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Nutrition and Health

The immune system is one of the most important mechanisms for fighting disease and preserving health. Everything dogs and cats experience can affect their body’s energy balance or immune system. The three areas that are most important in protecting and bolstering the immune system are diet and nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction.  Healthy dietary nutrition is perhaps the most vital component of a strong immune system, because this system relies on multiple nutrients to function properly. Nutritional deficiencies or excessive intake of particular nutrients may suppress the immune system and increase the risk for disease. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants must be taken in a balanced way, as unbalanced supplementation can cause or exacerbate deficiencies. It’s not enough for food supplements to be simply ingested; they must be of a high enough quality for them to be absorbed properly to reach the tissues. The National Research Council (NRC) nutrient requirements for animals can be defined as nutrient levels adequate to permit the maintenance of normal health and productivity. Failure to provide a diet that fulfills the minimal requirements established by the NRC for any nutrient will ultimately immune-compromise the animal and render it more susceptible to infectious disease.

While wholesome nutrition is the key to maintaining a healthy immune system and resistance to disease, it is important to point out that poor nutritional intake can result from poor food choices or poor food quality. Nutritional deficiencies or imbalances, as well as exposures to various chemicals, drugs and toxins present a continual immunological challenge which can suppress immune function, especially in those animals genetically susceptible to immune dysfunction. Nutrigenomics is a fast-moving field of research that combines molecular biology, genetics and nutrition to regulate gene expression through specific nutrients. Nutrients have been shown to affect gene expression through transcription factors, which are biochemical entities that bind to DNA and either promote or inhibit transcription of genes. By understanding the roles of specific nutrients and how they might cause diseases (i.e. molecular dietary signatures), Veterinarians could recommend specific foods for an individual pet based on their genetic makeup. While there is hope that nutrigenomics will ultimately enable such personalised dietary advice, it is a science still in its infancy.

While it is difficult to enhance a normal functioning immune system, there are things that you can do to protect and strengthen the immune system of your pet during periods of illness or in the face of chronic disease. There are two major changes you can make in your pet’s diet to help their immune system. First, you can enrich their diet with antioxidants and second, you can make sure they are getting enough nutrients and micronutrients. Antioxidants are vitamins and minerals, found in foods and also available as supplements, that removes harmful oxidants from the bloodstream. Oxidants, also known as free radicals, are among the toxic byproducts produced when food is turned into energy. They are also byproducts of cigarette smoke, pollution, sunlight exposure, and many other environmental factors. Free radicals are capable of damaging DNA and suppressing the body’s immune system. Free radicals also play an important role in the development of many diseases. Nearly all types of cancers have been related to diets that are poor in antioxidants. Moreover, research suggests a strong correlation between most cancers and a high volume of free radicals that have not been neutralized by antioxidants. Thus, diets low in antioxidants increase the risk of developing cancer and, conversely, diets high in antioxidants may be substantially protective. Heart disease is also brought about, in part, by free radicals. Certain diseases of the central nervous system and some forms of kidney, gastrointestinal, and skin disease also involve free radicals. These diseases or conditions cannot be prevented simply by taking antioxidants. You can, however, ensure that you are doing everything possible to lessen their effects.

Marginal nutrient deficiencies in the diet can also weaken the immune system. Marginal deficiency is a state of gradual vitamin loss that can lead to a general lack of well being and impairment of certain biochemical reactions. Marginal deficiencies of micronutrients do not cause obvious symptoms of disease, but they can affect the body’s ability to resist disease and infection. They might also slow your pet’s recovery from surgery.

In summary, maintaining a good nutritional status and adequate micronutrient stores in the body is essential for mounting an effective immune response to opportunistic infections. With sound eating habits and proper nutritional planning, and by reducing exposure to environmental factors that promote the production of free radicals you can further ensure that you are doing everything possible to lessen the effect of free radicals on your pet’s overall general health and well-being.


Cat Scratch Disease (CSD)

Cat scratch disease (CSD) is a relatively common infection that usually presents as a tender lymphadenopathy which follows a bite wound or scratch from an infected cat. Bartonella henselae is the microorganism responsible for CSD. It is found in feline erythrocytes and fleas, which can contaminate saliva and be introduced into humans through biting and clawing by cats. The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is the vector responsible for transmission of the disease from cat to cat, and its bite can also infect humans. For this reason, it is certainly prudent to use appropriate flea control at all times. Approximately 50% of cats harbor Bartonella and are entirely asymptomatic.

After contact with an infected cat, patients can develop a primary skin lesion that starts as a vesicle at the bite wound or clawing site. Lymphadenopathy develops within one to two weeks in about 10-45% of patients. In these patients, the lymph nodes are swollen and tender and may eventually suppurate. Many patients will also develop aching, general malaise and/or a low grade fever. A diagnosis of CSD is most often arrived at by obtaining a history of exposure to cats and a serologic test with high titers (greater than 1:256) of immunoglobulin G antibody to Bartonella. Most cases of CSD are self limiting and do not require antibiotic treatment. Infrequently, CSD may present or progress to a more disseminated form which can result in serious consequences for the patient. Most if not all of those patients in whom a more disseminated form occurs are severely immuno-compromised. If an antibiotic is chosen for treatment, azithromycin (Zithromax) has been demonstrated to achieve a rapid resolution of the clinical signs of disease. Obviously, immuno-compromised patients will require much more extensive medical support to alleviate the clinical signs of infection.

In conclusion, CSD is a somewhat common condition which can result in pain and discomfort at the bite wound or clawing site and progress in some people to painful lymph node enlargement. Most cases do not require treatment. At most, a course of antibiotics results in rapid resolution of clinical signs in the majority of affected people, unless the patient is immuno-compromised. Consistent flea control is an effective way of preventing exposure to the causative organism.


“If It Fits, It Ships” Does Not Apply To Puppies

By now, most of you have probably heard about the woman who tried to mail a puppy to her son using the US Postal Service. This Rhodes Scholar didn’t think there was anything wrong with mailing a puppy in an airtight box without ventilation holes, food, water or a blanket for warmth from Minnesota to Georgia in the middle of winter. If it were not for the attentiveness of the postal workers, this four-month-old puppy would have suffered a terrible death as it would have been shipped as airfreight and therefore placed in the cargo and baggage area of the plane. This area is neither temperature controlled nor pressurized. You do the math.

At this point in time I could diverge into the socioeconomic reasons as to why this woman didn’t think she was doing anything wrong, but at this stage of my life I have come to realize that there are some truly stupid, ignorant, numbnuts out there, especially when it comes to the intelligent care of animals. I believe that in the United States, in today’s day and age, that it should be considered a privilege, not an inherent right to own animals. Anyone who wants to own an animal should have a modicum of intelligence and financial wherewithal to provide adequate veterinary care and a loving home to those animals they want to consider pets. It is obvious this woman had neither. Did she think her son would be excited to open a sealed box with a dead, thawed out puppy twisted like a pretzel? What was she thinking? It’s obvious she wasn’t. There is no excuse for stupidity, but there is accountability.

Having been charged with animal cruelty, it will now be interesting to see how the court system handles this case. It seems to be off to a good start considering the judge dressed her down, as he found it incredulous that anyone could think that what she did was anything but insane. The fact that she asked the judge for her $22 postage fee to be returned considering the puppy was never shipped didn’t exactly endear her to the court. Historically, animal abusers have received little more than a slap on the wrists. While there have been some rulings where more severe penalties have been handed down, these are the exceptions rather than the rule. It is encouraging that lawmakers are finally realizing that crimes against animals are serious crimes that warrant stiffer penalties and tougher, more aggressive prosecution. For example, the Hawaiian state Legislature has just introduced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for people who “knowingly attend” or “pay to attend” a cockfight. Currently, the law only prosecutes those who stage the fight, rather than those who watch it. This new bill obviously takes it one step further, making people criminally liable attending events that perpetuate animal cruelty. Hopefully, the judge in this case will see things similarly.

With regard to the puppy in this case, he has been taken away from the woman and placed with a reputable rescue group for adoption. Having placed rescued animals many times in the past, I’m sure that it won’t be long before he is placed in an appropriate home. Perhaps an appropriate penalty for this woman should include being placed in an airtight box and shipped to Pakistan care of Osama Bin Laden.


The Risks Associated with Sleeping with Your Pet are Overblown and Exaggerated

 

Drs. Bruno Chomel, a professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, and Ben Sun, chief veterinarian for California’s Department of Health, say in a study to be published in next month’s issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Emerging Infectious Diseases that sleeping with your pet includes an inherent risk, even a fatal one. “The risk of contracting something is rare, but if you’re that person who gets a disease from a pet, rare doesn’t matter that much,” says the paper’s co-author Bruno Chomel, a professor at the University of California-Davis school of veterinary medicine and an expert in zoonoses, the transmission of disease from animal to human. “I know this will make me unpopular, but pets really don’t belong in your bed.”

 

This is just one more reason why I’m proud to have attended the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. Were they that desperate to publish a study that this was the best idea they could come up with? Let’s use some common sense here. The authors worked hard to find examples of people who have suffered, some dying, as a result of their pet sleeping in bed with them. These researchers combed through medical journals to find examples of pets making people ill after sharing a bed. Many of the cases cited are decades old. There is no epidemic. There never has been. The risk is phenomenally overblown and exaggerated.

I’ve personally been in practice for 30 years (15,000 office visits yearly x 30= almost half a million) and I have never encountered a single client that has become seriously ill as a result of sleeping with their pets. I believe that the human-animal bond and the positive effects pets can have on humans outweigh any risk, whether you sleep with your pet or not. I would bet many of the dogs and cats entering my veterinary hospital are a lot cleaner than a many of the humans I come in contact with during the day. The message these doctors would like to send is get your pets off the bed and you’re safe from intestinal parasites or zoonotic disease. That’s simply not true. The truth is that it’s far more likely to get a disease or illness from your human sleeping partner than from a pet who happens to share your bed. You just have to trust me on this one.

So what is a pet owner to do? Take the same basic precautions with your pet that you already (we hope) take with yourself.  Common-sense approaches include regular wellness exams for pets, parasite control, vaccinations appropriate for your geographical area, regular bathing and dental care. These simple acts will significantly minimize the risk of disease transmission between pet and owner. If people would remember to wash their hands, that would help, too. So, obviously scrub up with soap and running water if you’ve handled feces, and do it again if you’ve handled your pet and plan on preparing food. It goes without saying that extra precautions are necessary if you or someone else in the household is debilitated or immune-compromised.

As a final note, I’ve been sleeping with dogs and cats for my entire life, let alone being kissed and slobbered on by thousands of my clients’ pets throughout the years and I have never contracted any disease or illness. As a matter of fact, I’d rather have my dogs kiss me than some random person; at least I know where my dogs have been- if you know what I mean.


Three Hearst Zebras Shot Dead

One of the most incomprehensible acts that I can imagine is someone taking pleasure in shooting and killing a totally defenseless and innocent animal while he is minding his own business. Unfortunately, not everybody shares this point of view as evidenced by last week’s slaughter of three Zebras on the Hearst Ranch in San Simeon, California.  These Zebras are what is left of what once was the world’s largest private zoo, a collection of numerous species that roamed the estate of William Randolph Hearst.

In early January, three of these Zebras wandered off the ranch and onto an adjacent ranch and was shot by the rancher. Actually, to be more accurate, one rancher shot two of the Zebras and a second rancher shot the third. There were actually two idiots who killed these animals, not one. Their rationale? “ I was taking care of my property and getting rid of a predator; the Zebras spooked my horses.” Really?  Zebras eat horses?” Well, I guess anyone who is stupid enough to think Zebras are predators is also stupid enough to think they would be an imminent threat to horses or livestock.  How much grass could three Zebras eat before they decided to return to their home turf?

What is particularly appalling is that less than 24 hours after killing these animals, the ranchers called a local taxidermist to turn them into Zebra skin rugs. What do these guys do for a living? Sit out there on their ranch with binoculars and shotguns and just lie in wait for a majestic animal to wander beyond its fence line and then instantly kill it in the name of self-defense? Did they really need a rug that badly? These men are testosterone challenged uneducated assholes.  Considering the Zebras posed absolutely no threat, why are these men’s actions being tolerated? Was it such a dangerous situation that their first thought was to kill them and make a rug out of them? The fact that some of the approximately 65 Zebras left on the ranch have from time to time ventured beyond their fence line and have been retrieved uneventfully debunk the ranchers’ claims that they posed an immediate threat to anyone or anything.

While these pathetic excuses for human beings can perhaps legally justify their actions, morally and ethically there is no excuse for their abhorrent behavior. These Zebras have probably been roaming those ranchlands for longer than either of these men has been alive. As far as I’m concerned, these ranchers are more of an imminent threat to society than the Zebras ever were.


Keeping Your Dog Healthy and Safe in the Winter

Since most of the United States is currently enjoying winter weather, here are a few tips to help keep your dog healthy and safe in the winter.

Even though dogs are covered in fur and appear to be happy while running around in the snow and ice, they can still get cold or injured because of the unpredictability of winter conditions.

If your dog will spend a lot of time outside in your absence, be sure to provide protection from the wind and snow. Provide a doghouse that is insulated with enough blankets, etc to allow your dog to be comfortable even in the worst of weather. Make sure that access to a pet door is free from obstruction by snow and if direct access to the heated home is not provided, make sure there is a soft, warm pet bed in the garage or mudroom. When temperatures are extremely low, never leave your dog outside (or left unattended in the car).

While most dogs love to play and run in the snow, snow and ice can get stuck in between their toes and pads of the paw. In addition to reducing traction on snow and ice, which can lead to slipping and orthopedic injury, it will also cause the dog’s temperature to drop. Check your dog’s feet periodically to make sure snow and ice are not accumulating in these areas to prevent unnecessary injury or hypothermia.

When walking outdoors, try to avoid walking on roads or pathways that have been treated with ice-melting chemicals as these can damage your dog’s paws. In addition, try to prevent your dog from ingesting any snow treated by these chemicals as well as they can result in serious illness. After taking your dog for a walk, if you think the dog has had any contact with ice-melting chemicals, wash the feet with warm water as soon as you arrive home. Be sure to check your dog’s paws for cuts and bruises after heavy exercise in the snow and ice.

While throwing snowballs for your dog to catch is a time-honored tradition and lots of fun, make sure to monitor how many snowballs you are throwing if the dog decides that eating the snowball is fun. A few too many swallowed snowballs may make the dog nauseous and will also certainly contribute to a drop in body temperature.

By following just a few simple rules and paying attention to details, both you and your dog should be able to spend quality time outdoors and have a safe and enjoyable winter.



The Danger of Veterinary Internet Pharmacies

Today there are many options for consumers to purchase veterinary medications. In the past, the veterinarian supplied prescriptive and non-prescriptive drugs and medications directly to the client. The rise of internet pharmacies has given the client the ability to buy medications indirectly through a third party. The advantage to the consumer has been better pricing and the convenience of home delivery, rather than having to visit their veterinarian’s office to fill or refill prescriptions. The disadvantages, mostly unknown to the consumer, includes but is not limited to a significant percentage of these online medications being counterfeit, near or exceeding their expiration dates, and they may very well not have been stored properly therefore significantly reducing their effectiveness, if not rendering them totally ineffective and/or endangering their pet. The reason for this is that the online pet pharmacies are not legally permitted to buy their supplies directly from veterinary pharmaceutical companies. They have to rely upon diverted merchandise from veterinary practitioners for the merchandise that they will then turn around and sell to pet owners. It is not illegal for veterinarians to sell their supplies to these companies, however, it is violating their contracts with the veterinary pharmaceutical companies to sell their drugs to these online pharmacies. The veterinary pharmacies do their best to police the situation, but it is obviously difficult to determine which veterinarians are violating their contracts by diverting drugs and supplies. When they succeed in determining when drugs are being diverted, that veterinary practice loses its ability to purchase products from that particular pharmaceutical company. Because these online pharmacies are dependent upon veterinarians diverting products, the quality and origin of these products has to be questioned.  If you are the type of veterinarian who needs to divert products in violation of your contract with the pharmaceutical companies in order to make a quick buck, then what type of reputable person are you? Would you try to make even more money by diverting poorly stored inventory? Would you knowingly divert counterfeit drugs? Is your ability to practice veterinary medicine that poor that you have to resort to being a middle-man to divert medications to generate a profit? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is yes. At least twice monthly I receive offers from online veterinary pharmacies to start a new business relationship that they say is 100% legal and risk free. They tell me that this opportunity is a simple, no-risk profitable exercise. All I need to do is make one or two phone calls and they will take care of the rest. And it will be done totally confidentially. Really? This is the way legitimate companies operate? By the way, most of these companies are based in Florida; it’s not a coincidence. It’s a lot easier to distribute counterfeit medications arriving from the Caribbean when you’re that close to the source.

One of the main reasons why the veterinary pharmaceutical companies want their drugs distributed by a veterinarian and not a third party is to ensure that a proper veterinary-patient relationship is intact so that their products are not misused and/or prescribed inappropriately. In addition, quality control is maintained as the veterinarian is much more likely to store the medications properly and turn over their inventory on a regular basis to avoid buying in bulk and prescribing expired or soon to be expired medications. Maintaining distribution of an effective, quality product is not only important for your pet, it is important for the reputation of the company for its products to be seen as safe and effective when utilized in a proper manner. It is not about maintaining higher prices for their products. Most if not all veterinarians today will price match medications for their clients so that their clientele can purchase their pet’s medications at a more reasonable cost, all the while being assured that the drugs freshness or effectiveness has not been compromised and guaranteeing that the drug is not counterfeit. These are not trivial concerns. When it comes to purchasing veterinary drugs online, buyers should beware, says a top official from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine. In fact, in a recently issued consumer alert, Dr. Martine Hartogensis, director of the FDA’s Office of Surveillance and Compliance, says that while some websites selling veterinary drugs represent legitimate businesses, others do not. In fact, FDA regulators have documented unscrupulous practices relating to the sale of unapproved and counterfeit pet drugs, dispensing of Rx drugs without a prescription and sale of expired drugs. Even the so-called legitimate businesses deal primarily in diverted products. And while the risk is present for consumers purchasing bogus, unapproved products through foreign and domestic pharmacies, “CVM is especially concerned that pet owners are going online to buy two types of commonly used prescription veterinary drugs—non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs and heartworm preventives.” Both drugs can be dangerous if given without involvement by veterinarians, Hartogensis reports.

If you’ve ever searched online for prescription pet medicines, you’ve no doubt seen eye-catching, attention-grabbing claims. They sound convincing in their promises of convenience and lower prices. But are these claims really true? Internet sites that sell pet drugs can be reputable pharmacies. However, others are fronts for businesses breaking Federal, State, and sometimes, International laws. Illegal online pharmacies may sell medicines that are counterfeit, outdated, mislabeled, incorrectly formulated, or improperly made or stored. These medicines may not contain the actual drug, or the correct amount of drug, may contain contaminants, may not work as well due to age or being stored in conditions that were too hot, cold, or humid, and may not have the proper directions for use. If you are unhappy with ordered products, in the end, you may find buying prescription pet medicines online more costly to your pet’s health and your wallet. If you find a cheaper medicine online, ask your veterinarian to consider matching the price. If the prices offered are dramatically different than the competition, the drug is most likely of dubious quality or origin. As mentioned previously, many veterinarians are willing to competitively charge based on the online price you’ve found (and can show proof of). You should also know that neither the drug maker nor your veterinarian will stand behind a product’s guarantee if you purchase the product online.

Counterfeit drugs are fake or copycat products that can be difficult to identify. The deliberate and fraudulent practice of counterfeiting can apply to both brand name and generic products, where the identity of the source is often mislabeled in a way that suggests it is the authentic approved product. Counterfeit drugs may be contaminated, not help the condition or disease the medicine is intended to treat, lead to dangerous side effects, contain the wrong active ingredient, be made with the wrong amounts of ingredients, contain no active ingredients at all or contain too much of an active ingredient, and/or be packaged in phony packaging that looks legitimate. Using medicine that contains an active ingredient that wasn’t prescribed may be harmful. The FDA continues to proactively protect consumers from counterfeit drugs. The agency is working with drug manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers to identify and prevent counterfeit drugs. The FDA also is exploring the use of modern technologies and other measures that will make it more difficult for counterfeit drugs to get mixed up with, or deliberately substituted for, safe and effective medicines.

While online pharmacies can be an inexpensive and convenient alternative to purchasing these drugs through a veterinary office, pet pharmacies are not regulated the same way human pharmacies are. If the FDA and the DEA have trouble keeping human pharmacies on the level, what do you think the level of control aimed at online veterinary pharmacies is? These online outlets know that the legal ramifications of your pet’s drug reactions can’t touch companies of their size. As long as counterfeits and questionable expiration dates abound in the online pet drug marketplace, its buyer beware all the way.

Veterinarians and online pharmacies have had a rocky relationship from the start. When online pharmacies first started selling medicines, many vets were worried that their already slim profit margins (even though vet care is expensive, most of what you pay your vet ends up going to his suppliers, his landlord, his employees, utility companies, the IRS, and regulatory agencies) would be reduced by the loss of income-generating drug sales. This concern has not panned out as expected. Well-managed veterinary hospitals do not derive much income from drug sales. In the hospitals where I have worked (and owned), medications were offered to clients more for their convenience than for our profit. And this makes sense. A veterinarian’s job is to manage the health of pets, not to sell drugs. So why is there a lingering animosity between vets and online pharmacies? Probably because some of my patients have received an expired or ineffective medicine from an online pharmacy, and I’m sure I’m not alone. My conversations with representatives from drug manufacturing companies assure me that this occurs on a relatively frequent basis. They also claim that some online pharmacies unwittingly distribute counterfeit medications that have no efficacy. In my opinion, if you order from a reputable online pharmacy the odds of receiving expired or counterfeit medicines are low, however, it does indeed occur on a regular basis.

In addition, working with online pharmacies can be very frustrating for a veterinarian. For instance, one internet pharmacy habitually refuses to write instructions on the drugs it dispenses. If a veterinarian sends a prescription to the pharmacy and indicates that the medicine should be taken twice daily, they will dispense the medicine with instructions to “take as instructed by veterinarian”. In the best case, this wastes the veterinarian’s time, as clients will call to ask how often the medicine should be given, when the information has already been provided to the pharmacy. In the worst case, it puts the patient at risk of being either over or under dosed. Another pharmacy routinely sends faxes to my office requesting authorization for prescriptions. I promptly fax back authorizations (after offering the client the opportunity to purchase the medication for the same price with the guarantee that it’s not counterfeit, diverted, etc). The next day, I often receive faxes from the pharmacy, written in a somewhat threatening tone, stating that they have not received my authorization. This confusion on the part of the pharmacy is very annoying, and it also causes me to lose confidence in their business in general. If they can’t manage their fax system, how can I expect them to dispense drugs accurately?

In summary, many pet owners are seeking lower prices for medications needed by their pets through the use of online pet pharmacies. The best way to assure yourself that the medication you purchase is safe, has been stored properly, is genuine and has not been diverted is to purchase the medication directly from your veterinarian. The products we sell on our veterinary website meet all of these criteria and are competitively priced for our clients, eliminating the need for them to search out and be scammed by the less than legitimate online pharmacies that are currently operating.

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SWAT teams for wild animals?

By: Miguel Llanos

When California game wardens killed a Bengal tiger in a Los Angeles suburb in February, Alan Schulman mourned the death of another cat whose dwindling numbers have landed it on the endangered species list. Then the noted veterinarian of 25 years launched a campaign to change a state wildlife policy that he calls “shoot first and ask questions later.”

“It really did indicate that there are many better ways that the situation of exotic and endangered animals should be handled,” he says.

Schulman wants microchip ID tags for exotic pets and specialized SWAT teams that would deploy to sedate — not kill — wild animals seen as threats to humans.

“With more and more people hiking in the hills, with more and more people encroaching in wild habitat,” there will be more contact, Schulman says. “So the old way of doing things, which is just, ‘Let’s kill ‘em,’ doesn’t fly anymore.”

And how California addresses the problem could serve as a model for the rest of the nation, he says.

Owners allegedly covered up escape

The current debate was sparked by the escape of a Bengal tiger from an exotic animal sanctuary in Moorpark, Calif., last January. The owners never reported the cat missing and it roamed the area for nearly three weeks before it was first spotted.

Trackers spent eight days setting traps with goat and chicken meat and using infrared equipment at night. During that time, the cat roamed the hills, becoming hungrier and disoriented, making it more dangerous.

Although no people were in immediate danger when the tiger was shot and killed, the cat was finally cornered in brush a few hundred yards from play fields and homes.

The California Department of Fish and Game stands by the wardens’ actions, saying that trying to sedate the 600-pound tiger would have taken too long. Sedation is sometimes used, the department notes, but regulations also exist that allow killing an animal if there’s an “imminent threat to public safety.”

But the two sides have agreed to review guidelines to see if animals’ lives can be saved in the future.

Schulman credits Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose pets he has treated for 13 years, with bringing the two sides together. He says he called the governor the day the tiger was killed to say he was about to go on television to criticize how the state handled the situation.

“He was in absolute agreement” against killing an animal needlessly, Schulman says, and consultations with the administration began soon after.

The Department of Fish and Game says it will sit down with Schulman and other noted veterinarians in Sacramento, the state capital, as early as this month.

The goal, says department spokesman Mike Wintemute, is “to help develop new or updated guidelines on how we deal with exotic animals.”

“Perhaps there are things we could have done better,” he says of the tiger incident, “so we’re bringing in different perspectives on how to handle situations like this.”

Escapes, attacks on the rise
For Schulman, the heart of the issue is that many exotic animals, especially large ones, are facing extinction as humans expand into their habitats.

Bengal tigers are already an endangered species in their native South Asia. Worldwide, around 7,000 tigers are estimated to remain in the wild.

The International Animal Welfare Fund, which tracks escapes and attacks on humans by dangerous animals like tigers, bears, and large primates, says such incidents in the United States numbered in the single digits most years during the 1990s. But the number jumped to 31 in 2000, then 99 in 2003 and 199 in 2004.

The animal welfare group is also lobbying for laws to ban private ownership of exotic animals. Arkansas last month became the 23rd state to do so and a 2004 U.S. law bans the trade in big cats across state lines.

Calling in the SWAT team

When wild animals do get loose, Schulman says they should be taken alive if possible. That’s where the SWAT idea comes in.

“We would literally set up a SWAT team that would certainly include myself, other big cat experts and the Department of Fish and Game,” Schulman says.

While California’s Department of Fish and Game says it takes several minutes to put down a large wild animal, Schulman says that “if you’re trained and know what you’re doing” it can be done in 30 seconds.

“Unless there’s an imminent threat to human life,” he says, “then every attempt to safely, humanely tranquilize the animal should be taken.”

Wintemute’s “gut reaction” to the SWAT idea is that it might not make financial sense to “ramp up resources” for the rare incident of an escaped exotic animal. “We’re willing to look at that proposal,” he adds, but California has budget troubles and “we’re not flush with cash.”

Prevention focus

Schulman and Wintemute agree that preventing such situations should be a priority. One idea is to require microchip tagging so that if an exotic pet gets loose, officials will have a record of the owner.

The state already has some experience with microchips, having worked with Sea World in San Diego to tag sea bass released into the ocean.

Schulman says such tags could be a “really good first step” with exotic animals, but then asks: “Where do you draw the line? Permits for anything more exotic than a dog or cat? I don’t know where that line is.”

There’s also agreement on holding owners responsible for any problems posed by their exotic pets. Looking at just tigers, the International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates more than 10,000 are kept as pets in the United States, either in homes or in the 3,000 sanctuaries authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The owners of the Bengal tiger killed near Los Angeles were arrested, accused of misleading officials and “destroying tiger prints in an effort to obstruct and hinder the federal tracking efforts,” according to the U.S. Justice Department. The charges carry a penalty of up to 60 years in prison.

Wintemute says there’s talk of raising the state fees that exotic animal owners now pay, $30 for a permit and $100 a year for two inspections. The idea would be to use the extra revenue to better monitor those animals.

Schulman is all in favor of that idea. And he would go even further in cases where owners are negligent and their animals pose a danger or escape.

“My feeling is to treat them like drug runners,” he says of such owners. “Take their property, have them pay the expenses of tracking the animal and then putting it in a sanctuary.”

“California has the opportunity to set a precedent for the way these cases are dealt with across the states,” he says.

this article was posted on MSNBC; for more information, visit this website


PETA’s Euthanasia Rates Have Critics Fuming

(March 9)—When Dawn Brancheau, a SeaWorld trainer, was killed last month by one of the park’s orcas, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was quick to condemn SeaWorld for keeping its animals constrained in small tanks. Indeed, PETA is often on hand whenever there is an incident involving animals and humans. The group is well-known for its edgy, graphic advertisements, its support for radical animal rights groups, and its throngs of celebrity supporters, from Charlize Theron to Tim Gunn.

But PETA has a lesser-known claim to fame that has critics fuming: The organization euthanizes over 90 percent of the dogs and cats relinquished to its headquarters in Norfolk, Va. In 2009, PETA euthanized 2,301 dogs and cats—97 percent of those brought in—and adopted only eight, according to Virginia state figures. And the rate of these killings has been increasing. From 2004 to 2008, euthanasia at PETA increased by 10 percent.

The numbers are remarkable in contrast to nearby shelters. In the same town, the Norfolk City Pound euthanized 54.7 percent of its dogs and cats in 2009. In 2008, the most recent year on record, the Norfolk SPCA found homes for 86 percent of its dogs and cats and euthanized only 5.3 percent.

“I don’t think it could be ethically rationalized,” Nathan Winograd, executive director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, told AOL News. Winograd, a no-kill advocate, believes shelters should only euthanize animals that are not adoptable because they cannot be rehabilitated for aggression or health reasons. Often shelters put down animals when they do not have enough room.

Winograd and others, like the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is supported by food industry groups, are staunchly opposed to PETA’s practices, saying they choose to kill animals needlessly for purely evil or financial reasons.

“It’s whoring itself out for media coverage,” David Martosko, director of research at the Center for Consumer Freedom, said of PETA. “They’ll do the ridiculous stuff, but they won’t put an ad in the Norfolk press saying, ‘We have puppies and kittens, come adopt one.’”

But the numbers don’t tell the full story. PETA says it doesn’t have puppies and kittens for adoption because it is not an adoptive agency but a “shelter of last resort,” taking in animals that other shelters reject because they are unadoptable and euthanizing those that are suffering. They refer adoptable animals to the nearby Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“Our euthanasia program has never been a secret,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, vice president of cruelty investigations at PETA. “This is one of many, many things that we do to alleviate the suffering of animals.”

Nachminovitch brushes aside the idea that there is a financial motive behind their practice. PETA reported an annual revenue of more than $34 million in 2009. She says shelters don’t cost much money to build or maintain, but when they are jam-packed with homeless pets, the caged animals suffer. The culprits aren’t the shelters that euthanize animals, she adds, but the breeders and pet shops that fill society with 6 million to 8 million shelter animals each year.

“Money can’t buy a good home, so it’s not a matter of money,” she said. “You could build the nicest shelter in the world, but if you don’t have homes for them, they’re still going to sit in a cage.”

And that is the problem with Winograd’s movement, according to PETA. The emphasis on “no-kill” means shelters are overcrowded and animals suffer. Instead, the emphasis should be on “no-breed.” PETA promotes spaying and neutering with this in mind and sterilized 8,677 animals last year.

The Association of Shelter Veterinarians recognizes that shelters have different philosophies and methods when it comes to euthanasia and does not provide any strict rules or guidelines about it.

“Our philosophy is that whenever euthanasia is performed, it should be done compassionately and humanely. The decision to euthanize an animal rests with a shelter’s staff and should be based on their policies and knowledge of the animal’s health and behavior status,” Dr. Jeanette O’Quin, president of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, wrote in an e-mail to AOL News.

Dr. Ronald Hallstrom, a Norfolk-area veterinarian, says euthanasia is a philosophical issue. He recalled a time when animal control brought him a dog with three severely injured legs, leading him to decide to put her down. But when he put the needle into her leg, she looked up at him and he changed his mind. Daisy, he says, is now a “wonderful, wonderful pet.”

But not every animal brought to him is like Daisy.

“If you put a value on the life of an animal, you have an obligation to make the best decision,” Hallstrom said. “Euthanasia of the animals that don’t have owners should be performed by people that are rational and are using sound judgment.”

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