Sunday, August 20, 2017

Life-or-death tests for dogs now being reconsidered

If a rabbit defined intelligence the way man does, then the most intelligent animal would be
a rabbit, followed by the animal most willing to obey the commands of a rabbit.
--Robert Brault (1938- )

A filthy rubber hand on a long pole, waved into a shelter dog’s cage.  If the dog goes for the hand, what does that prove?  Or, on leash, a shelter dog is walked into a “cat room,” where residents are housed in too-small cages, and miserable enough to begin with.  Does the dog snap out and lunge toward them?   

I’ve seen such “tests” used to measure shelter dog aggression, then to determine whether those dogs were fit to be adopted into families . . . or not.  And of course, the “or not” was the worst part.

But now, finally, questions are being raised about the validity of dog-aggression diagnostic tests – tests not thoroughly vetted themselves!  And, at a happy time when reportedly, "efforts to generally improve outcomes for shelter animals are on an upswing," there’s a move away from such tests. 

That means more shelter dogs will live instead of dying because they didn’t “pass” highly questionable tests. Here’s the good-news article, together with a hope that readers will look closely at any diagnostic animal testing they may be involved with.

Personal butterfly festival                

The news is out about Monarch butterfly numbers dropping, with far fewer of them each year reaching Mexico to overwinter. The word “milkweed” invariably comes up in such reports because that plant is Monarchs’ mainstay, the only food caterpillars eat. It’s also where the bright orange, black and white-spotted butterflies lay their eggs.

But threats to Monarchs like habitat loss, pesticides and global warming have caused milkweed to disappear along their route south each year. Aiming to help the Monarchs, numerous campaigns have urged people to plant milkweed for them.

Last fall, I found “swamp milkweed,” the variety recommended for the central NJ area, planted it and protected it over the winter.  My early summer reward: flourishing green-leafed plants (now nearly five feet tall), eventually crowned with pink flowers.

July brought a “did-it-myself” butterfly festival here, as striped caterpillars suddenly appeared, eating their way through the leaves, right down to bare branches. I saw no chrysalises at all, yet soon afterwards, enjoyed a few days of Monarchs swooping around the back yard.  I swear they seemed happy. I was too.
So this year, I did my thrilling bit for Monarchs. It can only get better next summer, when I’ll plant more milkweed and use high tomato cages to help the plants stand tall. And then: let the festival begin.

Animals and the eclipse

It's all around us, impossible to ignore: the Great American Solar Eclipse!  (Sound like something a current high government official might claim as all his doing?  But no, these things have happened for eons, long before any contemporary looney tune came along.)

So. Monday’s total, country-wide eclipse. A human-interest thing.  But since this blog is about non-human animals, a couple questions come to mind. First, how will pets and wild creatures react to the GASE – if they do?  If you know and/or notice animal behavior related to the eclipse, I hope you’ll tell us via a comment here.

And, since we’ve been warned not to look directly at the sun without wearing bona fide eye-protecting glasses, will other animals be injured if they happen to look at the sun at the wrong time?


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