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Tag: china

Chinese lab produces what it says is the world’s first “superdog” clone

longlong4

Chinese scientists say they have produced a “superdog” clone — and that the technology will enable them to mass produce dogs that are extra strong and extra fast.

And, unless you are a fan of the doggy version of eugenics, you might find that extra scary.

The beagle, named Long Long, was born in May, becoming one of China’s first canine clones and, the scientist’s maintain, the world’s first genetically modified canine clone.

“This is a breakthrough, marking China as only the second country in the world to independently master dog-somatic clone technology, after South Korea,” said Lai Liangxue, a researcher of Guangzhou Institute of Biological Medicine and Health with the Chinese Academy of Science.

The beagle puppy was genetically engineered by deleting a gene called myostatin, giving him double the muscle mass of a normal beagle.

longlongHe was one of 27 puppies created at Sino Gene, a biotech company based in Beijing — all clones of a laboratory research dog named Apple, according to published reports.

The researchers created 65 embryos through cloning, and genetically modified all of them.

Only Long Long had his myostatin deleted.

By combining genetic editing and cloning, scientists say they can produce “superbreeds” that are stronger and faster.

“With this technology, by selecting a certain gene of the dog, we can breed an animal with more muscles, better sense of smell and stronger running ability, which is good for hunting and police applications,” Lai said.

He also suggested that the gene-editing technology could be commercialized and further applied to create dogs with diseases such as autism, Parkinson’s and diabetes, for use in medical research.

It’s just the latest chapter in dog cloning, which has a frightening history and, potentially, an even scarier future.

Efforts to clone dog began in the U.S., with early research at Texas A&M funded by backers who saw cloning people’s pets — often sick, dying or even dead — as a profitable business enterprise.

Canine cloning wasn’t achieved until a few years later at Seoul National University in South Korea when Snuppy, the world’s first canine clone, was born in 2005.

The service would be offered to pet owners by several businesses, only one of which remains, Sooam Bioengineering Research Institute, the laboratory of controversial South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk.

longlong2Twelve years would pass before China became the second country to clone dogs — and clone them with a twist.

Lai says his team will be able to “batch produce” customized dogs through cloning and gene-editing, which in addition to possible military and law enforcement uses, would create an endless supply of dogs for use in laboratories by medical researchers.

The researcher has worked for years on genetically modifying dogs. By mastering cloning, and combining it with his gene-editing, he’s able to endlessly duplicate any successes he achieves.

As with Dolly the sheep and Snuppy the dog, Lai’s achievement is seen as ominous by some.

“It’s true that the more and more animals that are genetically engineered using these techniques brings us closer to the possibility of genetic engineering of humans,” David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, told the Express..

“That does set us on the road to eugenics,” King added. “I am very concerned with what I’m seeing.”

Me, too. Dog cloning raises some significant animal welfare concerns. Technology, especially when coupled with greed or ego, tends to run amok. Eugenics is a nightmarish pursuit, as is its canine version. Creating diseased dogs for medical research is just plain wrong.

On top of all that, this latest twist being touted by the Chinese researchers fails to recognize one simple fact:

Dogs are already super.

(Photos: Sino Gene)

A kind of ban may kind of be in effect at next month’s Yulin dog meat festival

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It might not be permanent, and it might not be too strictly enforced, but Chinese authorities have banned dog meat sales at this year’s upcoming Yulin dog-eating festival, according to two U.S. nonprofit organizations.

Thousands of dogs are slaughtered, cooked and served each year at the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival festival in Yulin to mark the summer solstice.

This year, though, amid growing protests and international opposition, the Yulin government has, at least reportedly, banned the city’s dog meat vendors from selling the meat for one week starting June 15.

That’s according to several animal welfare organizations who say they’ve received “word” — if not documentation — of the ban.

The 10-day festival is slated to begin on June 21.

The Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project and Humane Society International (HSI), both based in the U.S., said in a joint statement that they’d confirmed the ban through unidentified local contacts.

“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade,” Andrea Gung, executive director of the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, said in the statement.

The organizations attributed the change to Yulin’s new Communist Party secretary, Mo Gongming, who reportedly wants to improve Yulin’s national and international image.

The ban will carry penalties, with fines of up to $14,500 and jail time for violators.

Yulin officials are not verifying the report, but they say they’ve never officially sanctioned the festival in the first place, and some apparently decline to acknowledge it exists.

“There’s never been a dog meat festival in Yulin,” the Los Angeles Times quoted a municipal official as saying this week.

While some media outlets are reporting the festival has been cancelled, that doesn’t appear to be the case, National Geographic reports.

“The Yulin dog meat festival is not over just yet,” Peter Li, a China policy specialist at Humane Society International, said in a statement. “But if this news is true as we hope, it is a really big nail in the coffin for a gruesome event that has come to symbolize China’s crime-fueled dog meat trade.”

People in parts of China, as well as other Asian countries, have prized dog meat for centuries, though its consumption has been on the decline as pets become more popular, especially among younger people. Some older residents still consider it a delicacy with health benefits.

The dog meat festival, on the other hand, is relatively new, having started in 2010 and quickly become an object of international scorn.

The festival’s dog meat sales have dropped each year since 2014, according to Li. He expects, even with the ban, such sales will be going on during the festival.

“It won’t be public resistance … they’ll probably do it secretly,” he said. “They’ll probably sell it at night, or they’ll supply dog meat to restaurants. They just won’t sell it at the market.”

While he hadn’t seen anything documenting the ban, the organization heard about it from local dog meat traders, as well as three visitors to a local market, he said.

Most Chinese people would like to see an end to the festival, according to a survey cited by China’s official New China News Agency.

“It is embarrassing to us that the world wrongly believes that the brutally cruel Yulin festival is part of Chinese culture,” Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association charity, a Chinese animal welfare group, told the agency. “It isn’t.”

(For more stories about the dog meat trade, click here.)

(Photo: A vendor waits for buyers at a market in Yulin during last year’s festival; by Wu Hong/ EPA, via NBC)

Eating dog meat banned in Taiwan

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In a landmark piece of legislation, Taiwan has outlawed the consumption of dog and cat meat.

The island’s legislature yesterday passed an amendment to its animal protection laws, imposing longer prison sentences and stiffer fines for harming animals, and explicitly banning the slaughter, sale and consumption of dogs.

The island’s official Central News Agency (CNA) said the new law reflects the transition of Taiwan “from a society in which dog meat was regularly consumed” to one where “many people treat pet cats and dogs as valued members of their families.”

The amendment also bans “walking” pets on leashes pulled by cars and motorcycles.

The amendment comes after a series of animal abuse cases, and a strong push by animal lovers and the animal welfare movement.

Last year, a group of military personnel beat and strangled a dog and tossed its body into the ocean, an assault that was captured on video.

The amended act calls for fines between $1,640 to $8,200 for people who eat or sell dog meat, and up to $65,000 for deliberately harming an animal.

Violators of the new law may also see their names, photos and crimes publicized, Taiwan’s Central News Agency said.

Previously, the Animal Protection Act, passed in 2001, only covered the slaughter and sale of dog and cat meat, and not individual consumption.

The new law makes Taiwan the first Asian state to impose a full ban on both the marketing of dog meat and its consumption.

The amendment’s sponsor, Kuomintang Legislator Wang Yu-min, said that while some localities already had measures banning dog and cat meat consumption, national legislation was needed, according to the China Post.

China has long been criticized for its annual dog meat festival in Yulin, where as many as 10,000 dogs are slaughtered and served as meals.

Opposition to the consumption of dog is growing in China, and in South Korea, where some are pushing the government to impose restrictions on the dog meat trade before the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul.

LA supervisors condemn dog meat trade

yulin-dog-meat-festival-2015-1

Los Angeles County Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to call on the Chinese and South Korean governments to stop slaughtering canines for human consumption.

With the annual Yulin dog meat festival approaching, the supervisors added their voice to the growing international chorus of opposition to the 10-day celebration of dog meat in the Guangxi region of China and to the dog meat trade in general.

“Los Angeles County is home to millions of people who care deeply about preventing animal abuse and suffering,” Supervisor Hilda Solis wrote in her motion. “On behalf of our residents, I ask the Board of Supervisors to join me in condemning the Yulin dog meat festival, and the rampant abuse and torture of dogs and cats for human consumption in both China and South Korea.”

The festival, which has faced growing protests, takes place in June.

The resolution is similar to one passed last year by the Berkeley City Council.

In January, a resolution was introduced at the national level by Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) that asks the U.S. government to condemn the festival.

“My legislation condemns the festival and calls on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to impose a ban on the killing and eating of dogs as part of Yulin’s festival, enact anti-animal cruelty laws banning the dog meat trade, and enforce China’s food safety laws regulating the processing and sale of animal products,” Hastings said.

An estimated 10,000 dogs are skinned alive during the 10-day Yulin festival, then butchered and eaten as a way to mark the summer solstice. Some of the animals are pets that have been lost or stolen.

An estimated 2 million dogs are slaughtered and eaten each year in South Korea.

“Anything you can do to help us fight this … most people don’t know about it,” Valarie Ianniello, executive director for the Sherman Oaks-based Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation, told the supervisors. The organization is one of several that work to raise awareness about and help rescue dogs from farms and festivals in China, Cambodia and South Korea.

“It’s important for everyone to get involved in the anti-animal abuse and torture movement,” Solis said in an e-mailed statement Monday. “This isn’t about a cultural difference. This is about pets being stolen and slaughtered in an inhumane way.”

(Photo: Reuters)

A modern day Dr. Frankenstein?

A controversial neurosurgeon in Italy said this week that he and his fellow researchers may be able to conduct the first human head transplant next year.

We suggest they start with their own.

Dr. Sergio Canavero has been compared to Dr. Frankenstein, and called a nut, but that hasn’t stopped him and members of his consortium — from China, South Korea and the U.S. — from severing the spinal cord of the beagle above (just so they could try to reattach it) and doing the same with numerous mice.

If that’s not weird enough, Canavero and team say that before they attempt a head transplant on a live human, they will conduct some experiments on human corpses, and then reanimate them with electricity to test his technique.

We can only assume they will do so in the basement laboratory of a castle, during a thunderstorm.

canaveroCanavero is director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group. He released three papers this week, and the video above, showing how he and his collaborators had successfully reattached the spinal cords of the dog and several mice.

Canavero also claims that researchers led by Xiaoping Ren at Harbin Medical University have already performed a head transplant on a monkey – connecting up the blood supply between the head and the new body.

Canavero’s short term goal is to successfully transplant a human head. His long term goal, he admits, “is immortality.”

What’s an acceptable number of dogs to torture in a quest of that nature?

We’d say none.

Canavero says the experiments on animals prove the technique used — known as GEMINI spinal cord fusion — incorporates a chemical called polyethylene glycol, or PEG, to encourage neurons to grow toward each other and connect.

He suspects it will also work in humans to fuse two ends of a spinal cord together, or to connect a transplanted head to a donor body.

He made the claims in a series of papers published in the journal Surgical Neurology International.

The claims have been met with widespread skepticism, according to New Scientist.

Canavero first announced his plans to conduct a human head transplant in 2013 and established the ead Anastomosis Venture, or HEAVEN, project to develop the techniques needed to carry out such an operation.

His collaborator in South Korea is Dr. C-Yoon Kim, a neurosurgeon at Konkuk University in Seoul who partially severed and reattached the spinal cords of 16 mice. Five of the eight mice who received PEG regained some ability to move. The other three died — as did eight who were in a control group.

In another experiment the South Korean team nearly severed the spinal cord of a dog. While the dog was initially paralyzed, three days later the team reported it was able to move its limbs and wag its tail.

South Korea is also the birthplace of dog cloning and up until this summer — when an American company cloned a dog for a customer — it was the only country cloning dogs for profit.

It’s probably not too outlandish — given all the bizarre turns medical researchers are taking — to wonder if surplus canine clones in South Korea end up being used for other wacky experiments by mad (or at least overly zealous) scientists.

In fact, if you look at its history, creating dogs for medical research use was one markets mentioned by the developers and marketers of dog cloning.

Could it be that some of the ideas initially presented in science fiction might ought to remain in the realm of science fiction?

Canavero’s research papers don’t indicate how many more dogs might have their necks snapped or heads severed by his research team as they boldly and single-mindedly stride toward their goal.

But, again, we’d argue that — no matter what medical gains it could lead to for humans — it should be NONE.

China’s dog meat festival opens to protests

The annual dog meat festival in the Southern China city of Yulin opened yesterday — despite what was probably the heaviest barrage of criticism and protest in its history.

As vendors slaughtered dogs and cooked their meat in dozens of restaurants across the city, animal welfare activists attempted to disrupt the opening of the 10-day festival.

Some bought dogs from dealers to save them from being slaughtered. Others argued with local residents, and police were intervening to prevent physical confrontations, according to news reports.

“We came to Yulin to tell people here dogs are our friends. They should not kill dogs in such a cruel way and many of the dogs they killed are pet dogs,” said Yang Yuhua, a volunteer from the central city of Chongqing.

While most of the meat used at the festival comes from farm dogs raised for that purpose, critics say strays and stolen pet dogs often end up in the mix.

One day into the festival, local residents were complaining that outsiders were ruining the tradition.

“It’s been a tradition for years for us to celebrate the festival. We can’t change it simply because they (animal lovers) love dogs,” a local resident told The Associated Press. “They don’t want us to eat dog meat. We eat dog meat to celebrate the festival, but since they’ve come here, they’ve ruined our mood completely.”

Promoters say eating dog meat during the summer helps ward off the heat and maintain a healthy metabolism.

More than 10,000 animals are killed each year for the summer solstice festival, which has become a focal point for those seeking to halt the tradition of eating dog in China and other Asian countries.

An estimated 10 million to 20 million dogs are killed for their meat each year in China.

This year, the list of celebrities speaking out against the practice grew.

Matt Damon, Pamela Anderson, Minnie Driver and Joaquin Phoenix were among those appearing in a video (above) produced by the Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation.

Yulin’s local government has sought to distance itself from the event, forbidding its employees from attending and limiting its size by shutting down some dog markets and slaughter houses.

“The so-called dog-meat eating festival has never been officially recognized by government or by any regulations or laws,” said an official reached by telephone at the city government’s general office.

“We hold meetings every time before the so-called festival, discussing counter measures such as deploying local police, business and sanitary authorities to inspect and deal with those who sell dogs,” he said.

Between those efforts and the international criticism that seems to increase every year, some organizations say the number of dogs killed for the event might be decreasing.

A bull in a china shop? How about a boxer?

Harvey-carries-umbrella-for-owner-Sara-Vestal-on-a-rainy-day_28129

The first time I saw the sign outside a giant warehouse off Interstate 40/85 in Greensboro — a place called Replacements, Ltd. — I chuckled and wished I had my camera.

On the sign, the company was proclaiming its dog friendliness.

What does Replacements sell?

China and crystal.

SideOrder0427A0041398358804The phrase “bull in a china shop” came to mind, followed by the phrase “you break it, you buy it.”

But I never took that picture, and — not being the type of person to replace china, or own it — I never dropped in to investigate.

Now, sparked by a story in the latest issue of All Animals, I’ve done a little research, learning (contrary to my assumption) that Replacements allows more than little dogs toted in customer’s handbags, that from 20 to 30 employees regularly bring dogs of all sizes to work with them (including one with a boxer), and that the company’s owner (a dachshund man) is also a pretty interesting guy.

(And maybe, too, that china isn’t as boring as I always thought.)

There’s a captivating story in the spring issue of Oxford American, that relates the company’s history and profiles its owner, Bob Page, who openly lobbied for the legalization of same-sex marriage in North Carolina, and whose company has established itself as gay friendly, pet friendly and family friendly.

Page, a native North Carolinian who grew up on a tobacco farm in Rockingham County, developed a passion for plates, and pursued it, according to the magazine.

When Page was growing up in rural North Carolina, he didn’t know anyone who was openly gay. He endured the hardship of being different in a small town, and the pain stayed with him: after he was drafted into the Army, he considered suicide. By the time he became an auditor for the state in the late 1970s, he was miserable in his job. He spent weekends junking around flea markets and trolling for collectibles, and he found that he looked forward to this hobby far more than he enjoyed going to work. He said, “My love of flea markets and the fact that I hated my job were the two things that compelled me to start Replacements.”

Today, the warehouse is the size of eight football fields, has a full-time staff of 400 workers, grosses $80 million a year, and dogs can commonly be seen alongside employees in their cubicles.

The company’s dog friendliness also caught the eye of the Humane Society of the United States, which publishes All Animals magazine.

fordThe magazine reports that Replacements has had a pets in the workplace program for more than 20 years.

It started when Page brought his own dachshunds into the office, enjoyed it and realized employees might like to bring their dogs to work, too.

The effects have been highly positive, the company says, improving job satisfaction and job performance, helping employees form stronger bonds and increasing cooperation.

Four years ago, Ford welcomed a husband and wife research team from Virginia Commonwealth University to spend a week at Replacements to conduct a study about dogs in the workplace.

Business professor Randolph T. Barker and his wife Susan, a professor of psychiatry, divided the 90 participants into three groups: those who had dogs and brought them to work, those who had dogs but didn’t bring them to work, and those who didn’t have dog.

replacementsMeasuring the amounts of cortisol in participants’ saliva at specific moments throughout the day, they found that dogs in the workplace make people — no matter which group they are in — happier.

Sure, it was another one of those studies that tells dog lovers what they already know, but it lends even more credence to the question:

If a china shop can be dog-friendly, can’t every workplace be?

(Photos: At top, a boxer named Harvey accompanies an employee on her way outside, courtesy of Replacements, Ltd.; bottom photo, Charlie rides along with employee Kim Headen as she works in the warehouse, by Peter Taylor/AP Images for The HSUS.; other photos courtesy of Replacements, Ltd.)