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Archive for November, 2006

Christmas Pets

Since the local stores are already promoting the sales of Christmas gifts, I figure this is also a good time for me to toss out a few Holiday reminders:

Finding a fuzzy bundle of love under the Christmas tree is a happy image that, unfortunately, often has an unhappy ending.

New pets need plenty of time to adjust in peace and quiet. They need lots of extra attention that people usually don’t have time to give them during the busy holiday season. Animals can also get into serious trouble by eating tinsel or chewing on electrical cords by the tree.

This is also a good time to remind you that an animal should never be given as a surprise gift.

Dogs and cats can live from 12 to 20 years. It is important that the person responsible for the pet make a long-term commitment to the animals’ care before adopting. Picking out a new pet also takes careful study to make sure it fits in with the adopter’s age, lifestyle and personality.

Try gift-wrapping a pet toy or giving a gift certificate instead, and letting the adopter choose a furry or feathered friend after the busy holidays have passed. When things quiet down, the animal will have a better chance of adapting to its new surroundings in an atmosphere of calm and loving attention.

And everyone will hopefully live happily ever after.

Posted on Wednesday, November 29th, 2006
Under: Pets | No Comments »

Thanksgiving and your pets

I’m taking a Thanksgiving break and will be back on Nov. 27. In the meantime, here are some things to keep in mind about pets and Thanksgiving:

1. Thanksgiving is for humans, not pets. We spend all year feeding our animal companions relatively bland diets. If you let your dogs and cats have treats of rich turkey tidbits and spicy foods, or you let them lick the fat or gravy off pans and plates, you can end up with sick animals.

2. Be extra careful to dispose of the greasy string that holds your roasting turkey together. It can cause choking or intestinal blockage if swallowed by a pet. (Make sure the lid on your outside garbage can is fastened securely so hungry wild animals can’t reach that tasty string.)

3. Salmonella (food poisoning) bacteria is usually killed by cooking, but turkeys are often undercooked. Unrefrigerated food left sitting out all afternoon while you visit with guests should be dumped into the garbage, and not into pet dishes.

4. Poultry bones are dangerous for pets to eat. The hollow bones shatter easily, and sharp pieces can pierce the intestines.

5. Don’t forget that chocolate is bad for dogs and cats. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to these animals.

6. Your pets might enjoy the quiet confines of a back bedroom if visiting grandchildren get too frisky.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! See you next Tuesday!

Posted on Tuesday, November 21st, 2006
Under: Pets, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments »

Another dreadful press release

Excuse me for venting, but sometimes you just need to share things with your friends. Please bear with me as I voice this primal scream.

On the average, I get about 15-20 press releases a day in my morning e-mail from companies trying to get me to publicize their products in my daily newspaper column in the Times. Not a problem. It goes with the turf and sometimes there will be something I can use. Some of them are also pretty awful.

Here, in my opinion, is the dumbest press release I’ve received this month:

LOS ANGELES/EWORLDWIRE/Nov. 14, 2006 — The company Political Pet Toys has launched its new range of pet chew toys for Christmas today. The brand new chew toys that have been added to the range includes Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Kim of North Korea and the president of Iran.

… Although family members of soldiers, democrats and republicans will want their dogs to rip these toys to shreds, it is not possible in the literal sense, as each chew toy is made from a PVC-RUBBER compound so as to be soft on the animals’ gums and will last for years. Political Pet Toys can be purchased on-line … and will also be stocked in pet stores across the U.S. …

Thanks. I feel better all ready.

Posted on Friday, November 17th, 2006
Under: Press releases | 2 Comments »

Pet Insurance Guide

Responding to the rising costs of veterinary care, a company that calls itself Urbanhound has published the "Urbanhound Pet Insurance Guide." Urbanhound says the guide is designed to help pet owners to make sense of "the tangle of available options" when choosing the insurance plan that is right for their pet.

"Is pet insurance worth the money? How much will I actually be reimbursed? What’s with all those hidden surcharges? If my dog has a chronic condition, will he lose coverage? What exactly is a ‘pre-existing condition?’ Which breeds of dog are excluded from which plans? What does it mean that my policy ‘re-sets’ every year?"

The new Urbanhound Pet Insurance Guide is available on-line at

The above information is from a press release I just received from Urbanhound. This is how they describe themselves:

"New York-based Urbanhound was founded six years ago and is regarded as the definitive on-line network for canine households in New York City. Urbanhound’s experts — a veterinarian, an animal-rights lawyer and a dog trainer — help dog owners solve problems efficiently and intelligently. … Urbanhound San Francisco and Urbanhound Chicago are the latest moves by the growing company. For more information, visit"

I just finished reading their Pet Insurance Guide and it looks to me like an honest attempt at explaining available pet insurance plans. If you’re thinking about buying pet insurance, you should definitely read this.

Posted on Tuesday, November 14th, 2006
Under: Pet Insurance | 3 Comments »

Movie: “Fast Food Nation”

Eric Schlosser’s 2001 book, "Fast Food Nation," an expose of the U.S. meat industry, has been made into a dramatized movie of the same name. It is scheduled for nationwide release on November 17, and may prove to be even more controversial than the book. Should be a great opportunity for leafleting and letter writing.

You can Google the movie name for more details. Focus of the film is on meat/health safety, exploitation of the work force (often Mexican), and the drug trade. Reportedly, there are some disturbing slaughterhouse scenes in the mix, filmed in Mexico. So brace yourself. McDonald’s and Burger King are gonna go ballistic!

Go to for more details, reviews, comments, etc. And alert your pro-animal, health-conscious, and socially progressive friends.

Eric Mills, coordinator, ACTION FOR ANIMALS, Oakland

Posted on Thursday, November 9th, 2006
Under: Meat industry, Movies | No Comments »

Don’t mess with deer!

Fall is when buck deer are "in rut" or exhibiting breeding behavior and becoming more aggressive, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. You need to be careful when out walking your dog. An aggressive  deer encounter can be dangerous for you both.

I just had my first report of a local encounter between an aggressive buck deer and a lady walking her dog. You can read more about it in today’s column.
Last year about this time, a buck attacked two dogs in Orinda, killing one of them. In San Diego County a man died after being gored by a buck he surprised in his backyard, and a couple was attacked by a buck in their garden in Mendocino County. Deer involved in these attacks were killed.
As I say in my column, suburban deer, in particular, can be a problem because they are not as afraid of humans as the wild deer back in the hills that have little or no human contact.

When walking your dog, make sure you have a leash so you can control your dog if you run into an aggressive deer. If that happens, leave the area immediately and give the deer plenty of space.

DFG says you can avoid some of these situations by not feeding deer and by deer-proofing your property. To help you, DFG has a 24-page publication, "A Gardener’s Guide to Preventing Deer Damage," available for printing at The guide has chapters on deer-resistant plants, deer repellents and fencing suggestions.

Deer are also a focus of DFG’s "Keep Me Wild" campaign.

Posted on Tuesday, November 7th, 2006
Under: Breeding season, deer | No Comments »

Pet poison prevention

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a VERY helpful Web site. Check out the section on Poison Prevention for Pet Owners. Learn how to keep your home "poison safe" for your animals, plus lots of other useful information.

Posted on Friday, November 3rd, 2006
Under: Pets, Poison | No Comments »

Elephant self-awareness

A wire story Wednesday from the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service described a study from researchers at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta that suggests elephants can look into a mirror and recognize themselves.

According to a story by Jamie Talan of Newsday, "Humans used to think themselves unique in their capacity for self-awareness and empathy. Then came evidence that the Great Apes share in this same ability. And then dolphins."

And now elephants.

"This ability to recognize themselves in a mirror suggests a higher level of self-awareness," said Diana Reiss, a senior research scientist at the Wildlife Conservatory Society in New York, and a co-author of the study.

So why do we keep elephants in zoos, in small dirt enclosures with a couple of toys?

Posted on Thursday, November 2nd, 2006
Under: Elephants, Self-awareness | 5 Comments »

Altamont windmills kill raptors

Dear Gary,
I am a volunteer at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum hospital (in Walnut Creek, Calif.). In the last two weeks we have had to euthanize three golden eagles and many other birds of prey that have fallen victim to the (Altamont) windmills. Too often the windmills chop them up so bad it is impossible to save them.

I know the windmills are shut down in November but the migration period obviously starts sooner. I wonder if it would harm our energy production to shut the windmills down just one month earlier so it would avoid the migration completely, and then turn them back on again another time of year when there is no migration to compensate for the month lost?

My friends have suggested a petition to re-schedule the windmills but I don’t know how effective it would be. I want to know what I can do to help the situation of the migrating raptors. (Liz Wakeman, cyberspace)

Dear Liz:
You’re helping now by sending me your letter to publicize this problem. Hopefully this will stimulate some response from my clever readers with suggestions on how to stop the killing.

Anyone have any ideas?

Posted on Wednesday, November 1st, 2006
Under: Raptors, Wind Turbines | 2 Comments »