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Lawsuit Alleges GPS Devices on Hunting Dogs Are Unfair

Animal rights groups have sued the state of California over rules that allow animals to be hunted with the aid of hunting dogs equipped with GPS tracking devices on their collars, KTLA 5 reported last month.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, which filed the lawsuit in early September in Sacramento Superior Court, described the hunting method as “unusually cruel and unfair.” Such devices let dogs chase prey until they are exhausted and enable hunters to follow the GPS signal to find the animal that can no longer flee and is easily shot, the group said.

The Public Interest Coalition and Friends of Animals joined the lawsuit, which targeted the California Fish and Game Commission.

The lawsuit alleged the commission violated state environmental law by failing to conduct an assessment of how the use would affect wildlife, Animal Legal Defense Fund attorney Alexandra Monson told KTLA 5.

The rules also allow the use of “treeing switches” on dogs — devices that tell hunters when an animal has been chased into a tree, according to court filings.

This is the second time animal rights groups have petitioned California courts to prevent the commission from allowing the use of GPS collars and treeing switches for hunting. The previous lawsuit was filed in 2016 but was dismissed when the agency revisited its decision.

Canine Cancer Detection

Dogs can detect human cancer, but can they sniff out canine cancer, too? That’s the notion a team of North Carolina veterinary school researchers explored, according to DVM 360 Magazine.

“Transitional cell carcinoma of the urogenital tract is fairly common, making up about 2 percent of canine cancer cases,” said research associate Melanie Foster. “Being a cancer of the urinary bladder, one would expect that a urine sample would have high levels of indicators of what is being produced by those cancer cells. We decided to pursue our first test case, obtaining urine samples from dogs that had been diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma and compare them to urine samples from control (noncancerous) dogs.”

The team trained dogs to choose between one control and one cancer sample. The dogs would sniff each container and get a treat if they successfully selected the cancer sample.

“The dogs were reasonably accurate,” Foster said.

However, in later phases, the dogs were not as successful, though Foster is hopeful.

“I believe the capability of the dogs to detect different odors and learn tasks is amazing,” she said. “For dogs to detect either human or canine cancer, I think there’s potential for advancing our understanding of early detection of cancers. Certainly, cancer is not uniform, and every type has different features. There will not be a universal cancer detection dog or cancer detection test. But we do think training dogs to scent-detect certain cancers would help us identify what components are similar across different samples. We could then use dogs as a key to establish better early diagnostic tests, both for human and canine cancer.”

Shock Collars, Bad 

In general, England’s animal welfare advocates oppose aversive training methods and electric collars, but a plan to ban the shock collars countrywide has people talking about them, The Guardian reported.

Research commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that shock collars cause stress and don’t train dogs any more effectively than alternatives, The Guardian said.

Shock collars can influence a dog’s behavior for the better, but the effect is unpredictable, and there can be side effects. Some dogs submit when they feel a shock, but others react aggressively.

“Even when applied at a low level, electric pulses from these aversive shock collars can produce that anxiety reaction in dogs, and may also have long-term adverse effects on their behavior and emotional responses,” said Daniella Dos Santos, incoming president of the British Veterinary Association. “In any case, there is a large body of evidence that positive training methods are more effective.”

If a dog has problems, Dos Santos advises owners to talk to a vet, who can recommend a behaviorist. A rewards-based training system has been shown to get the best results.  

Racist Behavior

Carlee Beth Hawkins of the Psychology Department at the University of Illinois Springfield and her co-author Alexia Jo Vandiver set out to learn whether dogs could be racist, according to Psychology Today.

Their study involved 2,439 dog owners who reported their race as white and 201 as Black/African-American. The basic hypothesis was that dogs are not born with any innate prejudice toward any particular race. Rather, the problem is with their caregivers’ attitudes or behavior.

Their findings were generally in accord with the initial guess. They found that the more social interaction there was between the owner and people of different races, the less likely the dog was to show any apparent racial discrimination toward strangers of different races. While people familiar with dog behavior may explain this as a simple matter of socialization, similar results are found among humans. People who interact more frequently with individuals of various races are less likely to be explicitly or implicitly racist.

It seems that dogs watch people, read their emotions, and act according to how their owners behave and react, including their attitudes toward individuals of other races.

Working Dogs

While some big name companies — Google, Ticketmaster, and Monzo — allow pets in the work place, most don’t. And that’s too bad because, according to The Conversation, the benefits of having dogs around are numerous.

For instance, being dog friendly can create a brand to differentiate a company to recruits while helping to retain employees. Dogs promote staff interactions, resulting in an improved social atmosphere, and they can be in-office stress-reducers. Dogs can improve customer perceptions and increase workplace productivity.

The growth in dog-friendly offices reflects a more permanent shift in attitude where dogs at work are valued and welcomed for their ability to improve the happiness and productivity of everyone in the workplace.

Grown-Ass Adults

The Animal Protective Association of Missouri has a new name for senior dogs: grown-ass adults, according to reporting by the nonprofit Animal Sheltering.

Sarah Javier, the president and executive director of the APA, took the age-old question of how to help senior dogs get adopted faster to her board of directors’ marketing committee, and the committee came up with the new nomenclature.

The APA Adoption Center launched a marketing campaign in the spring of 2018, kicking it off with a happy hour at the APA (adult beverages for grown-ass adults) and a social media takeover on National Puppy Day with clever ads.  

It was social media gold. Within the first few weeks, the ads racked up over 50,000 shares on Facebook. Whenever they used the hashtag #grownassadult to promote an adoptable dog — mostly dogs who had been in the shelter for a while — the dog went home within one to two days. The average length of stay for adult dogs dropped from eight to five days, a decrease that’s still holding steady.

“It’s been incredible,” Javier said. “Our following increased exponentially, and we started getting calls and donations from all over the world — people who wanted to give a donation in honor of their own grown-ass adult.”

Over a year later, the campaign still has legs. The ads inspired a local brewery to create an APA — an American Pale Ale — benefiting the APA. The organization launched a new version of the campaign for cats, and together with Darling Brand Makery, the marketing firm it partnered with on the campaign, the APA is creating versions of the ads that other shelters can pay a small fee to download, co-brand, and use for their own campaigns.

“We know this campaign can benefit others, and we want it to benefit animals everywhere,” Javier said. “If we can help another shelter, then that is absolutely what we want to do.”

Medical-Alert Dogs 

Demand for seizure-alert dogs — a growing class of service animals that can detect warning signs of epileptic seizures and diabetic emergencies and identify other medical conditions — have surged, according to trainers and training centers as recent scientific studies have started to confirm the dogs’ efficacy in helping their owners, The Wall Street Journal recently reported.

As the industry grows, so have complaints about the quality of training of such animals. Some service-dog trainers, lawmakers, and health practitioners see a need for more oversight and standards. While the raising and training of dogs in general has long had some irresponsible parties, the stakes are higher when people pay up to $50,000 in return for a dog with a purported ability to help people with medical, and at times life-threatening, conditions.

These dogs are trained to respond to a certain smell with a specific action, such as barking or pawing at their owners. Some dogs might alert another adult, bring a juice box, or press a button that sends a phone text to a caregiver.
They are being trained by for-profit and nonprofit centers, trainers, and pet owners. 

The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners suggests that medical-alert dogs should have a minimum of 120 hours of training over six months or more. But such training isn’t regulated at the state or federal level. So some consumer complaints have arisen — and are growing — over alleged inadequate training.

A handful of national organizations are introducing standards to help people find reputable service dogs. Assistance Dogs International certifies nonprofit dog-training programs around the country. Dogs4Diabetics is also launching a project to develop and publish national standards for medical dog training and performance.

Overweight Danes, Overweight Dogs

A new study from the University of Copenhagen demonstrates an unambiguous correlation between the weight of a dog and its owner, Science Daily reported recently.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, showed the prevalence of heavy or obese dogs is more than twice as large among overweight or obese owners than among owners who are slim or of a normal weight.

Part of the explanation is how owners manage dog treats. The research results showed a correlation between overweight dog owners and the use of dog treats as “hygge-candy” (cozy-candy).

“Whereas normal weight owners tend to use treats for training purposes, overweight owners prefer to provide treats for the sake of hygge — for example, when a person is relaxing on the couch and shares the last bites of a sandwich or a cookie with their dog,” said Charlotte R. Bjørnvad of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences. Bjørnvad, a veterinarian and professor, is the main author of the research article, now published in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine.

“Being heavy or obese does have a great impact on dog health — which on average results in a shortened lifespan,” according to bioethics professor and article co-author, Peter Sandøe, of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food and Resource Economics.