Category: Dogs

A good news story!

We welcome with open arms this change in the law!

From the BBC.

ooOOoo

Californian law change means pet shops can sell only rescued animals

December 30th, 2018.

It is hoped the law will encourage pet adoptions.

California is set to become the first state in the US to ban the sale of non-rescue animals in pet shops.

The new law, known as AB 485, takes effect on 1 January. Any businesses violating it face a $500 (£400) fine.

The change means cats, dogs and rabbits sold by retailers cannot be sourced from breeders, only from animal shelters.

Animal rights groups have heralded it as a step forward against so-called “kitten factories” and “puppy mills”.

They say the current “high-volume” industries, where pets are bred for profit, can lead to inhumane treatment and long-term emotional and physical health problems in some animals.

The new state-wide law, approved in late 2017, will now require shops to maintain sufficient records of where they sourced each animal, for periodic checks by authorities.

It does not, however, affect sales from private breeders or owner-to-owner sales.

Some Californian shop owners have raised concern the law could put them out of business. The measure has also seen resistance from the American Kennel Club, which said it limits pet owners.

According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates, more than 6.5 million pets enter shelters across the country every year, of which about 1.5 million are put down.

It is estimated that more than than 860,000 cats are euthanised in the US every year

The California assembly member who introduced the legislation, Patrick O’Donnell, has insisted the legislation is not just “a big win” for “four-legged friends”, but for California taxpayers too, as they spend hundreds of millions on sheltering animals across the state.

A couple hoping to adopt a cat from a San Diego shelter on Friday, told NBC News the move was a step forward for the state.

“It takes the emphasis off the profit of animals and puts the emphasis back on caring for and getting these cats and dogs a good home,” prospective owner Mitch Kentdotson said.

AB 485 is the first state-wide law of its kind, although other places have enacted similar regulations on pet sales on a local level.

Earlier this month, a similar ban on third-party puppy and kitten sales was confirmed in England.

Lucy’s law, named after a mistreated cavalier King Charles spaniel, also aims to combat low-welfare animal breeding.

ooOOoo

Slowly but surely we are recognising that these animals are more, much more, than ‘belongings‘.

Falling dogs!

Literally!

This is both an unlikely story and a beautiful one.

For a hawk had ‘grabbed’ a puppy but then, for whatever reason, chose to let it go. But that’s enough from me, here’s the story.

ooOOoo

This puppy literally fell from the sky

From the clutches of despair to the most compassionate hands.

By CHRISTIAN COTRONEO, January 15, 2019.

The aptly named Tony Hawk is recovering from his high-flying adventure with a foster family. (Photo: Austin Animal Center)

Not much is known about the tiny chihuahua who suddenly appeared at a construction site near Austin, Texas, last week.

In fact, he literally fell from the sky.

Workers at the project heard his cries long before they saw him. They figured a puppy was trapped somewhere among the debris.

“They were going around the construction site trying to figure out where these cries were coming from,” Jennifer Olohan, communications director for the Austin Animal Center, tells MNN.

“And then they realized it was actually coming from the sky.”

High above their heads, a puppy was flying through the air — in the clutches of a hawk.

At that very moment, the bird suddenly let go and a tiny screaming puppy — no older than 6 weeks — fell into their midst.

Aside from a few superficial wounds on his head, the chihuahua was surprisingly unhurt. But terrified.

The puppy only suffered a few superficial cuts form his fall. (Photo: Austin Animal Center)

But that didn’t last long, as the workers quickly brought him to a medical clinic, and from there, the puppy found his way into the care of the Austin Animal Center.

“We don’t know where he came from — whether he was born as a stray or whether he was in a home and got out,” Olohan explains.

The unlikely paratrooper’s new name, however, came naturally: He would be called Tony Hawk.

Tony Hawk will be ready for his forever home in about four weeks. (Photo: Austin Animal Center)

Considering his sheer tininess — not much bigger than a mouse — Tony Hawk probably seemed like a good idea to a hungry hawk.

But maybe he wasn’t ready to deal with all that crying. In any case, Tony Hawk’s fears subsided soon after he found some traction on terra firma.

Mostly because he found a living foster home to ease him into his new life. In a month or so, Tony Hawk will be looking for a forever home.

But Olohan suspects he won’t wait long.

“We’ve had plenty of interest, tons of applications for him,” she says. “He’s certainly not going to have a problem finding a home.”

And so a tiny puppy without a past found himself free from the clutches of despair — thanks to the warm, caring hands that will help him shape a brand new future.

Tony Hawk is guaranteed nothing but soft landings from here on in. (Photo: Austin Animal Center)

ooOOoo

In a world that sometimes seems a little strange this is a heck of a good news story.

Well done all involved especially the crew at Austin Animal Center.

Dog Food Recall – Answers Brand

Salmonella Discovered in Answers Brand Dog Food

ooOOoo

January 14, 2019 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning pet owners not to feed one specific lot of A+ Answers Straight Beef Formula for Dogs after the Nebraska Department of Agriculture discovered Salmonella in the food.

Which Products?

The following product is affected:

  • A+ Answers Straight Beef Formula for Dogs
    Lot # 2018 20/08 20

Why FDA Issuing This Warning

The FDA is issuing this warning because the affected product represents a serious threat to human and animal health and is adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Lystn LLC (doing business as Answers Pet Food) recalled the affected product from distribution and retail locations in the state of Nebraska on December 20, 2018, but has not yet recalled the product nationwide.

The FDA is still working with Lystn to gather comprehensive distribution information and is issuing this warning to alert consumers about this public health risk.

About Salmonella

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause illness and death in humans and animals, especially those who are very young, very old, or have weak immune systems.

People infected with Salmonella can develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.

Most people recover without treatment, but in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized.

In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Consult your health care provider if you have symptoms of Salmonella infection.

Pets do not always display symptoms when infected with Salmonella, but signs can include vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, loss of appetite and/or decreased activity level.

If your pet has these symptoms, consult a veterinarian promptly.

Why FDA Concerned About Salmonella in Pet Food

Pet foods contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella are of particular public health importance because they can affect both human and animal health.

Pets can get sick from Salmonella, and may also be carriers of the bacteria and pass it onto their human companions without appearing to be ill.

Once Salmonella gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria when it has a bowel movement, and the contamination will continue to spread.

Because animals can shed the bacteria when they have bowel movements, it’s particularly important to clean up the animal’s feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed, in addition to cleaning items in the home.

Federal law requires all pet food to be free of pathogens, including Salmonella.

Pet food manufacturers must effectively manage sourcing of ingredients, processing and packing to control pathogens.

Without an effective control, such as cooking, raw pet food is more likely than other types of pet food to contain pathogens such as Salmonella.

Pet owners who choose to feed raw pet food should be aware of the risks associated with these products.

What to Do?

Pet owners who have this lot of A+ Answers Straight Beef Formula for Dogs should discard it in a secure container where other animals, including wildlife, cannot access it.

Consumers who have had this product in their homes should clean refrigerators/freezers where the food was stored and clean and disinfect all bowls, utensils, food prep surfaces, pet bedding, toys, floors, and any other surfaces that the food or pet may have had contact with.

Clean up the pet’s feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to https://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

ooOOoo

Please share this as widely as you can! Especially among fellow dog lovers!

The NYC Subway

A very unlikely venue for some dog art.

In my travels around for items about dogs I came across this one.  It’s not your usual item. For it features dog art at the 23rd Street station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood.

ooOOoo

This NYC subway station has gone to the dogs

With more than a little help from William Wegman’s Weimaraners
By MATT HICKMAN
December 24, 2018.

William Wegman’s iconic Weimaraner portraits have been rendered into stunning mosaic art in a somewhat unlikely Manhattan venue. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

Dogs aren’t that unusual of a sight in the bowels of the New York City subway system.

There are service dogs and law enforcement dogs; dogs being transported in tote bags, baskets, backpacks and baby carriages; dogs swaddled beneath heavy winter jackets; very small dogs that come scurrying from the darkest corners of the platform towards … oh wait.
What you don’t see beneath the streets of New York are dogs depicted in public art. This has all changed with the unveiling of “Stationary Figures,” a collection of 11 glass mosaic pooch portraits now on permanent display at the 23rd Street station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

No doubt a number of straphangers passing through 23rd Street station, which services the F and M trains and was closed for several months earlier this year while undergoing a major revamping, will find that the pooches in question look familiar — maybe a bit like the average New York commuter: stoic, alert, borderline restless. But it’s mostly because the mosaics, fabricated in stunning detail by Mayer of Munich, are based on images created by none other than Mr. Weimaraner himself, William Wegman.

That’s one nattily attired Weimaraner. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

Although Wegman’s subjects have varied over his lauded career as a photographer, painter and video artist, he’s best known for whimsical compositions that depict his beloved pet Weimaraners in humanlike poses (and sometimes donning wigs and costumes). It all began in the 1970s with Wegman’s first true four-legged muse, the leggy and camera-loving Man Ray. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, however, that Wegman’s second Weimaraner, Fay Ray, achieved true art world stardom. Fay’s descendants — they include Battina, Crooky, Chundo, Chip, Bobbin, Candy and Penny — have all also modeled for their human.

Wegman’s pet Weimaraners — a German hunting breed dating back to the early 19th century — have the distinction of appearing in the permanent collections of numerous top art museums and being a regular feature on “Sesame Street.” That’s no small feat for an extended family of very good boys and girls.

The dogs depicted in “Stationary Figures” are Flo and her brother, Topper — Wegman’s ninth and 10th Weimaraners, respectively. As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which commissioned the portraits as part of its MTA Arts & Design program, explains: “The portraits highlight Wegman’s deadpan humor by juxtaposing Flo and Topper in poses that suggest the way customers group themselves with waiting for a train at the platform. In some portraits, they’re dressed in human clothes and others they’re in their natural state.”

The floppy-eared Grey Ghosts of 23rd Street. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

In addition to showcasing the work of a world-renowned artist (and local Chelsea resident) in an unexpected venue, “Stationary Figures” is meant to bring joy to — and lower the blood pressure of — harried commuters passing through 23rd Street station, which ranks amongst the 50th busiest in the Big Apple. After all, who wouldn’t crack a smile when chancing across a mosaic portrait of a handsome pooch, especially when said handsome pooch is gussied up in a bright red rain slicker and matching cap?

As Mark Byrnes points out for CityLab, this isn’t the first time Wegman’s dogs have brightened up an American subway station. In 2005, two Weimaraners, both outfitted in NASA spacesuits, became permanent fixtures as circular murals above exits at L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C.

Very good dogs, very poor service

It goes without saying that New York City subway stations, while teeming with various forms of microbial life, have never exactly been known as hotbeds of contemporary art and design.

That, however, began to change with the long-anticipated January 2017 opening of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway line, which features eye-catching new works by Chuck Close, Vik Muniz, Sarah Sze and Jean Shin spread out across four different stations on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Gov. Andrew Cuomo heralded the Second Avenue line’s secondary function as subterranean contemporary gallery (price tag: $4.5 million) as the “the largest permanent public art installation in New York history.”

A very good boy in plaId. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

And this is all fine and good — great in fact. The more public art in the subways, the better — especially when it involves local artists of international renown, dapper-looking dogs and an ample dose of wit. Flo and Topper are the best thing to hit the 23rd Station since, well, forever.

Critics, however, have been left wondering as to when significant, tangible improvements to the MTA’s declining service will finally be instituted. And this is especially true with new fare hikes on the horizon.

As is the case with the 23rd Street station, which also received new benches, lighting, tile work, countdown clocks and digital screens as part of its extensive overhaul, what does it matter if the platforms and other public areas look fantastic but the trains aren’t running efficiently? (Byrnes points out that accessibility, or a lack thereof, also remains a major issue at 23rd Street station.)

Next stop Herald Square. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

The MTA needs to do more than outfit stations with delightful distractions to keep straphangers — who mainly just want to get from point A to point B in a minimal amount of time with minimal headache — happy. While mosaics, murals and the like do act as a sort of soothing balm and improve the user experience, public art is ultimately best enjoyed while also not on the verges of tears because three completely packed F trains have gone by and you’re running 30 minutes late.

As for Wegman, described by the New York Post as a “frequent subway commuter,” he doesn’t offer any specific thoughts as to how the MTA can also improve its service.

“I really like what they’re doing as far as making it look better,” he tells the Post. “But how to make them run better, that’s out of my area.”

ooOOoo

Now I can’t really comment any more as the odds of me being on the New York Subway are slim to none. Plus, it’s many years since I travelled on the British Underground.

But that doesn’t stop me from applauding this. Both the authorities for permitting it to happen and especially to William Wegman for such beautiful and outstanding work.

Now here’s a thing!

Dogs eating insects and helping climate change.

I had to look twice at this but it wasn’t April 1st and it appeared to be a serious article. It’s from the BBC website.

Will say no more. You have a read of it.

ooOOoo

Climate change: Will insect-eating dogs help?

By Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst

10th January, 2019

Do you fret that your pet pooch is blamed by environmentalists for turning rainforests into poo in the park?

Have no fear – you can now fatten Fido on black soldier flies instead of Brazilian beef.

A pet food manufacturer now claims that 40% of its new product is made from soldier flies.

It’s one of many firms hoping to cash in on the backlash against beef by people concerned that the cattle are fed on soya.

These soya plantations are responsible for the release of greenhouse gases in significant quantities.

Is it good for the dog?

The key question is whether a diet of 40% soldier flies meets the nutritional needs of your beloved canine.

We put the question to a pet diet expert at the Royal Veterinary College, Aarti Kathrani. Her conclusion was a cautious “yes”.

“Insects can be a very useful source of protein,” she told us. “More studies are needed to show how much of these nutrients can actually be absorbed by a dog’s body – but some studies suggest that insects can provide nutrients for dogs.”

Does it help the climate if dogs eat flies?

At first sight it seems obvious that feeding your dog meaty food is bad for the environment. The link between humans eating meat and the allied emissions of CO2 and methane is well established – and pets are estimated to eat 20% of global meat.

It’s also true that flies produce protein much more efficiently than cows – using a small percentage of the water and land.

But actually the analysis is more subtle than that – because as societies become more wealthy, people often turn to muscle meat and reject the animal’s offal.

The flies are brought to maturity in about 14 days

That offal is just as nutritious – and it gets made into pet food. That means that dog food is just as sustainable – or unsustainable – as humans eating meat.

In fact, if dogs were weaned off meat and on to insects, the industry would have to find another purpose for the offal. More sausage, perhaps? Or more humans eating insect protein. Or more going vegan?

Could cat food be made out of insects, too?

Dogs are omnivores – they eat more or less anything. Cats are much more choosy, because they can’t make an essential amino acid, taurine. They find it instead in meat and fish.

But Dr Kathrani says studies show that insects do contain taurine, so it’s possible that insects could also form a useful part of the moggie diet.

The new product is from Yora, a UK start-up. The insect grubs are fed on food waste in the Netherlands.

There are several competitors which also produce pet food incorporating fly protein. They include Insectdog, Entomapetfood, Chippin and Wilderharrier.

ooOOoo

Now I have heard of some strange things but in essence this does make very good sense.

Floppy ears!

Is there a difference? Mother Nature News thinks there is.

We don’t subscribe to the following idea that floppy-eared dogs are sweeter, more friendlier.

But there’s a serious notion that there is a difference.

I’m sceptical but see what you make of the following.

ooOOoo

Why do floppy-eared dogs seem friendlier?

Many people think they seem nicer than those with pointy ears.

By MARY JO DILONARDO

January 4, 2019

Charles Darwin thought there was a link between floppy ears and domestication. (Photo: Renee Heetfeld/Shutterstock)

You see a German shepherd and a golden retriever at a park. Which one do you want to pet?

A lot of people might perceive the German shepherd — with its pointy, upright ears — as a little more off-putting and maybe even scary. But the floppy-eared retriever seems friendly and sweet and just asking for a cuddle.

We all make judgments about dogs (and people, for that matter) based on certain characteristics. In dogs, one of those things is the shape of their ears.

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been using more floppy-eared dogs to sniff out explosives because the agency says pointy-ear dogs are scarier.

“We’ve made a conscious effort in TSA … to use floppy ear dogs,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske told the Washington Examiner. “We find the passenger acceptance of floppy ear dogs is just better. It presents just a little bit less of a concern. Doesn’t scare children.”

Around 80 percent of the 1,200 canines the agency uses in the U.S. have droopy ears, according to the TSA. The agency uses seven types of dogs: five with droopy ears (Labrador retrievers, German short-haired pointers, wire-haired pointers, vizslas and golden retrievers) and two with pointy ears (German shepherds and Belgian Malinois).

But even though the dogs are friendly looking, they still have a job to do. Floppy-eared or not, they aren’t to be approached when they’re on duty, says the TSA.

A look at the science.

Charles Darwin thought a lot about ears when considering evolution, as the NPR video above explains in more detail.

“Our domesticated quadrupeds are all descended, as far as is known, from species having erect ears,” Darwin pointed out in “The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication.” “Cats in China, horses in parts of Russia, sheep in Italy and elsewhere, the guinea-pig in Germany, goats and cattle in India, rabbits, pigs and dogs in all long-civilized countries.”

In many species, ears seemed to flop when they no longer needed to be erect to catch every passing sound, Darwin mused. He called the phenomenon domestication syndrome.

More recently, in a 2013 study, Suzanne Baker of James Madison University in Virginia and Jamie Fratkin of University of Texas at Austin showed 124 participants images of a dog. In one, it was the identical dog, but it had a yellow coat in one photo and a black coat in another. The other photos showed the same dog but in one image it had floppy ears and in the other it had pointed ears.

Participants found the dogs with a yellow coat or floppy ears to be more agreeable and emotionally stable than the dogs with a black coat or prick ears.

But why the bias?

Pointy-eared German shepherds are often associated with working K-9s. (Photo: John Roman Images/Shutterstock)

Although there are plenty of people who love pointy-ear pups, why are so many wary of them? There are no studies that show prick-eared dogs are less friendly than their floppy-eared counterparts, says Elinor K. Karlsson, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and founder of Darwin’s Ark, a citizen’s science project centering around genetics and pets.

Instead, it’s likely that people base their opinions on past experiences they’ve had with dogs.

“If people do perceive floppy eared dogs as being ‘friendlier looking,’ it could be just because dogs they’ve known personally are more likely to be floppy eared,” Karlsson tells MNN, pointing out that Labrador retrievers, the most common breed in the U.S., have floppy ears.

In addition, many of the working police and military dogs people meet are breeds such as German shepherds and Belgian Malinois, which tend to have erect ears. So people may associate the ears with the working dogs which are in protector, not friendly, roles.

Karlsson says this kind of “perception bias” can affect how people see and interact with dogs, which is why she’s very interested it this theme in her research.

“People do have a habit of assigning characteristics to things based on general groupings,” she says. “People do this to humans as well. It’s the way ours brains work.”

ooOOoo

 I’m still not convinced but it makes a lovely story and one that I wanted to share with you.

Back to dogs!

And what a great story!

This article really demonstrates the power of love, good training and inspiration.

ooOOoo

Once unwanted, these dogs are now on the front lines of wildlife conservation

By 

November 6th, 2018.

Photo by Elizabeth Stone

These incredible pups catch poachers, sniff out invasive plants and diseases, and more, thanks to the work of wildlife biologist and conservation-dog expert Megan Parker.

What happens to those dogs that are just too much dog for people to handle? “You know them — you go to your friend’s barbecue, their dog is so happy to see you that she pees on your feet, and she drops a slobbery ball in your lap,” says Megan Parker (TEDxJacksonHole talk: Dogs for Conservation), a wildlife biologist and dog expert based in Bozeman, Montana. “You throw it to get as much distance between you and the dog as possible, but she keeps coming back with the ball. By the 950th throw, you’re thinking, Why don’t they get rid of this dog?” All too often, their owners reach the same conclusion and leave their pet at a shelter.

Thanks to Parker and the team at Working Dogs for Conservation (WD4C), some of these dogs have found a new leash lease on life. They’re using their olfactory abilities and unstoppable drive in a wide variety of earth-friendly ways, working with human handlers to sniff out illegal poachers and smugglers, track endangered species, and spot destructive invasive plants and animals.

Chai is shown here with a trainer. After a dog learns to recognize a particular scent, the education isn’t over — their handler works with them regularly so they maintain their skills. These days, you can find this sweet German shepherd protecting wildlife in Zambia, along with her brother Earl.

Parker first considered using dogs in conservation when she worked on the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park and was asked how researchers could track wolves through their scat, or droppings. “I started thinking how best to detect their scat off a large landscape, and the idea came up for dogs,” she says. In 2000, she cofounded WD4C to train and use canines in conservation work. Most of their dogs are adopted from shelters or from organizations or work settings where they didn’t quite fit in.

While it’s fair to say almost all dogs love toys, wildlife-detection dogs are obsessed with them. “They’ll do anything to chase a ball or a tug toy,” says Parker. If their preferred plaything is thrown far into the brush or buried in a massive pile of leaves, no worries — they won’t stop looking until they find it. No food, obstacle or distractions can deter them, and WD4C staff have turned this single-minded focus into a powerful incentive. Their canine friends are rewarded with their favorite toy every time they locate a desired wildlife-related scent, anything from elephant ivory and poachers’ guns in Zambia and trafficked snow leopards in Tajikistan to predatory Rosy wolf snails in Hawaii and invasive Argentine ants on California’s Santa Cruz Islands. The dogs are careful not to disturb or touch any specimens they pinpoint; it’s all about the toy.

Lily, a yellow Lab, is one of the group’s many sad-start-happy-ending stories. When the then-three-year-old came to the attention of WD4C trainers, she’d already bounced her way in and out of five different homes. She couldn’t sit still and she never, ever wanted to stop playing. Oh, and she was a bit of a whiner. Since joining WD4C in 2011, she has been trained to recognize a dozen different conservation-related scents and been deployed to track grizzly bears and sniff out the eggs, beetles and larvae of emerald ash borers, an insect that has killed millions of trees in the US and Canada.

Hilo was originally meant to be a guide dog for the blind, but when that didn’t work out, he found a place at WD4C. Here, he wears the standard orange vest that tells conservation dogs it’s time to get to work. Hilo helps detect quagga and zebra mussels on boats.

The three-dozen-strong WD4C pack also includes purebred working dogs who weren’t right for their intended occupations. Orbee, a border collie, had the enthusiasm and live-wire energy required of ranch dogs, but there was one problem: he had zero interest in herding sheep. He also barked a lot. Since joining WD4C in 2009, Orbee has had a globe-trotting career — he has spotted invasive quagga and zebra mussels on boats in Alberta and Montana, monitored the habitats of the endangered San Joaquin kit fox in California, and assisted scientists in northern Africa in counting up Cross River gorillas, the world’s rarest gorilla.

Jax is a Belgian malinois, a sturdy breed frequently used by the police and military. He was in training to serve with the US Army’s special unit, the Green Berets, until his handlers realized Jax doesn’t like to bite people — just toys. And, boy, does he loves toys; he’s even tried to climb trees to reach prized objects. Since 2017, Jax’s athleticism and high spirits have been used by the WD4C to perform tasks such as mapping the movements of bobcats in the western US.

Tule gets to roam the great outdoors for WD4C, using her keen nose — dogs have around 300 million olfactory receptors compared to humans’ 6 million — to track animals such as the endangered black-footed ferret in Wyoming.

“Different dogs have different strong suits,” says Parker. She and the WD4C team try to place their charges in environments that match their skillset, likes and dislikes. Unlike many dogs, Tule (above), a Belgian malinois who flunked out of a job with US Customs and Border Patrol, has absolutely no desire to chase small animals such as cats, squirrels and rabbits. This made her the perfect fit to help researchers monitor black-footed ferrets, which live in the same territory as a large, scampering prairie-dog population. The ferrets, once thought extinct in the US, were reintroduced in Wyoming in recent years. Tule alerts her handlers to the scent of live ferrets or their scat, information that allows state wildlife officials to map their distribution and see if the population is recovering. Without Tule and her pack, researchers would be forced to study the elusive creatures with cameras or live traps, undependable methods at best.

The dogs’ efforts have resulted in positive, substantial changes. The organization teamed up with the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Society so their dogs could track the scat of four keystone carnivores (grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions and wolves) through the Centennial Mountains in Idaho and Montana. Five years of doggie data showed that all four species depended on the mountains to move between the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and central Idaho wilderness areas. Thanks to this information, activists were able to stop construction of a housing development that would have interrupted their migratory pathway.

Tobias is a former stray who was found on the streets of Helena, Montana. He has searched for Argentine ants on California’s Santa Cruz Island, and now he spots invasive mussels on watercraft in and around Glacier National Park.

Some dogs are searching for animals and plants that are most wanted for the opposite reason: they’re invasive species proliferating where they don’t belong and driving out native flora and fauna. There’s the previously mentioned zebra and quagga mussels, which spread by clinging to boats and watercraft, and which clog water and sewage pipes, foul up power plants, and destroy good algae. Tobias (above) is a specialist in finding them. In one test, WD4C dogs identified 100 percent of the boats with mussels aboard (human screeners spotted 75 percent). The dogs did the job more quickly, and they could also detect the mussels’ microscopic larvae.

Former shelter dog Seamus (shown at the top of the post), a border collie, is an expert in searching out dyer’s woad on Mount Sentinel in Montana. Humans have tried to eradicate the invasive weed by spotting its flowers and pulling out plants by hand, but these attempts barely made a dent. By the time it’s found, it’s often already seeded (and a single plant can produce up to 10,000 seeds). Seamus’s keen nose, along with those of three canine colleagues, learned to sniff out woad before it flowered, a time when it’s extremely hard for human eyes to see. They also found root remnants left in the ground. At a recent checkup, just 19 of the invasive plants were found on the mountain. “It will be a complete extermination,” says Parker. “It’s just going to take a long time because we don’t know how long their seeds last in the soil.”

The dogs’ hunting grounds even extend into the water. Although prized in their native habitat, brook trout are an invasive species elsewhere; in some places in the Western US, they are pushing out the native cutthroat trout. WD4C was brought to Montana by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Geological Survey and the Turner Endangered Species Fund to see whether their animals could learn to sniff out live fish in moving water. Reports Parker, “This project confirmed what we long suspected: that dogs can detect and discriminate scents in water.”

Pepin can recognize 20 wildlife scents, including the scat of snow leopards, wolverines and cheetahs. In one cheetah study, he and another conservation dog located 27 scats in a 927-square-mile area. How many did humans find in the same territory? None.

Pepin (above), who worked on the brook trout project, is part of an ambitious charge to train the dogs to detect infectious diseases in animals.“He’s done the first of a lot of things for us, because he’s so game,” says Parker. Some wildlife carry brucellosis, a bacterial disease that is particularly harmful to cattle. It’s difficult to tell when animals are first infected because they typically don’t display symptoms, so in areas where the disease is prevalent, ranchers tend to keep livestock and wildlife as far away from each other as possible — severely limiting the territory and movement of both kinds of animals. The hope is that dogs could provide a fast, reliable way to identify infected herds. So far, Pepin has shown he can discriminate infected elk scat with higher and lower concentrations of the bacteria, and WD4C is eager to explore this use of dog power. “We have proof of concept,” says Parker. “I’d like to move that work forward.”

There are so many other unexplored capacities and environments where dogs could help, Parker believes. To that end, WD4C started a program in 2015 called Rescues 2the Rescue, which aims to help shelters around the world identify would-be detection dogs and place them with wildlife and conservation organizations. What kind of dogs are they looking for? Ones that are, uh, crazy.

To clarify that adjective, we’ll close by telling you about Wicket, a black Lab mix who retired from WD4C in 2017 at the top of her game, having detected 32 different wildlife scents in 18 states and seven countries. Wicket languished in a Montana shelter for six months, barking up a storm and scaring away potential owners, until WD4C cofounder Aimee Hurt found her there in 2005. When she went to adopt her, the shelter director said, “You don’t want that dog — that dog’s crazy!” To which Hurt replied, “I think she might be the right kind of crazy.”

All photos courtesy of Working Dogs for Conservation. 

Watch Megan Parker’s TEDxJacksonHole talk here:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebekah Barnett is the community speaker coordinator at TED, and knows a good flag when she sees one.

ooOOoo

Dogs give us so much. They are inspiring, loving and happy creatures.