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October 23, 2008 at 6:29 am 5 comments

Myna Store!

Myna talent for mimicry

A myna bird managed to shut up two noisy parrots in China – by learning to miaow like a cat.

Bird owner Mr Jiang, of Nanjing, bought the myna and taught it to speak in order to attract business.

All went well – until he bought two parrots and put them in a cage next to the myna, reports the Yangtse Evening Post.

Jiang said the two parrots were very talkative, and their chattering made the myna upset and angry.

“It began jumping frenetically in its cage after the two parrots arrived. Then the myna noticed that when a neighbouring cat came and miaowed, the parrots suddenly got very quiet,” he explained.

“Afterwards I was amazed to hear the myna bird had learnt to imitate cats miaowing, and did it many times a day. It seems he has forgotten all the Chinese I taught him!

“Whenever the parrots get too noisy, the myna calls their bluff by mimicking the cat, and the parrots hush up right away.”

September 29, 2008 at 11:40 pm 1 comment

Bush Extinction Plan: Does it ever end with this guy?

Citizen Groups Uncover New Bush Administration Sneak Attack on Endangered Species Act

Latest Bush Rule Would Limit Protections for Imperiled Wildlife

WASHINGTON, DC- In an underhanded attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act, the Bush Administration has proposed another in their series of regulatory changes to the landmark conservation law. Citizens groups uncovered the proposed regulatory changes to endangered species listing and habitat protection buried deep within federal bureaucracy.

“The Bush Administration is attempting a last minute giveaway to their friends in the oil, mining, logging and development industries,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “They are trying to strip away protections for our public lands and wildlife heritage without public or Congressional input in these far-reaching changes to this landmark conservation law.”

Today, the Endangered Species Coalition sent a letter to the administration opposing the proposed change and calling for an open and public process of evaluating the changes. The coalition was joined by many conservation, scientific, sporting, religious and citizens groups including the Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for the Future of the Oceans at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Christians for Environmental Stewardship, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The Endangered Species Act is a safety net for our nation’s wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction,” said Huta. “The Bush Administration is trying to cut a giant loophole in the safety net under the cloak of night. The American people will not stand by while this lame duck administration tries a back-door attack on the Endangered Species Act.”

The rule is one in a series of proposed regulatory changes to the Endangered Species Act released by the Bush Administration in the past several months. The Administration has also proposed changes that to eliminate the requirement that federal agencies consult with wildlife scientists and to prohibit consideration of the impacts of global warming on wildlife.

The stated purpose of the proposed rule “Amending the Formats of the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants” is to enhance the clarity of the lists of endangered and threatened species. However, the rule’s title and its complicated legalese disguise the fact that it instead proposes regulatory changes would make significant changes in the way endangered species are listed and habitat is protected.

If in place at the time, this rule may have stopped the listing and protection of the bald eagle, Canada lynx, grizzly bear, brown pelican, the gray wolf and the jaguar. The proposed rule narrowly defines “the geographic area where the species is listed for purposes of the Act.” This deceptively simple change could be interpreted to limit the area that endangered species will be protected only to their current range, which is usually drastically smaller than their historic range.

This “new interpretation” likely means that even a species that is doing well in one small area, but is extinct in the rest of its range could be denied listing. Obviously, this would put fish, plants, and animals in great danger given that pests, disease, and/or habitat destruction could quickly wipe out a small population.

The comment letter organized by the Endangered Species Coalition urges the Bush Administration to withdraw the proposed regulations and to extend the comment period to 120 days to allow the public adequate time to address the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act.”

The proposed regulatory changes came out in the eleventh hour of the Bush administration. They are trying every trick in the book to rewrite a bedrock environmental law without alerting the American public to what they are trying to do,” explained Huta.

The proposed regulatory changes were published August 5, 2008, while Congress was out for recess and many Americans were enjoying the summer holiday. The administration is only accepting public comment for 30 days, which closes Thursday, September 4. The administration is also refusing to accept e-mail comments or hold public hearings on the proposed rule. Instead, comments will be accepted by mail, or through a government website that warns reviewers their personal information will be posted on the internet for public dissemination.

The Endangered Species Coalition is a national network of hundreds of conservation, scientific, sporting, religious, humane, business and community groups across the country working to protect our nation’s wildlife and wild places.

September 23, 2008 at 11:26 pm Leave a comment

Bush is at it again

The Associated Press, reporting on leaked documents, revealed last week that the Bush administration plans to massively weaken the Endangered Species Act.

Take Action

Help us stop this attack on the law that acts as a safety net for plants, fish and wildlife on the brink of extinction. Please contact your Senators and your Member of Congress today and ask them to do all they can to stop this proposal from being finalized.

For the past 35 years, one of the most important ways that federal government has protected endangered species has been to have scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review the federal government’s own actions—anything from logging a forest to building a highway to constructing a dam. Scientists would then provide guidance on how a project could be changed to protect species.

But, high-level Bush administration lawyers in the solicitor general’s office have decided to strip this very basic protection for wildlife. Instead of having the experts make this decision, agencies such as the Department of Transportation would essentially get to decide for themselves whether their projects would harm a species.

Congress has a number of steps that they can take to stop these regulations from being finalized. It is urgent that they hear from concerned constituents immediately. The Bush administration has sneakily announced these proposed changes during the height of vacation season when many of us are traveling. So, we need your help more than ever in contacting Congress. Please contact Congress today to ask them to stop the Bush administration from weakening the Endangered Species Act.

For more information about these proposed rule changes, please see our website: where you can find our press release, a link to the proposed regulations and other background about this change.

Your help is urgently needed and greatly appreciated!

Thank you so much,

Leda Huta
Executive Director

p.s. A donation from you will help us in our fight to protect the Endangered Species Act.

August 18, 2008 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

A friend of mine sent me this link for what’s basiclly a “rent-a-pet” organization. What’s the difference between this and “rent-a-kid”? not much really. And where are these dogs when their not being rented? The website says they are not kenneled, they have a consistent caretaker (although they call it a carer, whatever that is), and they hang out with the other dogs all the time. Its not a completely horrible idea but isnt it just another form of exploitation? They have a fancy little flash website but I can just as easily see them with a crappy homemade website with silly animations and fonts. The dogs are trained, given regular vet checkups and occasionally adopted. I like the idea of the dogs being Fostered by people who want time to make a decision, see if pet ownership is for them etc but the site seems more marketed towards renting the pets as someone would rent a car or movie.

pet renters

From their website:

“FLEXPETZ is a shared dog ownership concept that provides our members with access to a variety of FLEXPETZ dogs. All FLEXPETZ dogs complete obedience training and some FLEXPETZ dogs are also certified as therapy dogs.

Through the FLEXPETZ shared dog ownership concept, members can spend from just a few hours to a number of days with each of our dogs. FLEXPETZ dogs are available in varied breed sizes to ensure compatibility with our member’s individual lifestyles and unique circumstances. “

Their FAQ section provides some information on their goals and reasons behind their methods:

Where do FLEXPETZ dogs live when not with a member?

FLEXPETZ dogs live in a home environment with a primary carer when not with members. Our dogs are active with their primary caregivers and love to frequent the beach, local dog parks and long walks several times daily through the beautiful cities where they live.

Are FLEXPETZ dogs ever adopted?

YES! We have already had a number of successful adoptions. This has happened after a member realizes that thanks to their FLEXPETZ membership, that they can have a dog fulltime . We anticipate a constant rotation of dogs being adopted out and new dogs entering the FLEXPETZ program.

What happens when the dogs get old or sick?

Our dogs are all 2 -5 years of age. We select these ages because the dogs have developed their personalities and have been properly socialized by this age. FLEXPETZ dogs are veterinary checked every 3 months and all veterinary fees and related expenses are covered by FLEXPETZ. If a FLEXPETZ dog becomes unable to continue within the FLEXPETZ program due to illness or ailment the dog would be provided for by FLEXPETZ for life and placed into a permanent home.

Why would a person want to ‘share’ their pet?

Many people work long hours, travel frequently or have housing/jobs/activities that are not dog-friendly. Our members realize that full-time dog ownership would be unfair to the dog and choose to be FLEXPETZ members instead.

Are the dogs stressed by going home to home?

FLEXPETZ dogs live with one primary carer and their pack of FLEXPETZ dogs where they happily play and are never kenneled. When FLEXPETZ dogs visit with members it always full of fun time! Members plan for the time with a FLEXPETZ dog and the dogs are loved and adored with undivided attention.

Where do the dogs come from?

All of our dogs are either rescued or rehomed. We carefully screen each dog for social skills, temperament, interest in befriending people, and ability to easily adapt to different people. We provide a happy, healthy life in our extended family structure. If a dog demonstrates he/she is owner dependent, skittish, or demonstrates a history of abuse/mistrust in humans we will help the rescue group or owner to adopt the dog out to one permanent home sensitive to the dog’s unique needs.

How many owners per dog?

Each dog is different, and depends on what the dog demonstrates he/she can handle.

How are the members screened?

We gather a great deal of personal information from our potential members and meet all in person in the presence of a certified dog trainer. Each member participates in a training session and must be able to demonstrate sensitivity, compassion, patience and the desire to be a responsible dog owner. We also have each member sign documents stating he/she has not had any history of animal violence or abuse and a promissory note to treat all FLEXPETZ dogs with absolute respect. The first time a member wants to spend time with a FLEXPETZ dog, the dog is taken to the member’s home which is checked by our FLEXPETZ facilitator.

How do we make sure the dogs are properly fed/cared for?

FLEXPETZ provides prepackaged and premeasured food for any time the FLEXPETZ dog will be in a member’s company. This maintains consistency of diet for our dogs and is another wonderful feature of FLEXPETZ membership. We also provide chew toys and instruct members never to feed our dogs any unapproved food or table scraps. Some treats are acceptable and must be okayed by our FLEXPETZ staff.

Our dogs are carefully monitored and great attention is paid to eating habits, bowel movements, energy levels, unique personality traits and habits. We treat each dog as an individual and pass along detailed personal information to members in contact with the dog.

Does FLEXPETZ have any other species?

The FLEXPETZ family consists of dogs only.

I dont know what I think of this.. well I know i mostly dont like it but it makes me sad that society has gone this direction. Rich business men and women can rent dates (escorts), cars, vacation houses, and now even pets. Should we really involve pets in our consumer culture addictions? Cant Flexpets just run a normal non profit donation center like everyone else rather than exploiting these dogs for profit in a constant rotation. It may be harmless I guess, and thats the most important part but does that make it right?

May 8, 2008 at 9:50 pm 2 comments

A Dogs Life in China

If you’re a dog in China then you’d better hope to be of the cute and furry variety sold in pet shops rather than a homely-looking mutt sold at a live animal market as the main ingredient in dog meat stew.

“We still eat dog, but not this kind of dog,” Liu Ming, a pet shop salesman said, pointing to a toffee-coloured puppy with floppy ears on sale for about 500 yuan or $US70 ($75).

“We eat much bigger dogs”.

Keeping pets is becoming all the rage among the affluent in China, even though some Chinese still consume dog and cat meat.

Combined spending on pet food and pet care in China will be worth an estimated $US870 million ($926 million) in 2008, according to Euromonitor International. That’s up roughly 15 per cent from the $US757 million ($806 million) spent in 2007.

“In China, more and more people are raising pets. It’s not as difficult as before,” Liu said, as curious onlookers crowded his stall in a dusty street of the southern boomtown of Guangzhou.

One thing is certain: the old belief that pets are a bourgeois indulgence held during the rule of Mao Zedong no longer has currency in the booming economy of the world’s most populous country.

In the marquee cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, a growing nouveau-riche class even sees pets – particularly dogs – as fashion items, outfitting them in designer clothing, paying for spa treatments and dyeing their fur unnatural colours.

That trend, experts say, is a stark contrast to the tradition of eating everything from silkworms to pangolins.

“In Beijing, there’s a huge market with pitiful dogs waiting in cages to be sold as meat, and literally a few yards away standard poodles dyed in all colours of the rainbow,” said Jill Robinson, CEO of Animals Asia Foundation, a Hong-Kong based animal welfare charity.

China’s thriving industry of fake designer goods is even taking on designer doggywear. In Guangzhou, hawkers sell fake Louis Vuitton dog carriers as a dog in a faux Louis Vuitton sweater naps nearby on the dusty sidewalk.

There were nearly 11 billion pets in China in 2007, according to Euromonitor International, up from 10.8 billion in 2006. The bulk of the animals were birds, fish and reptiles.

China estimates it has 150 million pet dogs. Statistics are scant on the burgeoning industry as many pets are unregistered. Euromonitor puts that figure at 26.8 million, and says China has 10.7 million pet cats.

Despite the emergence of Western-style pet rearing, dog meat remains a popular winter cuisine in parts of China.

Beijing has more than 120 restaurants serving dog meat, although recent media reports say that many are closing as the city tries to change its image before it hosts the Olympic Games in August.Known as “fragrant meat”, dog meat is purported to have medicinal benefits and improve blood circulation in winter.

The meat, culled from farmed animals that are mixtures of Chinese dogs and St. Bernards or other big breeds, are served stewed, roasted, or sliced in a hot pot. Dogs with collars are sometimes seen at live animal markets, according to Animals Asia Foundation, suggesting runaways sometimes end up on the dinner table.

China’s pet industry is still tiny compared to its counterpart in the United States where owners are projected to spend over $US43 billion ($46 billion) on their pets this year.

But experts say the industry’s potential in China is enormous as incomes rise and more of the country’s elite “DINK” couples – double income, no kids – see pets as less needy child-substitutes while they balance white-collar careers with family life.

Spending on pet food and pet care is projected to reach $US995 million ($1060 million) by 2009, up over 100 per cent from $US463 million ($493 million) in 2004, experts say.

Effem Foods (Beijing) Co Ltd, a subsidiary of family-owned US food giant Mars – owners of Pedigree and Whiskas brands- claims 53.8 per cent of dog and cat food sales in 2006, Euromonitor says.

Nestle SA, the world’s largest food group, is in second place with 17.7 per cent, and US consumer product giant Proctor and Gamble in third with 1.7 per cent.

Nestle set up a production site in Tianjin in 2007 to be more competitive locally, a move that some analysts suggest may not be wise given a spate of food safety scandals in China. Last year, 800 tonnes of China-sourced wheat gluten tainted with dangerous melamine was sold to US pet food makers, triggering millions of recalls there and killing over 200 cats and 100 dogs.

“There are industry sources who express doubts about local production of international brands,” said Michelle Huang, an analyst at Euromonitor.

“They point out that a pricing strategy is not a sound basis for expansion, especially within premium products, since pet owners may perceive imported brands to contain higher-quality ingredients than locally sourced and produced varieties.”

Despite popular perceptions that dogs and cats are poorly treated in China compared to Western countries, both animals have long histories there.

Some scientists believe dogs emerged 15,000 years ago from a group of wolves tamed in China. Since ancient times, cats have been valued for their pest-catching skills.

The region’s pet craze has also caught on in Hong Kong, which has around 200,000 registered dogs, according to government data, though a dog serial killer – dubbed the Bowen Road Poisoner – has haunted the city for 19 years, dropping poisoned meat on walking trails which kills most dogs that eat it.

But the hard life for dogs and cats in greater China could be changing as Western pet culture takes root.

In December, Taiwan legislators passed a law that calls for fines of up to $US7,730 ($8232) on sellers of dog meat, a winter staple once popular in military units.

“The animal markets keep getting smaller and smaller,” said Marek Michalski, 43, a Polish trader in Guangzhou who spoke at a cafe near a market where live cats are sold as food.

“Many Chinese I know say if they buy a cat like that at the market, they’ll set it free.”

March 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm Leave a comment

An End to Animal Testing May Be In Sight

Very promising news just came across my desk. University of California at Berkeley researchers have just announced the invention of a new biochip that may signal the beginning of the end of animal testing for chemicals and cosmetics.

The chip is a suspension of more than a thousand human cell cultures in a three-dimensional gel on a standard microscope slide. Each cell culture is capable of assessing the toxicity of a different chemical, according to the researchers. Organ cells, such as from the lungs and heart, may also be added, so that the chip could test for any part of the body, potentially, and not just the skin. That suggests future drugs, shampoos, and all sorts of other products may qualify for biochip testing instead of trials on animals, which still take place.

Over the years I’ve heard both sides of the animal testing argument. Some chemists argue that “natural” chemicals are just as dangerous as man-made ones, so untested natural products pose risks too. Animal researchers also point to human benefits from their work, and often explain that they must follow rigid guidelines when they conduct their chemical trials. There is no question in my mind, however, that animals feel pain and stress in ways that are akin to human suffering. More and more studies are providing proof, such as by demonstrating that chemicals associated with stress in humans show up in non-human animals too. The biochip could put an end to the entire debate.

A tremendous added bonus is that, in future, you would be able to donate your own cells (presumably through a blood test or minimally invasive procedure) for a biochip of your own. That way you’d know exactly which types of medicines or products to avoid, or to use. You would be your own guinea pig, and be none the worse for wear.

In the meantime, for a list of companies that do not conduct animal testing, please click on the appropriate link below to download a list!!!

Companies That Do/That Don’t Test on Animals

Companies That Don’t Test on Animals (PDF Format | Word Format)

Companies That Do Test on Animals (PDF Format | Word Format)

December 28, 2007 at 1:32 am 1 comment

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