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Tag: uk

Dutch woman plans to marry her dog

1lesbirel

You can’t say Bible-quoting conservatives didn’t warn us.

Let members of the same sex get married, they said, and it will open the door to even unholier unions.

Now comes word from Metro that a woman in the Nederlands plans to marry her dog.

Dominique Lesbirel, 41, says she might not do it immediately, because she wants to be sure that she’s not acting out of grief.

You see, her husband, Doerack, just died. He had kidney failure.

Oh, and he was a cat.

Lesbirel married Doerack eight years ago, conducting the ceremony herself, based on the authority she thinks she holds from getting ordained online.

She says she regularly officiates weddings between people with their pets — but not before doing some research and making sure they truly love, respect and are committed to each other. Also, she says, she wouldn’t marry anyone to a lion or tiger.

A Metro online poll shows only 8 percent of us would marry our pet.

Lesbirel, whose services are explained on her website, says some people have accused her of animal cruelty and promoting bestialty, which is “certainly not the case.”

“I would never condone such terrible acts of cruelty to animals. My site is all about making a commitment to pets to show your dedication to them and promise that you will always look after them.”

“We’d be lost without those happy little faces at our windows, so I’ll do anything I can to remind people to treat animals with love, kindness and respect.”

That, she says, is why she will someday soon tie the knot with her dog, Travis.

“He has given me so much happiness and unconditional love. I just want to celebrate that bond.”

(Photo:PA Real Life, via Metro)

Why some dogs chase their tails

tailchaser

Why do some dogs seem so obsessed with chasing their tails?

Researchers at Bristol University in the UK have entered the second phase of a study aimed at finding the answer.

Scientists from the two-year “Bristol Spinning Dog Project” will visit the homes of the 50 non-spinning dogs to collect urine samples and cheek swabs, and complete training tasks aimed at assessing the pet’s personality and ability to learn, The Independent reports.

In the first phase of the study, the researchers examined spinning dogs, delving into everything from their DNA to their environments to their personalities.

After examining dogs that chase their tails, the researchers will use the non-spinners to act as a control group.

Tail-chasing, while the topic of many a YouTube video, is likely something we shouldn’t be laughing about — out loud or otherwise — at least in those cases where the behavior is obsessive.

The researchers say reasons for the behavior aren’t fully understood — some spinning dogs may be merely seeking attention or expressing a desire to play, but spinning frequently or while alone could be a sign of frustration or a more serious disorder.

“There isn’t much information in the research literature about why dogs spin,” said Beth Loftus, one of the lead researchers. “We think this behavior develops because of personality and genetics, as well as the environment during a dog’s first 16 weeks and learning throughout life. But we don’t really know what it means for dogs’ welfare.”

“We hope to be able to identify dogs that are starting to spin and stop it from developing to the point where they are doing it almost to the complete exclusion of other, more normal types of behavior,” she added.

The research is being funded by the Dogs Trust charity.

(Photo : Flickr Commons / Tim Mowrer)

A murder mystery at Crufts?

jagger

As prestigious and proper as the world of Crufts is, fear, loathing and backstabbing have never been strangers to the world’s largest dog show.

Murder, however, was — at least until this year.

The death of a competitor — an Irish setter named Thendara Satisfaction, but known as Jagger — is being investigated as just that, after his owners said a necropsy revealed poisoned meat in his stomach.

The three-year-old dog died after returning home to Belgium, the day after he won second place in his class at Crufts.

Some news reports, like this one in the Telegraph, are suggesting, without much to back it up, that a jealous rival dog owner could have been behind it — and owners of Jagger are saying they hope that is not the case.

“We compete week-in, week-out against each other and we have one thing in common, we all love dogs,” said co-owner Dee Milligan-Bott. ”I think and hope it was a random act by someone who hates dogs, an opportunist.”

In either case, the death has shaken up Crufts, UK’s Kennel Club and dog show participants who say that, while dogs shows have never been free of scandal, this could become the darkest one in Cruft’s 100-year history.

“I can’t believe anyone could be so evil or vindictive,” said Gillian Barker-Bell, who judged Irish setters in the competition. “Dogs have been tampered with at other championship shows so this is not a first. But I have never heard of a dog actually dying. What a sick mind to do something like that.”

Sandra Chorley-Newton, another Irish setter judge, called it horrific: “This has shocked the whole dog community. The thought of it being another exhibitor is too awful to contemplate.”

“The Kennel Club is deeply shocked and saddened to hear that Jagger the Irish Setter died some 26 hours after leaving Crufts,” said Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary. “We have spoken to his owners and our heartfelt sympathies go out to them. We understand that the toxicology report is due next week and until that time we cannot know the cause of this tragic incident.”

Police in Belgium are investigating, according to the BBC.

According to the Telegraph report, two others dogs in the competition have taken ill, possibly from poisoning.

Jagger , who was owned by Milligan-Bott and Belgian Aleksandra Lauwers, collapsed and died after returning home to Belgium on Friday.

After celebrating their second place ribbon, Lauwers and her husband returned home with the dog by train.

“I prepared food for the dogs and I called Jagger to come over. He just collapsed and started shaking, it looked like a fit,” Mrs. Lauwers said. “We called our vet immediately. He started having diarrhea and urinating on himself. It looked like a heart attack. He went into a coma a minute later and died. The vet said it looked like poison.”

“It was dark red meat, it looked like beef. Inside there were small colours – white, dark green and black,” she added. “The vet is convinced it is poison, possibly a few different types to make it work more slowly but efficiently. The people in the clinic also suspected it was poison.”

Mr. Lauwers said he believed that Jagger was targeted, saying: “There is no other option, it had to have happened [at Crufts]. How can you mistakenly poison a dog?

“Jagger was such a promising dog. He was just three years old but he was well known around the world. Of course if you are successful, success doesn’t make you a whole lot of friends,” he added.

“I can only hope it wasn’t an act of jealousy by another competitor, but just a lunatic.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Dee Milligan-Bott)

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)

UK’s first canine clone is born in Seoul

miniwinnie

With more than 500 canine clones now roaming the world, you wouldn’t think the fact that one has been produced for a pet owner in the UK would make such a big splash.

But it has, and a big splash is just what the cloners had in mind.

To introduce its unique service to Britain, Sooam Biotech, the South Korean laboratory that’s now the only company cloning dogs, borrowed from an earlier chapter in dog cloning’s bizarre history. It held a public contest, awarding a free cloning as the grand prize.

The winner: Rebecca Smith, 29, of London, who learned in late March that a clone of her 12-year-old dachshund Winnie had been born in a Seoul laboratory, BBC reported.

She named the dog Mini Winnie.

The competition saw dog owners submit videos of their dogs and compete for the chance to “immortalize” their pet for free. The bill for dog cloning normally runs around $100,000.

“Sooam Biotech is looking for one person with the most special and inspiring reason for cloning his/her beloved dog,” the company said in announcing the contest.

The contest was similar to one held in the U.S. when dog cloning first hit the market. It was called the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” and the winner was TrakR, a search and rescue dog whose owner said the German shepherd found the last survivor in the rubble of 9/11.

The weird and wacky story of how dog cloning was achieved, how it was marketed, and the first customers to sign up for it can be found in my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”

The UK’s first canine clone — who won’t arrive in the country until after a 6-month quarantine period — was cloned at Sooam Biotech, a laboratory run by Hwang Woo Suk, who was a member of the Seoul National University team that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy, in 2005.

That research began after an earlier effort to clone a dog in the U.S., at Texas A&M University, was unsuccessful.

The Texas A&M research was funded by John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix. After cloning a cat, and assorted farm animals, the Texas A&M efforts to clone a dog were called off, but Sperling’s front man, who had established a company to store the cells of dead and dying dogs (Genetic Savings & Clone), even before dog cloning was achieved, later teamed up Hwang and Sooam to offer an online auction, with the highest bidders receiving clones of their dogs.

SONY DSCHwang founded his lab after getting fired from Seoul National University when his claim to have produced the world’s first cloned human embryos was deemed fraudulent. He was later convicted of embezzling research funds and illegally buying human eggs, but his 18-month sentence was suspended.

Hwang has more recently has embarked on trying to clone a woolly mammoth from 10,00-year-old remains found frozen in Siberia.

Meanwhile, he’s churning out laboratory-created dogs, more than 500 of which have been born to surrogate mother dogs at his lab and kennel.

To create Mini Winnie, a piece of skin was taken from Winnie and transported to Seoul. Cells from the sample were placed inside an anonymous donor dog’s egg cell and, with a jolt of electricity, they merged.

Then the embryo was implanted inside a surrogate dog that gave birth, via Caesarean, to Winnie on March 30.

“The world would be a better place with more Winnies in it,” Smith, 29, says in a Channel 4 documentary, “The £60,000 Puppy: Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”

smithandwinnieSmith received the original Winnie as a present on her 18th birthday, and she says the dog helped her overcome “lots of demons,” including an eating disorder. Smith says Mini Winnie looks identical to the original, who is old and arthritic, but still alive.

Hundreds of pet owners have had dogs cloned since the first customer, a California woman who received five copies of her dead pit bull, Booger.

Critics of the process say cloning doesn’t result in the resurrection of an animal, but a laboratory-made twin, whose creation requires the involvement of numerous other dogs, and who might not act like the original at all.

Initially, two South Korean companies were cloning dogs for pet owners (and even more for research purposes), but one of the, RNL Bio, has pulled out of the dog-cloning business.

While the cloning process has grown more efficient, some animal welfare groups say risks are still high.

Dr Katy Taylor, Head of Science at The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said: “Cloning is a very unpredictable and extremely wasteful process … In order to produce just one ‘perfect’ clone, many puppies with the same genes as a loved animal will be born … Some of these puppies will be aborted or will die soon after birth from unpredictable health complications and severe birth defects.”

Defective pups, and the South Korean laboratory’s failure to follow animal welfare protocols, were among the reasons cited by the American company that teamed up with Hwang for pulling out of its dog cloning arrangement.

The documentary, while it mostly follows the judges as they visit with contestants and their dogs, does go some interesting places, including Edinburg, for an interview with Sir Ian Wilmut, cloner of Dolly the sheep. Wilmut doesn’t endorse pet cloning, and says he remains skeptical of it, saying it will lead to lots of disappointed customers who, despite their hopes, won’t get an animal with the same personality as the original.

There’s also an interview with a pet owner, not a contestant, who views dog cloning as a Hitleresque pursuit, and there are several allusions to the fact that some Koreans eat dog meat.

“The £60,000 Puppy: Cloning Man’s Best Friend” was made by the same independent production company that produced “I Cloned My Pet,” several episodes of which appeared on TLC.

“The £60,000 Puppy” is an improvement over those productions, which brushed aside most ethical questions and animal welfare concerns about pet cloning. While the new documentary doesn’t delve too deeply into them either, it does present something more than a one-sided view.

Like the earlier documentaries, it reinforces that most customers of dog cloning are, shall we say, eccentric sorts, and that their attachment to their dogs — as with all of us — is a powerful one.

Perhaps the most telling moment, though, comes as the judges debate — American Idol style — the public relations benefits of each contestant.

After that, the winner is … after a long, long pause … announced.

Cloning, it seems, is no longer some futuristic pipedream. It has become a reality, and apparently an entertainment form.

My view? Cloning is no game show, or at least it shouldn’t be.

(Photos: Top, Mini Winnie / Channel 4; middle, Hwang in his lab / John Woestendiek; bottom; Smith and the original Winnie / Channel 4)

A $73,000 doggie vacation

holiday

Calling all rich fools: Two British companies have partnered up to offer your dog a spectacular luxury dog holiday.

The cost is $73,000, which we assume covers a week’s worth of boarding along with all the other perks — surfing lessons, reiki sessions, grooming, a new wardrobe, a personal chef and much more.

These, mind you, are services the dog will receive, presumably while his or her owners are on vacation somewhere else, assuming they have any money left to take one.

Behind the ridiculous gimmick are Paw Seasons, a luxury dog hotel in Bristol, England, and VeryFirstTo.com, a company specializing in luxury experiences.

It will be made available to only one dog, said VeryFirstTo.com founder Marcel Knobil.

“It’ll definitely be an individual or couple who enjoy an extravagant lifestyle. While they go off to the Caribbean they want their pet to have an equally enjoyable, extravagant stay where they are,” Knobil said. “It’s for those who enjoy the finer things in life and have a sense of humor. They have a soft spot for their dog and want them to have the best time possible.”

Highlights of the “Spectacular Luxury Dog Holiday” include chauffeured rides by the Paw Season’s hotel driver, a private suite showing dog movies on a screen, a doghouse built to replicate the one the dog has at home, local beach and countryside walks, a running session with hurdles World Champion Dai Greene, a day with author and dog behavior expert Stan Rawlinson, and a grooming at the Pet Spa at Harrods that includes aromatherapy bath and body massage.

No one has signed up yet, but Knobil told ABC News. “We’re pretty hopeful. We know it’s extravagant, but it’s a fabulous time for the dog and benefits two very good causes.”

The companies say $10,000 from the sale of the package will be split between two charities — Cancer Research U.K. and Battersea Dogs Home.

(Photo: Veryfirstto.com)

Bully for them: Dogs to be tops again in UK

Dogs, who lost their ranking as the number one pet (not counting fish) in the United Kingdom in 1994, are now poised to take over the top spot again (not counting fish).

Cats displaced dogs as the nation’s favorite pet – or favourite, if you live there – for the first time in 1994, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA).

Now, a study by the association predicts dogs will be number one again, possibly as early as this year.

“Rovertaken,” read the headline in the Sun. “It’s raining more dog than cat,” said the Daily Mail.

The study says the number of dogs in Britain is at an all-time high having risen from 5 million in 1970 to 8.3 million today. Cats have fallen from a 2004 peak of 9.6 million to 8.6 million.

Figures from the Kennel Club reveal ‘handbag dog’ breeds have increased sixfold and the number of Chihuahuas have tripled since 2001.

While more households have dogs than cats — both in the U.S. and Britain — there are more cats overall in both countries, given the number of households where mutliple cats reside. As of 2007, census figures showed 82 million cats and 72 million dogs in the U.S.