Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Archeologists Evicerate "Paleo Diet"

This made me lol into my Ramen tonight.

The seminar titles alone are worth the price of admission:

It’s When You Mate, Not What You Ate"


"Papayas Ain’t Paleo, and Neither Are You"

“The notion that we have not yet adapted to eat wheat, yet we have had sufficient time to adapt to kale or lentils is ridiculous. In fact, for most practitioners of the Paleo Diet, who are typically westerners, the majority of the food they consume has been available to their gene pool for less than five centuries. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, potatoes, avocados, pecans, cashews, and blueberries are all New World crops, and have only been on the dinner table of African and Eurasian populations for probably 10 generations of their evolutionary history. Europeans have been eating grain for the last 10,000 years; we’ve been eating sweet potatoes for less than 500. Yet the human body has seemingly adapted perfectly well to yams, let alone pineapple and sunflower seeds.”

-- "Dr. Karl Fenst, bioarchaeologist"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Animal welfare FAIL from a supposed skeptic

Skeptifem, a blogger I enjoy reading about 75% of the time, has a hate-on for pit bulls. She is in the health care field, and has experience in some kind of hospital setting where she has seen some dog bite injuries. She uses this as a reason to support anti-breed policies and to rant about those crazy "pit bull apologists".

I don't mind when people have uninformed opinions about animal welfare. I'm used to it (I work at a vet clinic, after all). It's when they use their misinformation and gut feelings to try to hurt animals that I love. For no reason.

The most recent post on this subject is here, where she tries to school all of us on the No-kill movement and how misguided it is, especially when it comes to treatment of aggressive dogs. Needless to say, the post is so dense with misinformation it needs an entire other blog post to correct it all.

Paragraph 1: She writes that people in the no-kill movement "tend to think that no animal should be euthanized for any reason,".

This is blatantly not true. Although the term "no-kill" can be initially confusing to some, the movement (No-kill with a capital "N") is aimed at ending the needless killing of adoptable pets in shelters, not an end to humane euthanasia. This is clearly stated by every single influential leader of the no-kill movement (starting with Nathan Winograd, who wrote the freakin' book for goodness' sake). Even those who might be considered on the "fringe" for believing that animals should not be killed due to any behavior issue, still believe in humane euthanasia.

Now, of course there's debate within the movement about the gray areas of what constitutes "adoptable", but no one, anywhere, except maybe some crazy hoarders on the outsides of the movement, believe that there should literally be no euthanasia.

When it comes to her agenda about BSL and pit bulls, Skeptifem has no problem cherry-picking quotes and events, and ignoring facts that don't support her already-established and immovable world view. This is not skeptical work.

Paragraph 2 is just a big pile of un-informed and un-cited fail:

1) " isn't as though shelters kill dogs for fun"

Actually, some animal control folks have killed shelter animals for fun. Or, at least, killed and had fun doing it.

And even those shelters that kill adoptable pets without apparent enjoyment don't get a free pass - not when there have been so many documented examples of them killing despite life-saving alternatives.

One of the primary tenets of the modern No-kill movement is to hold animal shelters accountable for killing adoptable animals. The old-school view is that animal shelters somehow get a free pass to do anything they want, just because they're animal shelters. They're "doing the best they can", even as employees kill animals for "space" without even trying to adopt them out first, even though there are alternatives that are proven to work.

2) "Adoptable dogs, such as those with aggression issues... are most likely to be euthanized in a shelter situation."

And where is the citation for this? It may be true that a dog that growls at a shelter employee will be the first on the kill list, but if you look at actual shelter reports, most animals are being killed for "space", not health or behavioral issues.

3) "...makes it impossible for every shelter to be a no-kill shelter."

Nathan Winograd has already crunched the numbers. There are more than enough homes for every shelter pet. Note also that these numbers take into account that a certain percentage of sheltered animals will need to be euthanized. So, no it is in fact very possible for every shelter to be No-kill. It could happen literally tomorrow, if every kill shelter suddenly decided to follow the advice of the No-kill revolution.

Paragraph 3: "[Sanctuary for aggressive dogs]... It is a nice idea. But does it work?"

Yes, it can work, and work very well. This is proven through the excellent work of many sanctuaries (ever seen the TV show DogTown? It's, like, on TV).

A better, more honest question would be: Does it always work, for every dog? I doubt it. Are there dogs that should be euthanized due to behavior problems? I think so, and so do many No-kill advocates.

Spindletop Sanctuary is not exactly a "typical" example of an animal sanctuary ("boarding", really?), and yet she discusses it as if it were. She wrote this entire blog post about sanctuaries for aggressive dogs, and the only one she discusses, links to, or even names, barely qualifies as a sanctuary at all, let alone a typical example of one.

If someone without an axe to grind about aggressive dogs were to pick a more typical example of a dog sanctuary, a better choice would be either Best Friends, (only, ya know, like, the biggest/most influential one in the US), or the Olympic Animal Sanctuary. I have a suspicion that she doesn't mention these facilities because they are doing a pretty good job, the dogs seems happy, the public is not being injured by them, and overall they don't neatly fit her world view.

Paragraph 6: "Life, even an extremely painful or lonely one, is considered to be infinitely better than timely euthanasia by advocates of no-kill ideology."

Blatantly untrue, again. See my point about Paragraph 1.

 "Trying to adopt out 100% of pets can make for dangerous animals getting the opportunity to hurt people or their pets."

Again, blatantly misleading. No one is trying to adopt out 100% of pets. The No-kill revolution explicitly states, multiple times/places/people, that not all pets are savable. Again, according to reports from shelters, most pets are killed for "space," anyway. Estimates are that somewhere  between 90 to 98 percent of shelter pets can be saved. Note that that's NOT 100%.

Strawmen. You haz dem.

Paragraph 7: " When there are not enough resources or homes to go around, careful consideration of resource allocation is absolutely crucial for deciding how to do the most amount of good."

There are enough homes to go around. More than enough. See my point about Paragraph 2. And thank you, so much, for explaining to us, poor, stupid rescue folks that we need to think about resource allocation.

There is, in fact, healthy debate on this subject within the no-kill movement. It's worth discussing. It's not, however, a good argument to simply kill every dog that every growled at someone (which is what I'm assuming she's trying to get at here).

The tired, cliche, "zero-sum" argument is BS. It's the same attitude that anti-pet people have - how dare we spend money on mere animals when there are children starving in Africa, amirite?

 2) "An optimal euthanasia rate, correlated with the rate of animals who must be euthanized because they cannot live comfortably, hasn't been established."

"Optimal" and "euthanasia" probably shouldn't be used together, but I get the point: she still hasn't done much reading about No-kill. If she had, she'd have found out pretty quick that Winograd, and others, have estimated "save rates" based on current shelter statistics: between 90 and 98 percent.

 Paragraph 8: "I have yet to see any no-kill plan that actually addresses these concerns." 

DO SOME FREAKIN' RESEARCH! I don't know what else to say. Many people have addressed these concerns. This post already has too many links.

Which leads me to a very important question for Skeptifem: what is your definition of "aggressive"? You've gone on about how aggressive dogs should be euthanized, but there are a lot of different definitions out there.

Many shelters would label a dog that growled, for any reason, as "aggressive". City/county laws are sometimes vague or just plain dumb when it comes to definitions of "aggressive". A shelter I volunteered at once told us to be very careful playing with the dogs because if they closed their mouth on our skin, we'd have to report it as a bite and then the dog probably couldn't be adopted out.

Is a dog that bites a stranger who trespasses onto her owner's property "aggressive"? What if she bit someone who threatened her owner? What if she bit in self-defense? What if she hates all other dogs, but loves people? What if she growls and cowers away from men, but is relaxed and happy around women and children? What about a friendly dog that is easily excited and knocks people down or nips when they play? What about dogs that are safe at home, but will bite the vet or groomer out of fear? What about dogs that kill small animals, but never act aggressive toward people? What about dogs that have been labeled aggressive, who bite people, but whose owners love them enough to take extra precautions that they never escape the yard?

Really, explain in detail, which dogs deserve to die, and which deserve to live. Because, seein' as how dogs are living, breathing creatures with emotions and complex brains (not so different from humans), they're kinda all sorts of gray area, and not a lot of black and white.

My own dog, Zelda, could be considered "aggressive" - she growls at dogs, she will bite them under the right circumstances, she will growl and nip at people under the right circumstances.

Yet, I (and anyone who's met her) consider her a "safe" dog. She obviously loves people, she will also happily play with other dogs as long as she gets a proper introduction and they're not rude puppies. She lives with another dog, and endures a constant parade of foster dogs that come through my home. Is she worth keeping as a pet, even though she's not an emotionless robot (a robot being the only type of dog that would never nip or growl under any circumstances)?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Black Widow

Found her on the patio today while I was rearranging some potted plants.


I was a bit sad that I had to kill her. She was just doing her thing, eating some ants and hiding under a pot.


Black widow spiders are ubiquitous in this part of the state. This is the seventh one I've found on my house this summer, and that's without looking (don't tell my husband). If I see them in the front yard I let them live because me and the dogs don't spend much time there. But this one was on the patio where the dogs spend a lot of time nosing around, and I just couldn't take the risk.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Identification of Mixed Breed Dogs

I'm a little late talking about this, but check out this study.

More than 5,000 dog experts, including breeders, trainers, groomers, veterinarians, shelter staff, rescuers, and others completed the survey. They were shown 2 photos of a mixed-breed dog and asked to guess it's ancestry. Then the dogs were DNA tested and the results of the guesses are published next to the results of the DNA test.

Now, I want you to look at the results, but completely ignore the DNA testing. It is not an accurate science, and it is irrelevant. Look at the "Top Responses" column. Every single one of the dogs had at least 5 guesses. In other words, a group of experts couldn't agree that any one of the dogs looked like "predominantly". (In fact, a popular "Top Response" is "No Prominent Breed")

Field identification of a mixed-breed dog is impossible, and pointless. Just like breed specific legislation.

What a Dog looks like to me

Rusty, the current foster, is an almost perfect example of what I picture a dog should look like.

His doggy essence is so very dog-like. He could be from anywhere in the world - a village in Africa, a street dog from Greece, or Mexico or Canada.

Do you know what I mean?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I wanna pet the pony: Is it ever OK to approach loose horses?

A stranger approaches a horse grazing near her family. The mare gives him some very clear body language before going in for the bite. Simple, clear signs like ears pinned, that don't take a PHD in animal behavior to recognize.

(Snagged from Snarky Rider)

Suprisingly, the comments on the video are mostly calm and common sense. Even the poster of the video admits it "wasn't the smartest idea".

I wonder, however, if the man learned anything more complex than "don't approach horses you don't know".

As a general rule, it's a good lesson. However, I've done this myself, and I would do it in the future under the right circumstances. I've studied horses enough to know when it's probably OK to say hi, and when it's better to back off and admire from a distance, and I've never been injured (all my horse-related injuries were from horses I did know).

I'm not trying to preen; I'm well aware I'm a lucky person in general. I just think there's more of a lesson here than simply "don't interact with animals, they're dangerous". How about learning to respect animals as individuals and animals instead of either unpredictable and unknowable demons, or uniformly docile and friendly cardboard pop-ups straight from a children's book.

One time in Wales, I was out walking on a public trail that cut through private land and a stallion approached me. He was calm and relaxed and there were no other horses around so I stood there and let him sniff me over and, after a moment, I gave him a few chest scratches. Then I walked slowly backwards to the gate. I was extra cautious because I was alone and at least a half mile from the nearest building/road and, hey, it's often a bad idea to turn your back on a stud.

Bangor 77

The next time I walked that trail, I saw the same stallion and I approached him this time to take some photos. He remained calm and relaxed.

I think it was that same day, on a different part of the trail, that I ran into a mare with her foal. It was large, at least a yearling if not older. The mare wanted nothing to do with me, and walked away, but the colt came right up to me and after a minute started to become dangerously playful and pushy. So I backed toward the fence and left.

Bangor 74

These brief encounters may seem unnecessary, but done correctly and respectfully, interacting with  animals is very rewarding. Why would I give that up because there might be some risk? If that's the way I lived my life, I'd never get into a car.