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Tag: animal welfare

Who put a noose around my dog’s neck?

acelookalike

A friend recently emailed me this poster she came across online — because the dog with the noose around his neck is the spitting image of my dog, Ace.

Or is it Ace?

For a while, I thought it was my dog, and wondered whether someone had copied one of the many photos of him that have appeared on ohmidog! and elsewhere, and then photoshopped a noose around his neck.

It reminded me of a photo I took of him in Montana about seven years ago, but that was noose-less, and  in the middle of a snowstorm (hence the downward cast face). I guess snowflakes can be removed as easily as nooses can be added, though.

I have no problem with the message on the poster, even with its misplaced comma: “Abandoning a dog, means killing it.” 

That is, usually, the case.

snow 030xAnd I have no objection to Ace’s image being used for a good cause.

But, if it is my dog, and my picture, someone should have checked with me first before looping a noose around his neck — even if it was done only through photo manipulation.

Is it Ace? I’m not sure. (That’s him to the left.)

The dog in the poster looks like him, with his big head, little ears, and high-rise legs. And that seemingly contemplative pose is one Ace strikes frequently.

Then again, the dog in the photo might be just a little grayer around the muzzle than he is.

To try to get to the bottom of it, I turned to tineye.com a reverse image search engine that allows you to play detective on the Internet by uploading a photo and getting a list of websites on which it has appeared.

It, after searching 5.283 billion images in an amazing 0.001 seconds — which is harder than I will ever work — found six results.

Three of them were in English, and two were this French version:

frenchacelookalike

Another one was in Italian, and it was the one that had been on the web the longest.

I clicked on that link and it took me to an Italian government webpage, listing public service campaigns the government had sponsored over the years.

The Ace lookalike appeared in a 2011 campaign aimed at informing the public that abandoning dogs is illegal, and that abandoned dogs usually die.

acelookalikeitaly

The slogan,”Chi abbandona un cane lo condanna,” means roughly that one who abandons a dog is condemning that dog to death.

The campaign made use of billboards and TV and radio spots, with most of the publicity coming at peak times of holiday travel. As a computer-translated version of the web page explained:

“It was decided to carry out the campaign at this time in view of the fact that the problem of stray dogs is sharpened so evident during the summer, when they touch the peaks of dropouts due to the difficulty of managing the presence of the animal in a recreation area.”

I’m sure it makes more sense in the original Italian.

What did come across clearly were the potential punishments for dog abandonment — a year in prison, or a fine of up to 10,000 Euros.

(Not a bad idea for this country to try, given recent instances like that doofus in Denver, or that revolting case in Parker County, Texas.)

If that is Ace helping make the Italian public more aware of the problem, I’m proud to have him serve in that capacity. If it’s not, I can only assume it’s another Rottweiler-Chow-Akita-pitbull mix).

With Ace being a mix of four breeds (according to DNA tests) it’s not as common as it is with purebreds to come across nearly exact replicas of him. But I have seen a few doppelgangers.

One thing I found while researching “DOG, INC.,” my book on commercial dog cloning, was that – rather than spending $100,000 to have your dog replicated in a laboratory in South Korea — you can generally find a lookalike in a shelter, if not in your hometown, probably not too far away.

I’m guessing Ace is not the poster boy in this case, and I’m assuming that Italy used an Italian dog for its public service announcement.

As for the Ace photo it reminds me of, it’s on my other computer — the one that’s not working right now — so I can’t call it up and compare. And the post I may have used it in apparently tunneled its way out of the Internet (which is the only way of escaping). 

If anyone in Italy knows about the dog in the photo — assuming an English to Italian computer-translation of this account makes any sense at all (and I bet it doesn’t) — get in touch with me at ohmidog@triad.rr.com.

Grazie.

Second thoughts about dog cloning

SONY DSCOne of the men behind the push to clone dogs — and market the service to bereaved pet owners — seems more convinced than ever that doing so was, if not a mistake, at least a quest that led to some bad places.

Lou Hawthorne, who established a cell bank (Genetic Savings & Clone) and pushed researchers at Texas A&M University to try and clone the world’s first dog in the late 1990s — in hopes of turning dog cloning into a profitable business — said in an interview last week that cloning has led to thousands of dogs suffering each year.

“A cloned dog contributes to the happiness of a family but I do not think it is possible to do it without a huge amount of suffering to hundreds of others,” Hawthorne told The Mirror, which was reporting on the first dog cloning for a customer in the UK.

Hawthorne has been out of the dog cloning business since shutting down BioArts, the successor to Genetic Savings & Clone, which closed not long after efforts to clone a dog at Texas A&M were dropped.

That research was funded by John Sperling, the wealthy founder of the University of Phoenix and the boyfriend of Hawthorne’s mother. Millions of dollars were poured into the attempt to clone Joan Hawthorne’s dog, Missy, a husky-border collie mix.

SONY DSCWhen Texas A&M dropped the project, scientists as Seoul National University in South Korea began their own effort to clone the world’s first dog.

They picked up where American scientists left off, and dog cloning was achieved within two years with the 2005 birth of Snuppy, an Afghan hound manufactured from cells taken from a veterinary student’s dog.

Hawthorne, under the auspices of Bio Arts, later teamed up with Hwang Woo Suk, one of the lead scientists on the Snuppy project who opened his own lab after being fired from the university.

First, he had Hwang clone Missy, resulting in a dog named Mira, but when the clone was delivered to Joan Hawthorne she didn’t want her. She told a New York Times reporter at the time the puppy was too rambunctious.

SONY DSCThen Hawthorne and Hwang teamed up to produce and sell more clones. They held a “Golden Clone Giveaway,” in which a free cloning was offered to the winner of an essay contest, and an online auction where five winning bidders, offering upwards of $150,000, had their dogs cloned.

A second South Korean company RNL Bio, with help from another of Snuppy’s creators at SNU, was also cloning dogs — and it produced the first one sold to a customer not connected to the industry, a pit bull named Booger, five copies of which were cloned from the dead dog and, eventually, brought home by the California woman who owned him.

RNL pulled out of cloning pet dogs in 2011, not long after the publication of my book, “DOG, INC: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”

Hawthorne had already stepped away from the business by then. In September of 2009, Hawthorne pulled out of the partnership with Hwang, citing, among other reasons, his concerns that accepted animal welfare protocols – or at least those accepted by most Western countries — weren’t being followed by the South Koreans.

He also, at the time, blamed court fights over patent rights, the high cost of cloning, deformities and abnormalities that occurred in the cloning process, and what he called the ”distraction factor” — annoying questions from the media and bloggers about the wisdom and ethics of cloning dogs.

doginccover (5)(As a newspaper reporter who wrote one of the earliest articles on commercial dog cloning, then a blogger, and then the author of “Dog, Inc.,” an expose of the dog cloning industry, I’m pretty sure that latter group included me.)

In his interview wih the Mirror, Hawthorne referred to the vast numbers of dogs that it took — up to 80, he said – to clone just one.

And, he said, random dogs used for cloning by Korean researchers were returned to the dog farms they were borrowed from — farms where dogs are raised for their meat.

“That is why I got out,”  Hawthorne said. “I couldn’t care less if the cloning business world collapses but I care about suffering.”

Sooam told me, in 2009, that dogs used in the process were returned to the farms. In more recent years, however, Sooam has insisted that both the dogs from whom egg cells are harvested, and those who serve as surrogate mothers, are sent to adoptive homes when their use in the laboratory is completed.

Hawthorne’s remarks came after the birth of Mini Winnie, a dachshund cloned by Hwang’s lab for a London resident who won a contest sponsored by Sooam. As Sooam attempts to spread the word about its unusual service, Hawthorne has taken to speaking out against it.

SONY DSC“Dog cloning is unviable,” Hawthorne said. “It cannot be achieved at a price people can afford.”

Hawthorne now cares for two clones of Missy — Mira and Missy Too.

The Mirror reports Hawthorne has more recently been working on cures for human cancer and Alzheimer’s, and the newspaper quoted him as saying human cloning would be safer and more viable than dog cloning.

“Unlike the dog industry, no human would die.”

(Photos: Lou Hawthorne with Mira; Snuppy at Seoul National University, James Symington, winner of the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” with five clones of his former police dog, TrakR, in Los Angeles; Mira at the dog park; by John Woestendiek)

Vick to speak at event honoring NC athletes; thousands express outrage with the choice

vickTens of thousands are expressing their outrage online over the selection of Michael Vick as the main speaker at an ”Evening of Champions” event in Raleigh.

The event, held to honor local athletes, is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Officials with the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the event, say they’re reviewing the complaints that have flooded in online about the appearance of the quarterback, who was convicted and served time in connection with his dogfighting operation.

But they say they have no plans to disinvite Vick.

“There is a group of folks, who are very unhappy with Mr. Vick for a variety of reasons — and they are passionate about it,” said Harvey Schmitt, president and CEO of the chamber.

But, he added, “Mr. Vick has an interesting story to tell. It is one of an attempt for his personal redemption.” Schmitt also stressed the event isn’t about honoring Vick, but spotlighting local sports stars. “The recognition is not for Mr. Vick,” he said.

The announcement of the event on the chamber’s Facebook page has drawn more than 1,000 comments, almost all of them negative.

“If you want a few Champions to speak to your little group, how about inviting the people who had to rescue and rehabilitate the dogs that survived their experience with Michael Vick? Or lets hear from the people that had to deal with the bodies of the ones that did NOT survive Michael Vick? THOSE are the true champions,” wrote a woman who identified herself as Sandra Melvin.

A group organizing a protest at the event has seen 1,600 sign up to attend, according to its Facebook page.

Meanwhile, a petition demanding the chamber remove Vick from the program has been signed by nearly 70,000 people on the website Change.org.

Organizers say the event is an opportunity to “learn the real story about his incredible NFL career, his meteoric rise from poverty to riches and fame, his downfall, and his improbable comeback.”

The program is being held at PNC Arena, with tickets running as much as $75 each.

Chamber officials declined to say how much Vick is getting paid for the appearance, according to WNCN, which first broke the story.

Vick,  currently a free agent, played for the Atlanta Falcons at the time of his arrest and, after his prison sentence, was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sarah smiles: The plight of the Doberhuahua

First, back in the 1990s, she wrote and recorded songs that left our hearts in shreds.

Then, in the 2000s, she teamed up with the ASPCA to make heartstring-tugging public service announcements about abused and neglected animals — ads expertly aimed at opening and emptying our tear ducts and wallets.

Now, just when she was starting show up a little less often on TV, Sarah McLachlan is back with another heartfelt plea – to save the Doberhuahua.

The Doberhuahua?

Obviously, that would be a mix between a Doberman and a Chihuahua. I’m sure — given our proclivity for tinkering with dogs, and dogs’ proclivity for overcoming any size disparities when it comes to messing with each other – some might really exist.

doberhuahuaIn this case, though, it’s a monstrous, fictional canine hybrid with a giant head and a tiny body, created to sell cars, specifically, the Audi.

Audi enlisted McLachlan to engage in a little self-satire, as can be seen in this teaser for its Super Bowl ad — a plea by the singer to help save the misunderstood animal with “a heart as big as its head.”

It’s not clear how funny the ad itself will be, or whether it will make anyone want to buy an Audi. But seeing McLachlan lighten up is, to me, worth all $4 million or so Audi is spending to air the ad during the Super Bowl.

My guess is, when it comes the images of Audi, the Doberhuahua, and McLachlan, the ad is going to best serve that of McLachlan.

It should be pointed out here that, just as I don’t personally know any Doberhuahuas, I don’t know Sarah McLachlan. I just have this possibly faulty perception of her — based on what I’ve seen and heard, her beautiful and often sad songs, and her plaintive ASPCA ads — that she overflows with angst, carries the world’s problems on her shoulders, goes to bed crying every night, and thinks you should, too.

It’s equally possible that she, in real life, is a laugh-a-minute, happy go lucky kind of gal, and that the image I and others have of her in our heads is totally off the mark and entirely underserved — hammered in by having seen her countless times over the past decade in ads filled with crippled dogs and one-eyed cats.

Speaking out, tongue in cheek, for the the misunderstood “Doberhuahua” shows McLachlan can laugh at herself — an attribute not always evident in singer-songwriters, or animal welfare advocates. Both can get a little sanctimonious, a little heavy-handed with their messages.

As with Dobermans and Chihuahuas, there’s no reason animal welfare and sense of humor can’t unite now and then. But they rarely do.

In both cases, we think the offspring would be more cute than monstrous.

How this ad plays with animal lovers remains to be seen. They can be a pretty sensitive group, and they can be easily offended, as was the case with last year’s Super Bowl ad that highlighted greyhound racing, the one with the French bulldog that outraced them all because he was wearing Skechers.

Will Doberman fans object to the Audi ad, based on how it might stereotype their breed as all befanged and snarly? Will the ad rub pit bull fans the wrong way? Will the fictional plight of the Doberhuahua somehow detract from the very real plight of unwanted and abused dogs? Is it worth getting worked up about a fictionally engineered dog when there’s so much other real and disturbing dog engineering going on?

Time will tell. Meanwhile, I’m just glad to see Sarah smile.

NC puppy mill law pronounced dead after senator’s remarks are taped

ncpupmill

Backers of increased restrictions on dog breeders in North Carolina recorded a conversation with a state Senator who opposes the bill at a meeting earlier this month and, as a result, some Republican leaders say there will be no vote on a proposed puppy mill law this year.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca said Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, was recorded without his knowledge during a private meeting, and that those who taped him planned to use the recording to “force” senators into passing the bill.

“It is wrong to secretly record private conversations with members of the General Assembly and then threaten to expose those conversations to the media to force legislators to meet specific demands,” Apodaca said. “That is nothing short of political extortion and represents a new low in lobbying for legislative action. To dignify those actions by moving ahead on this issue would set a dangerous precedent while condoning and encouraging these unethical tactics.” 

Janie Withers, the community activist who recorded the Jan. 16 meeting with Rabon, said the recording wasn’t a secret. She said she routinely tapes meetings, and that the tape recorder was sitting in plain view to all, including Rabon.

The bill passed the House last year, and has been pushed by both Gov. Pat McCrory and his wife, Ann.

In the recording, Rabon, using more than a few expletives, criticized the McCrorys for publicly supporting the bill.

Rabon“It was bullied out of committee by the executive branch,” Rabon (pictured at left) says in the tape recording, obtained by WRAL-TV . “The executive branch had absolutely, absolutely no business sticking its nose in the legislature on that sort of issue.”

He said Ann McCrory’s advocacy, including a visit to the House chamber to watch the May 9 vote, was “against all laws. … There is a strong line between opinion and lobbying. When you pick up the phone and you are in a position of power and call individual legislators and offer advice or praise or this or that, you are, under the law, lobbying, and you must be a registered lobbyist in this state to do that.”

Coming across as a bit of an Alpha dog, Rabon makes it clear that he is against the bill, and that it would be unable to pass without his support.

“That bill is not going to pass,” Rabon, a veterinarian, told the group. “Angels in heaven cannot make that bill pass.”

He said he planned to introduce a “stronger” bill that he said would not negatively impact on hunters and livestock owners: “ … When I do it, it will be done at the right time, and it will pass,” he said. “I’m in the top five members in power in the Senate. The best shot you folks have ever had, you’re talking to.”

Gov. Pat McCrory and his wife, Ann, have both pushed for the legislation, which is designed to set minimum standards for people who keep at least 10 female dogs primarily to breed and sell the offspring as pets. McCrory urged its passage again on Monday.

“Just because someone uses foolish tactics, there is no reason to stop good legislation which needs to be passed here in North Carolina,” McCrory said.

(Top photo: From a 2012 puppy mill raid in NC, courtesy of Humane Society)

Pet Rescue Saga: How I single-handedly saved hundreds of pets from being crushed

petrescuesaga

I rescued dozens, possibly hundreds, of pets from certain death the other night.

But before you call me a hero, or saint, you should know I only did it on Facebook, and only in a video game.

Pet Rescue Saga is the popular new puzzle game, downloaded more than 150 million times and playable on Facebook and through apps. It’s free, at first,  but then, like a drug dealer who has handed out samples to get new clients hooked, it starts charging you to play more, or play more effectively, or to reach greater highs.

The game comes from King.com, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, which is similar and reportedly equally addictive.

When invitations to play Pet Rescue Saga first started showing up on my Facebook page, I wrongly assumed — given most of my Facebook friends are die-hard, do-gooding animal lovers — that it was a game that somehow was related to, or benefited, animal welfare causes.

It’s not, and it doesn’t.

There might be some unintentional similarities to the real world of animal rescue, such as walls being put up in front of you, and things piling up faster than you can handle them. But “Pet Rescue Saga” isn’t about rescuing pets in the animal welfare sense of the word. It’s mainly about busting blocks, and then more blocks, and then more blocks, by clicking on them to ensure that the “adorable” little pets atop them don’t get squished.

Given video games have a reputation for catering to our basest instincts — chopping off heads, running people over in cars and the like –  I had hopes, especially when Facebook friends kept inviting me to play, that this one might actually be about a noble pursuit, or might even be educational.

No such luck. What it teaches us about pet rescue is that we can save animals by matching two or more blocks of the same color.

Still, I ended up spending an hour playing it on Facebook, which annoyingly notified me to “share” every time I passed some friend’s record, before it got to the point where further play would require an investment of money. (That — having to fork up some money — generally prevents and/or cures any addictions to which I might fall victim.)

There are hundreds of levels of the game, and the higher you go (or the more you spend) the more tools you get to “save pets” – like sizzling rockets, hammers and exploding bombs.

In playing it, one becomes so focused on the blocks that he forgets about the animals. The endangered animals really seem a well-contrived afterthought, as if the gamemakers thought putting pets in need of rescue atop the stacks of blocks — as opposed to pots of gold or damsels in distress – might give it some relevance, or, pet rescue being a popular cause, add to its popularity.

“Wait! Don’t forget about the animals! ” says a review of the game on gamezebo.com. “Some levels of Pet Rescue Saga have dogs, pigs, and pigeons trapped on stacks of blocks, or wedged in columns. When you successfully clear away blocks, said animals drop safely to the ground. However, since many levels of Pet Rescue Saga scroll vertically, the animals on tall columns are in constant danger of getting squished on the top of the screen. Nothing ruins your day like the anguished squeal of a piglet.”

Squishing aside, it’s nice to see a game that’s seemingly about rescuing and saving, as opposed to killing and maiming.

It would be much nicer to see a game that was really about rescuing and saving animals, or that really taught compassion, or at least tried to.

I’m not necessarily saying the makers and marketers of the game are trying to capitalize on tender-hearted pet lovers, or that they mislead people to think the game might have some legitimate connection to the actual world of animal rescue.

But, after playing the game, I did start receiving emails from the gamemaker — far too many emails — with subject lines like: “Pets in danger. Help them now!” Clicking on the link in the email took me directly to the game’s Facebook app.

I don’t keep up much anymore with the latest developments in video games. So I don’t know if phony altruism is the latest video game trend: Bust up the blocks and find a cure for cancer. Bust up the blocks to feed the starving children.

Maybe there are some truly altruistic video games out there. The Game Show Network came close to that last month when it introduced Pet Pals Slots, a limited-edition game on Facebook. It earmarked a portion of money made from gameplay in November — up to $30,000 — to go to Best Friends Animal Society, providing food, medical care and shelter for animals at the organization’s Utah sanctuary. In other words, while playing a mostly mindless game, those who played Pet Pals Slots, at least in a way, were saving pets.

Video games, with exceptions, are rarely educational, and I don’t really expect them to serve as our moral compass. (More often they seem aimed at sending that compass haywire.)

And of course they’re not obligated to share the wealth they make with any deserving causes they borrow their themes from.

But how cool would it be to see — in addition to less squishing — more of that?

Alyssa Milano helps rescue South Korean dog who was destined to become dinner

Alyssa Milano, whose pleas to help feed hungry children can be seen on TV, may be responsible for a South Korean family missing a few meals.

On the other hand, she helped save a dog.

An abused and neglected dog that drew the attention of a South Korean animal rescue group — a dog that the organization said was being raised for its meat — has been flown to the U.S., her airfare covered by the actress.

The Fuzzy Pet Foundation in California acknowledged Milano’s contribution to rescuing the dog in this video , posted on YouTube last week.

The foundation learned of the dog’s situation in April of 2013 when it was contacted by CARE,  a South Korean animal rescue organization that was seeking to find the dog a new home.

The dog, a Jindo who was given the name Bomi (derived from the word “spring” in Korean), was being raised by a family that, after repeatedly breeding her, planned to eat her, officials at the two organizations said.

She had been chained to a metal pole and was covered with mange and open sores, rescuers said. CARE said she had been bred several times, and that a recent litter of her puppies was found dead and frozen. CARE treated Bomi’s skin problems, and went to work trying to socialize her.

After being contacted by the South Korean group, The Fuzzy Pet Foundation began looking into shipping the dog to the U.S., and making arrangements for foster care and veterinary care.

“As responsible rescuers, we wanted to make sure we could provide Bomi with top-notch veterinary care, and secure her a forever home,” said Sheila Choi, founder and CEO of the foundation. “We also wanted to have a proper plan in place so that we were not just naively flying an animal to a different country without considering the animal overpopulation crisis happening everywhere in this world.”

Milano, whose ads for UNICEF seek to raise funds to feed hungry children, offered to pay Bomi’s airfare.

Bomi flew from Seoul to Los Angeles on November 12, and has been living in a foster home.

“This has been a magical time for all of us who have worked so hard to rescue Bomi,” Choi said. “We are truly humbled by Alyssa’s support, and honored to be in the position to save these precious lives.”

A small percentage of South Koreans still eat dog — mostly the poor, but also some well-heeled types who believe dog meat improves their health and renews their vigor. (South Korea is also the capital of dog cloning, though those efforts have been focused on pet dogs, as opposed to livestock dogs.)

Bomi, at last report, was still available for adoption. Inquiries can be e-mailed to info@tfpf.org.

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