News: Guest Posts
Beagles being used by food industry
What happens when a 15-year-old vegetarian learns that a controversial food additive, one that is patented as a flame retardant, is allowed to be added to her sports drink?
Sarah Kavanagh, of Hattiesburg, Miss., started a petition on change.org, asking the manufacturer to remove it. Brominated vegetable oil is allowed by the Food and Drug Administration as an additive “generally regarded as safe.” It has, however, been linked to health problems in some studies, so why put it in a sports drink, her petition argues?
Dog lovers, too, are posting petitions about practices involving food additives that make no sense to them—like testing such ingredients on animals. The requisite safety tests performed on BVO included animals; even dogs.
While rodents are the usual subjects in toxicity tests, dogs are also an important test tool for food additives such as olestra (of gastrointestinal fame); cyclamate (a banned sugar substitute); and countless other compounds, which are administered at high doses in studies.
Supporters of the practice view dogs as “whole, living systems” vital for testing the effects of additives in products sold to humans. Opponents see a cultural disconnect in using dogs to study products to be sold to…well, them.
Surveys show that nearly half of U.S. households have a dog. Another subset have Beagles; the most common laboratory breed. Yet the long-domesticated dog—subject of endless stories of devotion and cultural indulgence in the form of goods and services aimed at their comfort—is, in another context, a disposable species.
Petitioners say that dogs have limited protections in a research setting. Cages restrict their movement, puppies may be weaned early and caged individually, and procedures may hurt, particularly in vivo toxicity tests.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 “is the only Federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers.”
The Act was prompted by media reports on the theft of pets by dealers who sold them for research. Now most research dogs are “purpose bred,” but they can still be supplied by Class B dealers and legally sourced from shelters, auctions, and ads. As of June 2012, the Humane Society of the U.S. estimates that there were 3,303 USDA Class A breeders and Class B licensed brokers!
The animal welfare law is enforced “primarily through inspections of every licensed or registered facility in the country.” It regulates cage size, cleanliness, and food and water, but not the tests performed or their duration. The BVO feeding study spanned two years (in dog-years, how long is that, owners may wonder?)
Even when dogs emerge from a study in good health, there is still the “frequently asked question” of what happens when an experiment ends?
According to the website of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, “The majority of animals under study must be euthanized in order to obtain tissue for pathological evaluation and for use in in vitro tests.”
The association is a membership group of professionals from academia, government, and private industry that promotes “responsible laboratory animal care and use to benefit people and animals.”
In one petition on whitehouse.gov, the Dogington Post “internet newspaper” offers this appeal to the Obama administration: “Beagles aren’t reliable test subjects.”
In fact, many food additives such as BVO remain controversial long after tests in dogs were used to determine what a safe dose might be in human foods.
Like olestra, a substitute for fat. A 20-month olestra feeding study in dogs states that the objective “was to assess the potential chronic toxicity of olestra in a non-rodent species.” The study found that “olestra was not toxic when fed to dogs at up to 10 percent of the diet for 20 months.”
The dogs, 4-6 month old Beagles divided into groups of 10 for testing, were euthanized when it was over and the study was published in 1991. Yet olestra garners plenty of consumer complaints.
The sweetener Sucralose aka Splenda was also tested in Beagles. Sourcewatch.org describes one test that involved 32 Beagles caged for 52 weeks at the McNeil Specialty Products laboratories in New Jersey. At the end of the study they were anaesthetized and bled to death, which made the examination of organs easier.
An alternative to BVO in beverages, the Eastman product Sustane SAIB (sucrose acetate isobutyrate)—though not a source of consumer complaints—was tested in Beagles, too.
The list of additives is long, and some say, getting longer. Consumer interest in health keeps the food industry experimenting with flavors, plant extracts, supplements, stabilizers and more. As they strive to churn out the substitutes, animal petitioners hope to see new substitutes for dogs in their toxicity tests.
Also promoting humane alternatives is the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is pulling for a robot to the rescue. Like the promising “Tox21,” a collaboration of federal agencies to test chemicals—including food additives—with a machine, at blazing speed. The evolution of technology, they say, will minimize the use of animals.
As we watch The San Francisco 49ers go deeper into the post-season playoffs, we are rooting for linebacker Patrick Willis to do well. Willis is widely considered to be one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Known for his fearless, physical style of play on the field, Willis has a gentle persona off the field and a soft spot for dogs. The Bark spoke with Patrick last year about his new (then) housemate, a young Pit Bull named Zeus.
The Bark: Tell us about your dog.
B: What’s he like?
B: During the season you must travel a lot …
B: How did you name him?
B: You are involved with a scholarship program sponsored by Duracell that provides tuition and transportation to attend ProCamps run by professional athletes like yourself. To underscore their mission, they’ve produced a short video on your young life, and it is quite inspiring. Tell us about it.
B: Watching the video depiction of your childhood and all that you’ve overcome, do you feel a special affinity to Pit Bulls, a breed who are often misunderstood, and in a way the classic underdog?
B: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned with Zeus?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Author offers a character in next book
When author Dennis Lehane’s dog disappeared late last month in Massachusetts, he offered a highly unusual reward for her safe return: He will name a character in his next book after the person who finds Tessa, a rescue beagle. Lehane writes mystery novels, and his works include “Gone, Baby Gone”, “A Drink Before the War”, “Mystic River”, and “Shutter Island.” Ironically, his current project is a script for a movie, which is based on his short story “Animal Rescue.”
Tessa apparently wandered out of the yard when a gate was not latched properly. She was not wearing tags at the time, but has a microchip.
Lehane has been busy searching for Tessa and publicizing her disappearance via Twitter, Facebook, and with fliers near his home. Her return can be a no-questions-asked situation. Lehane is interested in getting Tessa back and cares only about her safety. Lehane has also offered a monetary reward.
What kind of reward, beyond money, would you be willing to offer for the safe return of your dog?
News: Guest Posts
Recent news reports about house fires with dogs trapped inside are a keen reminder how valuable a pet oxygen mask can be to firefighting crews. Check if your local fire department has these tools, and if not, consider donating one to them. They're not expensive.
In Lima, Ohio, a house fire broke out the morning of January 3, 2013. An adult occupant escaped from an upstairs room, but the family dog Cola hid in the basement. Nearly fifteen minutes after firefighters started attacking the fire in the freezing cold, they discover the dog-apparently lifeless-and bring her upstairs and out onto the snow. Luckily, the Lima Fire Department had been the recipient of a gift: pet oxygen masks, made to fit the long snouts of dogs and other pets. Firefighters worked on Cola for nearly five minutes, giving her oxygen, until she started breathing again. Her emotional owner, anxiously watching nearby, cried tears of relief and gratitude.
The house fire was caught on video; toward the end, near the 16:00 minute mark, you can see the firefighters bringing Cola out of the house and laying her on the snow to start resuscitation efforts. Unfortunately the video does not extend to her successful recovery.
Nearby Delphos Animal Hospital had donated the pet oxygen masks to the Lima Fire Department just a week earlier. According to news reports, they plan to donate two more, soon.
Also on January 3rd, firefighters responding to a house fire in Forth Worth discovered two dogs inside. One was alright, but the other was unresponsive. Using an oxygen mask, the firefighters were able to revive the dog.
The fire department's spokesperson noted that firefighters attempt animal rescues several times a year, and that some of their trucks are outfitted with animal oxygen masks. Otherwise, they use those made for humans.
Wouldn't it be nice if all fire trucks and other first responders were equipped with animal oxygen masks?
This year the Tournament of the Roses Parade (Jan. 1) will be showcasing a float with a theme near and dear to our hearts—“Follow The Stars—Adopt a Pet!” Be sure to watch this on New Year’s day, the float will appear in parade order 42. The float, sponsored by the Beverly Hills Pet Care Foundation is sure to be the parade’s favorite.
The pet float hopes to raise awareness of the millions of pets that are euthanized each year, and all the float’ s human participants have adopted pets and have dedicated themselves to improving the homeless pet problem.
Shelter animals from the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services, such as this one-year old Maltese mix, Bo Jangles, will ride on the float. The shelter animals will be joined by others like Uggie, the imitable Jack Russell Terrier dog actor from the Academy award winning film, The Artist—he had been rescued from the pound by animal trainer, Omar Von Muller. So he makes the perfect “spokesman” for this event.
Better still after the parade, The Pet Care Foundation will be sponsoring an event for animal shelters and pet rescue groups. The adoptable dogs on the float will all come for Los Angeles Animal Services and will be up for adoption immediately following the parade.
If you are in the area, do think of adopting a pet that day (or any day!), and definitely lend your cheers and tweets as the float drives by.
And for now, check out the coverage of the float prep from KTLA5
It is a rare occasion when a popular singer/songwriter postpones an international tour to tend to a dying dog, but that is what Fiona Apple did earlier this week. It is so tender and speaks volumes for the kind of person Fiona Apple is. She posted an image of a hand-written note on her Facebook page, apologizing to her fans in Brazil, where she had been scheduled to perform. (See a transcript of it.)
Her dear Pit Bull, Janet, has Addison’s disease and has a tumor as well, and Fiona reported that she is close to death and that she simply couldn’t leave her, as she wrote, “If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.” She also goes on to say that, “Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact.”
She found Janet as a puppy in Echo Park in LA about 13 years ago. Saying she “will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love and friendship,” Fiona said she intended to stay home and bake tilapia for her dog and give her comfort during her last days.
“I need to do my damnedest to be there for that,” she wrote. “Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known. When she dies.”
Our hearts go out to Fiona and we applaud her devotion to her dear Janet.
Dog Coming to the Aid of Neighbors
I just watched this charming video about a wonderful NYC dog named Midnight. The dog, a rescue from hurricane Katrina, lives with musician Riley Fitzsimmons, and together they have worked on the hurricane Sandy relief effort, carrying food and water to those in need. I know that you’ll enjoy seeing this.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Renowned Veterinary Behaviorist has died
The name R.K. Anderson may not be universally known among dog lovers, but his ideas and innovations are. Anderson, who passed away yesterday at the age of 90, has promoted kindness with pets for decades, long before it was fashionable. Mocked as a “cookie pusher” a half century ago for his interest in using food instead of force to train dogs, he continued to work towards gentle treatment of companion animals throughout his career.
Perhaps the best known of his contributions is as co-inventor of the Gentle Leader® head collar, which was meant to be a replacement for choke collars and prong collars. He also helped design the Easy WalkTM harness, which similarly aims to provide people a humane way to control their dogs.
Anderson is also one of the founders of Animal Behavior Resources Institute, which provides education and resources about animal behavior in order to further its goal of improving human-animal relationships and the quality of life for people and animals. His idea to share videos on the internet for educational purposes predates YouTube.
R.K. was always as kind and caring with people as he was with dogs, and everybody loved to be around him for that reason as much as because they could learn from him. Like many other trainers and behaviorists as well as veterinarians, I had some fine conversations with him at conferences and gatherings over the years, and I will miss him.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Controversy is guaranteed
When Michael Vick mentioned over the summer in an interview with Piers Morgan that he would like to have another dog someday, many people reacted with concern and even revulsion. (Vick served 18 months in federal prison on dog fighting charges. He was banned from having a dog during the three years of his probation that followed his release from prison, but that ban expired in July 2012.) Vick told Morgan that he would want another dog for the sake of his children, saying, “I can’t take that dream away from them. That’s selfish on my behalf . . . Got to find a way to make it right.”
Last week, Vick tweeted a picture with the caption “we workin’” of his daughter studying while he reviewed film of a recent game. On the table was a box of dog biscuits, which prompted speculation that he had a dog. Though he retweeted with a different photo and initially refused to talk about it, he has since released a statement through his publicist confirming that his family does, in fact, have a dog. The type, age, and sex of the dog were not revealed.
The statement says, “Our pet is well cared for and loved as a member of our family.” It also states that he will continue to work towards animal welfare and helping promote positive change. He acknowledged that he understands that his decision to have a dog will elicit strong emotions in many people. He has often noted that he knows many people will never forgive him for what he did during the time that he bankrolled and was actively involved in dog fighting. Like a typical statement by celebrity publicists, it comes off as attempt at damage control with the obvious effort to say all the right things.
As in any controversy, there’s more than one side. The perspective supportive of this development is that Vick is legally allowed to be a dog guardian after having paid his debt to society, he is certain to be heavily scrutinized with regard to his dog, and the kids are not paying for the sins of their father with regards to being dogless. The other perspective, the one not supportive of Vick being a dog guardian, is that it’s hard to know if he has changed and will do right by this dog, there is the risk that the dog will be mistreated, and that he seems to have kept it a secret, only slipping up with a photo that showed the biscuits. (Of course, it’s easy to see why he wasn’t eager to ignite more controversy, which could easily explain why he hadn’t gone public before.
I feel uneasy about Vick being a dog guardian, though I desperately hope that it will be a positive experience for the dog as well as his children. How do you feel about it?
Inspired by our own exclusive behind-the-scenes examination of the dogs of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Brian Williams’ “Rock Center” takes up on that story. Watch tonight as all our favorites, Kweli, Ally and Parker (and their humans too), and even more of their office dogs come out for the big time bright lights of TV. See how well everyone clicks into place and why we were so inspired by their humor and harmony. We’ve seen a preview clip so not sure if we’ll get to see Williams’ own dog make an appearance, he is, after all huge dog lover, same with Jon Stewart and his pair of French Bulldogs, hope we get to see them! Watch Rock Center tonight on NBC 10pm/9C. (And, nope, no The Bark there.)
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