With the Thursday update you learn about genetics, amazing women, and who you want in your corner when a cougar attacks

January 7, 2010

womans-day-betsy-saul-thumb-180x180Brava Betsy Saul! I always love it when worthy people are not only recognized for their great work, but get wealthy in the process.   Woman’s Day magazine released their list of 50 Women who are changing the world.  The names include Oprah, Angelina Jolie and Billie Jean King.  Best of all, Betsy Saul!  Betsy’s the founder of petfinder.com, and of course, their work has been an unparalleled success over the years.   The wealthy part?  When Petfinder was bought by Animal Planet three years ago for $35 million.   Further proof that you can do well by doing good! (thanks to Gina for the heads up on this)

Pets helping people: the genetics edition. The Boston Globe tipped me off to work underway to use the genomes of dogs to find cures for human conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder.  The groundbreaking study, which is a partnership between the Broad Institute, the Cummings Veterinary School at Tufts University, and UMass Medical School, is analyzing dobermans with OCD issues, then looking for analogous “hotspots” in human and canine genetic maps.

“This is exactly where we were hoping to get to,’’ said Elinor Karlsson, a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute, a genetics research center in Cambridge, and coauthor of a paper on the subject. “This is taking a disease that people have had a lot of trouble working with in humans, that seems to be a multigenic and complex psychiatric disease, and using a dog breed to look at something completely new about that disease – something we wouldn’t be able to find in any other species.’’

This is a powerhouse alliance.  When and if results are announced, I’ll report them here.

Fee waivers boost cat adoptions: Makes sense, right?  If you make it more economically attractive to adopt a pet, more pets should get adopted.  Guess what?  It works.   USA Today spotlights the trend, with examples from Maine to Walnut Creek, and Charleston to Salt Lake.  Always reassuring to see common sense approaches triumphant.

Melamine in Chinese milk – again! I know, right?  Just when you thought you’d read the last of melamine showing up in a food-related story out of China, Christie tipped me to a post from Dr. Marion Nestle, which includes a link to the New York Times story.  Melamine was found in pet food out of China in 2007, artificially boosting protein levels.   The next year, it showed up in infant formula in China. Now, a Chinese dairy which was previously implicated in 2008 has been shut down because of contaminated milk powder, found to have high traces of — yes, melamine.   Optimism for long-term improvement may not be warranted yet, as Dr. Nestle points out.

Why?  Maybe Chinese adulterators are getting a double message.  Here are a couple of items I picked up off Chinese news sources on the Internet (Google the names to find the sites):

  • Li Changjiang, the director of the inspection agency that failed to deal with the melamine problem, was forced to resign from the agency. He has overcome his disgrace, more or less.  He was just appointed deputy head of a major anti-pornography group.
  • Zhao Lianhai organized the parents of victims of the infant formula adulteration to try to get compensation.  He was put under house arrest in November and formally arrested in December.

Sorry, but I’m afraid this problem isn’t going away quickly, and neither are controversies over a lack of government control related to it.   Expect this to reappear in the future, somewhere.

A boy’s best friend, especially against cougars: In British Columbia, a cougar (the big cat, not um, you know) attacked an 11 year old boy.   The family’s golden retriever Angel stepped in, distracted the cougar, and in fact took the brunt of the assault.  And lived!  Loyal reader (and my lead volunteer researcher) Snoopy’s Friend sent me a great link to a heart rending, but ultimately positive story.

The officer fired two rounds into the cougar’s rear end, but the cougar continued its attack.

The officer closed in to within five feet and shot the cougar again, killing it.

Even after it was killed, the cougar’s jaws were clenched on Angel’s face, Forman said.

Angel was silent for a few moments but then took in a big gasp of air and got up.

Bunch o catsBest Friends weighs in on TNR for homeless cats:   TNR (trap/neuter/release) might be one of the two or three most contentious pet-related public policy issues  today.    On the heels of a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge’s ruling that bars the city from nominally supporting a TNR policy (and therefore encourages more cats to be killed), Best Friends Animal Society weighed in with a press release, saying TNR helps bird as well as cat populations.  Interim CEO Mike Castle slammed the judge’s decision, saying

“Best Friends believes that the needs of free-roaming community cats and the requirement that municipalities help care for them are best encapsulated in the term ‘community cats,’” asserts Castle.

“The effort to eradicate homeless cats is not only an inhumane, costly approach, it also is futile,” Castle continues. “If killing community cats were the solution, free-roaming cats would be eliminated by now. In fact, catching and killing one group of community cats simply opens that niche for another group of cats.”

Personally, I’m all in favor of an adult discussion on the issue. That’s not to say I’m optimistic it will happen, but it would be nice to give it a shot, right?

Have something to share? Drop it in the comments, or send me an e-mail.

Photo credits: Betsy Saul – Women’s Day.

Filed under: pets, connected,recalls,veterinary medicine,worth a click — David S. Greene @ 5:03 am


  1. Petfinder helped me find Sophie, my good-natured, well-behaved black cat. It was so easy a site to deal with. Bravo to Betsy Saul

    As to TNR, I believe it is best for the cats and best for the community not to kill the cats or put them in shelters.

    Other cats will certainly fill in the empty land space. In shelters some will be killed if not adopted.

    It is inhumane and costly to kill the cats, anyway. Go for the TNR, I say!

    Comment by Colorado Transplant — January 7, 2010 @ 6:52 am

  2. Which is most favored dogs or cats? dogs win.


    Comment by Snoopys Friend — January 7, 2010 @ 9:52 am

  3. I love that Mine shelters tend to have a time of year they just adopt cats out fee free. it makes a lot of people who where hesitating about getting a cat head to the shelters.

    Comment by thetroubleis — January 7, 2010 @ 9:55 am

  4. Maine, not mine. I wish we had an edit function.

    Comment by thetroubleis — January 7, 2010 @ 9:56 am

  5. Up until last year (I believe), the tagline for Maine’s department of tourism was “Maine – the way life should be”. While there are certainly things about the great state of Maine that I wish were different (wide swaths of the state are a little conservative for my taste), I wouldn’t mind having a Downeast home someday.

    Comment by David S. Greene — January 7, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  6. I know so many people that own cats, and some even own cats and dogs, too!

    Dogs may win in that particular poll, but I have heard that statistics can be manipulated.

    Well, I am not going to argue about dog or cat polls or dog and cat polls. I am too busy giving love to my two black, beautiful cats who love to be in my company.

    I like the independent nature of cats because it shows they have their own mind and their own will. Just the way I am, but am not criticizing anyone else’s preference, honestly.

    Comment by Colorado Transplant — January 7, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

  7. This link is not exciting animal news but I thought it sweet and funny too. A wayward pig (near starvation) oinks orders at Starbucks Drive Thru window: http://cbs13.com/pets/wayward.pig.captured.2.1411157.html

    Comment by Snoopys Friend — January 8, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  8. There’s another report today:

    Be aware that contaminated milk may be in many processed foods made in China.

    Comment by Janeen — January 25, 2010 @ 10:27 am

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