Archive for October, 2011

From the LA Times blogs:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans Wednesday to sue Sea World for allegedly violating the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — which bans slavery — by keeping orcas at parks in San Diego and Orlando, Fla., organization officials said Tuesday.

The lawsuit, set to be filed in San Diego federal court, is considered the first of its kind and, if successful, would represent a large enhancement of the animal-rights movement. Part of the lawsuit asserts that it is illegal to artificially inseminate the females and then take away their babies.

Sea World officials dismissed the lawsuit as a publicity stunt. PETA routinely pickets the park on Mission Bay.

The lawsuit seeks the release of three orcas (also called killer whales) from San Diego and two at Orlando. “All five of these orcas were violently seized from the ocean and taken from their families as babies,” said PETA President Ingred Newkirk.

PETA officials note that the 13th Amendment prohibits slavery but does appear to limit the ban only to human beings. “Slavery is slavery,” said PETA general counsel Jeffrey Kerr.

Kasatka, Corky and Ulises are at Sea World San Diego, Tilikum and Katina at Orlando. Tilikum, a six-ton male, grabbed a trainer in February 2010 and dragged her to the bottom, where she drowned.

In a statement, Sea World said that extending constitutional rights to killer whales “is baseless and in many ways offensive” and that “there is no higher priority than the welfare of the animals entrusted to our care.”

My response:  Are you effin’ kiddin’ me? (I didn’t use “effin'”– but you get the idea.)

I’m not a fan of keeping orcas or other cetaceans in captivity, but using the 13th amendment for this purpose is a dangerous precedent.

Allowing orcas to sue under those auspices would essentially create constitutional rights for animals without ever having a vote on it or passing any legislation.

Judicial activism happens all the time– on both sides. For example, it was  reinterpretation of the 14th amendment, which gave full citizenship rights to African American men, that gave corporations full citizenship rights in the US Supreme Court Decision known as Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (1886).

But I’d be very much surprised if this particular case went anywhere.

My guess is the orca slavery suit will be thrown out.

But you never know for sure.

PETA, I’m sure, is just doing this for propaganda purposes.

But it’s terrible waste of our federal court system just so they can use it for publicity.

It also takes away from the possibility of having a ration discussion about orcas in captivity.

When you do stupid things for attention, no one is going to take your arguments seriously.

Hear that, Herman Cain?





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The last 20 seconds or so has the restrictions.

I guess I can’t take the class.




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“The axis today is not liberal and conservative, the axis is constructive-destructive, and you’ve cast your lot with the destructive people. Fox has become an incredibly destructive force in our society.”

— Steve Jobs to Rupert “Dirty Digger” Murdoch.

I must make a little confession:

I own not a single Apple product. (No eye-phone or eye-pad. If I were a pirate, would I need an eye-patch?)

I’ve sold my soul to Bill Gates.

I’ve tried to use the operating system on a Mac, and I’m totally lost.

But that said, I think the axis that Jobs described to Mr. Murdoch is quite accurate.

For those of you who don’t live in the United States, Fox News is a bit like a tabloid cable news channel.  They spend lots of time on celebrities and police chases, but at night, they bring on commentators. Some of them are just entirely engaged in the politics of destruction.

That’s not to say that other news channels don’t have similar personalities on, but it’s just an overriding aspect of Fox News is they want to bludgeon anyone who disagrees with their essential framework.

It’s not really an argument against the conservatism or libertarianism of the network’s commentators. John Stossel does a fine job without engaging in this sort of commentary without trying to destroy other people. It’s just this desire to use sensationalism as a bludgeon against others that I reject.

But what does this have to do with dogs and this blog?

Well, I think that it’s incumbent upon us who want to have a rational discussion about the very real problems affecting dogs to align ourselves with people who are constructive.

Destructive people, even if they superficially appear to be on our side, are never actually on our side. At some point, their desire to destroy others will be aimed at you. Or their zeal to destroy someone will make you guilty by association.

In my earlier years on the blog, I did do a bit of screed writing.

I can get a bit stroppy at times now, especially in the comments, but I’ve decided that it doesn’t require much thinking to write screeds.

Screeds are by nature destructive. They don’t enlighten anyone. Well, let me rephrase that. They do enlighten people, but the nature of the enlightenment is that the writer has more bad temper than good sense.

That’s why I’ve stopped writing mindless screeds against the kennel clubs and the dog fancy. If I’m going to make a critique of those institution, I need to make an effort to make a critique of the “working dog” community. Because the working dog community has the same issues with egotism that results in the overuse of popular sires and the stratification of gene pools. The two groups might be opposed to each other, but they often share more similarities than one might expect.

If my analogy of Fox News is a little hard to take for ideological reason, let me provide an example of the politics of destruction from a different angle.

I think one of the worst practitioners of destruction is Jeremiah Wright. You know, the pastor whose church President Obama attended. Wright may have had some good points about his ministry, but he most famously engaged in rather hate-filled screeds against the United States. Obama has never said anything quite like this, but because he attended the church, he very nearly lost the nomination for president.

The problem is that there are too many Jeremiah Wrights who appear to be on our side.

And if we want to get real reforms in the dog world, we have to win people over to our side.

We do this through logic and reason– although be a little nasty to these people on the other side is sometimes necessary.

But we won’t get there by going into screeds about which breeds we hate and which breeds we want to go extinct. Nor should we allow ourselves to be associated with that kind of destructive nonsense. Even if that person appears to be on our side, that person is not.

It is because of this desire to dissociate myself with that sort of destructive silliness, I wish that I could change the name of this blog without losing my search engine status.

I don’t even have a particularly good name for it.

But just remember this simple axiom:  If you lie down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas.






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Record hits on the blog yesterday

5,682 hits yesterday, beating the previous record of 4,730 hits on March 10, 2010.


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“Still Life with Hunting Dog” by John Archibald Woodside (1833).

Don’t ask me about the breed. It looks like an early Irish setter.

This dog has helped hunt woodcock, a gray squirrel, a wild turkey, bobwhites, rabbits, and grouse.

Americans wanted their gun dogs to be versatile– at least at the beginning!

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From Science Daily:

Changes in North American ecosystems over the past 150 years have caused coyotes to move from their native habitats in the plains and southwestern deserts of North America to habitats throughout the United States. In a new study, published Oct. 17 in the Journal of Mammalogy, researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics used DNA from coyote scat (feces) to trace the route that led some of the animals to colonize in Northern Virginia. The researchers also confirmed that, along the way, the coyotes interbred with the native Great Lakes wolves.

According to the study, coyotes migrated eastward via two main routes — one that went through the northern United States, and one that went through the south. Using DNA samples, the researchers found that Virginian coyotes were most closely related to coyote populations in western New York and Pennsylvania. It appears the northern trekkers eventually encountered the Great Lakes wolves and interbred before converging again on the East Coast. They then gradually headed south along the Appalachian Mountains toward what is considered the Mid-Atlantic region, to an area centered around Virginia.

“The Mid-Atlantic region is a particularly interesting place because it appears to mark a convergence in northern and southern waves of coyote expansion,” said Christine Bozarth, an SCBI research fellow and lead author on the paper. “I like to call it the Mid-Atlantic melting pot.”

Bozarth and her colleagues collected scat samples in Northern Virginia from local coyote populations. They were then able to extract DNA from the intestinal cells in the scat and compare it to the DNA from preserved historic wolf specimens that had lived in the Great Lakes region before coyotes colonized the area. They shared some of the same genes, supporting the hybridization theory. Hybridization between canid species usually occurs when one species is rare. Those individuals may have trouble finding mates and therefore breed instead with closely related species.

“This does not mean that we have massive, wolf-like coyotes roaming around here in Virginia,” Bozarth said. “Coyotes with wolf ancestry have differently shaped jaws, which may allow them to fill different ecological niches. They tend to hunt small prey and scavenge large game, so hybrid coyotes might be helpful in controlling the overly abundant deer population.”

While coyote populations have been expanding, wolf populations have become endangered. Hybridization with coyotes is now a major threat to the recovery of wolves.

“For the past decade, our lab has developed and used noninvasive techniques to monitor and survey rare and endangered species in various regions of the world and in this study, we were able to show that noninvasive techniques can also be an effective tool for tracking the origins and movement patterns of this elusive canid,” Jesús Maldonado, SCBI research geneticist and paper co-author. “The admixed coyotes have also been found further south, into North Carolina, which brings the hybridized coyote into the range of the critically endangered red wolf, further complicating the issue.”

The study’s authors from SCBI are Bozarth, Maldonado and Frank Hailer (now a postdoctoral researcher at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Center in Frankfurt, Germany). Bozarth is currently an assistant professor in the science, technology and business division at Northern Virginia Community College. The additional authors are Larry Rockwood and Cody Edwards from the department of environmental science and policy at George Mason University.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute plays a key role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to understand and conserve species and train future generations of conservationists. Headquartered in Front Royal, Va., SCBI facilitates and promotes research programs based at Front Royal, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide.

Modern coyotes in the Virginia derive from Western coyotes that came through the Great Lakes region, which hybridized with Great Lakes wolves.

I’ve always suspected that the local coyotes in West Virginia came through this route, because I was reading of coyotes in Ohio and Pennsylvania several years before they became very common here. Even though they have been here in limited numbers all of my life, they are now much more common.

Yes, these Eastern coyotes can hunt deer more easily than their relatively diminutive Western ancestors, but it isn’t clear if this larger size and more powerful jaws results from hybridization or is something that has evolved as coyotes have colonized the East, where there were no wolves as competitors.

The large wolf subspecies that everyone knows evolved from a smaller wolf, Canis mosbachensis.  It was basically a coyote-like wolf.

Mark Derr, in How the Dog Became the Dog, suggests that Canis mosbachensis remained small because the wolf-like niche in Eurasia was occupied by Xenocyon lycaonoides, also known as the big, bad African wolf.  For whatever reason, Xenocyon’s range, which once included almost all of Eurasia and Africa, became reduced to a solely African distribution, where Xenocyon evolved into the present-day African wild dog (Lycaon pictus).  Derr thinks something similar might be happening with coyotes in the East, and it may have happened whether they received a genetic contribution from wolves or not.


I’m not concerned about the red wolf. The so-called red wolf is actually an Eastern coyote with some admixture of wolf, which is exactly what the naturally expanding Eastern coyote is. The only difference is there was a selection for wolf phenotype in the Eastern coyotes of Louisiana and Eastern Texas. These were declared to be Red wolves, but they are nothing more than an Eastern coyote with wolf ancestry that possesses more of a wolfish phenotype. This hybridization has largely occurred since colonization. The red wolves all date to hybridization within the past two hundred years.


How the Dog Became the Dog comes out Thursday. Look for a review and analysis on Thursday  Friday Saturday.

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