Telegraph UK

By Catherine Elsworth in Denver
Last Updated: 7:00PM GMT 05 Nov 2008

The new First Pet will be an as yet unnamed puppy, according to the Illinois senator’s victory speech in which he thanked his family for their support and told daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, seven: “I love you more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.”

The girls, who will be the youngest residents of the White House since Amy Carter moved in aged nine in 1977, beamed at the news.

There was no word on the type of dog the Obama family will chose although Michelle Obama indicated in a television interview during the campaign they would like to adopt a rescue dog. Mr Obama had promised his children a dog whether or not he won the election.

The new First Puppy will follow in the footsteps of a long line of presidential pets dating back to George Washington, who had several dogs.

More …



Will I be the next First Puppy?


It might be a felony, animal advocates say By BILL VARIAN
Published February 20, 2007TAMPA – Participating in the latest marketing campaign from the folks at Checkers could get you charged with animal cruelty in the company’s home county.

As part of its “Rap Cat” campaign, the Tampa operators of drive-through restaurants is asking its patrons to do just that – wrap their cats in one of their to-go bags. The company is providing paper bags fashioned after a basketball jersey, with a No. 15, a mock gold dollar-sign necklace and slots to cut out for the legs and tail of the cat. The head would stick out of the bag’s opening.


“Instruxions” on the bag encourage customers to submit “pics/vids of your cat keepin’ it real” to a promotional Web site.


“Caution” the bag reads. “Not all cats will be down with wearing this bag. Do not harm or endanger any cat.”

The disclaimer is hardly good enough, say the folks at Hillsborough County Animal Services.

“We just don’t think that’s an advisable thing,” said Marti Ryan, a spokeswoman for the department that polices for such things as animal cruelty. “Cat scratches can be very injurious. Not to mention having cats perform tricks that they are not prone to do by nature.

“Are they only trying to sell their products to people who don’t like cats?”

Beyond that, Ryan said, forcing a cat into a paper bag could be considered “torment,” meaning it could open people who participate to a felon animal cruelty charge.

“This is not advisable for humans or the animals,” Ryan said. “It’s just not a good thing to do.”

A Checkers executive responded to a news release from the county with a written statement.

“When our Rap Cat commercials began airing last fall, they were an overnight success,” said Richard Turer, senior vice president of marketing for Checkers. “We received dozens of letters from our guests requesting Rap Cat merchandise. Our new Rap Cat Web site, cups and carry out bags are all in response to Rap Cat’s popularity and are intended only as a creative extension of our television campaign.”

Source: St Petersburg Times

In other news …

February 21, 2007

Tualatin police cite resident for letting dogs loose & kill cat  

By Rick Bella for The Oregon, 20 February 2007

TUALATIN — Police have cited a Tualatin woman, accusing her of failing to control two large dogs that killed a cat while running loose last week.

Julie McCluskey, 32, was cited for two counts of failing to prevent running at large, two counts of failing to prevent acts of nuisance by dogs and keeping a dangerous dog.

Capt. Jeff Groth, Tualatin police spokesman, said McCluskey owns only one of the dogs. However, both dogs were in her custody when the incident occurred.

Groth said police received a report shortly after 12:30 p.m. last Wednesday that two dogs were killing a cat in the 22000 block of Southwest Pinto Drive.

When an officer arrived, the dogs still were with the cat, which already was dead. As the dogs moved though the neighborhood, police remained in their patrol cars in a “rolling containment” maneuver to ensure that the dogs did no other damage.

Police also contacted the department’s school resource officer to make sure no students or school buses would be in the area.

About 45 minutes later, Washington County Animal Services officers were able to capture the dogs.

$5,000 reward for information about cat mutilation

By Lindsey Collom for The Arizona Republic, 20 February 2007

The Arizona Humane Society and Silent Witness are offering up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest or indictment in the attempted castration of a feline.

An examination revealed the cat’s genitals were wound with rubber bands, inciting inflammation, infection and severe damage to its bladder and kidneys.

The animal was also emaciated and dehydrated, according to a Humane Society statement issued Tuesday.

Humane society officials said the 2-year-old male cat had to be euthanized.

“We believe that someone carried out this depraved act at least two weeks ago then turned the cat loose,” spokeswoman Angela Stringfellow said. “He suffered horribly before we rescued him. . . . And now, we are committed to finding his abuser(s) and bringing them to justice.”

An emergency animal medical technician found the animal near 32nd Street and Greenway Road after someone reported a cat being hit by a vehicle. Humane society officials do not think the cat’s injuries were accidental.

“It’s common sense that dogs and cats should only be spayed and neutered by a veterinary surgeon who will carry out the procedure under general anesthetic and administer appropriate pain relief and antibiotics,” chief veterinarian Nancy Brandley said. “There is absolutely no excuse for anyone to do something this heinous.”

Humane society officials urge anyone with information to call the Silent Witness at (480) WITNESS. Callers can remain anonymous.

The healing power of animals

February 21, 2007

Straits Times Interactive, Mind Your Body, 21 February 2007

Many animals from dogs and cats to horses and dolphins have played a role in the healing process.

Sigmund Freud, considered by many to be the father of modern psychology, once wrote to a friend of the sympathy his dog Jofi showed him while he was undergoing cancer treatment.It would be of no surprise to Freud that today, animals are used in therapy.

Mr Charlie Ho, the co-founder of Therapy Dogs Singapore, says that ‘dogs can do much more than us to help’.

Indeed, studies are now showing that to be true.

A study conducted in the United States at the University of California, Los Angeles, last year, showed visits by dogs to be more beneficial to patients with heart failure than visits by humans alone.

Patients who were visited by a dog and human showed a 17 per cent drop in epinephrine, a hormone produced by the body when stressed, after a 12-minute visit.

Those visited by a person alone showed only a 2 per cent drop in epinephrine levels after the 12 minutes.

Mr Ho has witnessed beneficial effects first-hand when visiting nursing homes, hospices and schools with volunteers and their dogs.

He tells the story of a lonely and depressed dementia patient who, having experienced business failure and family rejection, refused to talk to anybody.

But once they got the dog to do a few tricks the man started laughing.

Ms Kwok Yee Siang, an executive director at Bethany Methodist Nursing Home, adds that ‘some residents who won’t even talk to the person in the bed next to them will talk to the dogs’.

An unhappy woman at Peacehaven Nursing Home wept one day because she was moved to the common area to meet canine visitors.

But her ‘tears turned to joy’ when a friendly dog licked her face, says Ms Angeline Ng, leader of the Singapore Kennel Club pet therapy team for the Peacehaven Nursing Home.

Dogs aren’t the only animals that can be helpful.

At Riding For The Disabled Association of Singapore (RDA), the elderly and disabled have a chance to ride horses in a safe and secure environment.

Ms Bee Wee, the head instructor, recounts how the first word a mother heard her disabled child speak was the name of the horse: Fraggle.

And while not all riders bond as effectively with their horses, the act of riding the horse imparts benefits.

‘For a kid who can’t write an essay, to control a 2,200kg animal is a huge boost of self-confidence,’ says Ms Kathleen Weidler, a former teacher who’s been volunteering with RDA since September. ‘It’s something even their parents can’t do,’ she adds.

The same effect can be seen in mentally disabled children working with dogs, says Madam Girija Nambier, a volunteer management executive for the Asian Women’s Welfare Association educational services.

Learning how to walk the dogs boosts the child’s self-confidence, she says.

Riding a horse can also be of great help to the physically disabled by improving their core strength, muscle tone, coordination and balance, says Ms Wee.

Mrs Jodi Bonnette, a 48-year-old teacher at the Singapore American School, certainly thinks so. She says her son Zachary, a 12-year-old with Angelman’s Syndrome, a rare neuro-genetic disorder, can walk much better after having done horseback riding for a few years.

‘His posture’s better, as well as his stamina,’ she says.

Although he does physiotherapy a few times a week, she thinks that the RDA ‘has been the best programme for him’.

Learning to ride a horse can also help concentration.

Ms Wee recalls how a hyperactive autistic boy, unable to stay in one place, was sitting still on a horse by the end of the fourth session.

And if nothing else, working with animals makes people happy.

As Mr Ralph Haering, a 29-year-old RDA volunteer, puts it: ‘The children come in nervous and they leave happy.’


The cat’s out of the bag

February 21, 2007

Straits Times Interactive, Mind Your Body, 21 February 2007


Six cats under the same roof have provided a family with companionship and brought relief to a sick man. By Shelagh Mahbubani

Most people would think that six cats taken in by a loving family to be getting the better end of the deal.In fact, the Lu family feels that it’s the other way round.

The six cats that live with them have blessed them in more ways than they imaginable, said the Lus.

They are especially thankful of any blessings they have received since Mr Edgar Lu was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 1993.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that causes the death of nerve cells and hence the paralysis of voluntary muscles.

In 2000, Mr Lu, 54 and a former IT consultant, became completely bed ridden.

Three years later, Mr Lu and his wife Gina got their first cat, Gandalf.

Though they bought Gandalf to help their son Kevin, who was going through depression, they found that having a cat helped everybody.

The cats also help Mr Lu deal with his condition.

He is unable to move, except to smile and speak in a voice incomprehensible to everyone but those who know him. He has to be constantly under watch, as there’s a risk of him choking on his saliva.

‘Prior to the arrival of the cats, he was more focused on his own problems,’ said his wife, Mrs Lu, 47, a systems analyst.

Now, Mr Lu can watch the cats while he lies on the bed placed in the living room.

It’s very comforting to have them lie on the bed, he said through his wife’s translation.

Aside from providing emotional comfort, they even help to reduce his physical pain.

A cat lying on his hip can be more effective at relieving the pain than a hot water bottle, said the Lus.

The cats have also helped the whole family bond in a way that they couldn’t previously.

Mrs Lu said that because of her husband’s illness the family wasn’t able to spend as much time together as they wanted.

As the two sons grew older, they had less in common to talk about.

‘The cats indirectly serve as a link for the family,’ said Kevin, 20, a student at LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts.

Perhaps most important of all, the cats have helped the rest of the family get through hard times.

They really are, in their own way, members of the family.

Having Gandalf around helped Kevin get out of his depression, which hit him just around his O levels.

Gandalf is like a pal to her son, said Mrs Lu.

Kevin prefers to call Gandalf ‘an animal version of a soulmate’.

‘We understand each other,’ he added.

Both mother and son say the cats understand orders.

‘It’s uncanny,’ said Mrs Lu. For example, they will go into a room if she asks them to.

And whenever they are asked to do something they don’t like, the cats will respond with an indignant look.

And while one would think that keeping six cats in the house would create a mess, Mrs Lu said the opposite is true.

‘They’re very clean and well behaved,’ she added.

All they need is for fresh water and food to be left around the house and their litter boxes cleaned. That’s not much to ask.

GUANGZHOU, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) — South China’s Guangdong Province, the first to report fatal SARS cases in late 2002, has enhanced surveillance on civet cats, found by scientists to be a major source of the SARS virus, to prevent possible outbreaks in spring.    


The province mobilized nearly 7,000 health inspectors in the past month and examined 10,000 restaurants for civet cats, said the Guangdong Provincial Health Department.A live civet cat and several frozen ones were confiscated and 18 restaurants were fined in the latest campaign across the province, said Huang Fei, deputy director of the department.

A restaurant in Shunde, Foshan City was fined 30,000 yuan (3,800 U.S. dollars) for buying civet cats.

The province banned raising, selling, killing and eating of civet cats in January 2004.

But “the health departments have received increasing reports of illegal trade in civet cats since November,” said Huang.

During the campaign, restaurants were required to make a written commitment on no trading of banned wild animals like civet cats.

Those who fail to keep the commitment will get their licenses revoked.

“The possibility of a SARS outbreak still exists in Guangdong in spring,” said Luo Huiming, an official with the Guangdong Disease Control and Prevention Center.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, first broke out in Guangdong in November 2002 and spread to 24 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on the Chinese mainland.

The outbreak caused alarm around the world, with infected cases reported in 32 nations and regions. The disease claimed more than 700 lives worldwide, including at least 349 on the Chinese mainland.

Source: China View

February 2, 2007

A good rebuttal on the call to ban cats & dogs in HDB.

2 February 2007
ST Online Forum
Writers’ strong views on cat/dog ban in HDB flats worrying

I find the views of those like Mr Heng Cho Choon, ‘It’s not only the cats – dogs too must be banned’ (Online forum, Jan 31), and Mr Peter Kuan, ‘Why HDB should ban cat and dog ownership in flats’, (Online forum, Jan 25), all too worrying.

Should they have their way, visually-handicapped Singaporeans who get by with the help of guide dogs and who live in HDB flats would have to find alternative accommodation.

From my research, a total of no fewer than seven articles on the usefulness of guide dogs to the visually-handicapped were published in Singapore’s mainstream media, alongside the praise heaped on a multitude of government agencies for taking the proactive move towards making Singapore the best home for all.

While guide dogs are obviously suitably chosen and trained to very strict standards for their task, it seems rather inconceivable to Mr Heng and Mr Kuan that pet dogs can also be obedience-trained.

In addition, contrary to HDB’s statement that ‘cats are not allowed to be kept in HDB flats as they are nomadic in nature and difficult to be confined in the flats’, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) asserts otherwise.

According to AVA’s ‘Cats as Pets’ brochure (available on the AVA website): ‘Cats do perfectly well in a confined environment so long as all their basic needs (that is, food and water, shelter, a comfortable living environment and veterinary care) are provided. This is quite contrary to the popular belief that cats can only be happy and contented if they are free to wander outdoors.

Given that AVA is the veterinary authority in Singapore, it would appear that HDB officials are ill-informed.

Of course, objections to the HDB ban on cats (and Mr Kuan’s proposed ban on dogs) are multi-faceted and cut across a range of issues.

One objection is that pets cause too much noise. Another, that cats and dogs dirty the environment.

While neighbourly concerns do need to be taken into account, I find that those who advocate such a measure as drastic as a ban on pets in public housing silly.

In the multicultural public-housing environment that Singaporeans have lived in for years (and will have to continue to do so); in the land-scarce polity that the Government wishes to pack more people into; in the proactive measures that government agencies have taken towards Mr Kua Cheng Hock who has lobbied for more than 20 years for guide dogs to be allowed, surely learning to accommodate another’s differing way of life ought to be seen as a valuable lesson in empathic understanding?

If no, then well, here’s just one more snippet from AVA’s website:

‘It is a misconception that pets cause asthma. Asthma is a genetically inherited condition… Recent studies also show that children living with a dog or cat at home are less likely to develop asthma. This research supports the current thinking among allergists that exposing a child to dust, animal dander and other allergens at a young age will help him build up immunity that will reduce the chances of him developing asthma.’

In other words: Are Singaporeans – in always wanting to ban this or that; in always expecting the Government to take the high-handed route; in wanting the Government to nanny them to the grave – simply a tad too pampered?

Soo Kwok Heng
Victoria, Australia

I love this! It is true is usually our unfounded fears that cause innocent animal lives to be lost.

Straits Times Interactive
ST Forum, 12 January 2007

THE Sunday Times article on Jan 7, ‘Bee attack: Don’t fight back, just run’, is balanced journalism – educative and fair. This contrasts with previous fear-mongering reports on ‘killer bees’ which miscast unaggressive local species as their dreaded Africanised cousins in the Americas.

Competing literacies leave many ‘bio-illiterate’. Recent giveaways include a Channel News Asia presenter who ascribed the film, Gorillas In The Mist, about Diane Fossey, the late mountain gorilla specialist, to Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee expert.

A local article referred to chimpanzees, which are apes, as monkeys. Another writer feared that monkeys on one of the Southern Island might throw stones – they don’t, but apes might.

Another writer mislabelled the whale shark – a fish – as a marine mammal. Years ago, a reporter sensationalised the harmless, plankton-feeding whale shark as a potential maneater.

Some youngsters mistake the ubiquitous monitor lizard, which is much smaller and not life threatening, for the rarely seen crocodile. This may explain signs (still there?) at MacRitchie Reservoir that differentiate these animals pictorially – to obviate panic?

In the Dec 31 Sunday Times story, ‘Korean study mamas’, one of them complained: ‘Singapore is so clean, so why are there lizards crawling on the walls of our apartment? We are really scared of them.’ Why must non-humans always be filthy and threatening by default?

House lizards (geckos) don’t smell, whereas – unwashed – we and our pets reek and exchange bacteria. That creatures exist to attack us is self-flattering. Gecko droppings show their pest-control role. Cleaning up after them after initially being startled when they panic at our intrusion. Admire their adaptation to our environment – don’t fear or despise them.

American author Mark Twain said: ‘The more I see of people, the more I like my dog’. We have no monopoly on human traits. Some wild dolphins, summoned by drums, herded fish into tribal fishermen’s nets for mutual benefit.

Lacking muscles to access honey, the honey guide bird uses body language to lead animals or humans towards a beehive to share the spoils. Kamuniak, a wild lioness in Kenya, adopts several oryx calves for company instead of eating them which baffled zoologists no end.

Animals don’t deserve short shrift. Bio-literacising ourselves via documentaries, and so on will outgrow a distrust of – overwhelmingly less dangerous – non-humans. Don’t we owe our own species honesty, humility, edification and justice too?

Anthony Lee Mui Yu

The Straits Times Interactive
8 January 2007

THE Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is appealing for witnesses who might have seen the culprits who hanged a cat with a blue nylon string.

Residents at Block 245, Simei Street 5 called the police after they saw the dead cat hanging from the staircase railing between the sixth and seventh floor.

The incident happened on Dec 29, and it was the second time in a week that a cat had been tortured.

On Christmas Eve, a cat was found bleeding from the mouth and nose on the second floor of Block 171, Yishun Ring Road.

The SPCA was informed and the injured cat was taken to a veterinarian to be put to sleep. Said the SPCA’s executive officer, Ms Deirdre Moss: ‘It was in extreme pain and suffering from respiratory distress.’

The SPCA is appealing for witnesses and is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for harming the cats.

Anyone with information can call the SPCA at 6287-5355 during office hours.

Seng Chew & Twinkle

January 7, 2007

Never heard of her but I love the fact that she sees the human side of her cat Twinkle & treats her like one.

“TWINKLE, a stray cat who’s now nine months old, has provided me and my three flatmates much entertainment and many scares since she entered our household half a year ago.

Probably the most horrifying thing she ever did was to eat a lizard. It was as though she was very proud of her catch, and came to show off what she had done, with the lizard’s tail and legs still sticking out of her mouth.

Being girls, we all ran into the nearest room and screamed. None of us dared go near her for the rest of the day.

She has a mischievous streak and loves to play tricks. When we have to wake up early in the morning, she’ll plant a sink scrub in the corridor leading to the toilet.

Being groggy from sleep, no one usually notices the trap in the dark until it is stepped on. As it is a rough-textured scrub, it can be quite painful.

Twinkle will hide in a corner and jump out when her prank has been successfully carried out. She’ll then take the scrub with her, and plant it back for the next victim.

She’s also extremely agile. Once, she couldn’t be found, and after looking everywhere, we heard a faint mewing sound.

It was quite scary, like a scene from a horror flick, hearing the sound but not knowing the source of it.

We then realised the mews were coming from a drawer and Twinkle was hiding in it.

Now we have to be very careful when opening drawers and cupboards because she’s so quick and moves so quietly that we never know if she’s climbed into one.

She’s got her soft side, too. When she was younger, she learnt how to jump by aiming at an object and trying to reach it.

If she failed, my flatmates and I would laugh at her because of how cute she looked. But then she’d be very embarrassed and run away to hide.

Also, during our girl talks, she would pester us to include her in the sessions by mewing very loudly outside the room until we let her in.

Twinkle, like me, is a bit of a singer. When I play fast songs, she’ll enter the room and mew along to the music, and leave once it ends.

Perhaps her love of music has to do with us singing her lullabies when she was still a kitten. My flatmates and I would replace the lyrics with ‘meows’ instead.

Sometimes I think we’re a bit ridiculous for treating Twinkle as if she were human. But with her endearing personality, it’s really hard not to.

Sing Chew, 25, was the runner-up in last season’s Project Superstar. Her debut album, From Taipei To Beijing, is out in stores.

Source: The Sunday Times