Paw-ternity leave, not an entirely new concept, is drawing some major attention this week — the root of which, best I can figure, was a story in London’s Daily Mirror.
To read the headlines that one story has spawned in the echo chamber that is the Internet you’d think giving employees paid time off when they get a new dog was an idea that was sweeping the nation, if not the globe.
Not quite — though we wouldn’t mind if it did.
The Mirror story mentions two companies in the UK — one of them being Mars Petcare, which provides 10 hours of paid leave for employees with new pets, the other being a small British tech support company whose owner offers up to three weeks of paid leave when employees bring a new pet home.
“Pets are like babies nowadays so why shouldn’t staff have some time off when they arrive?” said Greg Buchanan, who owns Manchester-based IT company BitSol Solutions. “The first few weeks of a dog moving to a new home is a really important time, especially (with) puppies.”
“I don’t have kids myself but I do have dogs and I understand how much they mean to people,” he added.
In an interview with USA Today, Buchanan said he took a week off from work to help a new puppy get settled in his home.
“We got a puppy from a rescue home and we realized it needed to be looked after properly, so I took a week off to ensure it was welcomed into the home, and to set boundaries for the dogs. You know, ‘You can’t chew the couch’ and ‘You can’t jump on the television,’ things like that. And it went from there, and my dog is now better for it,” says Buchanan.
After that, he began offering employees paid leaves when they got a new pet. He says the policy has helped improve office morale.
The Mirror article also cites a survey by pet insurance provider Petplan that found almost one in 20 new pet owners in the UK has taken paw-ternity leave.
“The rise in new pet owners taking paw-ternity leave indicates that people recognize the importance of settling in new pets with the right support and care,” said Petplan’s Isabella von Mesterhazy. “The early days of a kitten or puppy’s life are a vital part of the pet’s early development – especially for them to become a proper part of the family.”
Posted by John Woestendiek May 5th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bitsol, bitsol solutions, dog, dogs, employees, employers, england, home, leave, london, mars petcare, new, new dogs, paid leave, paw-ternity, paw-ternity leave, pawternity, pawternity leave, pets, uk, work
A UK couple is £300,000 richer thanks to persistence, their Labrador retriever and a little luck.
Make that a lot of luck.
Jane and Alan Slater, of the Isle of Wight, had been playing the EuroMillions Lottery for 20 years — always the same numbers.
On Sept. 29, Mr. Slater, a customer relations manager for a ferry company, got home from work, checked the winning numbers and saw that they had matched all five of them. The payout was about £150,000.
A few gleeful days later, they took their dogs, Ruby and Kai, for a walk. Getting back in the car, Ruby bumped into a catalogue, causing a slip of paper inside of it to come out and float to the ground.
“I really can’t explain the way this piece of paper floated, it was like you see in slow motion in films, as though someone wanted me to notice it,” Mrs. Slater, 59, said. “I immediately reached down and picked up the slip of paper which turned out to be a lottery ticket.”
For the same drawing.
At first, Mrs. Slater thought Mr. Slater might have taken the winning ticket she had bought to work to show friends, and then left it in the car. She was a little upset about that on the ride home.
When they got home, and found the original winning ticket, they figured out what happened.
Mr. Slater, 65, not realizing his wife had bought a ticket, had bought one as well — for the same drawing, with the same numbers.
Suddenly they were not just £150,000 richer, but twice that.
“The ticket could so easily have disappeared in the rubbish when I tidied up the car, we couldn’t help feel that someone was looking down on us,” he is quoted as saying in an article in The Telegraph.
He said Ruby’s “discovery” came on her second birthday.
Now the couple is considering retiring a little earlier than they had planned, and holding a big family party.
“We are a very close family and the wins mean we will be able to help our two children in the future,” Mr. Slater said. “There will be a big family party later in the year and a few more treats for Ruby and Kai.”
(Photos from The Telegraph)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 16th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alan slater, animals, couple, dog, dogs, euromillions, isle of wight, jane slater, labrador, lottery, luck, numbers, pets, retriever, uk, winner, winning
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 21st, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cat, cats, dog, dogs, dominique lesbirel, humans, inter-species, marriage, marry, marrying, morality, pet, pets, travis, uk, values, wedding
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: anticipation, behavior, boredom, bristol university, chasing, chasing tails, disorder, dog, dogs, frustration, research, science, spin, spinning, study, tail chasing, uk, veterinary, why dogs chase their tails
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 9th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, belgium, crufts, death, dog show, dog shows, dogs, investigation, irish setter, jagger, jealousy, kennel club, meat, murder, necropsy, pets, poison, poisoned, purebreds, scandal, thendara satisfaction, uk
One 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.
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.
Then 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.
(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.
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 16th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, bioengineering, clone, cloned, cloning, cloning dogs, cost, dog cloning, dog cloning book, dog inc., dogs, ethics, first, hwang woo suk, interview, james symington, john woestendiek, lou hawthorne, mini winnie, mira, mirror, missy, missy too, pets, science, seoul national university, snuppy, sooam, technology, texas a&m university, trakr, uk
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.
Hwang 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.”
Smith 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)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 11th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, biotech, book, canine, cells, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, contest, customers, dog cloning, dog cloning book, dog inc., dogs, free cloning, great britain, hwang woo suk, laboratory, marketing, pets, science, seoul, seoul national university, snuppy, sooam, technology, uk