to remove wolves in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan from the endangered species list.

In a news release, Johnson said, “I strongly agree with the feedback I’ve heard from Wisconsin stakeholders such as farmers, ranchers, loggers and sportsmen that future gray wolf listing decisions should come from wildlife experts, not from courtrooms.”

Baldwin said, “The Endangered Species Act plays a critical role in saving species from the brink of extinction, and when it does, we must acknowledge we have succeeded in restoring wildlife populations by delisting them. According to both federal and state wildlife biologists, this goal has been achieved with the gray wolf.”

She said she also heard “from farmers, sportsmen and wildlife experts, and they all agree. The wolf has recovered and we must return its management back to the state of Wisconsin, both for the safety and economic well-being of Wisconsinites and the balance of our environment.”

The  news release said the senators’ measure would “allow wolf management plans that are based on federal and state wildlife expertise to move forward without any legal ambiguity.”

Those management plans allow the trapping and hunting of wolves, including using dogs in the “sport” in Wisconsin. In Wyoming, the management plan allows unlimited shoot-on-sight killing of wolves across 85 percent of the state.

“A new Congress has resurfaced an old vendetta against imperiled wolves,” said Marjorie Mulhall, senior legislative counsel at Earthjustice. “If this legislation is signed into law, wolves  in Wyoming will be subjected to unregulated killing across the vast majority of the state and even on the borders of Yellowstone National Park numerous legal loopholes will authorize widespread wolf killing.”

She continued, “We urge those who support the protection of wolves to call their senators and representatives and tell them to vote down this lethal legislation.”

On the Web

The House bill.

The Senate bill.

Wisconsin congressional delegation contacts.

Cheetah in danger of extinction due to habitat loss

The world’s fastest land animal, the cheetah, is in danger of extinction because it is running out of space, research led by the Zoological Society of London has found.

After a sharp decline in numbers there are now just 7,100 cheetahs in the world, or 9 percent of the historic range, the ZSL, Wildlife Conservation Society and Panthera study found.

In Zimbabwe, the study found, these pressures have seen the cheetah population plummet 85 percent from 1,200 to at most 170 animals in just 16 years.

Wildlife experts are calling for the big cat to be rated “endangered,” up from “vulnerable” among threatened species, to give it greater environmental protection.

Capable of sprinting up to 75 miles per hour in short bursts, the cheetah is notoriously secretive and information on its status had been difficult to gather, meaning its predicament had been overlooked, the study said.

“Our findings show that the large space requirements for cheetah, coupled with the complex range of threats faced by the species in the wild, mean that it is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was previously thought,” said Dr Sarah Durant, who is leading the cheetah conservation programme.

The study said that cheetahs were vulnerable to several dangers such as prey loss due to overhunting, habitat loss and illegal trafficking. Added to that, more than three-quarters of cheetahs live outside protected wildlife areas and, because they roam wide, are more vulnerable.

MoveOn, Humane Society launch ‘I’m with Purr’ push for Clinton

 MoveOn.org Political Action and the Humane Society Legislative Fund  teamed up to launch a new online ad highlighting Hillary Clinton’s record of animal protection and her “expansive” pro-animal campaign platform.

The ad was developed after MoveOn members said protecting animals is a key issue for them and the Humane Society Legislative Fund endorsed Clinton for president.

MoveOn.org represents millions of progressive members nationwide, according to a news release, and HSLF is a nonpartisan political advocacy organization that makes endorsements based on a candidate’s support for animal protection policies.

In their announcement for the campaign, the groups said: “During her eight years in the U.S. Senate, Hillary Clinton was a consistent supporter of animal protection policies, earning a 100 percent score in HSLF’s Humane Scorecard for the 108th Congress, a perfect 100 score in the 109th and an 83 in the 110th.”

In Congress, Clinton:

• Led efforts to stop the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, which allow them to be crammed into overcrowded, stressful and unsanitary factory farms;

• Cosponsored legislation to prohibit the transport and receipt of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption;

• Cosponsored the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act  (S. 261) to prohibit the interstate transfer of animals for animal fighting;

• Cosponsored the Downed Animal Protection Act (S. 1779) to stop the processing of “downer” livestock;

• Cosponsored the Puppy Protection Act (S. 1478) to crack down on abusive “puppy mills” where dogs are treated like production machines;

• Signed letters requesting funds for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to step up enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the federal animal fighting law

The statement from the groups said as secretary of state, Clinton led international efforts to crack down on wildlife trafficking and, through her work at the Clinton Foundation, she helped launch a major campaign against the illegal ivory trade and poaching of elephants.

Here’s the transcript of “I’m With Purr”: Humans aren’t the only ones with a stake in this election. Hillary has a bold platform to protect animals and wildlife.  She wants to:  Strengthen “puppy mill” regulations.  Reduce the overuse of antibiotics.  Pass the “Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture Act.”  Vote Hillary Clinton.  #ImWithPurr.

Dogs raised for meat rescued, find Oregon homes

Megan Watkins never wanted a dog until she met Florence, a Tosa mastiff rescued from a South Korean dog meat farm.

Watkins, who manages a Starbucks in Bend, Oregon, hosted a grand opening block party in August. She remembers stepping outside the coffee shop and happening to see Florence being walked by Humane Society of Central Oregon Outreach Manager Lynne Ouchida.

Watkins, an owner of two cats, knew she found her dog.

“I felt instantly connected to her,” she said. “She just had this really tough, sweet, calm energy.”

Watkins offered the dog a puppuccino, a small cup filled with whipped cream that Starbucks employees give to customers’ dogs.

“We say it was a match made over a puppuccino,” Ouchida said.

Rescued dogs

Florence is one of 28 dogs brought to central Oregon in March from a dog meat farm in Wonju, South Korea. All but three of the dogs have since been adopted, and two had to be euthanized, reported The Bulletin.

Humane Society International, a global animal protection organization, goes to dog meat farms and trades services and goods for the dogs. The group teaches farmers how to grow crops or offers rice and berries in exchange for the dogs.

A total of 250 dogs were rescued from the South Korean farm and sent to Humane Societies around the United States.

The Humane Society of Central Oregon in Bend took 17 dogs, and BrightSide Animal Shelter in Redmond took 11 dogs. The breeds vary with mixes including Labradors, mastiffs, Jindos and elkhounds.

Each dog had major medical and behavioral issues. The dogs had infections, orthopedic issues and broken teeth from being confined in small cages. Many were fearful at the Humane Society shelters and would hide in their kennels.

“These dogs were not raised with human contact. They were not raised in a social environment,” Ouchida said. “They were raised in wire cages. Their interactions with humans were extremely limited.”

Florence had two deformed legs from growing up in a small cage. She had surgery in September, paid for by Humane Society International. She is now recovering with her foster owner, Watkins, who will be able to formally adopt her from the Humane Society after she recovers.

“We came into her life through the worst of it,” Watkins said.

Two dogs from the farm remain at the Bend shelter; Owen, a 1-year-old Jindo, and Addi, a 2-year-old Tosa-Lab mix. Staffers continue to socialize and train the two dogs before they will be put up for adoption.

Jesse, a 1-year-old Jindo mix, is in foster care with the Redmond shelter.

Overall, 23 of the dogs have been adopted.

“This has been extremely successful for the dogs,” said Karen Burns, Humane Society of Central Oregon manager. “Yes, we have had some heartbreak along the way, but I would like to focus on all the positive we have done. These are success stories. These are dogs that are part of someone’s life and family now because of what we did.”

Changing the culture

Bend resident Debby Bever grew up in Taiwan, where it is common to see dog meat at the markets. She never got used to the sight.

“There were dogs at the market all the time,” Bever said. “There would be chicken, fish and then you would see a dog carcass.”

Consuming dog meat is a cultural tradition, Bever said, where some Asian people believe it will keep them cool in the summertime. The tradition is still popular among older generations, she said, but younger people are slowly changing the culture.

With the experience of seeing dog meat firsthand, Bever felt compelled to help the dogs that came to town in March.

She offered to be a foster owner for a Tosa mastiff puppy named Lana. After less than a month, Bever adopted the young dog.

Bever, who owns two mastiffs, said it has been fascinating to see how Lana interacts with her two large dogs. Lana almost immediately bonded with them, while remaining distant to any human contact. Over time, she has warmed up to Bever.

“They just attach to other dogs and don’t want to be by themselves,” Bever said. “All they knew were dogs and mean people.”

‘Part of the family’

At her home in Redmond, Watkins had a ramp, doggy door and outdoor enclosure built for Florence.

“She is part of the family now, and we set up the whole house for her,” Watkins said.

After meeting Florence at the block party, Watkins visited her at the Bend shelter for two weeks before bringing her home. During those two weeks, Watkins convinced her husband, Jason Watkins, they needed the dog.

He agreed, and Florence has fit into their family ever since.

“I just feel very lucky to have her in our lives,” Watkins said.

On the Web

Humane Society International.

Much ado about poo: Feces fuels Hawaii feral feline debate

Two wildlife issues have collided in Hawaii, pitting one group of animal defenders against another in an impassioned debate. The point of contention? Deadly cat poop and the feral felines that produce it.

Federal researchers believe feces from the legions of feral cats roaming Hawaii is spreading a disease that is killing Hawaiian monk seals, some of the world’s most endangered marine mammals. Some conservationists advocate euthanizing those cats that no one wants, and that’s got cat lovers up in arms.

“It’s a very difficult, emotional issue,” said state Sen. Mike Gabbard, chairman of a committee that earlier this year heard and then abandoned a proposal to ban the feeding of feral cats on state land after an outcry. “It struck a nerve in our community.”

The problem stems from a parasite common in cats that can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that killed at least five female Hawaiian monk seals and three males since 2001, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“While eight seals may not sound like a lot of animals, it actually has pretty large ramifications for an endangered population where there’s only about 1,300 seals in existence at this point in time,” said Michelle Barbieri, veterinary medical officer for NOAA’s Hawaiian monk seal research program.

Scientists believe monk seals become exposed to toxoplasmosis by ingesting contaminated water or prey.

Felines are the only animals that can shed Toxoplasma gondii eggs, or oocysts. The parasites enter their digestive tract through infected prey then multiply in the small intestine and produce the eggs. Outdoor cats excrete the eggs in their feces, which researchers say washes into the ocean.

The eggs accumulate in invertebrates that live along the sea floor, where monk seals often feed. They can survive in fresh water, saltwater and soil for up to two years.

Any warm-blooded animal can become infected. California sea otters have died from toxoplasmosis, and it’s one of the major reasons the Hawaiian crow, alala, is extinct in the wild. Toxoplasmosis is rarely problematic for people with healthy immune systems, but it’s why doctors advise pregnant women not to handle kitty litter.

Many cities struggle with feral cats, but the problem is particularly acute in Hawaii because of its sensitive ecosystem and at-risk native species, experts say. Only two mammals are native to Hawaii: the hoary bat and the Hawaiian monk seal.

“Everything else here_ deer, sheep, goats, cats, mongoose _ they’re all invasive, they’re all introduced,” said Angela Amlin, NOAA’s acting Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator, adding cats have no predators in Hawaii to control their population.

Marketing research commissioned by the Hawaiian Humane Society in 2015 estimated some 300,000 feral cats roam Oahu alone.

Marine debris, climate change, predation and human interaction all threaten the survival of Hawaiian monk seals. But feral cats present their greatest disease concern, Amlin said.

“As conservationists, what we really have to look at is this is what Hawaii’s native ecosystem includes, and cats are unfortunately not part of that,” Amlin said. “When it comes to the feral cat population, there should be a program in place to bring in these animals, adopt the ones that are adoptable and humanely euthanize those that are not.”

Others take offense to that notion.

Classifying animals with labels such as native and invasive creates a “hierarchy in which the protection of certain animals comes at the suffering of others,” Hawaiian Humane Society President and CEO Pamela Burns wrote in a letter opposing the state Senate bill that would have banned cat-feeding on state land. She contended the 300,000 figure overstates the problem because the study looked at how many cats people were feeding and might have missed instances where multiple people fed the same outdoor cat.

Those who care for stray cats advocate trapping, neutering and spaying to help control their population.

The University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus, in Honolulu, started a feral cat management program _ with authorized feeders trained in tasks like trapping and feces disposal _ after the stench and mess from hundreds of cats prompted complaints, especially when children at a campus daycare center got flea bites, said Roxanne Adams, director of buildings and grounds.

The program started in 2011 and appears to have reduced the number of felines, she said.

Euthanizing cats is unacceptable unless they’re extremely sick, said Alicia Maluafiti, board president of animal welfare group Poi Dogs and Popoki.

“I totally disagree with the … generalization that cat people love cats more than these endangered species,” Maluafiti said. “What we just don’t advocate is the wholesale killing, the extermination, of one species … for one.”

Global wildlife meeting approves ban on trade in pangolins

The pangolin is described as the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world. The nocturnal, ant-eating animal got a much-needed boost this week at a U.N. wildlife conference that approved a ban on trade in all eight species of Asian and African pangolins.

The small creature is heavily poached for its meat and scales that are used in traditional medicine in parts of Asia. There is also a market for pangolin products in Africa.

Delegates approved a ban on trade in seven pangolin species by consensus at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.

Debate on trade in one of the Asian species of pangolin went to a vote, and only Indonesia objected. China, a major consumer of pangolins, as well as Oman, Japan, Namibia and Madagascar, abstained.

The pangolin decision is expected to be approved at a plenary session next week.

The meeting of CITES, which regulates wildlife trade, ends Oct. 5. About 180 countries are participating in the conference.

CITES previously required controls on any trade in Asian pangolins in an effort to ensure their survival. The new decision effectively prohibits virtually all commercial trade, allowing it only in what CITES calls “exceptional circumstances.”

Pangolins are the most “heavily trafficked mammal in the world,” said Colman O’Criodain, an expert with the WWF conservation group. He said the next step is for countries to implement the ban on trade, as well as move against illegal trafficking in pangolins.

More than one million pangolins have been slaughtered in the past decade, according to some estimates.

Pangolin scales are made of keratin, a protein also found in human fingernails.

Nearly 20 tons of pangolin scales were seized from illegal shipments originating from Africa between 2013 and this year, according to U.S. officials. They said the scales came from as many as 39,000 pangolins.

The CITES meeting seeks to protect “iconic” species such as the lion and elephant, but it also debates the survival of lesser-known species such as the pangolin, said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“There are literally dozens to hundreds of species being considered here that you or I would probably not even recognize,” Ashe said in an interview with The Associated Press. “That’s the magic of this convention.”

Genetic ‘extinction’ technology raises concerns at World Conservation Congress

As thousands of government representatives and conservationists convene in Oahu this week for the 2016 World Conservation Congress, international conservation and environmental leaders are raising awareness about the potentially dangerous use of gene drives — a controversial new synthetic biology technology intended to deliberately cause targeted species to become extinct.

Members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, including NGOs, government representatives and scientific and academic institutions, overwhelmingly voted to adopt a de facto moratorium on supporting or endorsing research into gene drives for conservation or other purposes until the IUCN has fully assessed their impacts.

Yet, scientists and environmental experts and organizations from around the globe have advocated for a halt to proposals for the use of gene drive technologies in conservation.

Announced this week, a long list of environmental leaders — including Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, genetics professor and broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki, Dr. Fritjof Capra, entomologist Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, Indian environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva and organic pioneer and biologist Nell Newman — have lent their support to the open letter: “A Call for Conservation with a Conscience: No Place for Gene Drives in Conservation.”

The letter states, in part: “Gene drives, which have not been tested for unintended consequences, nor fully evaluated for ethical and social impacts, should not be promoted as conservation tools.”

“Gene drives are basically a technology that aims for a targeted species to go extinct,” explains ecologist and entomologist Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, president of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility. “While this may appear to some conservationist professionals to be a ‘good’ thing and a ‘silver bullet’ to handle complicated problems, there are high risks of unintended consequences that could be worse than the problems they are trying to fix.”

Both the leading developers of the technology and also those concerned about gene drives will be attending this week’s Congress and holding events to raise awareness, hype promises or highlight the potential hazards of gene drives.

One near-term gene drive proposal, promoted by U.S.-based non-governmental organization Island Conservation, intends to release gene drive mice on islands to eradicate them.

Another led by the University of Hawai’i would develop gene drive mosquitoes for use in Hawaii to combat avian malaria which affects honeycreeper birds.

The debate around gene drives is likely to resurface later this year at the negotiations of the United Nations Biodiversity Convention in Cancun Mexico in December.

“Gene drives, also known as ‘mutagenic chain reactions,’ aim to alter DNA so an organism always passes down a desired trait, hoping to change over time the genetic makeup of an entire species,” said Dr. Vandana Shiva of Navdanya. “This technology would give biotech developers an unprecedented ability to directly intervene in evolution, to dramatically modify ecosystems, or even crash a targeted species to extinction.”

“Genetic extinction technologies are a false and dangerous solution to the problem of biodiversity loss,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “There are real, sustainable, community-based conservation efforts that should be supported. We are concerned that genetic extinction technologies will allow new destructive agricultural practices and even use by the military. Speculative conservation claims are at best an unfounded diversion or smokescreen. We support those in the IUCN who recognize the gravity of irreversible and irresponsible technologies such as gene drives.”

Signatories of the letter, which include indigenous organizations and legal experts, raised legal and moral questions, citing an “ethical threshold that must not be crossed without great restraint.”

“From military testing to GMO crops, and now gene drives, Hawai’i should not be treated as a test zone for risky and experimental technologies,” said Walter Ritte, Native Hawaiian activist and hunter. “What happens in Hawai’i must be discussed with residents, not decided from a lab on the other side of the continent. Hawaiians should decide what is best for Hawai’i.”

92 cats, dead and alive, taken from Wisconsin home

Authorities have removed dozens of dead cats from the freezer of a home in southern Wisconsin.

Police confiscated 50 live cats from the residence in Monroe. Authorities say when they executed a search warrant, 35 kittens and six adult cats were found in a freezer.

They also found a dead cat in the garage.

WKOW-TV reports firefighters wore gas masks and oxygen tanks to enter the residence because of the smell.

Police Chief Fred Kelley says one of the 50 cats taken had to be euthanized because of its poor condition.

 

PETA: Air Force Academy program is cruel to rabbits

An animal rights group launched protests of the Air Force Academy’s killing of rabbits as part of a survival training program for cadets.

Since the 1960s, cadets have been trained how to live in the wilderness and evade enemy forces. It stems from an Air Force Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion program that has been used to train flight crews since World War II.

As part of the program, cadets are trained to kill and cook their own food under primitive conditions. Live rabbits are killed and eaten, prompting the protest from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Cadets are run through a 10-day program that includes training on how the Air Force rescues flight crews and combat skills. According to Air Force documents obtained by PETA under the Freedom of Information Act, the program also focuses on killing and preparing game. The manual says students as a group join in the training, learning how to skin, butcher and cook the animals. The training takes place during the summer, when cadets are out of class.

PETA says it asked the academy to stop the practice in May but hasn’t received an answer. Animal rights groups maintain that other methods, including web-based training, eliminate the military’s need to train with live animals.

“In the 21st century, preparing cadets to survive in wilderness situations does not necessitate killing animals in training drills,” the organization wrote in a letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.

In the letter, the organization cited a Pentagon policy restricting the use of animals in training. That policy, though, exempts “livestock or poultry used or intended for use as food.” PETA says because the animals are used in training, the exemption doesn’t apply.

The academy referred all questions about the program to the Pentagon, which said in a brief statement it is “reviewing the issues raised in PETA’s letter.”

“The Air Force values the humane treatment of animals consistent with current Department of Defense guidance and policy,” said Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Brooke Brzozowske.

The animal rights group obtained other documents on how much the academy spends on rabbits used in the training, with receipts for more than $6,000 spent on the animals used to train cadets. Since 2004, PETA and other animal welfare groups have protested a periodic Special Forces medic training program at Fort Carson that uses wounded goats to simulate human patients.

Dogs sniff out bedbugs with 95 percent accuracy

Willy, an 18-month-old corgi-Chihuahua mix, was on a mission when he entered a South Bend, Indiana, home. His goal? To find three vials with living bedbugs by sniffing their scent.

The dog was accompanied by a canine handler during the demonstration by Rose Pest Solutions at the residence of a Tribune reporter. Willy first found a vial hidden beneath a bed mattress, scratching the area to alert the handler. He then found the other two vials wedged between the cushions of a couch, finishing the entire task in about one minute.

Dogs are increasingly being used by the pest-control industry as a tool in the fight against bedbugs. When properly trained, dogs use their keen sense of smell — about a thousand times more sensitive than a human — to find bedbugs much faster than pest-control technicians and with better accuracy, said Monica Gruss, Willy’s handler. The pair serves clients in northern Indiana and southern Michigan.

“The dog’s nose can pick up things that our eyes can’t. We can do a small apartment in about two or three minutes, but a technician would have to go in and tear the bed apart,” said Gruss, who lives with Willy in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

The dogs are rewarded with food when they find bedbugs. Even when Willy is at home, he is allowed to eat only after finding a hidden vial of bedbugs.

Rose, which has a district office in South Bend, began using dogs to search for bedbugs in 2011. It has eight certified handlers with trained dogs, offering the service in northern Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, along with portions of Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Terry Giffin, canine division manager for Rose who is based in Lansing, Michigan, said the dogs are especially effective for searching apartment complexes, schools and hospitals. The majority of the firm’s clients are apartment complexes that routinely check for bedbugs. The cost to search up to 20 apartments is $375.

“It takes humans about 20 minutes per apartment and they’re going to charge by the hour. Dogs are much more economical,” Giffin said.

Rose’s dogs are typically adopted from shelters. Willy, for example, was adopted last year at the Jackson County Animal Shelter in Michigan. Sandy Clark, the shelter’s lead kennel attendant, said Willy might not have been adopted if Rose hadn’t claimed him.

“He was returned by a family because he was a little bit too energetic,” she said. “But he fit Rose’s profile because of his high-energy behavior.”

For his part, Giffin said the company looks for “young dogs at shelters that are high-energy and food-driven. Some aren’t properly socialized or obedient, but we take them in.”

Not many pest-control businesses use dogs to detect bedbugs because of the cost, Giffin said. At Rose, each dog completes a three-month, $12,000 training program offered by Scentworx in High Springs, Florida. The dogs are trained to pick up the scent of living bedbugs and their eggs.

About 450 bedbug-sniffing dogs have been trained over the past five years at Scentworx, said CEO Pepe Peruyero. He said dogs are going to be increasingly used by the pest-control industry because of their effectiveness. Field studies have shown the company’s dogs are about 95 percent accurate at detecting bedbugs.

“A technician can search a room and find evidence, such as a dead bedbug or fecal matter and say he thinks there are bugs and treat it. But a dog can go into a seemingly pristine room and it can smell a bedbug inside a mattress,” Peruyero said.

Published via the AP member exchange.