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Tag: government

Dogs and Ebola: Looking for answers

bubbledog

You’d think in a world preparing for Ebola — especially in a country as sophisticated, dog-crazy and health-oriented as ours — someone would have given it at least a moment’s thought.

You’d think — between all the agencies and organizations, protocols and precautions; between the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association — someone somewhere would have stood up and said, hey, what about our dogs?

Instead, with Ebola’s spread to countries outside Africa, public health officials find themselves scratching their heads and — even though there’s no proof yet that dogs can transmit the disease — considering options as drastic as incarceration and extermination for the pets of humans diagnosed with Ebola.

Caution, of course, is good, but planning would have been better.

Excalibur was the first one to come to light. The large mixed-breed dog belonged to a nurse in Madrid who contracted the disease from Spain’s first Ebola patient. Her dog, over the family’s objections, was killed and incinerated nearly immediately upon the order of government officials.

America, or at least Dallas, took a more compassionate approach when a local nurse was determined to have contracted Ebola from a patient being treated in a hospital there. Bentley, her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, was moved into a quarantined area at a decommissioned Naval base, where he’s being tended to by hazardous material crews in full protective garb.

bentley3

Bentley

The question arises, and should have arisen long ago: What are we going to do with the pets of Ebola victims?

Will we turn to extermination, as the number of cases, and our fears, increase?

Will we keep them isolated in crates, bubbles or decommissioned military bases?

For how long? At what costs? Under whose supervision? And is it even necessary?

No one knows the answers to any of those questions, and the fear and uncertainty that ignorance leads to is bound to take us to some bad places, if it hasn’t already.

In an ideal world, we’d have studies to turn to — proving, one way or the other, whether dogs can contract and transmit the virus. We’d be testing them, as we do humans, before quarantining them, or at least before releasing them from that quarantine. We’d know how long, if at all, they need to be sequestered and monitored.

Instead, we’re playing a messy game of catch-up, and the argument can be made that it’s because we were wearing blinders.

Even in this supposed era of increased awareness about the health issues that cross species lines, our planet seems to once again have gotten caught up in the view that only humans matter.

Perhaps too it could be argued that, among many in America, some strange disease in Africa didn’t strike us as a big concern, or as an opportunity to learn and prepare for what might be coming. (Maybe we humans don’t like to look at the big picture when the big picture is too big, and too scary.)

What is abundantly clear is that no one, up until now, gave much thought to how Ebola might affect our dogs — if not the disease itself, at least the fear of it.

No one knows whether dogs can get the full-fledged virus. One study during the 2001-02 Ebola outbreak in Gabon showed some exposed dogs carried signs of infection, and had an immune response — but that’s not the same as getting the disease.

“Studies have shown that dogs can have an immune response to Ebola, but there have been no reports of pet dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of passing the disease to other animals or people,” said Kristen Nordlund, a CDC health-communications specialist.

“In a situation where there is a dog or cat in the home of an Ebola patient, CDC recommends public-health officials evaluate the animal’s risk of exposure,” she added.

Given dogs are present in nearly half of American homes, given many of them share our beds and lick our faces, we’d like to see the CDC recommending something more than “risk evaluation.”

excalibur2

Excalibur

Between the lack of knowledge, and the lack of a clear-cut recommended response when it comes to the pets of Ebola victims, public fears will only snowball as questions go unanswered.

Why, given all our physiological similarities, can’t the dogs of Ebola patients be tested like humans are to confirm if they’ve been exposed? And if, as limited study suggests, dogs can have the virus without getting sick and dying, might there be something worth further studying in that?

“We know that you and your clients are looking for answers, and we’re working to get information for you,” the American Veterinary Medical Association says on its website.

“The AVMA is collaborating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USDA along with other agencies and experts and is tapping into the broad expertise of our member veterinarians to develop information for our members and the public. We will strive to ensure that veterinarians have a prominent voice as these issues are discussed and decided in the U.S.”

Up until now, the CDC has taken the line that the risk of Ebola to pets is low. Its website also says there is little risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.

“The risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the United States is very low,” says a question and answer fact sheet on the CDC website.. “Therefore, the risk to pets is also very low, as they would have to come into contact with blood and body fluids of a person with Ebola. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola.”

And yet Excalibur is dead and Bentley is being treated as hazardous material, and with each new case there will be new fears and ripples.

In Madrid, a dog that often played with Excalibur was surrendered to a shelter by his owners because of fears he might have contracted the disease.

tronco

Tronco

Tronco was dropped off by his owners at the Spanish animal charity Escuela Canina Esga in Madrid, according to the New York Post.

“They were parents with young children and they just were not prepared to take the risk and so [they] handed him over to us,” said manager Esga Juan Esteban. “We did everything we could to reassure them that it was probably OK, but of course we couldn’t guarantee that the animal didn’t have Ebola, and so they were adamant that they didn’t want him any longer.”

The shelter, in its effort (successful) to find Tronco a new home, used only photos of him as a pup — so that, once he was adopted, he wouldn’t be recognized in public as a dog who once played with a dog whose owner has Ebola.

(Top photo: The image of Soviet Space dog Belka is from the distant past, but might we see something like it in the near future?)

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.

Beijing officers beat one-eyed dog to death

oneyedjackCity management officers in Beijing beat a small, one-eyed dog to death in front of his owner over the weekend because the dog lacked the proper paperwork, according to the magazine, The Beijinger.

The dog belonged to a British man working at an international school in Beijing. He’d taken in the dog, known in the neighborhood as “One-Eyed Jack,” after finding him on the streets.

The incident came during Beijing’s annual dog registration period, when city management officers — known as chengguan, and known for getting brutal — are on the lookout for dogs and dog owners who are in violation of regulations.

Pet owners must pay $160 the first year they acquire a pet in Beijing. During the registration period, the officers knock on the doors of homes to check on whether dogs are present, if they are in compliance with size and breed regulations, and if they are properly registered and vaccinated.

The Beijinger, an English-language city magazine, reported that the man was out for a walk on Saturday morning when he was pushed aside by one officer while four others held his dog down and beat it to death with sticks.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous, was first asked for the dog’s registration papers. When he explained he only recently got the dog, and was in the process of getting him registered and vaccinated,  officials told him he was “out of order,” the magazine reported.

After killing the dog, the officers placed it into a body bag.

Beijing bans large dogs, as well as 40 breeds it has deemed “large and vicious,” including Dalmatians, collies, Weimeraners and boxers, according to the New York Times blog, Sinosphere.

Chinese veterinarians have warned that the rules will be enforced more strictly this year because of rising rabies infections from unvaccinated animals.

(Photo: The Beijinger)

Drones and droids and robot dogs, oh my!

The older I get the more wary I become of technology.

What I haven’t figured out is whether one necessarily follows the other: Am I just becoming more fearful as I age, or is technology proving itself more worth fearing?

Both are unstoppable forces. Just as one can’t stop the march of time (even with anti-aging technology), one can’t stop the march of technology.

It keeps coming — whether it’s wise or not, safe or not — and we all blindly jump on board and become dependent on it. If it makes us prettier, gets us where we’re going, let’s us accomplish things more quickly, or function without actually using our brains, we humans are generally all for it.

Already we’re reliant on the Internet, GPS, and cell phones. Already we can purchase almost anything we want online. But the day may soon come when, once we order it, it gets delivered by a robot, perhaps a flying one, or a terrain-traversing one, or one capable of hurling 35-pound cinder blocks 17 feet.

I would say these robot dogs could become the newspaper delivery boys of tomorrow, if newspapers had a tomorrow.

droneLast month 60 Minutes revealed that Amazon was working on drones that will be able to fly to homes and deliver packages at our doorstep.

Last week the New York Times reported that Google has purchased Boston Dynamics, the engineering firm that designed the graceful beast known as “Big Dog” (seen in the video above) and other animal-like robots, mostly for the Pentagon.

It is the eighth robotics company that Google has acquired in the last half-year, but Google’s not divulging what it’s up to.

Given search engines don’t generally need to climb mountains, or hurl cinder blocks, to find their information, one can only wonder.

Is the company branching into war machines? Does it want to corner the market on robot pets? (Boston Dynamics did serve as consultant on Sony’s ill-fated pet robot dog, Aibo.) Is it hoping to take Google Earth one step further and have robots take photographs through our windows? Or, more likely, is Google, like Amazon, positioning itself to become the place where you buy everything, and working on lining up a delivery team whose members don’t require salary, or health insurance, or coffee and pee breaks?

It almost looks like Amazon is poised to cover air delivery, while Google, with its latest purchase, is positioning itself to cover the ground. (That, at least until Big Dog becomes amphibious, leaves the high seas open — aye, aye robot! — for, say, a Yahoo, Bing or eBay).

biigdogBoston Dynamics, based in Waltham, Mass., builds animal-like machines that can traverse smooth or rocky terrain, some of them at speeds faster than a human. Most of its projects have been built under contracts with Pentagon clients like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Google executives said the company would honor existing military contracts held by Boston Dynamics, but that it did not plan to become a military contractor on its own.

So why does it need computers with legs, or robots that can climb walls and trees? Surely Google isn’t working on ”Terminators” that can track you down, knock on your door and provide you with the top 10 recipes for apple crumb cake.

The Times reports:  ”… Executives at the Internet giant are circumspect about what exactly they plan to do with their robot collection. But Boston Dynamics and its animal kingdom-themed machines bring significant cachet to Google’s robotic efforts … The deal is also the clearest indication yet that Google is intent on building a new class of autonomous systems that might do anything from warehouse work to package delivery and even elder care.”

EVEN ELDER CARE? Oy, robot! I do not want a robot dispensing my medication if I end up in such a facility. At that time, I will be even more terrified of technology, and the last thing I would want to see would be a robot coming into my room –  no matter how sexy its voice – saying, “Time for your sponge bath.”

I’m not a total Luddite.

I can publish a website or two, and can hook up my cable TV, and can figure out about 10 percent of what my cell phone does.

But I resent how steep the learning curve has become — how much effort is involved in keeping up with technology. That device promising to make life easier — once you spend a week programming it — may be smaller than your little finger, but its owner’s manual will be fatter than a James Michener novel.

What I fear, though, is where technology can lead, especially technology without forethought, and how quickly and blindly many of us hop on the bandwagon, giving little consideration to the possible repercussions, and how easily it can run amok.

The one futuristic (but already here) technology I’ve researched most is dog cloning. Once achieved, the service was offered to pet owners hoping to bring their dead dogs back to life, and willing to pay $150,000 for that to be accomplished in South Korean laboratories. It bothered me so much, and on so many levels, I wrote a whole book about it. You can order it through Amazon, but don’t expect drone delivery for at least a couple more years. Might one day drones deliver our clones?

I realize my fears are both irrational and rational.

Fretting about the future, I guess, is part of getting older. Old fart worries were around back when automobiles first hit the road (and went on to become a leading cause of death). And it’s probably true that once we stop moving forward, we tend to stagnate. But there’s moving forward and smartly moving forward.

I’m not a fan of big government (except when it helps me get health insurance), but I sometimes wonder if we need a federal Department of Whoa, Let’s Take a Look at this First. Maybe it could monitor emerging technologies, and their ramifications, and determine whether they should be allowed to emerge at all. Maybe that would prevent unimaginable (but, with enough research, entirely predictable) things from happening — like cell-phone shaped cancers forming on the exact spot of our bodies where we pack our cell phones.

But we tend to be more reactive than proactive when it comes to those kinds of things. We wait for the damage to be done and leave it to personal injury lawyers to straighten it out — whether it’s a new anti-psychotic drug that unexpectedly made young males grow female breasts, or irreparable harm done by robotic surgical devices. (If you’ve been victim of either, lawyers are standing by to help you. At least that’s what my TV tells me.)

I want to enter my golden years without shiny silver robots assisting me in living, and without drones hovering outside my door (even if they are delivering a good book). Though I’ve met some clones, I wouldn’t mind getting through life without having any contact with droids and drones and robot dogs.

Sometimes, at least from the Fearful Old Man Perspective (FOMP), it seems we’re so focused on the future that we fail to see and appreciate the present, and don’t even begin to learn from the past.

Sometimes it seems we like dancing on the cutting edge, then cry foul when our feet get sliced up.

Sometimes it seems we embrace technology too quickly and casually, when it should be a careful and thoughtful embrace, made with the realization that, as much as technology can make life better, it can also screw it up badly. We tend to view technology in terms of what it can add to our life, not even considering what it might subtract. And, in what’s the biggest danger of all, we tend to let it overrule our hearts and do our thinking for us.

It can save and prolong lives, even, in a way, re-create them. It can make our human lives – though it’s arguable — more convenient.

But it can also gnaw away at us until we become tin men and scarecrows — maybe not actually missing our hearts and brains, but at least forgetting we ever had them.

Air Canada manages to lose a dog, rip the media and bash a country — all in one week

larryHere’s a dog story that proves accidents can happen, and then happen again.

Usually it’s no big deal, but when it’s an airline making the mistakes,  and they’re strictly the result of carelessness, we have to wonder a bit.

In this case, the first boo boo came when an Air Canada employee in San Francisco decided that, due to a flight delay, a dog being flown to a new adoptive home in Canada needed a potty break. When he let the Italian greyhound out of his crate, Larry escaped.

Jutta Kulic, while attending a dog show in Sacramento, had dropped Larry off at the San Francisco airport. She zip-tied the crate, and instructed the airline not to open it for any reason. Larry, who belonged to a friend of Kulic’s who died of cancer, was on his way to a new home — or so she thought.

That flight ended up being delayed, and later that night, Kulic received a call from Air Canada telling her Larry had run away.

After talking with Kulic about what had happened, CBS13 in Sacramento reached out to Air Canada (that’s what TV news people do these days, “reach out”) which generally means sending an email. 

That’s when the airline made its second blunder.

The email an airline representative sent to the station, apparently accidentally, wasn’t meant for public consumption. Instead, it was an internal exchange about how to handle the media inquiry:

“I think I would just ignore, it is local news doing a story on a lost dog,” read the email from Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick. “Their entire government is shut down and about to default and this is how the US media spends its time.”

Later the airline sent another email to the station, this time with the requisite apologies and saying the incident was being investigated.

Kulic said she is afraid she’ll never see Larry, who is brown and white and two years old, again.

But the family in Canada says they’re still hoping he might be found and delivered to them.

The fuzzy — and not so fuzzy — sides of the federal government furloughs

justwalkPoliticians aren’t happy about it. Americans aren’t happy about. But there may be one group can see a bright side in the federal government shutdown.

Dogs. (Then again, they see the bright side in pretty much everything.)

With their owners spending more time at home, the pets of furloughed federal workers are likely getting more attention, more dog park time, more time to snuggle while watching daytime TV on the couch.

Let’s just hope no one gets too used to it.

The shutdown, while already hurting some pet-related business, is helping some others. The  Huffington Post reports that business is booming, for example, at Muddy Mutt, a self-serve dog wash next to Shirlington Dog Park in Northern Virginia.

“I’m getting more business because people aren’t working,” said Andrew Low, owner of the Muddy Mutt, where dog owners commonly bring their dogs in after romping in the river. Low said the business is usually quiet during the week. But since the furlough? “Twenty-five on Monday, 14 on Tuesday, 23 yesterday… We don’t even ever come close to that.”

The furlough might be bad news, though, for professional dog walkers in the DC area.

Christina Bell, owner of Doggy Daze DC,  said that business is down by about half since the shutdown went into effect. JJ Scheele says her business, Dog Walking DC, has also taken a hit.

“All the walkers are down anywhere from one to three dogs,”  Scheele said.

At Just Walk DC, a dog-walking cooperative, Meg Levine said the decrease of customers, three days into the shutdown, has been slight. But between government-employed pet owners having more time, and less income, a protracted shutdown could hurt dogwalkers badly — not to mention the rest of the country.

“There certainly is a sense of frustration from a lot of my clients, who feel that this is just needless roadblocking,”Levine said. “For the most part, we are continuing to chug along and feeling very hopeful this will end soon. I like D.C. when it functions. Oh, this town.”

(Photo: Dog walker Meg Levine, courtesy of  Just Walk DC)

Bucharest voters to decide fate of stray dogs

bucharest

The tens of thousands of stray dogs that roam the streets of Bucharest would be captured and killed under a plan proposed by the city just days after the fatal mauling of a four-year-old boy.

But first they will give voters a say — a referendum is scheduled for Oct. 6.

After the fatal mauling of a boy playing with his brother in a park, Romanian President Traian Basescu called on the government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta to pass a law that would allow for stray dogs to be killed.

“Humans are above dogs,” Ponta said.

Mayor Sorin Oprescu, in announcing the referendum, said, “We will do what Bucharest’s people want, exactly what they want.”

The controversial plan has divided Bucharest, a city of 2 million people.

bucharest2An estimated 40,000 to 64,000 stray dogs roam its streets — some peacefully minding their own business, some begging, trespassing, rifling through garbage and, sometimes, attacking humans.

In recent years, a Bucharest woman was killed by a pack of strays, and a Japanese tourist died after a stray severed an artery in his leg.

But it was the killing of a boy earlier this month that has brought the debate over strays to a fever pitch. Hundreds have demonstrated both for and against the proposed measure and have vowed to continue rallying, according to the Associated Press.

Those who see the dogs as a threat and nuisance say — ironic as it sounds — that exterminating the strays will make for a more civilized society.

“We want a civilized capital, we don’t want a jungle,” said Adina Suiu, a 27-year-old hairdresser. “I will vote for them to be euthanized. I drive a car most of the time, but when I walk around my neighborhood, I am always looking over my shoulder. If we don’t stop them now, we will be taken over by dogs.”

Burgeoning stray dog populations are a problem in several countries in the former Eastern Bloc. In Ukraine, authorities in Kiev were accused of poisoning strays as they prepared to host the Euro 2012 soccer championships. In the Kosovar capital of Pristina, officials gunned down nearly 200 strays in a three week “culling” campaign.

Vier Pfoten, an animal welfare group, says the solution isn’t killing strays but sterilizing them. The group has sterilized 10,400 dogs in Bucharest since 2001, but says a far more massive effort is needed to control the canine population.

Bucharest’s stray dog problem became more acute in the communist era when former Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu razed large swaths of the city. Residents, forcibly moved into high-rise apartment buildings, had to abandon their dogs.

“When the great demolitions came, many houses were knocked down and owners moved to apartments and could not take dogs with them,” Livia Campoeru, a spokeswoman for Vier Pfoten said. “People are irresponsible, they abandon their dogs, and there is a natural multiplication.”

Among those speaking out against the mass extermination is Brigitte Bardot, the French actress and animal rights activist. “I am extremely shocked to find that revenge, which has no place here, will be taken on all the dogs in Romania, even the gentle ones,”  she wrote in an open letter to Basescu.

(Photo:  Top photo by Eugen Visan, Associated Press; bottom photo by Vadim Ghirda, Associated Press)

visio professional 2010