Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Large and Small for 10/25: Halloween Pet Safety Tips, Adopting Black Cats at Halloween, Gay Marriage in the Animal Kingdom, Animal Populations Falling

Large and Small for 10/25: Halloween Pet Safety Tips, Adopting Black Cats at Halloween, Gay Marriage in the Animal Kingdom, Animal Populations Falling Fast, Seabed Microbe May Curb Global Warming, and Religion Expands its Role in Global Warming

With Halloween just around the corner, I wanted to share the following tips for pet owners everywhere:
Halloween's traditions of candy, costumes and trick-or-treating can be a potentially dangerous and distressing time for pets, warns the Ontario SPCA. Extra caution should be taken to protect pets from Halloween hazards, including keeping pets safely indoors to shelter them from children's "pranks" or other cruelty-related incidents - particularly black cats, the most frequent victims of abuse at Halloween.

Other precautions the Ontario SPCA recommends to help keep pets safe this Halloween include:

Ensure your pets are wearing collars with ID tags. If for any reason they escape and become lost there is a greater chance they will be returned to you if they are clearly identified with a tag, ideally combined with a microchip. For many pets the best way to spend Halloween is resting in a secure area within the house with a favourite toy, comfortable bedding and soothing music, where they won't have a chance to be spooked by strangers and dart outdoors.

Use decorations, such as pumpkins, fake cobwebs and decorative corn with caution. If ingested, many decorations can cause your pet gastrointestinal upset and even result in intestinal blockage. Lighted pumpkins or standing candles pose an additional risk. Pets, especially curious kittens, may knock candles over, cause a fire and/or get burned. Move electric lights, wires and cords or liquid potpourri beyond your pet's reach. If electric cords or lights are chewed, pets can receive a life-threatening electrical shock or damage their mouth from shards of glass; and exposure to both heated and cool liquid potpourri product can result in severe damage to the skin, mouth and eyes.

Keep candy out of your pet's reach. Chocolate, depending on the amount ingested, can be toxic to many animals including dogs, cats and ferrets. Generally the less sweet the chocolate the more dangerous it could be. In fact, as little as ¼ ounce of baking chocolate can cause diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate in a 10-pound dog. As well, if candies or gum containing the sweetener xylitol are ingested in large quantities it can produce a sudden drop in blood sugar for pets, resulting in depression, incoordination and seizures.

Keep candy wrappers away from pets. If ingested, aluminum foil and cellophane candy wrappers can cause vomiting and produce intestinal blockage.

Maintain your pet's normal diet and prevent access to alcoholic beverages. Even changing you pet's diet for one meal can give your cat or dog severe indigestion and diarrhea, and alcohol ingestion can cause your pet to become very ill and weak - and may even cause your pet to go into a coma or to suffer respiratory failure.

Don't dress your pet in a costume unless you know he (or she) enjoys it. Confining costumes can cause stress and injury to pets if it restricts their movement, hearing or ability to breath, bark or see, and small or dangling pieces may be chewed off and cause choking or intestinal obstruction. Never leave your costumed pets unsupervised.

"While Halloween is a time of fun and excitement for kids and adults, it can be distressing and potentially dangerous for our pets," says Keri Semenko, Acting Director of Animal Sheltering and Wildlife Services for the Ontario SPCA. "Far too often the Ontario SPCA hears stories of animals being abused or exposed to avoidable dangers at Halloween. Keep your pets secure and safe inside the home, choose decorations with caution, and explain to children why they shouldn't share their treats with pets. With a little caution Halloween can be a safe and enjoyable holiday for everyone."

Members of the public are urged to report anything suspicious related to animals to their local Ontario SPCA branch or affiliated humane society. Cruelty to animals is a crime and abuse causing pain and suffering should not be dismissed as a prank.

If you suspect your pet may have ingested a toxic product or substance contact your local veterinary clinic immediately.


A commonly-known issue in rescue group circles is that of black cat adoptions: they lag behind almost every other animal in adoption rates, mostly because of the stupid superstitions that revolve around them. Some places go so far as to put a ban in place on their adoptions on Friday the 13ths or around Halloween. That’s why it’s encouraging to see the San Mateo, California Animal Shelter encouraging adoptions of the cats during this period:
There are superstitious souls who fear black cats are bad luck.

And there are well-meaning souls who worry that people are particularly cruel to the dusky critters around Halloween.

Some humane agencies go so far as to ban adoption of black cats close to the holiday to prevent them from becoming haunted house props or targets of teenage pranks.

But the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA is encouraging people to adopt the agency's 16 or so black cats near Halloween. It's hard to find homes for them during the rest of the year.

``It's just perplexing to shelter workers across the country -- black cats and dogs stay longer in the shelter than light-colored ones,'' said PHS spokesman Scott Delucchi. ``No one knows exactly why.''

The Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals plans a one-week moratorium on black cat adoptions starting Wednesday.

``We've seen all kinds. Sometimes people see a dead animal and just assume it was a satanic cult,'' said SPCA LA President Madeline Bernstein. ``Sometimes it's a cat that's been eaten by a coyote.''

Other times, she said, the agency has heard reports from police of ritual or mock-ritual killings of black cats at Halloween. Corroborating those accounts, however, is difficult.
Bernstein said commercial haunted houses will pick up a cat from a city shelter for about $30 and dump it when business stops.

“When you look at the follow-up after the holiday and you look at the number of cats that are returned,” she said, “you realize you can be a little bit prophylactic.”

Delucchi said local stories of black cat abuse appear to be tall tales, and worries of mass abandonment after Halloween are equally overblown.

“I don't know that it's really based on anything except fear,'' he said. ``In San Mateo County, we don't see cats turning up Nov. 1 that have been harmed. As far as we know, it hasn't been realized.''

At the Peninsula Humane Society shelter, would-be adopters pay $70 and go through up to an hourlong orientation before they become pet owners.

Delucchi said it's unlikely someone would go through the screening hassle to snag a black cat for some unsavory short-term use, so the agency puts its faith in its usual adoption process, rather than risk throwing up roadblocks between potential pet owners and abandoned animals.

``You really can't afford to be that restrictive,'' said Delucchi, noting that holidays are an optimal time to link people and pets. ``If your goal is to find homes and find good homes, we feel we have the right approach. We have to trust people.''

I just wanted to include this because it’s cool: there’s finally an exhibit on homosexuality and bisexuality in the animal kingdom, showing that this is not an unnatural thing in humanity. This finally exposes the trump card of religious fundamentalism: if God created these animals, then why could God not also create humans in this mold?
Two male giraffes in unequivocal pose, a lesbian swan couple, two male whales stimulating each other: a new exhibit in Oslo displays examples of animal homosexuality.

"Normally," says Geir Söli with a smile, "natural history museums just show pretty boring things: rocks, stuffed birds and the like." Not so with the Norwegian zoologist's latest project. After three years of preparation, Söli and his colleagues from the Natural History Museum in Oslo have just inaugurated the world's first exhibit on animal homosexuality.

"Against Nature?" is the name of the exhibition in the red brick building on the edge of Oslo's Botanical Gardens. The question mark at the end of the title is of particular importance to exhibit director Söli. He wants to qualify the argument that homosexuality is against nature because, he says, the facts paint a different picture: homosexual behavior has been observed in at least 1,500 species, and in roughly 500 of these cases the findings have been well documented. "And that's only the tip of the iceberg."

All too often, Söli says, zoologists have simply ignored the homosexuality of their research subjects. Against the backdrop of a 4-meter-tall image of two giraffes in an unmistakable pose, Söli explains how the whole thing usually worked: In a study on giraffes in Africa, for instance, scientists classified the mere sniffing of a female by her male counterpart as "sexual interest." But when one male giraffe mounted another, the scientists recorded this as a "territorial fight" -- even when they observed an ejaculation -- because what must not be, cannot be.

Around 2,300 years ago, Aristotle had already described the remarkable behaviour of a group of hyenas: males flirting with males, females pleasuring females. But the idea of gay marriage in the animal kingdom never really fitted into the scientists' world view, and so was all too often ignored.

Not too far way, in Göteborg's Natural History Museum, an exhibition has been running since the beginning of June entitled "I love U," which presents, in laid back Scandinavian style, the mating and reproduction of all kinds of animals, including people. With a faint hint of Abba, the Swedish exhibitors illustrate "the winner takes it all" with a model of an egg surrounded by sperm. It's all about reproduction here -- up to now the only purpose for sexuality in the animal kingdom -- at least according to the traditional version.

The Oslo exhibit documents how reality has now caught up with the scientists: they observed whales, for example, rubbing up against each other with erect penises; a female dolphin gliding her fin into her partner's genital tract; or two male seagulls building a nest together. Scientists even discovered, to their great surprise, that approximately one out of ten couples in some king penguin colonies were homosexual.

The Joy of Animal Sex

"Biological Exuberance" is the name of a book published seven years ago by the biologist Bruce Bagemihl, which summarizes these types of cases. And "exuberance" is indeed the explanation for these observations, says Bagemihl. His somewhat controversial theory forms the cornerstone of the Oslo exhibition: animals enjoy sex, whatever the constellation may be. Geir Söli contends that this is especially true of more developed species like whales, dolphins, or primates. There is evidence everywhere of homosexual behavior.

Incidentally, the exhibit also shows cases where with a few tricks, homosexual animal couples can even raise offspring. Scientists have recently reported on parenthood among homosexual flamingos, vultures and storks, by means of borrowed eggs and "one-night stands." They have also found evidence of some same-sex relationships that last an animal's lifetime. "You can say what you will about homosexuality, but you can't say that it is contrary to nature," says Geir Söli, thereby answering in passing the question in the exhibit's title.

So far, there haven't been any large-scale protests against the exhibition -- it simply fits in too well with liberal Norway, where the government, by way of special subsidies, encourages the country's museums to get involved in the public debates. And so it should come as no surprise that it is above all families who crowd the dimly lit museum halls on the weekends. The merry sound of hollering children is constantly reverberating throughout the museum. "I am pleased that families continue to come here," Söli says. "We don't have any shocking images here, we don't want to hit anyone over the head."

Alarming news yesterday from the World Wildlife Federation (WWF): humanity is eating up the planet’s resources as if we were living on three planets, not just one. What does this mean for the ecosystems? Terrible, catastrophic things:
The group said the world's natural ecosystems were being degraded at a rate unprecedented in human history. On current projections, this means that as a whole, humanity will need at least two planets' worth of natural resources by 2050.

The report said humanity's ecological footprint was 25 per cent greater than the planet's annual ability to provide everything from food to energy and recycle all human waste in 2003. The figure has increased from 21 per cent five years ago.

James Leape, WWF's director general, said: "We are in serious ecological overshoot. The consequences of this are predictable and dire.

"For more than 20 years, we have exceeded the earth's ability to support a consumptive life-style that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path.

"If everyone around the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support us."

WWF said forests and fisheries will eventually be harvested to such a degree that they might disappear altogether.

The report showed there was a one-third decline in the populations of more than 1,300 fish, bird and animal species between 1970 and 2003.

It said the loss of natural habitat to farming has been particularly acute in the tropics. Pollution, tree-felling and over-fishing were major factors elsewhere, with climate change-causing fossil fuels the fastest-growing factor.


Here’s some cause for hope and a potential ally in the battle against global warming. Could we create more of these to help scrub out the methane in the air?
Bacteria that live in volcanically heated mud deep under the sea off the coast of Norway feed on methane, a gas that is partly to blame for climate change, a Franco-German team of scientists have discovered.

The newly-discovered creatures were found in the Haakon Mosby Mud Volcano, a place in the Barents Sea where hot methane gas from deep under the earth seeps into the slime. The bacteria have evolved to live in conditions that would be lethal to other life forms.

The research was published Thursday in the British science journal Nature. Micro-organisms that consume methane have been discovered before, but the discovery helps science better understand how methane reaches the atmosphere.

Methane is a useful fuel, but when it escapes unburned into the air, it is a greenhouse gas that leads to nearly 25 times as much global warming as an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.

The research, which was led by Antje Boetius of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in the German city of Bremen, established that the three species of methane-eating micro-organisms found consumed 40 per cent of the escaping methane.


Finally, I’m very interested in and glad to see this. Not too long ago, I recall reading an article that talked about how the millennial nuts were embracing global warming as an agent of the coming of Christ and the end times. Now it seems that churches are remembering that, if they are supposed to focus on caring for others, that caring for others entails caring for the environment, as the world will keep on going and people will be harmed by global warming. I applaud these churches, even if I don’t agree with their views. Great work!
Religious groups have not always been at the forefront of environmental activism, but a new movement is gaining steam across this country. As the United States government continues to hem and haw about the state of global warming (they still can't decide if it actually exists), religious groups are positioning themselves to lead America to a greener future.

Organized religion has often been accused of focusing on the needs of humans while neglecting the state of the planet. However, an unprecedented wave of ecological awareness is now taking hold and changing that image. Last winter, 86 evangelical Christian leaders signed a statement acknowledging human effects on the changing climate and imploring Congress to legislate carbon dioxide emissions standards. This was just one step in a growing trend.

A Michigan coalition of congregations is working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by taking localized steps, such as investing in fluorescent light bulbs and more efficient appliances, and powering a church with solar panels. These actions have been generally positive and the 124-member group has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 14,000 tons. Locally, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis just announced a new parishioner-run task force. The committee will look for options to fight global warming through individual choices and local policy changes.

These programs stand to make a large impact on global warming. While government action would go a long way toward decreasing carbon dioxide emissions, it is important to remember that individual efforts make a difference. If everyone took little steps to reduce energy usage, we could see significant results.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:24 AM