Archive for the ‘animal welfare’ Category


I don’t know what the controversy is– unless you think it’s okay to celebrate dogs with health problems.

I think it’s very good at stopping the cognitive dissonance that you often hear from certain show people.

Like this:


For the future of dog showing and dog breeding, would you rather have people like David Cavill speaking for you or a proactive Kennel Club that takes health and welfare very seriously?


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Gr. Ch. Palacegarden Malachy won this year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. He is a testament to how flexible dog DNA actually is, but he also testament to how bizarrely cruel man actually is to animals he claims to love.

Malachy was the  twelfth century Archbishop of Armagh, who had a vision in which he claimed to have seen the identity of the next 112 popes.

For that vision and from some miracles attributed to him, he was canonized as St. Malachy.

Ah but today we have a new Malachy who is ever bit as feted for his achievements at that Medieval Irish bishop.

Of course, I am talking about the 2012 Best in Show winner at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Malachy’s registered name is Gr. Ch. Palacegarden Malachy, and to honest with you, I am more than somewhat dismayed at this dog’s success.

That’s because contrary to what everyone tells you. Malachy is not a good example of the breed at all– if you bother to read the actual breed standard.

This is what the AKC standard, which he was being judged against, says about coat:

It is a long, coarse-textured, straight, stand-off outer coat, with thick, soft undercoat. The coat forms a noticeable mane on the neck and shoulder area with the coat on the remainder of the body somewhat shorter in length. A long and profuse coat is desirable providing it does not obscure the shape of the body. Long feathering is found on toes, backs of the thighs and forelegs, with longer fringing on the ears and tail.

I guess the breed judges have been ignoring the line about the coat not obscuring the shape of the body for a long time now. I’ve watched a lot of dog shows, and nearly every peke in those shows has looked like something that a very large cat has hawked up.

But because they are judges and they all know better than us, it’s okay to ignore the breed standard when it’s convenient.

Of course, as a dog, he’s a terrible example of his species.

One merely has to watch him walk. Here he is at a dog show in Georgia:


You can tell by the way he uses his walk that he can’t walk.

He wobbles around.

That’s because pekingeses are extreme achondroplastic dwarfs, and unlike virtually every other dwarf breed in existence today, they are required to have a massive head and extremely heavy bone. In essence, they are bulldogs that are trying to be extremely long-haired dachshunds.

And in terms of brachycephaly, they totally surpass the bulldog for extremism.

I noticed that Malachy was carried to the ring last night. He walked very little, and the judge even made a special allowance for him so that he would go last and not have to walk as far as the other dogs when his gait was being judged.

And when he wond Best in Show, he was brought before the cameras panting heavily.

As I’ve noted time and again on this blog, brachycephaly– short muzzles– are extremely deleterious for dogs. The issue they have is that they have about the same amount of soft palate  as a normally muzzled dog, but it’s so scrunched up in that short muzzle that the soft palate always obstructs the airways in some fashion. In the worst cases, vets pare back that soft palate under anesthesia to give the dog a relatively unobstructed breathing. This exact procedure was performed on the Best in Show winning peke from 2003. It was attacked as a facelift in the media, but it was actually a procedure to remove some soft palate tissue to open up his airways. A facelift would have been against Kennel Club rules, but this procedure is okay— even if breeding for such short muzzles is the cause for these problems in the first place!

Now, dogs don’t just breathe through their airways. Their airways are their cooling system. When a dog pants, it passes air over the mucus membranes, causing evaporation. This causes the moisture on the mucus membranes to evaporate, which cools the dog.

If you create a dog in which the airways are blocked in any way, its ability to cool itself will be hampered.

And it’s not just the soft palate issue that causes problems for these dogs. Their tracheas are scrunched up in the back of their throats and are often smaller than normal, and their nostrils are often smaller.

All of these issues hamper the dog’s breathing and cooling system.

These dogs cannot live normal lives.  They can’t handle any heat, and I’ve actually read that the only time these dogs are as fully oxygenated as they should be is when they go under anesthesia and a breathing tube is placed down their tracheas.

Now, Malachy might have a nice life. He doesn’t have do much, and I’m sure he’s a well-socialized little dog who is loved and cherished.

But he has been bred to meet a breed standard that requires him to have a body that is totally dysfunctional.

If one were to put a collar on a dog that cause its airways to be as restricted as much as peke’s already are, one would likely be in violation of animal cruelty laws.

But because celebrated “ethical” breeders produce these dogs according to “the standard,” no one says a word.

There’s also a lot of cognitive dissonance in Pekingeses because they didn’t always look like this.

This breed was kept in the Forbidden City as the beloved family pets of Chinese royalty. The first of this breed ever to be seen in the West were stolen from the Imperial Summer Palace during the Second Opium War in 1860.

The dogs then were gradually smuggled out of China over the next 30 years.

The dogs from the Second Opium War were the basis for the Goodwood line of Pekingeses in the West. Here are some Goodwood pekes from an 1899 edition of Country Life Illustrated. They don’t look anything like Malachy.

(Source for image)

One might find dogs like these in pet lines of Pekingeses, but you’ll never see one winning a major dog show.

These dogs certainly were short-muzzled, but they weren’t so extremely short in the muzzle that they couldn’t breathe or cool themselves effectively.

Now, some may call me to task for attacking established practices in the dog fancy.

I’ll be called an animal rights fanatic– PETA member, a communist, an asshole, whatever.

But I can tell you that celebrating dogs like Malachy in the show ring is doing nothing to stop the real animal rights radicals from totally destroying domestic dog ownership.

That’s because they do have a point here.

Facts are on their side.

Now, you can deny facts all you want, but if the facts show that breeding dogs like these does result in welfare and health problems, your denialism winds up giving the animal rights radicals more ammunition.

And if you are not careful, we will see the passage of laws that will change the breed standards for you.

You don’t want that.

Trust me.

Because Austria is in the process of implementing laws that prevent breeders from breeding certain phenotypes, and these laws don’t paint with a narrow brush at all. They go after any potential conformation issue that might cause even a minor health problem, including blue dilute alopecia.  Yes, in Austria, it may soon be illegal to breed blue dobermans.

These laws are called Qualzucht laws. Qualzucht means “torture breeding” in German, and they were passed to prevent breeders from producing dogs with phenotypes that are associated with health and welfare issues.

If  dog breeders continue to celebrate dogs like Malachy and deny that there are any problems with producing dogs like him, they will continue to feed the animal rights monster.

I don’t see Malachy as the winner of Westminster. I see Qualzucht as the real winner here.

And it’s a spectacle that should give everyone interested in dogs a certain amount of discomfort.

Because what we’re seeing before us is a great moral travesty, but more and  more people are waking up to the very real problems that come from breeding for exaggerated conformation.

It will take much more than that before things really change.

But they will change– whether the fancy realizes it or not.

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The Norwegian lundehund will be making its debut at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this year.

This breed is a surviving artifact of the cultures along the coast of Norway that relied very much upon nesting seabirds as a source of protein. Various pelagic birds nest in vast rookeries throughout the North Altantic, and for a few weeks out of the year, a great bounty can be had simply through stealing eggs and killing both adult birds and chicks.

Among the birds that these Norwegian coastal villages hunted was the Atlantic puffin. Puffins nest in deep crevices and tunnels that are protected by sea cliffs. In this way, they can avoid most predators that might be stalking around their nests. Puffins were good to eat, and their very soft and very dense down was quite valuable.  Thus, there was a very strong market incentive to catch puffins when they came ashore to nest.

The Norwegians began to adapt dogs for the task of making it easier to raid puffin nest. The small farmers on the coast of Norway had sheep dogs with prick-ears that were quite good at the task, and these same dogs were used for raiding puffin nests in Iceland.

The Norwegians called their dog the lundehund or “puffin dog.”

The Icelandic sheepdog and the dog we call the lundehund today are quite closely related, and the ancestors of the Icelandic sheepdog definitely were used in raiding puffin nests. Icelandic sheepdogs today often have double dewclaws on their hind legs, and I believe they are one of the few breeds that must have dewclaws on the back and hind legs.

Dogs of this type were found in parts of western Norway and in Iceland for hundreds of years, but then the bulk of the population in Norway became extinct. The puffin colonies themselves began to decline as a result of over harvest, and the Norwegian farmers began to use buhunds and imported herding dogs to handle their sheep and cows.

The only remaining puffin dogs were on the island of Lofoten, and there, they could only be found in a little village called Måstad.

As a landrace, they were reduced to relict population.

However, the dogs in Lofoten had some unique traits that made them really distinctive.  They were virtually all polydactyl– usually averaging six toes per foot. They were also unusually flexible for a dog. These traits have all been suggested to give the dog some advantage in climbing up steep cliffs and wedging itself into puffin burrows. And there may be some truth to these suggestions. I just haven’t seen them confirmed in a real world situation or with any empirical analysis.

The puffin dogs continued on in obscurity until the Second World War. That’s when tragedy struck . Norway was occupied by the Nazis, and a distemper epidemic swept the islands. Because the nation was deeply embroiled in war, they were unable to attend to things like conservation breeding. The puffin dog numbers were able to recover somewhat, but then in 1963, distemper hit the islands again. Perhaps because these dogs were so isolated that they had no regular exposure to the disease, or maybe their lack of resistance to the disease came from them developing very homozygous MHC haplotypes from their earlier genetic bottleneck. Whatever it was, distemper destroyed them, leaving behind only six dogs– five of which were from the same parents.

All lundehunds today descend from these six dogs. I have not encountered any evidence that these six dogs were outcrossed to other breeds at all, though they may have been.

But what is clear is that all the lundehunds living today exist within a closed registry system, and as a result of being derived from such a small number of founders, every single one of them has the genetic basis for developing what is called Lundehund Syndrome, a series of gastrointestinal issues that at  in an advanced state prevent the absorption of nutrients and results in the slow and agonizing death of the dog. And at their absolute worst, may produce intestinal cancer. The average lifespan of this breed is in the 7 year range, which is about half of what it should be.

This breed is getting a lot of PR right now. It is just making its way to Westminster, where the often foolish media makes a big deal about its multiple toes– as if that were the breed’s only issue worth discussing.

The fact is this breed should never have been allowed to exist in a closed registry system anywhere– much less the AKC. We have a 100 percent saturation with the gene or genes that cause these gastrointestinal issues, and the only way ever to solve them is to outcross.

And the Icelandic sheepdog is a pretty good choice for an outcross. The two dogs were likely the same breed for hundreds of years, and they do have many traits in common.

But having a serious discussion about outcrossing with many people in these breeds is a bit like pulling teeth.

Maybe I don’t understand the theology that says lundehunds are better off as closed registry show dogs, but my logic and reason in the reality-based world says this is one of the worst breeds ever admitted to the AKC. It might be the worst.

This dog needs help that only an entities outside the closed registry system can provide, but now, it has been consumed by the mother of all closed registry systems. This isn’t worming the cat with arsenic. This is worming the cat by running him over with a pick-up truck.

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Too many dog rescue organizations have too many selective criteria and too many rules to be effective animal adoption organizations.

The demand for domestic dogs continues to grow.

Even in the light of the recession and “slow recovery,” more people want dogs than ever before.

And because more people really want dogs, the people who are offering them can afford to be more selective.

Now, it’s well-known that it can be difficult to get a high quality dog off a breeder. Breeders want to have some control over their lines, and they also do care about the long-term welfare of their puppies.

But really, I don’t know of any breeder of any kind of purebred dog who is quite like the dog foster and rescue crowd.

One can throw fits about how breeders demand that all puppies they sell be spayed or neutered, but breeders, although they probably won’t admit it, understand that they have to market their puppies in some way. That’s really what dog shows and trials and tests are about. They do show the dog meets some objective standard– even if we can quibble about the standard. But it’s still a very good marketing tool.

Many dog rescue people have never heard of that word marketing in relation to domestic dogs, and if you suggest it, get ready to have your head bitten off.

That’s because dog rescuers are rescuers. And that in itself is an entirely different mentality.

Now, not all dog rescuers are like this, and if you aren’t like this, I’m not writing about you.

But some dog rescuers are just nutty about the requirements they have for potential adopters.

Emily Yoffe of Slate Magazine writes about these bizarre criteria that rescuers set up in an article called “No Pet for You.” 

In the article, Joffe describes her attempt to get a second rescue dog, but these attempts were only thwarted by the absolute nuttiness of the criteria that various rescue organizations create to keep “wrong people” from getting their animals:

When my family decided to get a second rescue dog, I felt it was my job to prove to the groups we contacted that I wasn’t a vivisectionist. Fed up, we decided to buy a puppy and found a lovely breeder, and our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lily, has made us all ecstatic.

After I wrote this, I expected to be skinned alive by animal lovers. Instead, dozens of people posted comments about their own humiliation and rejection at the hands of these gatekeepers.

And gatekeepers they are.

Because here is a sampling of the responses Yoffe received on her initial piece:

Katie wrote that she wanted to adopt a retired racing greyhound but was told she was not eligible unless she already had an adopted greyhound. Julie got a no from a cat rescue because she was over 60 years old, even though her daughter promised to take in the cat if something happened to Julie. Jen Doe said her boyfriend’s family lives on fenced farm property with sheep, but they weren’t allowed to adopt a border collie—whose raison d’être is herding sheep—because the group insisted it never be allowed off-leash. [A border collie that is never allowed off-leash is going to be a barmy thing that no one could possibly want!] Philip was rejected because he said he allowed the dog he had to sleep wherever it liked; the right answer was to have a designated sleeping area. Molly, who has rescued Great Danes for more than 30 years, was refused by a Great Dane group because of “concern about my kitchen floor.”

Yoffe then describes the story of how a friend of hers was forced to go to Bernese mountain dog breeder after a bad experience with a rescue organization:

My friend M., who looked into getting a family dog when her children were 6 and 9, had a similarly vexing experience. After she and her husband decided rescue was the right thing to do, they looked online and found a mutt named Rusty. Rusty’s rescue group was having an adoption day and the family made the long drive to see him. Adopters were told not to mingle with the animals, but that specific dogs would be brought to them. While Rusty was otherwise engaged, M. asked if they could look at some of the other dogs but almost all were declared not suitable for children. As the family waited, the children sat on the ground and started writing in the dirt with sticks. A volunteer came over, alarmed. He reprimanded them, saying that if a dog sees a stick in a person’s hand it will expect that stick to be thrown, and it’s not fair to frustrate a dog.

Eventually, Rusty was brought over. He was a little hyper but everyone agreed he was fine. M. told the rescue group they wanted him, and when the family returned home they started buying dog supplies. But a call from the group aborted their plans. “We had a report about inappropriate behavior by your children,” M. was told, which meant they would not be allowed to adopt. M. and her husband were astounded and the children were crushed. “We still really wanted a dog, so we did the wrong thing and went to a breeder,” M. says. They bought a Bernese Mountain Dog who basks in constant attention from M. and her husband, who both work at home. “He loves his life,” she says. “Too bad for Rusty.”

Yoffe thinks that a lot of this control-freakishness over adopters of rescued dogs comes from a general aversion to human and what humans tend to do to animals.

Let’s posit that many people who are drawn to humane work don’t have a particularly positive view of humanity. This natural aversion is exacerbated by years of helping abandoned, abused, and neglected animals, which means seeing the worst people do to innocent creatures. Unfortunately, a subset of these people who dislike people have become like admissions officers at selective colleges, rejecting applicants who don’t fit an ideal template.

Of course, that’s certainly the case.

But another part of it is the puffed up ego.  There is a certain mentality that many rescuers have– it’s the messiah complex. I’m saving this dog from a terrible situation, and only someone who has exactly my values can have it.

It’s exactly the same mentality one see on those shows about animal hoarders. How many of those people firmly believe that only they can provide the animals with the homes they need?

It’s really the same mentality– just a softer version of it.

And sometimes not so soft. Yoffe writes about a woman who rescues parrots and other caged birds, who has dozens of birds in her home that she has rescued. She refuses to adopt any out, even though she’s a member of a rescue organization.

The whole process is driving more and more people to go to breeders.

Anyone who gets to this question on one group’s application—“Do you plan to tie or chain the dog out at anytime?”—should know the answer is “never.” (I agree that dogs shouldn’t be chained outside). And you should know that the answer to this inquiry—“Have you ever had a cat declawed? Will you be declawing your new cat?”—is, “I would rip out my own fingernails with a pliers before declawing a cat.”

But other questions are conundrums. If you think having a dog would be great for your kids, or that your personal reproductive plans are not the business of strangers, then consider how to answer this question from a Labrador rescue group: “Are you considering having children within 10 years?” And who knows what number is disqualifying when answering this one: “How many steps are there to reach your front door?”

Ari Schwartz, a business development manager from Tarrytown, N.Y., and his wife, Lisa, a medical student, ran up against these Jeopardy-like quizzes when they went looking for a shelter dog. After filling out a multi-page online application from a local group, they got a follow-up phone call from a representative who noted they hadn’t given the name of their veterinarian. That was because the couple didn’t have a dog, Lisa replied. In Joseph Heller-esque fashion, the rep said that in order to adopt, a referral from a veterinarian was necessary. The representative went on to note the group preferred that one owner be home full-time. They also didn’t like to give dogs to people who lived in apartments, like the Schwartzes. The couple was told to get a cat. “My wife is deadly allergic to cats,” Ari notes. So—surprise!—they decided to go to a breeder. They now have a Shiba Inu named Tofu. “We absolutely love him,” Ari says.

If an applicant manages to get approved, the adoption papers should be read carefully before signing. It turns out the contract often specifies the adopter is not the actual owner of the animal. Sure you’re responsible for the pet’s food, shelter, training, and veterinary care, but the organization might retain “superior title in said animal.” This means the group can drop in unannounced at any time for the rest of your pet’s life and seize Fluffy if it doesn’t like what it sees.

Many adoption agreements also have a provision mandating that if things don’t work out with the pet, you must return it to the group rather than find it another home. Let’s call this the Ellen DeGeneres clause. The comedian adopted a Brussels Griffon named Iggy that just couldn’t get along with her cats. DeGeneres gave it to her hairdresser, who has two daughters, then aged 11 and 12, and Iggy basked in the love fest. Then someone from the group called to check in with DeGeneres on how Iggy was doing. She told them about the new arrangement. Not only was DeGeneres in breach of contract, the group didn’t want Iggy living with any children under age 14. They confiscated the dog.

So dog rescue has become crazy land.

There are several people in the rescue community who think things have gotten totally out of hand:

There are people in the rescue community who are aware that zealotry is damaging their cause. (The ASPCA sided with DeGeneres in her dispute). After all, since fewer than 20 percent of new pets come from rescue groups, driving down that proportion is self-defeating. Jane Hoffman is the president of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, the organization that transports potential pets from animal control to private groups and provides training and other services. “You have two ends of the spectrum,” she says. “Pet stores will sell to anyone with the money. And then there are rescue group who won’t adopt to anyone. We need a happy medium.”

Hoffman, whose organization works to smooth out the adoption process, acknowledges that the attitude of a lot of rescue groups is to “try to screen out people.” She understands the psychology of these wary rescuers. These are people, she points out, who save animals from dreadful situations: wandering lost on the street, facing euthanasia in a kill shelter, being removed from a “skank” owner. “They put in a lot of time and effort and love this dog or cat back to health,” she says. “Some get a little overcautious and are so afraid to make the wrong choice. So they err on the side of rejecting what would be a perfectly good home.”

Even guinea pig rescue has some nuttiness:

My former Slate colleague Jack Shafer, now a Reuters columnist, is allergic to cats and dogs. But he and his wife, Nicole Arthur, have two young animal-loving daughters, so they settled on rodents. Nicole didn’t want to support the guinea pig breeding industry, so she applied to a guinea pig rescue. The girls spent hours looking at the group’s website and their 8-year-old fell in love with a guinea pig that was supposed to be at an adoption event. But when the family got there the guinea pig in question was absent because of illness. The girl wept, but her parents consoled her and said there were many wonderful guinea pigs that needed homes. After the event the family awaited word on when to get their pets. But the word that came was that the family was unfit, because it was clear to the rescuers that the pets were for the girls, and the group didn’t adopt animals for the sake of children. Shafer says, “My question is, what adult wants a guinea pig? Of course they’re for the children!”

So off the family went to the pet store and home they came with Nibbles and Snowflake. They eat lovingly chopped produce and contentedly sit on the girls’ laps. Shafer’s analysis of the guinea pig saviors is unfortunately true of many animal rescuers. “They are trying to do something good,” he says, “and they end up doing something bad.”

Now, that’s pretty bad.

I think virtually all rescuers are into rescue for the right reasons, but unfortunately, too many of them can’t leave their egos at the door.

The point of rescue organization is to find homes for animals.

It’s not to judge other people. It’s not self-aggrandizement.

It’s to find a place for dogs that people might want.

And to do that, we have to accept that different people have different lifestyles.

Some people live way out in the sticks and don’t have to worry about leash laws.  Indeed, I think it almost borders on cruelty for anyone to keep a dog either confined to a yard or on a leash for its entire life– especially if it is from a large, active breed.

Now, I might quibble a bit with Yoffe’s desire to let her cats outside.

That’s not because of cat welfare, though. It’s because cats destroy native wildlife when they are let outside unsupervised.

Yoffe has raised an important issue– one that must be addressed if dog rescue is ever going to last.

If the dog rescuers won’t let people have access to their rescued animals, then they will go to breeders.

The demand is that high.

So if they actually want people to adopt animals, they need to find ways to make the process easier and far less selective.

Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels with the people with the soft hoarder mentality.


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Freak pug

Everyone needs a dog with no muzzle!


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Thanks to Chris Miele for sending this one along:


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From the BBC:

Zoo biologists use genetic analysis, demographic statistics and keen familiarity to plan the sex lives of their charges. Their goal is to avoid inbreeding and produce healthy offspring, but sometimes, even the best scientists and most attentive zoo-keepers cannot prevent a tragedy.

The couple seemed like a good pair.

Already sporting a distinguished coat of grey fur at the age of 22, he was a stout, hale and hearty father of a young son.

She was a bit younger – 16 – but those who knew her thought she was ready for motherhood.

And crucially, the computer analysis showed they did not share any recent ancestors, making them a good genetic match.

So, in a Chicago love story, zoo-keepers brought together Kwan, a male silverback western lowland gorilla, and Bana, a demure female. They hit it off, and on 16 November, Bana gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

“Kwan did a really great job,” said Maureen Leahy, curator of primates at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, in an interview shortly before the birth.

“This romance and match has actually paid off.”

The pairing of Kwan and Bana was the product of a sophisticated breeding plan devised by a team of biologists to ensure the future genetic health of the US gorilla population.

The western lowland gorillas are just one of more than 300 species of animals in zoos across the US whose sex lives are carefully managed by the Population Management Center at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Species specialists play matchmaker to anteaters, okapis, hyacinth macaws and many others, with more than 80,000 individual critters subject to their plans.

It’s similar to internet dating, said Sarah Long, the centre’s director.

“We use computers and databases to get a male and female together – and sometimes produce offspring,” she said.

“We’re not getting new founders… wild-born animals. Now zoos are more focused on preserving what we have.”

The computer software they use weighs the pedigree of the males and females, in some cases all the way back to the wild, to determine whether they are a good genetic match.

Ideally, they want two animals whose ancestors’ genes are scarce among the population – that is, they have few relatives living in US zoos.

Other factors include the ages of the possible mates and the distance between them, and whether a zoo has the resources to feed and care for another one.

“We’ll look at that giraffe’s age. Is she valuable or not?” Ms Long said.

“Do we want her to breed? Is she the reproductive age? Is there a male out there who she could breed with that’s equally valuable? Is he the right age?”

Last year, Bana was living at a zoo in Brookfield, Illinois, about 20 miles away.

Fifty-two zoos across the country held 342 western lowland gorillas.

But Kwan was sexually and socially mature – and nearby.

The zoo keepers thought Bana would fit into the “sisterhood” of female gorillas already living with Kwan and his six-year-old son Amare.

With the match made, Bana arrived at the Lincoln Park Zoo in a climate-controlled van.

She and Kwan were introduced and a flirtation commenced, with Bana staring longingly at Kwan, throwing him her bedroom eyes for as much as an hour at a time.

“We actually kept her on oral contraceptives to make sure that she was socially established within the group before she got pregnant,” she said.

Even while she was on the pill, she would go into heat and the pair would “solicit each other for breeding”, Ms Leahy said.

Meanwhile, Bana settled into her role as a low-ranking female in the social group. That often meant keeping her distance from Kwan, who as the silverback stood at the top of the social hierarchy.

Eventually, the zoo-keepers decided Bana was ready to be a mum and took her off the pill.

After the infant was born, she thrived and met her milestones for growth, and Bana quickly learned to nurse.

Her social status rose, and she began to eat together with Kwan, who recognised the infant as his own and protected her when other gorillas played nearby.

Even the other juvenile gorillas were curious about the new arrival, Ms Leahy said.

But then, early on the morning of 25 November, zoo-keepers noticed the infant appeared listless in Bana’s arms, and soon after, they realised she had died in the night.

A subsequent investigation shows she perished of a skull fracture, but zoo-keepers are adamant she did not suffer violence.

A necropsy showed no other wounds, no pulled-out hair, no scratches or bruises, and the infant was otherwise completely healthy.

“This was very accidental,” Ms Leahy said.

And Ms Leahy says the infant’s death does nothing to make the population planners think Bana’s match with Kwan was made in error.

“Bana was demonstrating completely appropriate mothering behaviour and the social group itself was demonstrating completely appropriate behaviour [toward] a new infant,” she said, “those were marks of success, in my book.”

For now, the gorillas seem to be in mourning.

“The group as a whole definitely recognised the loss of this infant,” Ms Leahy said.

“There was a lot of gentle nuzzling and touching [from] some of the females that wouldn’t otherwise necessarily interact with Bana. The whole group really attended to her for several days after the infant was gone. Behaviourally, the group was a bit subdued.”

Kwan and Bana have been spending time together, and Ms Leahy hopes the story will have a happy ending.

“We will continue to maintain her breeding recommendation,” she said. In other words: “We’re going to continue to let nature take its course.”

Most of the animals kept in zoos– even those that aren’t endangered in the wild– have issues with genetic diversity.

Even with animals that have proven relatively easy to breed in captivity, pnly certain percentage of wild-caught individuals will breed in captivity.

Being able to breed in captivity is a major selection pressure on zoo animals, and it certainly was a major selection pressure on the animals we domesticated.

To complicate matters even more, many species that are kept in captivity are derived from a very small founding population. There are often just a few lines of different species that are held worldwide.

That means that zoos have to work hard to maintain healthy populations.

As a population, domestic dogs have a lot of genetic diversity, but dog breeders and the institutionalized dog fancy have decided to squander as much of it as possible.

Could you imagine what would happen if zoos got into breeding animals for competition?

It would be a disaster.

You’ll note that zoos work together to maintain genetic diversity.

The dog fancy is far from that collaborative.

Yes, breeders will work together, but the system rewards individual achievement.

One gets rewarded for having the best conformed dog or the one that has produced the most champion.

You don’t get rewards for having the healthiest, most genetically sustainable breeds.

In fact, you wouldn’t be able to get rewarded. It would have to be a collective effort that was sustained over many decades.

That’s so boring.

And you can’t make a game out of it.


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Killing a wounded deer that will likely die a horrible death during the winter makes one a “cruel bastard.”

But it’s okay if you let your dogs maim the deer– which means the keepers– “the cruel bastards”– have to kill the ones the dogs wounded.

Makes perfect sense to me!

This problem could be solved if the policy was that all dogs on the property were required to either be on a leash or under control.

NB:  Stags are male red deer. Fallow deer and roe deer males are called bucks. This animal rights person doesn’t even know the proper nomenclature.

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They will have the right to bear arms.

This is what happens when you give a chimp a gun:


(From Rise of the Planet of the Apes.)

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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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