Thursday, December 31, 2009

Are Polar Bears in Trouble? Experts Disagree

It's been the theme song for many a year. Polar Bears in Alaska are declining. Now a state biologist wants the whole picture examined.

Feds say polar bears declining; state biologist disagrees

by Megan Baldino
Wednesday, December 30, 2009


ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The Center for Biological Diversity says new assessments from the federal government prove that Alaska's polar bears and walrus populations are in trouble, but a state biologist says not so fast.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's stock assessments, the polar bear population in the southern Beaufort Sea region is declining.

They say.....http://www.ktuu.com/Global/story.asp?S=11751501

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How Furry Friends Can Boost Your Health

(StatePoint) There are many therapeutic benefits to pet ownership. It's been well documented that a furry friend can reduce your blood pressure and therapy dogs are used in hospitals nationwide to help patients heal.

While the relationship between people and animals has been widely heralded, now comes word that scientists are finding new ways our favorite furry creatures can influence our health in the long term.

"As helpful as a loving animal can be at the end of a long work day, researchers worldwide are seeing how they might literally be life-savers in developing treatments for diseases," notes Lisa Peterson, spokesperson for the American Kennel Club.

Considering the genetic makeup of humans and canines are roughly 85 percent similar and there are around 400 diseases that plague both species, scientists have found an uncanny connection between animal and human health. Now they're finding how the health of purebred dogs can directly affect that of humans.

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation has been at the forefront of this medical research, having awarded $24 million in research grants since 1995.

One of the foremost studies of this sort involves research that isolated the gene responsible for night blindness in briard dogs. Researchers found that the same gene caused Leber Congenital Amaurosis, a childhood-onset disease that causes blindness in early adulthood when not treated. Thanks to this research, gene therapy now has been developed to treat young people with the disease.

This kind of connection between canine and human disease is not unprecedented. Scientists have also isolated a gene in dogs that not only causes a specific canine spinal disease but also Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, in humans. Because of this discovery there is now hope the disease in the dog will assist human research.

It's not just the more obscure illnesses or circumstances making canine research invaluable. Cancer is one major area where canine cancer research has correlated directly to human research, leading to much hope.

As with humans, cancer in dogs occurs spontaneously, is not an induced disease, and the lifetime risk of cancer in humans and dogs is similar. Of course, people and dogs share the same environment, and therefore are exposed to comparable risk factors. And the natural history of most cancers and their response to treatment are comparable between both species.

But what's most promising is that medical researchers can move faster when studying cancer in dogs, because the chronology of cancer is adapted to dogs' shorter lifespans. For example, the disease in dogs becomes apparent within 10 years instead of 60 in humans. So, success or failure of treatments can be measured within two years among dogs instead of at least five for humans.

"Dogs age faster than humans," says Peterson. "By researching diseases in them, they can guard humans against certain illnesses."

For more information about the AKC Canine Health Foundation, visit www.caninehealthfoundation.org.

With additional research by responsible breeders and organizations, there's no telling what human conditions can be aided by our furry friends.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's resolution: slim down that fat cat or dog

(ARA) - To his owners, Moby, a 4-year-old Australian Shepherd, was a very healthy, spry dog, so when his veterinarian told them that beneath his thick, reddish-brown coat he had a weight problem, they were a bit shocked.

Apparently, all that baby food licked off the floor, and the lack of activity that came with the two toddlers who had recently joined the family, added about 10 extra pounds on a normally 65-pound dog. The good news is the veterinarian was able to put Moby on a program of diet and exercise, and he was back in perfect shape within a year.

Studies show that pet obesity is an epidemic in this country. According to a 2005 study, approximately 35 percent of American dogs and cats are obese or overweight, and some veterinarians report that they see even higher percentages now.

"I would say that probably more than 50 percent of the animals that we see are overweight," says Dr. Larry R. Corry, a companion animal practitioner in Georgia and president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). "We say that people are 'killing their pets with caring.' They want to give too much food, table scraps and too many treats. They simply don't realize how unhealthy that can be."

Obesity can cause a number of health problems, including diabetes and heart problems. Diabetes in animals can be treated successfully with diet and insulin, but treatments are expensive and difficult to undertake successfully with cats. Diabetes treatments require animals to eat on a consistent basis, and cats don't often enjoy following a schedule. Treating obesity before the animal becomes diabetic is a far simpler solution, Dr. Corry says.

"If we can get pet owners to comply with weight-loss plans, usually we don't have any problem getting the animal's weight under control,"Corry says. "Weight-loss diets generally involve specially formulated pet foods or simply a reduction of the amount of food the animal receives.

"Every member of the family has to be in agreement, because if one person is slipping the dog scraps under the table, the program won't work," he continues.

For dogs and cats on a diet, one little treat can truly be a diet buster. For example, giving a cat one potato chip may not seem like an extravagant snack, but it's equivalent to giving an adult human half a cheeseburger or half a candy bar. And giving your cat an ounce of milk is equivalent to eating four and a half cheeseburgers. Giving your pet pooch one hot dog is equivalent to you eating two cheeseburgers. Needless to say, giving a pet table scraps is a sure ticket to pet obesity.

The AVMA has partnered with Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. to combat obesity by sponsoring the Alliance for Healthier Pets - Obesity Awareness and Prevention Program. The initiative's primary goal is to educate the public on how to recognize obesity and to suggest simple solutions. Visit www.petfit.com to see examples of how common pet treats translate into major calories. Watch as personal trainer Gunnar Petersen teaches pet owners how to exercise with their pets and then take the "Pet Fit" Challenge.

For more information about animal health, visit www.avma.org and visit www.avmatv.org for an informative video about pet obesity.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New puppy? Learn how to prepare your home for a furry friend

(ARA) - Anyone who's welcomed a new pet into the home can tell you how important it is to prepare for that four-legged friend. Whether it's moving furniture to accommodate a dog cage or learning to host a puppy play-date with the bulldog next door, becoming a pet owner can be a definite learning process.

When getting your family and your home ready to welcome a furry friend, a few simple steps can go a long way:

* While your new pet is getting used to his/her surroundings, it's a good idea to keep them in a defined area of the house. Baby gates are perfect for closing off an area in your house and designating it as the "puppy area." Having a small rug in your puppy's play area will not only protect your floors, but also protect your dog from sliding and potentially getting hurt. Think twice about what furniture is included in your puppy area - the more excited they get, the clumsier they get.

* Keeping cleaning supplies on hand will be your greatest ally. The Swiffer Sweeper with new Wet Mopping Cloths are great for wiping up pet "mistakes" and dirt that they might track in the house.

* Don't forget to brush your new furry friends. Brushing your pet regularly and frequently helps to keep his/her coat in check, especially if they are going through seasonal shedding. Brushing stimulates the skin to keep it naturally moisturized, which can cut back on dander. If possible, brush your pet outside to avoid spreading pet hair in the house.

*Get down to your pet's level, on your hands and knees, to see what he could get into. Dogs love chew toys, so don't entice them with a ball of wires from your stereo system. Zip-tie the cords together so they stay neat and tucked behind furniture. Also, cord covers are a great idea for those extension cords running along the floor. Certain types of floor plants can be poisonous if ingested, so be sure to move them up and out of the way.

* Pets, especially puppies, need to expel excess energy by playing with others just as much as children do. When hosting a puppy play-date, keep collars on both dogs. If you need to grab one of the dogs in a hurry, you want to be sure you have something to take hold of. Also, when inviting a four-legged friend over to your home, have the dogs meet outside. This way, your pup won't feel threatened in his own territory.

It's no secret that having a pet can benefit a family, but making certain that you and your home are prepared to welcome a four-legged friend will also benefit you. Taking a few simple precautions and making the effort to keep your home pet-friendly will make the transition easy.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, December 28, 2009

New Avenue To Support Wounded Warriors

(NAPSI)-If it weren't for Frankie, Army Sergeant Allen Hill would have a harder time getting out of bed in the morning. Frankie is a caregiver of a different sort--one with four legs.

"With Frankie by his side, Allen has started participating in his life again," said Hill's wife, Gina. "Frankie is a yellow lab, and she has become his best friend."

People often ask how they can support wounded warriors and are unsure how to get started. The U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) recently launched the AW2 Community Support Network to connect local organizations with severely wounded, ill and injured soldiers and veterans living in their hometowns, veterans like Hill.

Hill received Frankie from Puppies Behind Bars, a member of the AW2 Community Support Network.

"The support community organizations provide AW2 soldiers, veterans and their families is priceless," said AW2 director Colonel Jim Rice. "The services they offer go above and beyond the government benefits--they help wounded warriors rebuild confidence through outdoor activities, offer employment opportunities, and build and modify houses to meet physical limitations."

Local support is the core of the AW2 program, which has more than 120 AW2 Advocates across the country providing personalized support to severely wounded soldiers, veterans and their families for as long as it takes. This support includes connecting soldiers and families with full benefits, recreation activities or assistance in continuing to serve in the Army. The AW2 Community Support Network helps local organizations connect with individual AW2 soldiers and veterans who need their support.

"The service dogs are placed with veterans who are struggling with invisible wounds," said Gina Hill. "These dogs are specifically trained to help them manage their PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury) related symptoms. The bond these two have is unbelievable and was almost immediate. She is able to help him through flashbacks, nightmares and many other difficult situations."

More than 70 percent of AW2 wounded warriors have medically retired and are transitioning to civilian life. As they move forward with their new goals, the support of their neighbors and communities can make all the difference in their long-term success.

For more information on the Army Wounded Warrior Program and the AW2 Community Support Network, please visit www.AW2.army.mil. Organizations interested in joining the AW2 Community Support Network can call toll-free (800) 237-1336 or e-mail AW2CommunitySupportNetwork@conus.army.mil.

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(NAPSI)-If it weren't for Frankie, Army Sergeant Allen Hill would have a harder time getting out of bed in the morning. Frankie is a caregiver of a different sort--one with four legs.

"With Frankie by his side, Allen has started participating in his life again," said Hill's wife, Gina. "Frankie is a yellow lab, and she has become his best friend."

People often ask how they can support wounded warriors and are unsure how to get started. The U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) recently launched the AW2 Community Support Network to connect local organizations with severely wounded, ill and injured soldiers and veterans living in their hometowns, veterans like Hill.

Hill received Frankie from Puppies Behind Bars, a member of the AW2 Community Support Network.

"The support community organizations provide AW2 soldiers, veterans and their families is priceless," said AW2 director Colonel Jim Rice. "The services they offer go above and beyond the government benefits--they help wounded warriors rebuild confidence through outdoor activities, offer employment opportunities, and build and modify houses to meet physical limitations."

Local support is the core of the AW2 program, which has more than 120 AW2 Advocates across the country providing personalized support to severely wounded soldiers, veterans and their families for as long as it takes. This support includes connecting soldiers and families with full benefits, recreation activities or assistance in continuing to serve in the Army. The AW2 Community Support Network helps local organizations connect with individual AW2 soldiers and veterans who need their support.

"The service dogs are placed with veterans who are struggling with invisible wounds," said Gina Hill. "These dogs are specifically trained to help them manage their PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury) related symptoms. The bond these two have is unbelievable and was almost immediate. She is able to help him through flashbacks, nightmares and many other difficult situations."

More than 70 percent of AW2 wounded warriors have medically retired and are transitioning to civilian life. As they move forward with their new goals, the support of their neighbors and communities can make all the difference in their long-term success.

For more information on the Army Wounded Warrior Program and the AW2 Community Support Network, please visit www.AW2.army.mil. Organizations interested in joining the AW2 Community Support Network can call toll-free (800) 237-1336 or e-mail AW2CommunitySupportNetwork@conus.army.mil.

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(NAPSI)-If it weren't for Frankie, Army Sergeant Allen Hill would have a harder time getting out of bed in the morning. Frankie is a caregiver of a different sort--one with four legs.

"With Frankie by his side, Allen has started participating in his life again," said Hill's wife, Gina. "Frankie is a yellow lab, and she has become his best friend."

People often ask how they can support wounded warriors and are unsure how to get started. The U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) recently launched the AW2 Community Support Network to connect local organizations with severely wounded, ill and injured soldiers and veterans living in their hometowns, veterans like Hill.

Hill received Frankie from Puppies Behind Bars, a member of the AW2 Community Support Network.

"The support community organizations provide AW2 soldiers, veterans and their families is priceless," said AW2 director Colonel Jim Rice. "The services they offer go above and beyond the government benefits--they help wounded warriors rebuild confidence through outdoor activities, offer employment opportunities, and build and modify houses to meet physical limitations."

Local support is the core of the AW2 program, which has more than 120 AW2 Advocates across the country providing personalized support to severely wounded soldiers, veterans and their families for as long as it takes. This support includes connecting soldiers and families with full benefits, recreation activities or assistance in continuing to serve in the Army. The AW2 Community Support Network helps local organizations connect with individual AW2 soldiers and veterans who need their support.

"The service dogs are placed with veterans who are struggling with invisible wounds," said Gina Hill. "These dogs are specifically trained to help them manage their PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury) related symptoms. The bond these two have is unbelievable and was almost immediate. She is able to help him through flashbacks, nightmares and many other difficult situations."

More than 70 percent of AW2 wounded warriors have medically retired and are transitioning to civilian life. As they move forward with their new goals, the support of their neighbors and communities can make all the difference in their long-term success.

For more information on the Army Wounded Warrior Program and the AW2 Community Support Network, please visit www.AW2.army.mil. Organizations interested in joining the AW2 Community Support Network can call toll-free (800) 237-1336 or e-mail AW2CommunitySupportNetwork@conus.army.mil.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

While the Cat’s Away …

The Sumatran tiger and clouded leopard habitats are temporarily closed as Zoo Atlanta begins construction on an all-new carnivore complex scheduled to open in summer 2010.

What to do with the cats for the next several months? Thanks to professional collaboration with two other AZA zoos, three of the popular felines are temporarily charming North Carolinians and Arkansans. Sumatran tigers Chelsea and Kavi have reached interim quarters at the North Carolina Zoo, and the elusive Moby has traveled to the Little Rock Zoo. The Zoo’s eldest tiger, Jalal, 16, won’t be leaving on any travels: the charismatic senior will stay in Atlanta but will reside in an off-exhibit area during construction. Little do the cats know that there’s a total home makeover in store!

Meanwhile, things are looking pretty fierce at the base of the Zoo’s Asian Forest. While Zoo guests can’t currently see the striped and spotted regulars, their temporary absence will be worth the wait. Frequent visitors are encouraged to stop by the area and check out a construction checklist tracking the progress of 2010’s big Zoo debut.

Stay tuned for updates, as well as future news on two very exciting arrivals to the new carnivore complex. We’d share more, but we don’t want to let the cat out of the bag …


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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Atlanta Area Pet Stores Take ‘Puppy Friendly’ Pledge

Thanks to the efforts of local advocates, many Atlanta area pet stores have signed The Humane Society of the United States' puppy friendly pet store pledge — committing not to sell puppies, but instead support local animal adoption programs and provide literature that helps customers learn how to locate a reputable breeder. The HSUS applauds these independent retailers because their actions prove it is not necessary to support the cruel puppy mill trade to operate a successful pet-related business.

"These stores have set a positive example of corporate responsibility for other businesses to follow," said Stephanie Shain, senior director of The HSUS' puppy mills campaign. "Pet stores that profit from the cruel puppy mill industry need to step up and do the right thing by stopping their puppy sales. Shelters and rescues are brimming with all types of dogs in need of homes."

Store owners and managers who sign The HSUS' pledge receive a placard proclaiming, "We love puppies; that's why we don't sell them," to display in the store, as well as materials about adopting a dog or finding a responsible breeder. The HSUS encourages shoppers to purchase pet supplies at stores displaying the puppy-friendly sign.

The independent retailers in the Atlanta area that have recently signed the puppy friendly pledge to not sell puppies are:

Citydog Market (Atlanta)
Intown Healthy Hound (Atlanta)
Park Pet Supply (Atlanta)
Pet Supplies "Plus" (Atlanta)
Dog City Bakery (Marietta)
Mom & Pups (Marietta)
Pet Supplies "Plus" (Marietta)
Pets Unlimited (Marietta)
Pawsibilities Pet Food & Supply (Roswell)
Panhandle Pet Supply (Thomasville)
Policy Helps Dogs Across the United States

The majority of pet stores that sell puppies carry dogs from puppy mills, which are mass production facilities that churn out large numbers of puppies under inhumane conditions. The breeding dogs at puppy mills spend their entire lives in cramped cages or kennels with little or no personal attention or quality of life. Consumers who purchase puppies from pet stores or over the Internet without seeing a breeder's home firsthand are often unknowingly supporting this cruel puppy mill industry.

Facts

Approximately one-third of the nation's 9,000 independent pet stores sell puppies.
The HSUS estimates that 2 million to 4 million puppy mill puppies are sold each year in the United States.
Documented puppy mill conditions include over-breeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor food and shelter, crowded cages and lack of socialization.
Dogs kept for breeding in puppy mills suffer for years in continual confinement. They are bred as often as possible and then destroyed or discarded once they can no longer produce puppies.
Pet stores and online sellers often use attractive Web sites to hide the truth and to dupe consumers into thinking that they are dealing with a small, reputable breeder.
Reputable breeders never sell puppies over the Internet or through a pet store and will insist on meeting the family who will be purchasing the dog.
Puppy mills contribute to the pet overpopulation problem, which results in millions of unwanted dogs euthanized at shelters every year.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

American Kennel Club Cautions Owners as Pet Thefts Continue to Rise; State Lawmakers Consider Making 'Dog-Napping' a Serious Crime

/PRNewswire/ -- The American Kennel Club® continues to remind pet owners to heed warnings about an alarming rise in "dog-nappings." State houses across America have taken notice and are proposing laws to toughen penalties for those who steal pets.

Since last year, when AKC® first noted concerns about the prevalence of pet theft, more dogs are disappearing. Through November 30, 2009, the AKC has tracked more than 115 missing pets via incidents reported by news media and customer reports. In 2008, the AKC tracked a total of 71 thefts.

The FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which tracks stolen property nationwide, currently lists 200 stolen dogs, according to Steve Fischer, FBI Spokesperson. According to Fischer, "Dogs listed in our database must have permanent owner-applied serial numbers, such as those from embedded microchips. Unfortunately not all dogs have permanent ID, so we know this is only a fraction of the number of missing dogs."

"Each week I am reading about reports of pet theft from all around the country," said AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson. "Some owners, desperate to find their beloved pets have contacted us, wanting to know what they can do to help get their 'family' members back. It's not just about the financial value of the dog for any of these people. It's an emotional attachment that can't be replaced by getting another dog."

Julie Austin of Idaho told Local News 8 that she was shocked when her 11-week-old puppy was stolen right out of the arms of her 5-year-old daughter while she was sitting in a public park. The Austins filed a stolen pet report with the local police. Fortunately, after they alerted the media and the police received a tip about their pet's whereabouts, their puppy was recovered living at someone else's home. The alleged thief was recently charged with a misdemeanor possession of stolen property.

As a majority of owners view their dogs as valued family members, the value of pets in people's lives is being recognized by legislators across America. Recently in New York, following the disappearance of a Siberian Husky in his Brooklyn district, New York Assemblyman Joseph Lentol vowed to introduce dog-napping legislation which would make the theft of a companion animal a felony offense with up to four years in jail depending on the circumstances.

Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in Texas which would have made it a state felony to steal a pet, including the family dog, with a possible two years in prison if convicted. California and Delaware have tried to regulate roadside pet sales as a way to combat the trafficking of stolen pets to unsuspecting consumers.

Regardless of the reason thieves are taking pets, whether to sell to unsuspecting local buyers or over the Internet or keeping them for personal use, these criminals need to know that pet owners are becoming more proactive by keeping pets close to them and also microchipping their pets ahead of time so that when these dogs turn up at shelters or veterinarian offices they can be scanned to find their rightful owners.

In response to this continuing trend, AKC offers the following advice to prevent your "best friend" from being the target of a crime. See more about pet theft on the Good Morning America Web site.

PREVENTION

In the Neighborhood
-- Don't let your dog off-leash - Keeping your dog close to you reduces
the likelihood it will wander off and catch the attention of thieves.
-- Don't leave your dog unattended in your yard - Dogs left outdoors for
long periods of time are targets, especially if your fenced-in yard is
visible from the street.
-- Be Cautious with information - If strangers approach you to admire
your dog during walks, don't answer questions about how much the dog
cost or give details about where you live.

On the Road
-- Never leave your dog in an unattended car, even if it's locked -
Besides the obvious health risks this poses to the dog, it's also an
invitation for thieves, even if you are gone for only a moment.
Leaving expensive items in the car such as a GPS unit or laptop will
only encourage break-ins and possibly allow the dog to escape, even if
the thieves don't decide to steal it too.
-- Don't tie your dog outside a store - This popular practice among
city-dwelling dog owners can be a recipe for disaster. If you need to
go shopping, patronize only dog-friendly retailers or leave the dog at
home.

RECOVERY
-- Protect your dog with microchip identification - Collars and tags can
be removed so make sure you have permanent ID with a microchip.
Thieves will not know the dog has a microchip until a veterinarian or
shelter worker scans it so keep contact information current with your
microchip recovery service provider.
-- Lost Pet Alert - AKC Companion Animal Recovery is the exclusive pet
recovery service working with helpmefindMYPET.com to help owners
locate stolen or lost pets. Once you report your dog missing an e-mail
alert is sent to area vets, shelters, and animal control agencies,
within a 50-mile radius, to notify them to be on the lookout. For more
information, to enroll your pet in a 24-hour recovery service and
sign-up for the Lost Pet Alert, visit www.akccar.org.
-- If you suspect your dog has been stolen - Immediately call the police
/ animal control officer in the area your pet was last seen and file a
police report. If your dog has a microchip, ask to have that unique
serial number, along with the dog's description, posted in the "stolen
article" category on the National Crime Information Center.
-- Canvass the neighborhood - Talk to people in the immediate vicinity
where your pet went missing for possible sightings of the actual
theft.
-- Have fliers with a recent photo ready to go if your dog goes missing -
Keep several current photos (profile and headshot) of your dog in your
wallet or on an easily accessible web account so that you can
distribute immediately if your pet goes missing.
-- Contact the media - Call the local TV station, radio station and
newspaper and ask to have a web post put out about your missing pet.

DON'T BUY STOLEN PETS
-- Don't buy dogs from the Internet, flea markets, or roadside vans
-There is simply no way to verify where an animal purchased from any
of these outlets came from. Web sites and online classifieds are
easily falsified, and with roadside or flea market purchases not only
do you not know the pet's origins but you will never be able to find
or identify the seller in case of a problem.
-- Even newspaper ads may be suspect - Adult dogs offered for sale at
reduced prices, for a "relocation" fee, or accompanied by requests for
last minute shipping fees are red flags. Dog owners who truly love
their animals and are unable to keep them will opt to find a loving
home without compensation for re-homing the animal.
-- Seek out reputable breeders or rescue groups - Visit the home of the
breeder, meet the puppy's mother, and see the litter of puppies.
Developing a good relationship with the breeder will bring you peace
of mind when purchasing. Contacting breed rescue groups can also be a
safe alternative if you are looking for an adult dog.
-- Demand proper papers on your purebred puppy - Ask for the AKC Litter
Registration Number and contact AKC customer service at 919-233-9767
to verify registration authenticity of your purebred puppy.

The American Kennel Club (AKC), proudly celebrates its 125th Anniversary in 2009. Since 1884 the not-for-profit organization has maintained the largest registry of purebred dogs in the world, and today its rules govern more than 20,000 canine competitions each year. The AKC is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Along with its nearly 5,000 licensed and member clubs and its affiliated organizations, the AKC advocates for the purebred dog as a family companion, advances canine health and well-being, works to protect the rights of all dog owners and promotes responsible dog ownership. Affiliate AKC organizations include the AKC Humane Fund, AKC Canine Health Foundation, AKC Companion Animal Recovery and the AKC Museum of the Dog. For more information, visit www.akc.org.

AKC, American Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club seal and design, and all associated marks and logos are trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks of The American Kennel Club, Inc.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Don’t Buy Heartache for the Holidays

The Humane Society of the United States warns families who are ready to welcome a pet into their homes this holiday to make doubly certain that they are not unwittingly supporting the cruel "puppy mill" industry.

Simple advice: Don't purchase puppies from a pet store, from a Web site, from a classified ad — or from any source where you cannot be absolutely certain that you are dealing with a reputable breeder. The HSUS urges families to first consider adoption from local shelters or rescue groups, where healthy, loving animals need nothing so much as a happy family this holiday.

Puppy mills are mass breeding operations designed to maximize profits. As HSUS investigators and rescue teams have shown over and over again, operators of these facilities commonly disregard the physical, social and emotional health of the dogs. Sloppy mass breeding programs and poor living conditions cause puppies from puppy mills to have more physical and behavioral problems than dogs from reliable sources.

"The Humane Society of the United States braces itself every year for the upsetting calls that come in right after the holidays," says Stephanie Shain, senior director of the puppy mills campaign for HSUS. "People call about sick or dying puppies who were purchased for the holidays. Too often consumers do not do their homework and end up spending the holiday trying to save a sick animal instead of enjoying the festive season."

To help spread the word, a new video featuring Justin Scally, manager of the HSUS Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force, discusses the suffering he has witnessed at some of the 16 puppy mills The HSUS has helped to shut down this year. Scally also introduces a puppy mill survivor named Brandy.

People who are ready to welcome a dog into their home this holiday should be aware that pet store and Internet sellers have been known — and filmed by undercover investigators — to mislead prospective customers about the source of puppies. If you do deal with a breeder, you should visit the home in person to see how and where the puppy's mother is living. And please, make sure you and your family are ready for the responsibility of a lifetime commitment to a pet.

Puppy Mill Facts:

Dogs at puppy mills typically receive little to no medical care, live in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization or human interaction, and are confined inside cramped wire cages for life. Breeding dogs at puppy mills must endure constant breeding cycles and are destroyed or discarded once they can no longer produce puppies.
The HSUS supports compassionate breeders who provide for their dog's physical and mental well-being. Quality breeders don't sell puppies through pet stores or over the Internet.
Puppy mills contribute to the pet overpopulation problem, which results in millions of unwanted dogs euthanized at shelters every year.
For more information on how to adopt or find a good breeder, go to humanesociety.org/puppy.


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

National Saltwater Angler Registry Launches

(NAPSI)-There's important news for America's recreational anglers hooked on saltwater fishing.

Starting Jan. 1, 2010, most U.S. saltwater fishermen will have to be signed up with the National Saltwater Angler Registry before they go fishing.

The good news is that the vast majority of recreational fishermen will not have to take any action to become registered. That's because they live in states that will have an agreement in place with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to automatically register licensed saltwater fishermen.

But fishermen in some states, including Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Virginia, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, will need to register online or by phone if they:

• Fish for or catch anadromous species in any tidal waters--these are fish such as striped bass, shad and river herring that live in the oceans but spawn in freshwater.

• Fish in federal waters more than three miles from the ocean shore or the mouth of harbors, rivers or bays.

• Don't meet any of the exemptions in the law.

Among the anglers exempted are those who are under 16; fish only on licensed for-hire vessels; hold subsistence fishing or highly migratory species angling permits; are fishing under a valid commercial license; or who live in an exempted state but are not required to have a saltwater fishing license from that state. (For instance, some states exempt seniors, active-duty military or other individuals.)

To get the updated list of exempted states or to learn more about the registry, anglers can visit www.countmyfish.noaa.gov. Beginning Jan. 1, anglers can also register at that site or through a toll-free phone call to 1-888-MRIP411.

Protecting The Seas

The registry is an important tool that will help fishermen and policy makers work together to better account for the contributions and impacts of saltwater anglers on ocean ecosystems and coastal economies.

It is part of a national overhaul of the way NOAA collects and reports recreational fishing data. The goal of the initiative--known as the Marine Recreational Information Program, or MRIP--is to provide the most accurate information possible that can be used to determine the health of fish stocks.

Reliable, universally trusted data will in turn aid anglers, fisheries managers and other stakeholders in their combined efforts to effectively and fairly set the rules that will ensure the long-term sustainability of recreational fishing.

For more information, visit www.countmyfish.noaa.gov.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Avoid Holiday Hazards: Keep Your Pets Safe And Secure

(NAPSI)-Here are some noteworthy tips from pet experts at North Shore Animal League America, the world's largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, on keeping your "best friends" happy and safe during the winter holiday stretch.

• Candles or any open-flame objects should be kept far out of your pets' reach and never left unattended. That tempting flicker may attract pets, putting them at risk for burns or--even worse--knocking it over and starting a fire.

• Shimmering tinsel is a huge temptation for pets, especially cats. Ingesting tinsel or ribbons can not only lead to stomach aches, it can get wrapped around your pets' intestines, causing major problems, which may require surgical intervention. Wrapping paper and glass ornaments may also pose threats. If eaten, these can cause depression, upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea. Glass ornaments can cause internal bleeding if shards make internal cuts. So be certain to keep these items out of your pets' reach.

• A holiday tree can be a problem. If it's not properly secured, a curious kitty or peeping pooch can knock it over. Water from your holiday tree can also pose problems, so keep it covered. Often, tree water may contain fertilizers or preservatives which can lead to an upset stomach. Pine needles are also dangerous if swallowed, as they are sharp and have the potential to puncture intestines.

• Holly, evergreens and mistletoe are common holiday plants that are toxic to pets. Poinsettia, though not truly poisonous, can cause gastric upset if its sap is ingested. Use good judgment in placing these plants.

• Electrical cords are another potential holiday hazard. Chewing on them can deliver a harmful jolt, burns, abnormal heartbeat, even death. It's best to have all cords secured and out of the way.

• Remember that people food and beverages can upset pets' stomachs and some can even cause major illness or death. Keep fatty foods such as turkey or ham down to a minimum and totally avoid onions, onion powder, grapes, raisins and chocolate. The best rule of thumb is to keep people food and beverages for people.

You can learn more about pet health and safety and pet adoptions and how you can help North Shore Animal League America by visiting www.AnimalLeague.org.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kiss a Frog? Veterinarians Say 'No'

/PRNewswire/ -- In the movies, kissing a frog can result in a prince. But, as the disclaimer often says, "Do not try this at home."

Frogs, like all amphibians and reptiles, can be a source of Salmonella infections in people. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV) are reminding the public that instead of a prince, improper handling of amphibians and reptiles -- and that includes kissing a frog -- can result in a nasty illness.

Frogs passing on Salmonella to people recently made headlines when the CDC reported on Dec. 7 that water frogs were the source of 48 cases of human Salmonella infections in 25 states in 2009.

While the majority of illnesses were reported in children less than 10 years of age, the AVMA and ARAV are encouraging people with pet amphibians and reptiles to think twice before finding new homes for their pets if they have, or are expecting, children in their households. Instead, safe handling and some common-sense precautions can prevent illness.

"Individuals who have pet amphibians and reptiles really just need to be conscientious about the care of these animals," says Dr. Mark Mitchell, associate professor of zoological medicine at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. "Certainly there is a risk associated with keeping them in their house, but it's no different then the risks associated with cooking chicken or eating raw vegetables. We need to understand that there are potential concerns, and we need to follow through by practicing appropriate hygiene.

"Just like any potential risk, we need to be aware of it so we can protect against it becoming a problem."

Dr. Mitchell stresses the importance of hand washing after handling amphibians and reptiles to prevent the spread of Salmonella. In addition, amphibians and reptiles, and anything that comes in contact with these animals, such as housing or cages, should not be cleaned in areas where people prepare their food or clean themselves, such as tabletops, sinks, or bathtubs.

The AVMA has developed a complete list of tips on how amphibian and reptile owners can protect themselves and their families from Salmonella infections. These tips are available on the AVMA's Web site at www.avma.org/public_health/salmonella/amphibians.asp. This Web page also includes links to resources from other organizations, such as the ARAV, U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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Helping Backyard Bird Owners Raise Healthy Flocks

(NAPSI)-A unique calendar could help many of America's backyard poultry owners keep their birds safe from diseases such as avian influenza.

The free 2010 calendar is offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). As hobby farming and raising poultry grow in popularity, experts say it's become increasingly important for poultry owners to protect their birds from diseases. In addition to featuring vivid photos of poultry and wild birds-along with text in English and Spanish-USDA's 2010 Backyard Biosecurity calendar provides useful tips and information to help owners do just that.

Avian influenza (AI) viruses can infect chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese and guinea fowl, as well as other birds. By practicing good hygiene when taking care of birds and poultry, owners can reduce the risk of disease-causing germs going to or coming from their farm or home.

Such things as thoroughly washing your hands before entering your bird area and before working with your birds, and cleaning and disinfecting equipment that comes in contact with your birds, will help keep disease away.

The calendar has information on spotting signs of sick birds and photos of birds with AI. Avian influenza can strike poultry quickly, and knowing what to look for will help bird owners: A lack of energy and appetite; decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs; swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks; purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs; nasal discharge; coughing and sneezing; stumbling or diarrhea could indicate AI.

To protect the U.S. poultry population, USDA quarantines and tests live birds imported into the United States to ensure that they do not have any foreign animal diseases.

The Backyard Biosecurity calendar is available free of charge. Interested poultry owners can order online at http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Remember Rover in Your New Year's Resolutions

/PRNewswire/ -- As the end of the year approaches, the American Kennel Club(R) (AKC) urges pet owners to remember the family pet while pondering potential New Year's resolutions.

"Eighty-one percent of dog owners buy gifts for their dogs," said AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson. "But what you should really be giving them is consistent exercise, training and stimulation. Try to start the year off right by resolving to do more with your dog in 2010."

So if your Beagle isn't being walked briskly, your Terrier getting trained, your Rottweiler racking up ribbons in the ring and your Great Dane's not a canine good citizen, consider these suggestions from the dog experts at the American Kennel Club:

-- Young and old dogs can learn new tricks. Start your puppy off on the
right foot with an AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy training class. Adult dogs (over
1 year old) can take the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Both programs
teach basic manners and socialization needed to help both dog and
owner to be a responsible member of society. All dogs are eligible and
they earn a special certification upon completion.
-- Train your dog for competitive events. Every weekend all over the
country there are dog events where you can earn ribbons, titles and
trophies. Plus there's the reward of meeting new people with a
similar love for dogs and ensuring that your dog is well-behaved, even
tempered, physically fit and a joy to live with. Mixed breed owners
can get started by enrolling in the AKC Canine Partners Program and
purebred dogs can enroll in the AKC Purebred Alternative Listing.
-- Get Fit with Fido. The National Academy of Sciences reports that one
out of every four dogs and cats in the western world is now
overweight. Daily walks are a great way for both dogs and owners to
avoid gaining extra holiday pounds. According to a recent study, dog
owners get more exercise walking their pet than someone with a gym
membership
-- Dogs love helping others. Dogs are invaluable in providing service to
humans -- visiting the sick, helping the disabled, locating missing
persons, and much more. If a dog has the correct temperament, there
are many ways dog owners can put their special skills to use in
service to their community. Contact the volunteer director at your
local hospital to find out how you and your dog can qualify to
volunteer or visit a home-bound neighbor.
-- Help kids learn to read. There is no better listener than a dog. Many
libraries have programs for children to practice their reading skills
and gain confidence by reading with dogs. Contact your local library
to learn about available reading programs or volunteer to start one
with your dog.
-- Travel with your dog. Planning vacations and getaways that include
your dog will save you boarding fees and will keep Fido from getting
lonely while you are having fun in the sun. More hotels are becoming
dog friendly, such as Motel 6, who recently removed its restriction on
the number of dogs allowed and offers discounts to AKC registered dog
owners.


The American Kennel Club (AKC), proudly celebrates its 125th Anniversary in 2009. Since 1884 the not-for-profit organization has maintained the largest registry of purebred dogs in the world, and today its rules govern more than 20,000 canine competitions each year. The AKC is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Along with its more than 5,000 licensed and member clubs and its affiliated organizations, the AKC advocates for the purebred dog as a family companion, advances canine health and well-being, works to protect the rights of all dog owners and promotes responsible dog ownership. Affiliate AKC organizations include the AKC Humane Fund, AKC Canine Health Foundation, AKC Companion Animal Recovery and the AKC Museum of the Dog. For more information, visit www.akc.org.

AKC, American Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club seal and design, and all associated marks and logos are trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks of The American Kennel Club, Inc.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

EDF Applauds New National Catch Share Policy

/PRNewswire/ -- A policy released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) charts an historic new course for the nation's fish stocks, giving hope for the recovery of struggling fishing communities and depleted fish resources. NOAA is seeking to correct decades of failed management that has resulted in economically depressed, unsafe, and unsustainable fisheries around the country.

The policy promotes greater use of "catch shares," an innovative fisheries management approach proven to improve fishermen's lives and livelihoods and restore fish populations. In the five years after catch share implementation in the U.S., per boat revenues increased an average of 80 percent. NOAA's policy builds upon this success and the efforts of fishermen, fishing communities, scientists, fishery managers, and conservationists to design and implement catch shares. The policy has been released in draft form but will take effect immediately. NOAA will take public comments for the next 120 days through a new web site.

"This policy will help reverse the freefall that U.S. fish stocks have been in for decades," said David Festa, vice-president at Environmental Defense Fund. "It moves fisheries management into the 21st century."

Catch shares work for fishermen and fish populations because they include science-based annual catch limits, accountability measures to ensure compliance with those limits, and effective enforcement. At the same time, catch shares give fishermen greater flexibility for how to run their businesses which improves economic performance

Catch shares are not a one-size-fits-all management system. They can be designed to fit the needs of individual fisheries, which set them apart from conventional management. Catch shares have been implemented in more than 300 fisheries around the world from New Zealand to Namibia to Norway, in fisheries large and small. Today there are more than a dozen catch shares in the U.S. and many more under development.

"Catch shares have brought job stability and security to our longline fishing fleet," said Bob Alverson, manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association whose members fish for halibut and sablefish in the North Pacific. "Catch shares have helped increase the dock-side value of our catch by more than 150 percent while improving the quality, eliminating dangerous derby fishing and bringing job stability to vessel owners, crews and communities."

The policy does not mandate catch shares for fisheries but rather makes important changes in NOAA strategy and operations, providing incentives and support for fishery managers who pursue catch shares. In particular, the draft policy:

-- Promotes the consideration and adoption, where appropriate, of catch
share programs in federal fisheries.
-- Removes technical and administrative impediments to catch shares.
-- Provides technical and other support to those regional fishery
management councils that choose to pursue catch shares.
-- Enhances outreach, education and assistance to stakeholders.
-- Promotes the development of technical guidance on specific program
design elements.
-- Supports adaptive management through new research and performance
monitoring of catch share programs over time.


"New England loses a half-billion dollars of potential income every year just in its groundfishery through poor management," said David Preble, a long-time commercial and recreational fisherman who serves on the New England Fishery Management Council. "Catch shares can return prosperity to fishermen."

In the Gulf of Mexico, a catch share implemented in 2007 for commercially caught red snapper immediately extended the fishing season from a few months to year round and significantly reduced the amount of fish that fishermen were required to throw overboard dead or dying. The success of the snapper catch share led commercial fishermen to pursue a catch share for grouper and tilefish that will go into effect Jan. 1. The region's fishery council is now exploring a catch share for all remaining reef fish.

"This policy is a giant victory for the oceans and for fishermen," said Diane Regas, associate vice-president for Oceans at EDF. "Catch shares blow away the myth that healthy oceans and vibrant fisheries are incompatible."

In contrast to catch shares, conventional fishery management has failed in most fisheries to maintain healthy fish populations and the fishing communities that depend on them. In New England alone, the collapse of the North Atlantic cod fishery in the early 1990s resulted in the loss of an estimated 20,000 jobs and $349 million from the economy. In the Pacific halibut fishery, conventional management shrank a full year's fishing down to just 12 hours in some parts of Alaska.

Today over 50 federally managed stocks are overfished or experiencing overfishing. Under current management, meeting a Congressionally mandated deadline to end overfishing by 2011 will mean ever-shorter fishing seasons and long-term closures for many prized species which will have a devastating impact on coastal communities. Catch shares allow continued fishing even while fish stocks recover.

A leading national nonprofit organization, Environmental Defense Fund represents more than 700,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. Twitter twitter.com/EnvDefenseFund. Blog http://blogs.edf.org/edfish/. Visit www.edf.org.

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Fishing by the Rules: Sport Fishermen Embrace Sustainable Techniques

/PRNewswire/ -- Unlike commercial fishing, the major player in depleted fish populations, sport fishing makes up less than 12 percent of the global harvest. And though they are equipped with the latest tools and technology to increase their haul, today's sport fisherman embodies a surprising combination of conservation and conquest.

With one eye on environmental responsibility and the other on sportsmanship, most sport fishers have adopted a plethora of sustainable fishing techniques. From reduced-impact gear like lead-free lures to biodegradable bait and hooks, recreational fishermen now have ample opportunities to land their next big catch while preserving big game fish populations for future anglers.

An ardent proponent of aquatic habitat conservation, the International Game Fish Association supports fishermen with guidelines that promote ethical sport fishing practices, including instructions for the best catch-and-release tactics.

"Releasing fish is important, but more important is the way fish are caught and released. Using circle hooks with bait and fish-friendly handling practices that minimize slime loss and damage to the fish help ensure that released fish have the chance to reproduce, and perhaps be caught again," says Jason Schratwieser, Conservation Director for IFGA.

"In my experience, 90 percent of sport fishermen follow the rules," says Captain Lee A. Campbell of the Panama Big Game Fishing Club in Boca Chica, Panama, where sport fishing is a huge draw for serious marine fishermen. In order for the region to maintain its status as a sport fishing hotspot, Panama players like Campbell stress the importance of sustainability.

"Panama is lucky to have a great population of fish, and we want it to stay that way," says Campbell. "If sustainable practices are followed and commercial fishing is banned, Panama could remain one of the best sport fishing destinations in the world. It's too late for many fishing destinations which have already depleted their fish, but for Panama there's still time."

Amble Resorts, an environmentally responsible real estate development company, supports sustainable sport fishing for their new Panama eco resort, The Resort at Isla Palenque. Amble President Ben Loomis notes, "Done correctly, sport fishing is very sustainable. Certainly catch-and-release fishing has a limited impact. But even if we're catching several tuna or Wahoo and taking them back home to share, our impact is nothing compared to commercial fishermen."

Loomis concludes, "Isla Palenque is a great jumping-off point for sport fishing throughout Panama's Gulf of Chiriqui, and we want to protect that. We're less than two hours from famous sites like Hannibal Bank, and we've got a number of other great locations within 45 minutes, like Ladrones or Islas Secas. With sustainable practices, this will remain a fishing paradise for a long time."

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Annual Christmas Bird Count In and Around Callaway Gardens®

Calling all birders! Every Christmas season Callaway Gardens® participates in The National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count Program.

Volunteer birders are needed to assist with the Callaway Gardens count on Saturday, January 2, 2010. Some participants simply watch feeders from the comfort of their home, while others walk and drive through different portions of the count area to census the bird populations.

Last year between December 14 and January 5, Audubon’s official “count period,” more than 59,000 volunteers around the world participated in more than 2,100 bird counts. Apart from its attraction as a social, sporting and competitive event, the Christmas Bird Count reveals key scientific information about the winter distribution of resident and migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere.

Each count has a designated circle measuring 15 miles in diameter. All the birds seen or heard during the 24-hour (midnight to midnight) count day are tallied by birders. The center of the Callaway Gardens Count circle is near the Mountain Creek® Inn at Callaway Gardens, so the census area encompasses all 13,000 acres of Callaway Gardens, as well as the FDR State Park and a large portion of Harris County. The National Audubon Society charges each participant a $5 fee to help offset the cost of data processing. Preregistration for the Christmas Bird Count is required by December 18, 2009. To volunteer for this exciting event, call the Preserve at Callaway Gardens at (706) 663-6745 or email ccroft@callawaygardens.com .

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The HSUS Offers Pet Safety Tips for Winter Weather

With cold Arctic air sweeping across the nation, The Humane Society of the United States urges pet owners to take extra precautions this winter to ensure the safety of their companion animals.

The weekend's colder than normal temperatures across much of the country are expected to last through the middle of the week, with strong winds gusting up to 50 mph in places. Wind-chills will feel down to zero in some of those gusty areas of the Northwest and Midwest interior, and the wind and cold can pose serious health risks to family pets.

"Animals rely solely on their human caregivers for safety and comfort — especially during the winter months," said Betsy McFarland, senior director of companion animal for The HSUS. "Our pets are particularly vulnerable during this frigid season, and with just a few extra precautions you can help make sure that they stay safe and healthy."

Help keep your pet safe during the colder months by following these simple guidelines:

Don't leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops. Dogs and cats are safer indoors, except when taken out for supervised exercise. Regardless of the season, shorthaired, very young, or old dogs and all cats should never be left outside without supervision. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks.

Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet's feet and may be harmful if ingested. Wipe the feet with a damp towel before your pet licks them to remove snow packed between your pet's paws. Pet-friendly ice melts are available at many pet supply stores across the nation or online.

Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that can attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol, which is less toxic in small amounts than traditional ethylene glycol antifreeze.

No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet's life. A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If your dog spends significant time outdoors, however, he/she must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

If you're feeding homeless cats, be sure to provide an insulated shelter for them. Information about building a shelter, spaying and neutering and more is available at humanesociety.org/feralcats.

The best prescription for winter's woes is to keep your dog or cat inside with you and your family. The happiest dogs are those who are taken out frequently for walks and exercise but kept inside the rest of the time. Dogs and cats are social animals who crave human companionship. Your animal companions deserve to live indoors with you and your family.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

FDA Launches New Pet Health and Safety Widget

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today launched its pet health and safety widget for consumers as part of an ongoing effort to provide timely, user-friendly, public health information.

“Our new pet health and safety widget provides users with information to help them in managing their pet’s health,” said Joshua Sharfstein, M.D., FDA’s principal deputy commissioner.

The widget, a portable application embedded in a Web page that can be copied onto any other Web site or blog, will include topics such as how to report a problem with your pet food, purchasing pet drugs online, and caring for your pet in a disaster. The widget allows users to access content on the FDA’s Web site without having to leave another site or Web page.

“The pet health and safety widget allows users to add a new dimension to their Web site by providing consumers with the latest news and information from the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine,” said Bernadette Dunham, D.V.M., Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

The widget has two tabs, one titled “tips” and, the other, “updates. The Tips tab highlights pet health and safety articles. The Updates tab will provide up-to-the-minute recall notices and veterinary drug news for consumers.

The pet health and safety widget is available at www.fda.gov/PetHealthWidget requires no technical maintenance on the part of the user. The FDA will provide updates to content displayed on the widget.

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The HSUS, HSLF Applaud House for Passing Bills to Help Migratory Birds, Endangered Species

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for voting to strengthen penalties for killing birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and also for passing legislation that creates a new stamp for the U.S. Postal Service to raise funds for international wildlife conservation. Both bills passed the House December 7 by voice vote.

"We applaud House lawmakers for passing these critical bills to stamp out extinction and crack down on illegal killing of wildlife," said Michael Markarian, chief operating officer for The HSUS. "We thank Rep. Peter DeFazio and Rep. Henry Brown for leading the efforts on these important measures, and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall and Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee Chairwoman Madeleine Bordallo for helping to shepherd them through to passage."

H.R. 2062

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act Penalty and Enforcement Act of 2009 was introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in April 2009. This legislation will crack down on people who intentionally kill peregrine falcons, Cooper's hawks, red-tailed hawks and other federally protected birds. The bill gives federal prosecutors the option of pursuing higher-level penalties for maliciously killing or wounding protected birds.

In recent years there have been horrifying examples of malicious cruelty to protected birds, such as "roller pigeon clubs" killing birds of prey through shooting, poisoning and even baiting raptors with pigeons rigged with fishing hooks, and cockfighters using baited, steel-jawed leghold traps to prevent raptors from preying on game fowl. Since the penalty for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was only a class B misdemeanor, this legislation finally provides a meaningful deterrent of prison time and hefty fines. A companion bill in the Senate has been introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

"Today's unanimous and bipartisan approval of my legislation is a result of robust discussions with conservation groups, hunting associations, Fish and Wildlife Service, the States, and my Republican colleagues," said DeFazio. "This bill provides our law enforcement officials with a strong tool to prosecute the most egregious and senseless crimes of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act with stiff penalties. I am hopeful my bill will help put an end to the torturing and wanton killing of protected raptors and birds of prey."

H.R. 1454

Introduced by Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., and Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Act creates a new stamp that the U.S. Postal Service will sell at a premium price to raise additional funds for international wildlife conservation. Congress has created a number of special funds to finance programs around the world that aid African and Asian elephants, great apes, marine turtles, rhinoceros, tigers and neotropical migratory birds. These critical projects receive some federal funding, but the conservation of imperiled species will be greatly enhanced by an infusion of more resources. The legislation is modeled on the highly successful efforts to raise funds to combat breast cancer. Since 1998, the USPS has sold 802 million breast cancer semipostal stamps to the public and has raised an impressive $59.5 million from such sales.

"This bill is a fiscally responsible measure that utilizes no taxpayer dollars and is designed to assist in the conservation of some of the most endangered, charismatic wildlife species on this planet," Rep. Brown said. "I thank the bipartisan group of 154 of my fellow colleagues who have cosponsored this bill and am pleased today on its passage by the U.S. House of Representatives."

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Yerkes Researchers Discover Capuchin Monkeys Can Recognize Familiar Faces

Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have discovered capuchin monkeys can recognize familiar individuals in photographs. The study, available in the current online edition of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed capuchins were able to recognize photographs of individuals living in their social group, an ability that helps to distinguish familiar individuals from outsiders. The research confirms the ability of monkeys not only to compare and recognize facial images, but the ability to connect faces with individuals they know or do not know, an ability shared with humans. The study also demonstrates capuchins understand the two-dimensional representational nature of photographs.

For the study, the capuchins viewed photographs of four different faces. One of the four pictures was of a capuchin from their own group, which they needed to tell apart from three strangers. They also needed to do the reverse, differentiating one stranger from three familiar individuals.

"This required monkeys to look at similar-looking faces and use their personal knowledge of group mates to solve the task," says lead researcher Jennifer Pokorny, PhD. "They readily performed the task and continued to do well when shown new pictures in color and in grayscale, as well as when presented with individuals they had never before seen in pictures, though with whom they were personally familiar, continues Pokorny.

Researchers often use two-dimensional images in experiments, yet there is little conclusive evidence to suggest nonhuman primates, particularly monkeys, truly understand the image represents individuals or items in real life.

"The study not only reveals that capuchin monkeys are able to individually recognize familiar faces, but it also convincingly demonstrates they understand the two-dimensional representational nature of photographs. The fact these monkeys correctly determined which faces belonged to in-group versus out-group members, corresponding to their personal experiences, validates the conclusion capuchin monkeys view images of faces as humans do - as individuals they do or do not know," says Pokorny.

Pokorny trained under world-renowned primatologist Frans de Waal, PhD, who says the study is the first to show face recognition in monkeys is fundamentally similar to that in humans, indicating that face recognition is an evolutionarily ancient ability. De Waal is director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes Research Center.

For nearly eight decades, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, has been dedicated to conducting essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve the health and well-being of humans and nonhuman primates. Today, the center, as one of only eight National-Institutes of Health-funded national primate research centers, provides leadership, training and resources to foster scientific creativity, collaboration and discoveries. Yerkes-based research is grounded in scientific integrity, expert knowledge, respect for colleagues, an open exchange of ideas and compassionate quality animal care.

Within the fields of microbiology, immunology, neuroscience and psychobiology, the center's research programs are seeking ways to: develop vaccines for infectious and noninfectious diseases, such as AIDS and Alzheimer's disease; treat cocaine addiction; interpret brain activity through imaging; increase understanding of progressive illnesses such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's; unlock the secrets of memory; determine behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy; address vision disorders; and advance knowledge about the evolutionary links between biology and behavior.

The goal of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center is to view great apes as a window to the human past by studying their behavior, cognition, neuroanatomy, genes and reproduction in a noninvasive manor. Another goal is to educate the public about apes and to help guarantee their continued existence in the wild.

Originally published Dec. 2, 2009

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

UGA College of Veterinary Medicine researchers lead team in discovery involving freshwater fish parasite, 'Ich'

Researchers from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine have made an unexpected dual discovery that could open new avenues for treating Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, or “Ich”, a single-celled protozoan parasite that commonly attacks freshwater fish.

With the aid of whole-genome sequencing, researchers found that Ich harbors two apparently symbiotic intracellular bacteria: Bacteroides, which are usually found free-living, and Rickettsia, which are obligate intracellular bacteria.The two bacteria represent new species.

Five researchers from the college’s department of infectious diseases worked on the project in collaboration with two researchers from the department of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and a researcher from the J. Craig Venter Institute. Their initial intent was to map the genome of Ich; the DNA sequencing was done by JCVI and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Their study is published in the December 2009 issue (Issue 23) of Applied and Environmental Microbiology with an image from the study on the cover.

It was the presence of Rickettsia DNA sequences found in the initial genome data that provided scientists with a clue that bacteria might live inside of Ich.Intracellular bacteria have been described in free-living ciliates such as Paramecium, but never in Ich, which is an obligate parasite.

“It was unexpected; it was stunning to find bacteria in Ich.And, it came about due to the genome sequencing,” said Harry W. Dickerson, a co-author who has been studying Ich in the veterinary college for more than 20 years and a member of the UGA Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, which has a focus on parasitic diseases, primarily of humans. “Ich occurs world-wide and is one of the most common protozoon pathogens of freshwater fish.It is easily recognized by most aquarists, and fish farmers often are confronted with massive epizootic outbreaks to devastating economic effect.”

Ich (which causes “white spot disease”) is a ciliated protozoan parasite that bores into the skin and gills of fish where it feeds, destroying tissue and thereby blocking exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, usually leading to death of the host.Each parasite grows on the fish from roughly 40 microns, which cannot be seen by the naked eye, to approximately one millimeter in diameter, which can easily be seen as a white spot. The parasites leave the fish in about 5-6 days (a ciliate with its typical large nucleus is shown in the image). Each cell then divides multiple times to produce up to 1000 more infective organisms.The entire life cycle takes about 6-7 days.With subsequent rounds of infection the number of parasites continues to increase, and each wave of re-infection becomes more deadly than the last.By the second or third re-infection the fish population is usually overwhelmed and fish begin to die.Fish that survive mild infections can develop immunity.

There are currently no drugs or chemicals that kill Ich while it resides in the fish skin or gills; they can only kill Ich when the parasite is in the water, and therefore all current therapies require a cyclical re-treatment program.

The first major outbreak of Ich in North America was recorded at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.Ich is a well-known problem for aqua-culturists, aquarium owners, pond owners, hobbyists and retailers of freshwater fish.People and birds can also carry the parasite, unknowingly, from pond to pond.

“Work to sequence the genome of this parasitic protozoan unexpectedly revealed that bacterial DNA sequences were also present,” noted Craig Findly, one of the college’s researchers on the project.“Following up this discovery led to our demonstration that two new species of intracellular bacteria use Ich as their host.We now need to determine if these intracellular bacteria play a role in infection.”

Next, the researchers will try to determine what role the two organisms play in the physiology of Ich and whether Ich remain infective if the bacteria are removed.The scientists hope their finding takes them a step closer to developing better treatments for Ich.

The UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, founded in 1946, is dedicated to training future veterinarians, to conducting research related to animal diseases, and to providing veterinary services for animals and their owners.Research efforts are aimed at enhancing the quality of life for animals and people, improving the productivity of poultry and livestock, and preserving a healthy interface between wildlife and people in the environment they share.The current Teaching Hospital, built in 1979, serves more than 18,000 patients per year in one of the smallest teaching hospitals in the United States.The college is currently working to raise $15 million toward building a new Veterinary Medical Learning Center, which will include a new teaching hospital as well as classrooms and laboratories that will allow for the education of more veterinarians. More veterinarians are needed to promote food safety and protect public health and to provide veterinary services for farm and companion animals owned by a rapidly growing regional population.The college enrolls 102 students each fall out of more than 550 who apply.The goal is to increase enrollment to 150 when the Veterinary Medical Learning Center is built.

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Pampering Pets With Arthritis During Colder Weather

(NAPSI)-While people who suffer from arthritis can do a lot to relieve the stiff joints and pain that often accompany colder days, pets may suffer silently.

Fortunately, there are ways that pet owners can spot signs of arthritis in pets and provide some relief.

Signs include lagging behind on walks, limping or appearing stiff after activity, a reluctance to climb steps or jump, rising slowly after resting.

If your pet begins to show these signs, there are several ways you can ease his or her pain:

• Joint supplements may help ease arthritis pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin are widely known for their roles in the support of joint health. These products generally take at least six weeks to begin to heal the cartilage, and most animals need to be maintained on these products for the rest of their lives.

Cosequin is recommended for cats, dogs and horses.

• Weight management is a major factor in joint-disease prevention. Helping pets lose excess weight will ease the pain and stress on their joints. Supplements that help with weight management include Trim Treats, Vetri-Lean and Lean Dog.

• Exercise is the next important step. Exercise that provides a good range of motion while building muscle and that limits wear and tear on joints is best. Walking on a leash, swimming, walking on treadmills, slow jogging and going up and down stairs are excellent low-impact exercises. Swimming is OK for extended periods of time and highly recommended in some cases.

• Dress for the outdoors. Keeping your arthritic pet warm may help him or her be more comfortable.

• Use products that help make your pet more comfortable. Some products such as the Bottom's Up Leash offer a hind leg support harness for dogs with hip dysplasia, arthritis or any other problem that affects the legs or spine.

• Use supplements to improve an older pet's overall health. For example, Proviable-DC is a probiotic that helps normalize intestinal function and strengthens the immune system in pets with gastrointestinal problems. Welactin provides omega-3 fatty acids to help maintain normal health, protect kidney function and help skin and coat. Dermaquin provides some of the same benefits.

For more information, visit www.entirelypets.com.


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Friday, December 4, 2009

America's Great Horse Culture in Peril as Economy Leaves More Equines Vulnerable To Crimes of Slaughter

America's Great Horse Culture in Peril as Economy Leaves More Equines Vulnerable To Crimes of Slaughter --The Body Politic Radio Show Gets Inside Grisly Door of Equine Slaughter Transport

/24-7/ -- It's near midnight as a two-tier cattle truck climbs a hill 50 miles from Tulsa, OK, grinding and spitting from its lumbering load. The grueling 1,000 mile trek that began at a horse auction near Waukegon, Illinois is far from over, as the truck's destination is a Texas holding pen earmarked for slaughter-bound horses nearly 355 miles away. If the truck makes it across the state line, it will deliver nearly 50 horses----yearlings, pregnant mares, registered Thoroughbreds, purebred Arabians, wild Mustangs and ponies, Appaloosas, and newly born foals to a Mexican slaughter house. While these equines have individual stories and backgrounds, they share one commonality: They were all purchased at auction by what is known in the industry as "kill buyers" who are fulfilling independent contracts with the slaughter house. As many as 22 horses have already died en route due to kicking injuries, water and food deprivation, and suffocation since departing the auction nearly 72 hours earlier. This scene is not set in the Dust Bowl era. The overweight, fragile truck is not filled with John Steinbeck's endearing "Joad" family seeking a better life . It's a glimpse into the all too real underworld of horse slaughter transport to plants located in Mexico and Canada-----fostering a highly egregious form of animal cruelty that continues unabated in the U.S. despite years of bitter public and political opposition.

The continued public outcry prompted Congressman John Sweeney (R-NY) and John Spratt (D-SC) to sponsor bill H.R. 503 in 2006 in an effort to stop Mexico and Canada from butchering tens of thousands of healthy American horses every month. Although passed by a strong bipartisan vote in the House, the bill has been reportedly blocked by Agricultural special interest groups repeatedly, and remains in a seemingly permanent state of limbo in the Senate. The bill was reintroduced to the House of Representatives on January 14, 2009 by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Michigan) and Dan Burton (R-Indiana), which became known as The Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009. The bill would criminalize the shipping, transporting, purchasing, selling, delivering, or receiving of any horse, horse flesh, or carcass with the intent that it be used for human consumption. In 2007, two slaughter plants in Texas and the last slaughter house in Illinois were permanently shut due to the enforcement of state laws and related lawsuits. Passage of H.R. 503 would prevent such slaughter houses from opening in any state that does not already have a ban in place. More than 100,000 American horses were exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter last year.

On Monday, December 7, at 1:00 PM PST, radio host and investigative journalist, Suzanne Marcus-Fletcher will continue her Itunes series on the state of horse welfare in America in a 60 minute interview with nationally recognized equine advocate Shelley Sawhook, President of the American Horse Defense Fund (AHDF) based in Washington, D.C. AHDF is the nation's leading horse welfare organization working to protect America's horses from abuse www.savinghorses.org. Fletcher's interview with Sawhook can be heard live or on demand at www.blogtalkradio/thebodypolitic or by calling The Body Politic Listener dial-in number: (646) 595-2146 at 1:00 P.M. PST on 12/7/09. The broadcast will be available in the Itunes store under The Body Politic / Blog Talk Radio podcasts.

Among the show's topics will be the current status of H.R. 503, and other major advocacy initiatives now underway at the AHDF on the issues of slaughter and equine transport.

National awareness of the equine slaughter issue ballooned after it was learned that one of America's 100 greatest racehorses named Exceller-----who beat two Triple Crown winners in the 1978 Jockey Gold Cup (Seattle Slew and Affirmed) and won 11 Grade or Group one Races, died in a slaughterhouse in Sweden on April 7, 1997----the same month he was nominated for induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Fletcher's interview with the The Exceller Fund's Executive Director, Nicole Smith, and former President/Executive Director Bonnie Mizrahi is available in the Itunes store and at www.suzannemarcusfletcher.com. The Exceller Fund www.excellerfund.org was launched one month after the famed equines' death to help transition Thoroughbred horses to a second career off the track and provide "a future beyond the finish line." Said Mizrahi, "We all bemoan what happened to Exceller, yet this [slaughter] is happening every week with race horses that aren't as well known, but are no less deserving." Indeed, slaughter foes appeared to unite en mass after American news agencies reported that Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, ended up in a slaughterhouse in Japan in 2002.

"Horse slaughter is an industry----not a charitable way for farmers to dispose of their old, sick, horses as believed by many across the country" said acclaimed equine advocate, Anne Irving. "It is an industry driven by the demand of foreign diners in Europe and Japan who consider American horse-meat a delicacy, and enjoy the lean horse-meat, which sells for approximately $20.00 per pound - and costs about .39 to .49 cents per pound on the hoof at auction," noted Irving. "Following the closing of the U.S. based plants, exports to Canadian and Mexican plants increased to quickly bring the total slaughter (numbers) back to the same level as before the closings."

Fletcher will continue her series on the state of horse welfare in America with AHDF President, Shelley Sawhook, Friday December 11, at 1:00 PM PST on The Body Politic radio show. This episode will focus on the Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act (ROAM), including a discussion of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) alleged plans to initiate mass round-ups in Nevada and elsewhere with the intent to move a significant number of America's remaining wild horses and burros----symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West----into mass holding pens or visitor sanctuaries on the East Coast. For more information on this issue, please visit www.savinghorses.org

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

PETCO Celebrates the Season by Offering Free Pet Photos With Santa

/PRNewswire/ -- Whether they've been naughty or nice this year, pets will have the chance to sit on Santa's lap and have their photo taken for free at PETCO stores nationwide Saturday, December 5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"It's the season of giving and what better gift to give than a photo of perhaps the most cherished member of your family, your pet?" said Elisabeth Charles, Chief Marketing Officer for PETCO. "PETCO has put together a great selection of seasonal gifts for pets and their parents that will make shopping fun and easy this holiday. Giving our customers a free pet photo with Santa is our way of making their holiday even more special."

Looking to primp and preen your pet before their photo-shoot? For the month of December, PETCO is featuring holiday inspired spa grooming packages using the scent of sugar cookies. PETCO customers will also find a delightful array of pet and pet-parent friendly gifts to choose from while waiting for their photos, including candy-cane shaped raw-hide and dog and cat toys shaped like Santa himself. In addition, customers who make a purchase of $50 or more through Christmas will receive a $10 coupon valid for redemption December 26 through January 2.

Any purchase made on December 5 along with a PALS loyalty program membership will qualify customers to receive their free pet photo, one photo per household while supplies last. Not available to have a photo taken on December 5? No worries. PETCO offers photos with Santa on December 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at all stores nationwide for $8.95 plus tax with $5 from each photo purchased donated to the PETCO Foundation to help animals in need at local animal shelters.

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