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Tag: animal welfare

South Korean university announces that Snuppy has been recloned

reclonedsnuppy

The world’s first canine clone — an Afghan hound named Snuppy who died in 2015 — has been recloned, scientists at Seoul National University in Korea have announced.

It’s no big surprise, and it’s no huge achievement, but the scientists say they created the three clones of Snuppy to “immortalize” the “milestone” Snuppy represented — and that the clones will allow them to further study the lifespan of cloned dogs.

Snuppy, who spent most of his life in a laboratory, died at age 10 in April 2015.

“Three healthy reclones of Snuppy are alive, and as with Snuppy we do not anticipate that the reclones will go through an accelerated rate of aging or will be more prone to develop diseases than naturally bred animals,” the team wrote in Scientific Reports, a journal from the publishers of Nature.

To create the new clones, the scientists used fat-derived stem cells taken from Snuppy when he was five years old.

The stem cells were taken from his belly fat and frozen. Years later, they were thawed, grown in culture and then injected into enucleated eggs taken from female donors. The reconstituted eggs were then zapped with an electrical shock to fuse the membranes of the egg and stem cells. Ninety-four of them were transferred to surrogate female dogs.

Four resulted in births, but one of the pups died four days after it was born from severe diarrhea, the scientists reported.

The three remaining dogs will also live their lives in the lab, being monitored and undergoing tests the scientist say they suspect will dispel the notion that cloned animals die early deaths.

They say the second generation of Snuppy clones will contribute to a “new era” in the study of the health and longevity of cloned animals, and that they might contribute to cures being found for human diseases.

But with dog cloning having become big business — and having been initially researched with profits in mind — it’s no surprise that the latest research, funded in part by the Korean government, aims to dispel the thinking that clones live abbreviated lives.

Snuppy’s birth came eight years after Dolly the sheep became the first cloned mammal in 1997. Dolly died prematurely, at age six.

Snuppy

Snuppy

When Snuppy was born in 2005, Time magazine named him one of the most amazing inventions of the year. What wasn’t reported much, at least not initially, were the intrusive procedures involved, the birth defects that resulted, the surplus dogs that resulted, and the long list of animal welfare concerns about the process.

In the article written in Scientific Reports, by the researchers involved, those concerns also get short shrift.

“Animal cloning has gained popularity as a method to produce genetically identical animals or superior animals for research or industrial uses,” they write.

“There is lots of pet cloning going on right now. Owners are concerned whether their clones will live (a normal lifespan) or if they will experience accelerated aging and die early. So, there is some business concern,” said said co-author of the study CheMyong Jay Ko, of the University of Illinois.

The clones of Snuppy might also provide insights into the development of cancer and other diseases, Ko said.

(Top photo from the National Post; bottom of photo by John Woestendiek)

To read more about the birth of dog cloning and how it became a big business, read John Woestendiek’s book, “Dog, Inc.

Indonesian province cracks down on brutal fights that pit dogs against wild boar


Under pressure from animal activists, authorities in Indonesia’s West Java province have called a halt to brutal contests pitting dogs against wild boars.

“Not all traditions that we have are good,” Ade Sukalsah, a spokesman for provincial governor Ahmad Heryawan, said Tuesday. “If a tradition has a bad influence and impact on people’s lives, the tradition must be eliminated or forgotten.”

The practice began in the 1960’s, growing out of using dogs to hunt wild pigs.

Called “adu bagong,” or boar fights, by villagers, the events award cash prizes, and betting is rampant.

Owners of participating animals said they saw the fights as a way to preserve a regional tradition and hone the skills of hunting dogs.

Heryawan’s decision to halt the fights was based on Indonesian criminal law provisions against the torture of animals, Reuters reported.

The shows “have a negative impact on the community by showing cruelty, torture and violence against animals,” Sukalsah said.

It’s not clear how hard the government will come down on the practice, but Heryawan issued a circular to regional officials, urging police and the local community to help enforce the law.

Sukalsah said the decision was made in response to “some media reports from Reuters, the BBC and then some animal protection NGOs that sent letters to us.”

(Photo: A dog and wild boar fight during a contest in the Cikawao village of Majalaya, West Java province, Indonesia; by REUTERS/Beawiharta)

Guggenheim, citing threats, pulls controversial pit bull piece from exhibit

The Guggenheim Museum in New York has pulled from an upcoming exhibit an “artwork” that features, on video, four pairs of pit bulls on treadmills charging at each other.

Real dogs are used in the piece, titled “Dogs Cannot Touch Each Other,” but it is a video version of a performance staged live when it first appeared in Beijing in 2003.

It and two other works condemned by animal welfare activists will no longer be part of the exhibit when it opens Oct. 6.

The charging pit bull piece — a seven minute long video — is by artists Peng Yu and Sun Yuan, a husband and wife team (let’s hope they treat each other with a little more kindness) who, in the original exhibit, lined up four pairs of pit bulls, face to face, on eight treadmills.

The dogs charge towards each other, but never get more than a few inches away. Still, they keep at it, panting and drooling and becoming more and more stressed out and frustrated.

The Guggenheim initially responded to animal welfare concerns by saying it had no intention of removing the work from the exhibit.

But, just four days later, museum officials reconsidered.

guggenheim-gallery-exterior-lightAccording to a report from NPR, the Guggenheim will pull the pieces from its upcoming exhibit, “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.”

The museum blamed “explicit and repeated threats of violence,” but provided no details.

An online petition demanding the museum remove the works garnered more than 600,000 signatures since it was posted five days ago, and protesters gathered outside the museum on Saturday, holding signs that say “suffering animals is not art.”

Even after that, the Guggenheim defended the pit bull video, calling it on Thursday “an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control. We recognize that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalization and the complex nature of the world we share.”

But on Monday the museum relented under the pressure and said it was pulling that work and two others, citing threats of violence and concern for the safety of its staff, visitors and the artists.

“Although these works have been exhibited in museums in Asia, Europe, and the United States, the Guggenheim regrets that explicit and repeated threats of violence have made our decision necessary,” the museum said in a statement. “As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art. Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim.”

In another of the to-be-removed pieces, artist Xu Bing tattooed meaningless characters all over the bodies of two pigs, a boar and a sow, who were put on display, mating, in a museum exhibit in Beijing in 1994. The Guggenheim was to feature the video of that “performance” as well.

Also removed was a work featuring live animals — reptiles, amphibians, insects — that are trapped in a glass enclosure and proceed to eat and kill each other for the viewing pleasure of attendees.

Bring us your tired, your poor, your … On second thought, don’t bring us anybody

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The American Kennel Club apparently wants to keep dogs rescued from foreign countries out of America, saying they will bring disorder and disease to our pristine shores.

In voicing its opposition to a California bill that would prohibit the sale in pet stores of dogs sourced from professional breeders, the AKC says the law would create a “perverse incentive” to import “greater numbers of street dogs and dogs of unknown origins.”

Limiting the public’s access to purebreds, as the AKC maintains the proposed law would do, would result in the U.S. becoming “a magnet for the world’s strays and sick animals.”

jindolAKC Vice President Sheila Goffe, in a commentary piece published in the Orange County Register, singles out dogs rescued from abusive situations in foreign countries — as my dog was — and portrays them as unpredictable and diseased.

Dogs that come from rescues and shelters, or through rescues and shelters, aren’t as well-screened, as temperament-tested, and as disease-free as breeder-raised dogs purchased at pet stores, she says.

Those “facts” are questionable. That logic is wrong. That stance reeks of snobbery and flies in the face of those words on the plaque at the Statue of Liberty, and what many Americans still think America is all about.

And, as with the immigration debate when it comes to humans, it’s more than a bit ironic, considering all those purebred breeds the AKC celebrates, and makes money from, came from foreign countries.

Of course, the AKC isn’t saying America should ban German shepherds, or Irish setters, or Portuguese water dogs, or even Afghan hounds — or any of the many other breeds who proudly carry their country of origin in their breed names.

Those, assuming they are purebreds, and have their paperwork, and pay their AKC dues, are always welcome here.

The great unwashed masses, though? The dog saved from being turned into meat in Korea? The starving street dog in Afghanistan or some other war torn country? That mangy cur searching for sustenance in the aftermath of an earthquake, tsunami or other far away natural disaster?

The AKC apparently believes they have no place here.

Reasonable people disagree when it comes to how much effort we as Americans should put into saving dogs from overseas. Legitimate arguments can be made on both sides.

Given the shrinking but still mind-boggling number of unwanted dogs that are euthanized in U.S. shelters, given the needs created by our own disasters at home, like Hurricane Harvey, there are those who feel American dogs should come first. Others feel our compassion for animals shouldn’t be limited by boundaries — that we should help dogs who need help, wherever they are.

There’s a place for that debate. But Assembly Bill 485 — still awaiting Senate approval — really isn’t that place.

AB 485 bans the pet store sale of dogs, cats and other pets raised by breeders, who, especially when it comes to puppy mills, aren’t always the rule-following, highly policed and regulated operations the AKC portrays them as.

DSC05635 (2)Saying the law will lead to an influx of unwanted and unsavory foreigners, as the AKC is doing, is the same kind of fear tactic that taints our country’s broader debate over human immigration.

Banning the sale of breeder raised dogs at pet stores will not lead to an influx of Mexican rapist dogs, or Muslim terrorist dogs.

What the bill would do is limit pet stores to dealing in dogs obtained through shelters and rescues — a direction many stores and some local governments have already embraced.

Having visited many humane societies and a few puppy mills, I can tell you that even if shelters face fewer government-imposed restrictions, their dogs are more likely to be temperament-tested, well-adjusted and healthy than those that go the puppy mill to pet store to consumer route.

And we don’t see rescuing mutts or purebreds, from any country, as “perverse.”

“Selling only shelter or rescue dogs creates a perverse incentive to import greater numbers of street dogs and dogs of unknown origins for U.S. retail rescues,” Goffe, who is the AKC’s vice president for government relations, wrote. “In fact, the U.S. already has become a dumping ground for foreign ‘puppy mill’ and rescue dogs, importing close to 1 million rescue dogs annually from Turkey, several countries in the Middle East and as far away as China and Korea, according to the National Animal Interest Alliance.”

(Don’t be too impressed by the reference to NAIA. It is mostly a front group for breeders and agribusiness and the AKC, and it was founded by an AKC board member and a biomedical researcher.)

“It’s a crap shoot whether these foreign street dogs Californians may be adopting are carrying serious diseases,” Goffe added. “That’s because while importation laws require all dogs to be examined by a licensed veterinarian, foreign paperwork is commonly invalid or forged … dogs from other countries are not subject to the health and welfare laws of professionally-bred U.S. dogs.”

The AKC says Californians would lose their freedom to have the kind of dog they want if the law passes, implying that pet stores are the only place one can find a purebred.

That’s not the case. You can generally find any breed of dog in a shelter or rescue — often even locally. And the proposed law would not prevent people from buying dogs directly from breeders.

So fear not, California (even though the AKC would like you to.) Your liberties are not about to be taken away. Your shores are not about to be inundated with sickly, mangy killer dogs who don’t speak English.

And if more dogs rescued from other countries end up in the U.S. — in hopes of saving their lives and making their lives better — chances are they, as with the human immigrants before them, will only enrich our culture, whether we’re talking California or Connecticut.

We’re not a nation of purebreds, no matter what the AKC says — not when it comes to dogs, and not when it comes to people.

(Photos: At top, dogs awaiting slaughter at an outdoor market in Seoul; Jinjja, the rescued Korean dog I adopted; Jinjja and me)

Turning stray dogs into crime fighters

Strutting down the street together in their matching vests, these Thailand dogs look a little like an alliance of superheroes — and that’s the idea.

The nonprofit animal welfare organization Soi Dog has teamed up with an advertising agency in Thailand to develop a program that will turn Bangkok’s stray dogs into crime fighters.

The plan is to outfit strays with camera-equipped vests. The cameras activate when a dog wearing the vest barks aggressively and the video is transmitted to police agencies or anyone else who wants to watch via a mobile phone or commuter application.

Stray dogs are abundant in Bangkok and other Thai cities — and they are often looked down upon or abused.

smartvestThe “smart vest,” according to those refining the prototype, could help their public image, protect them from foul play and provide more eyes on the streets and alleys of Thailand’s big cities.

In that way, the dogs often viewed as nuisances would become guardians angels on the crime-ridden streets and alleyways where they live their lives.

“It will make people feel that stray dogs can become night-watches for the communities,” Pakornkrit Khantaprap, a member of the creative team that came up with the idea at the Cheil advertising agency, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, told Reuters.

The project began in March this year and took about five months to reach the point where it could be tested.

The developer says a lot more tests are needed before the vest can be introduced into communities for trial runs.

Martin Turner, managing director of the Phuket-based Soi Dog Foundation, which works to save stray dogs and cats across Thailand, welcomed the initiative.

Turner says there are many cases of cruelty against street dogs in Thailand, despite the introduction of the country’s first Animal Welfare Law in late 2014.

The long-term goal of the project is to create a more harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship between strays and their communities.

“Our aim is to get people to perceive stray dogs in a better way and ultimately, solve the stray dog issue in the long term,” Pakornkrit explained. “The stray dog issue is becoming more crucial in Thailand. This issue leads to a bigger problem of animal cruelty and dog meat trades. We do not want to see that.”

(Video and photo from Reuters)

South Korea’s new president adopts a dog who was rescued from the dog meat trade

moonandtorySouth Korea’s newly installed president is adopting a dog he met during his campaign — one that was rescued from a dog meat farm.

Moon Jae-in was sworn in Wednesday, and issued a statement through a representative that he planned to follow through on a promise he made while meeting with animal rights groups during the campaign.

It was then that he met Tory, a small, four-year-old mutt.

Tory was rescued from a dog meat farm two years ago and has lived since then in a shelter operated by Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE).

During the meeting, Moon was asked to be Tory’s new owner, and he promised then to take the dog with him to the presidential residence, if elected, the Korea Herald reported.

Moon promised during the campaign to make Korea a better place for humans and animals and, while he stopped short of favoring an immediate ban on the sale of dog meat, he did say it should be phased out over time.

tory1It’s estimated that 2 million dogs are slaughtered for their meat a year in South Korea.

Most are raised on dog raised on farms where they spend their lives chained or caged.

They are sold to individuals and restaurants, often at outdoor markets where they are butchered on site.

Some steps have been taken to restrict the trade, or at least keep it out of sight, as the 2018 Winter Olympics — to be held in PyeongChang — near.

Moon’s election pledges on animal welfare included building more playgrounds for pets and feeding facilities for stray cats.

Some are hopeful that his adoption of Tory might mean he will do more for animal welfare, and more to bring an end to the dog meat trade.

If he has not made up his mind to do that, or at least try, maybe Tory will persuade him. Living and bonding with a dog who was destined to be meat, I’ve found — even if you already find the practice barbaric — is filled with moments that reinforce just how wrong it is.

tory2Tory is a small mixed breed, and while he doesn’t appear too meaty, any shape, size and kind of dog can end up with dog meat traders, and by a multitude of means — including being stolen or swept off the street as strays.

CARE says Tory has been passed over for adoption because of his dark coloring.

Koreans, only a small minority of whom eat dog, are often hesitant to adopt dog farm dogs, and black dogs.

The president says the adoption shows “that both humans and animals should be free from prejudice and discrimination,” Yonhap reported.

“My family and I anticipate the day to welcome Tory as a new family member and will make sure he adjusts well to the new environment,” Moon said in a statement last week.

The president has two other pets – a dog named Maru, and a former shelter cat named Jjing-jjing.

tory3Moon’s predecessor Park Geun-hye had nine dogs — all Jindos. When she left officer earlier this year after an historic impeachment ruling, she left all nine behind.

The presidential palace has since announced that new homes have been found for all nine.

Tory, it is believed, will be the first farm dog and the first shelter dog, to take up residence in the palace.

(Photos: At top, Moon holds Tory after signing adoption agreement, provided by the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae; lower photos courtesy of CARE)

Dog leasing: A deceptive and disgraceful practice that needs to come to an end

Historians debate whether P.T. Barnum ever really said there is a “sucker born every minute,” but never in history (I’d argue) has it been clearer than now how true that statement is.

Maybe that sucker birth rate has increased, and one is born every 10 seconds nowadays. Maybe, it’s the number of charlatans that has increased. Maybe it’s all the modern-day tools at the schemer’s disposal — Internet, infomercials, ever-slicker and more deceptive marketing techniques.

Maybe it’s our own increasing gullibility. Maybe, with our shortening attention spans, we more easily fall for double talk, and accept bald-faced lies as hard truths, and hear only what we want and have time to hear. Maybe it’s our own failure to investigate.

In any case, today, maybe more even than in Barnum’s day, you can sell anybody anything. And you can lease them even more — even a family member.

We’ve written about dog-leasing outfits several times before, going back to 2007 — when the unsavory concept first popped up.

They’ve been through many variations since then, some in the guise of do-gooders, some clearly sleazy, but all ugly at their core.

Why? Because they are all based on the concept that dogs are disposable, here to serve as many masters as we deem fit — not permanent family members, but beings to be passed around by us as need be and in the name of profit.

My earliest recollection of such a company was one called Flexpetz.

It was greeted in the media as a mostly cute idea when it debuted in 2007 — a way for people who weren’t in a position to own a dog to rent one for a few hours, a few days, or share one regularly with another client.

Making it more palatable was its claim to be hooking up dogs in need of humans with humans in need of dogs — albeit it on a temporary basis, and albeit it without much screening, of the dog or the human, or the environments they were headed into, or the reasons people needed to borrow a dog. And albeit for profit. Pretty big profits.

Flexpetz established offices in London, and had plans to open 120 locations in the U.S.

Fortunately, early on, some localities saw it for what it was — slave dogs on call to serve multiple masters. In 2008, after hearing Flexpetz planned to open a location in the city, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting dog rentals.

Then the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill that would prevent companies like FlexPetz from setting up shop anywhere in the state.

Representative Paul Frost, a dog-owner who filed the bill, says the business model promoted the idea of “disposable pets .. I am not against business growth or the entrepreneurial spirit. But there is an ethical line you have to keep in mind.”

Flexpetz would go on to close in 2008, but the concept would live on, in numerous variations. And that ethical line Frost noticed seemed to become harder for people to see.

Hannah the Pet Society was founded in Oregon in 2010, and put a new twist on things. The society promised to match you up with a dog, and provide that dog with what it called “Total Lifetime Care” — from dog food to boarding, from veterinary care to funderal arrangements.

All for a start-up fee and “low” monthly payments.

But, contrary to what many thought, those signing up for dogs weren’t really becoming their new owners. Hannah retained ownership of all the dogs it placed, which meant that it could reclaim them, or reassign them, or even euthanize them, whenever it pleased.

In 2016, Seattle Dog Spot exposed some of the questionable practices at Hannah, and an investigation began into complaints against the company that included unnecessarily euthanizing three dogs.

Many of the shelters and rescues providing dogs to the outfit terminated their relationship with them, and the state Department of Justice began looking into the 10 complaints and two lawsuits filed against the company since 2012.

Hannah stopped sourcing and placing pets in 2016.

Today, the biggest name in dog leasing is Wags Lending, another company that’s been accused of not making it clear to customers that they were leasing dogs, and wouldn’t own them when the lease period expired.

As one customer complained, he and his wife signed up to make 27 monthly payments of $95.99 for their bichon frise — totaling $2,687 for the dog, whose store price was $495.

Upon closer inspection of the contract they’d signed, they also learned that, even then, they wouldn’t own the dog.

The dog, unless the San Diego couple forked over yet more money at the end of the lease period, would have to be returned to Oceanside Puppy — the store they leased it from.

Three years later, the horror stories keep coming. Bloomberg did an excellent piece on the seamy side of pet leasing earlier this year.

Here are two more from last week –one from WSB in Atlanta, one from WKMG in Orlando.

It has been well documented by now how Wags does business. But maybe enough repeated exposure will get the message across that this is bad business — not just for dogs, but for the customers who fall for it.

Much like dog cloning, dog leasing never took off in a big way, but it lingers, unfortunately, with new customers being duped, and dogs being placed, repossessed, reassigned and bounced around by a company that cares far more about financing than it does Fido.

No matter how respectable looking a front, or website, they put up, they are basically predators — loan sharks cloaking themselves in cute puppies.

And any pet store selling commercially bred dogs that promotes or refers customers to the service (as many do) is behaving in an equally scummy manner.

The problem is being scummy and doing something technically illegal are two different things.

If the laws aren’t there to drive these people out of business for good, or sue them for everything they are worth, then do what Boston and Massachusetts did nine years ago: Outlaw dog leasing.

Preferably now.