The grant helped the Carlson family afford surgery to remove bladder stones from their pet Iguana, Freako.
Get well soon, Freako
Cloud, my 5-year-old male Ringneck Dove, has been working as a registered therapy animal since October of 2010. He is a popular visitor to a senior day care in Mission Viejo, and he is also certified as a “Reading Education Assistance Dog” (or “Dove”, in his case). In his role as a “Reading Dove”, he visits children in an elementary school classroom on a regular basis, and the children read aloud to him. At the senior day care, Cloud is placed in an open basket, and he is carried from person to person. The seniors are encouraged to reach into the basket and pet him and talk about him. Many of the seniors have owned birds before, but smaller birds (canaries, parakeets) are not as docile and don’t permit handling. Cloud’s gentle demeanor and quiet cooing make them smile. Many of the children Cloud visits have never had a pet. Their first question is always, “Does he bite?” I encourage them to pet him and see that he is very tame and friendly, and soon the students are feeding him seeds or shredded lettuce, and giggling at his attempts to pick up the treats from their palms. Cloud also participates in elementary school presentations about therapy animals.
Cloud was hatched in our home, so he has been handled regularly since he was a few days old. He enjoys riding in the car, going to different places, and meeting new people, so training him to pass the therapy animal test was easy. In the test, animals must be handled by a variety of people and tolerate loud noises and other situations they may encounter during visits. Birds must wear a harness and leash, and must be carried in a basket for their safety. The most difficult part of the preparations was getting the equipment. The harness and leash were available for purchase (“Flightsuit” by Avian Fashions), but the basket and a carrying bag had to be made. Sewing is one of my hobbies, so I designed and made a tote bag with a flexible cage built in, so he could be easily transported from the car to the facility. I got a large basket and sewed in a lining and partial cover, so that he doesn’t try to fly straight up, as doves do not have their wings clipped. Cloud had to learn to stay in the basket for an hour, the typical length of our reading sessions. By sprinkling seeds in the basket and sitting with him, with the suit and leash on, I taught him to stay in the basket quietly
Cloud is registered with AHF Caring Creatures. Although a variety of animals can be registered, including cats, rabbits, birds, mini horses and llamas, most of the therapy animals in the group are dogs. Our senior and school visits are done in a group, with several therapy dogs and Cloud. Many of our dogs are of hunting breeds, so we have to be careful to keep Cloud at a distance. The dogs are too well trained to attack him, but if they are distracted, they cannot do their job properly. Because he is so quiet, the dogs are often not even aware he is in the room with them. Cloud even worked at AHF’s booth at a pet fair, at the same time as a cat and two dogs. None of the other animals even knew he was there, because he didn’t flutter around and make noise. Their quiet demeanor and positive associations make doves ideal therapy animals.
Hedgehogs are growing more popular as pets, but some states include the prickly animals on their list of illegal exotic pets. Proponents of hedgehogs as pets say the animals are a good choice for people with allergies, and they can be handled as long as they’ve been socialized from a young age. However, opponents say owning a hedgehog does a disservice to the animals, which are nocturnal and may be forced to interact with owners when they should be sleeping. ABC News (2/25)
They’re cute, quiet and surprisingly controversial. One of the most popular pets trending across the United States is actually illegal in some cities and states.
With their pointy noses and porcupine-like quills, the Lilliputian pets have seen a spike in popularity in recent years due in part to the prevalence of websites such as Cute Emergency and Instagram accounts like @biddythehedgehog that affectionately refer to them as “hedgies.”
But some say the exotic animals have no place being domesticated.
“There always are ethical and moral issues with keeping exotics,” Dave Salmoni of Animal Planet told ABC News. “In the case of hedgehogs, one of the big cons is that it is a nocturnal animal. So the pet owner either lets it sleep all day or takes it out of its enclosure to interact with it at a time in the day that the animal should be resting. Exotic animals as a general rule do not make great pets.”
New York City health code, for one, considers hedgehogs wild animals and therefore unsuitable to keep in the home. For similar reasons, some states, such as California and Maine, have also designated them illegal. Still, a permit can sometimes be obtained for educational purposes.
“Every state is different in how their laws are set up,” said Salmoni. “The laws and regulations also change often, so getting in touch with your local Fish and Game official may be a great place to start.
Another issue that can make hedgehogs tricky to domesticate is socializing them at an early age so that they are receptive to being held by humans.
“A socialized hedgehog will not mind being picked up and will lay its quills flat as a gesture of trust,” longtime Massachusetts-based hedgehog breeder Jill Warnick writes on her website. “If it does not unroll after a few seconds and begin exploring, this animal has probably not been socialized at a young enough age, and will probably not make a good pet.”
Those with sensitivities to dander from other animals may find that allergen-free hedgehogs can offer a cuddly pet alternative with relatively low maintenance. Just don’t expect to go on walks together.
“For people who want something that they can play with, a hedgehog is not for them because they don’t do much,” Amanda Munz told the New York Post, referring to her 3 1/2-year-old pet. “Gizmo cuddles and sleeps and that’s it.”
Salmoni put it more bluntly.
“If you can’t have a hedgehog, you can always bury a pin cushion in some wood chips,” he said. “Due to the hedgehog’s nocturnal behavior, you will get the same level of interaction. Otherwise, maybe a hamster might suit you.”
Tegus, lizards that can reach 4 feet in length and weigh 30 pounds, are native to South America but are known to be breeding in at least three areas in Florida, a state plagued by exotic species such as Burmese pythons. In addition to fruits and seeds, tegus eat small mammals, reptiles and birds, and they pose a threat to ecosystem balance, experts say. The animals are likely descendants of exotic pets that were released or escaped. Orlando Sentinel (Fla.) (tiered subscription model)/McClatchy-Tribune News Service (2/25)
As if there weren’t enough exotic species crawling around Florida, as if there wasn’t enough attention being paid to muscled Burmese pythons, gape-mouthed anacondas and football-sized Bofu marinas toads, add to the list of escaped exotic pets the tegu, a little known, leg-sized lizard that is making it big here.
The beast originates in South America but has established a beachhead in Florida, and in particular, Hillsborough County, where confirmed sightings of more than 100 tegus southeast of Riverview make this one of three breeding populations in the state.
Tegus in the wild have been plentiful around Miami-Dade County, and wildlife officers last year corralled about 30 in Panama City, where a lizard breeder abandoned his stock, leaving them to breed in his yard and beyond.
The cold-blooded creature seems comfortable all over the state especially, it seems, in Hillsborough County, according to officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is logging sightings of the lizard.
“Certainly we have a lot to learn,” said Steven Johnson, with the University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. “But there is potential for impacts to native species by direct predation from tegus.
“They have a broad diet and consume fruits, seeds, insects, snails, as well as small vertebrates, including reptile and bird eggs,” he said. “They are a particular threat to imperiled species such as gopher tortoises and scrub jays (tegus are capable of climbing small shrubs to get at scrub jay nests).”
Tegus, which can grow to be more than 4 feet long and tip the scales at 30 pounds, are known in scientific circles as Tupinambis merianae. The lizard is native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina and can be prolific if all the conditions are right. Females can lay up to 35 eggs a year.
“Although direct predation on native vertebrates — small birds, rodents, reptiles and amphibians – is likely the greatest threat,” Johnson said, “tegus could compete with native species for food and space if their populations became dense enough.” He confirmed that most of the tegus in the wild are one-time pets.
“People need to be responsible pet owners and do their research and make the right choice when getting an exotic animal as a pet,” Johnson said. “And they should never release unwanted pets into the wild.”
They are black and white and with a banded tail and spend most of their time on land, though they can swim and submerge themselves for long periods of time, wildlife officials say.
They are active during the day and will burrow at night to hide. Right now, most are underground for the winter and will emerge around April to the warming sun.
If you’re strolling through the woods and spot one, wildlife experts suggest you not try to catch it or kill it.
Though tegus are not innately aggressive, they will defend themselves if bothered or threatened. They have sharp teeth, strong jaws and claws they use for defense.
Rather, the state suggests you take a photo, log the location and report the sighting to the exotic species reporting hot line at 1-888-483-4681 or online at IveGot1.org.
If you see a tegu on your property and want it removed, you can contact a local wildlife trapper to remove the animal.
A list of trappers can be found at MyFWC.com.
On that list is Jerry Richardson, a licensed wildlife trapper in Tampa, who said he’s gotten tegu calls from different areas of southern Hillsborough County.
“I don’t get called out too often for them,” he said. “I’ve seen them in pet stores, sold as exotic pets, but I never knew that they had become a nuisance animal. It’s getting out of hand now. They started down south and are moving their way north. In Ruskin and Lithia, they’re real popular in those areas.”
He said people often will report a small alligator on their property when they actually are looking at a tegu.
“A lot of people,” he said, “don’t know what they are.”
Carli Segelson, with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s habitat and species conservation division, said the numbers in Hillsborough County indicate there is a breeding population here, one of three in the state. The other two are in Polk County and Miami-Dade County. She said the local tegus most likely descended from released or escaped pets.
The state said most of the sightings in Hillsborough County are southeast of Riverview, in an area bordered by Rhodine Road to the north, Boyette Balm Road to the east and Balm Riverview Road to the west. Within that triangle, 63 sightings of tegus have been reported. Twelve have been reported in or near the Alafia River State Park, about 12 miles east of the tegu epicenter.
Residents in those areas are asked not to leave pet food outside and to cover outdoor openings and clear the yard of debris to minimize hiding and burrowing places.
The state is closely watching the tegu populations, Segelson said, with an eye toward identifying the areas where they flourish and where they may expand next.
“It’s very difficult to determine population estimates,” she said. “We’re not studying populations as much as we are trying to assess where they are located and the extent of their range.”
She urged people who have tegus as pets, not to release them to the wild.
“We hope we are doing a good job of raising awareness to not release them or any other exotic species into the wild,” she said. “It’s not only bad for that particular animal, to be taken from a situation where it was cared for and fed and releasing it to fend for itself, but releasing something not native to environment is detrimental to the environment.
“We are concerned with this species,” she said. “They compete and prey on our native wildlife and we are taking tegus very seriously.”
This Orientation is a mandatory step in the process of becoming an AHF Caring Creatures Pet Partners Team. AND it is the last one of the 2013 calendar year.
In order to attend this meeting, you must have successfully completed the Pet Partners Handlers Online Course at www.petpartners.org.
In addition, pre-registration for this meeting is required.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Every year, London’s Heathrow Animal Reception Centre handles 37 million animals traveling to or through the London area, working to ensure the animals are comfortable while traveling, properly vaccinated and microchipped. The center encounters all manner of species from elephants and poisonous snakes to dogs, cats and even four cheetahs in need of a microchip check. The Guardian (London)/Shortcuts Blog
Whether it’s pets, elephants or cheetahs being flown in legally, or dangerous wild animals being smuggled, the animal centre at London’s major airport must deal with them.
On an industrial estate less than a mile from Heathrow, an anonymous yellow-walled building echoes with barks, mewls and shrieks. The Heathrow Animal Reception Centre (HARC) is the first stop for every one of the 37 million animals that pass through the airport every year, whether it is an elephant moving between zoos, or an impulsively purchased gift someone has tried to sneak through customs.
“We’ve had a couple of tortoises down a man’s pants,” says the centre’s deputy manager Susie Pritchard, “and some turtles in someone’s bra.”
Turtles, it turns out, are particularly prevalent. Animal welfare officer Chris Sampson explains that snapping turtles, such as the one lurking beneath a log in one of HARC’s rooms, are often abandoned when they become too difficult to look after. Next door is a cayman, seized by police from an owner without a licence to keep dangerous wild animals. Both the cayman and his neighbour are now used as part of the centre’s hazardous animals training programme.
HARC houses around 20 dangerous reptiles. Alongside an innocuous-looking chameleon and a pair of monitor lizards, two huge pythons lie curled in the corners of their tanks. One was discovered roaming around Heathrow’s car park, and the other was given up by an owner who found it too aggressive. Exotic pets are increasingly popular in the UK – the RSPCA dealt with 7,073 calls about 32,426 exotic animals in 2011 – and for the authorities who have to deal with them, HARC is an invaluable training resource: “It’s about explaining to people what you need to do if you go into someone’s house and there’s a room full of rattlesnakes,” says Pritchard.
A confiscated Yemen chameleon. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian
Most of HARC’s visitors enter the UK legally, and the centre reunites 17,000 cats and dogs with their anxious owners every year. “It’s like arrivals at terminal four,” says Pritchard. “People react like they’ve not seen their pets in a decade.” In reality, they are normally only in the centre a few hours, long enough for staff to scan the animals’ microchips and confirm rabies vaccinations (both legal requirements for pets entering the UK), and in the case of long-haul flights, let them get some exercise. Regulations governing animal transit are strict – unlike budget-airline passengers, dogs and cats need to be able to sit, stand and turn around – and the City of London, which operates HARC, is responsible for ensuring airlines meet those welfare guidelines.
The glass-walled reception has seen its share of famous faces, and a signed headshot above the door marks out Orlando Bloom’s dog Sidi as a frequent visitor. “That always gets the girls quite excited,” says Pritchard. “You’ll get staff appearing on shift who aren’t on the rota.” But for Pritchard, Hollywood stars are far less interesting than some of HARC’s more highly strung arrivals: “I got a call last Christmas asking if I might chip-read four cheetahs. That was a bit of a handful.”
A team of scientists in Dubai hatched a rare bird from a chicken egg, a potentially groundbreaking conservation advancement. The method involved the transfer of fertilized yolk from the houbara bustard, a threatened desert bird in the Middle East, into the white of the chicken egg. TreeHugger (8/28)
In a development being heralded as a major advancement for conservation, a team of scientists have proven that embryonic transfer from one bird species’ egg can successfully develop in that of another. Fertilized yolk from a houbara bustard, a threatened desert bird native to the Middle East, was placed into the ‘white’ of a surrogate chicken egg.
And sure enough, the transferred bustard chick embryos continued to grow and hatch normally, despite the unnatural setting of their development.
While the technique still has some refining, scientists are optimistic that the use of surrogate eggs to hatch unrelated bird types will be a boon to conservation efforts. For a rare species like the houbara bustard, which has declined by over 60 percent in recent decades, this method would give embryos in cracked or damaged eggs collected from the wild a renewed chance of survival.
Over the long term, embryonic transfer into surrogate eggs holds the potential to hatch birds from genetic material alone — pushing science one step closer to reviving extinct species once thought lost to the ages.
Have you ever wished a popular Smithsonian exhibit could come to you rather than the other way around? Thanks to an exciting collaboration initiated by the AVMA and joined by the Smithsonian and Zoetis, “Animal Connections: Our Journey Together” recently made its debut at the AVMA Convention. Housed in a mini-museum inside an expandable 18-wheeler, the exhibit features interactive displays introducing visitors of all ages to the many roles veterinarians play and the complex bond between humans and animals. View a video from Tuesday’s public opening of the exhibit.