Friday, October 24, 2008


Fun Fact of the Day
It is estimated that the 75 million dogs in the United States produce 3.6 billion pounds of waste per year. That is equivalent to filling 800 football fields one foot high.

Does it sometimes seem like the sidewalks and parks in your neighborhood are like dog-poop minefields? BioPet Vet Lab, a genetic testing and veterinary reference laboratory in Knoxville Tennessee, has a solution, a dog-poop data base. Remember the city in Israel where dog owners were being asked to register their dog's DNA so that unscooped poop could be traced back to the canine culprit? Same idea here. Except now, BioPet is marketing their service to home-owners' associations and condo complexes.

Here's how it works.
  • First, a participating HOA should pass an amendment to its existing covenant that requires all dog owners in the community to have their pet's DNA analyzed and filed with Bio-Pet's "DNA World Pet Registry." Registering each dog with its DNA on file costs $29.95.
  • Once the DNA is on file, any dropping found in the public areas of the neighborhood can be sent to BioPet to be analyzed and matched up with the DNA already on file. Processing of waste samples costs $49.95 each. BioPet provides complete program kits to the HOA which include waste sampling devices and containers for shipment.
  • When the dog is identified by BioPet, an email report is sent to the HOA, which then can match the pet with the offending owner. The matching process takes three to four days after receipt.
  • With positive proof through the DNA matchup, the association may choose to impose fines on the offenders, which will defray the cost of the program.
Photo Caption: Tom Boyd, CEO of EDP Biotech Corp., of Knoxville, Tenn., poses with his dog, Luke. Boyd hopes homeowners associations and apartment buildings will use his company's new DNA kit to identify neighbors who don't clean up after their dogs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Very "Bat" Idea

Here's a nice pre-Halloween story. A pet cat in Stevensville Montana presented his mistress with a dead bat. The woman, a nurse and mother of two, decided it would be fun to bring the bat corpse with her when she dropped her children off at school the next day. The students in her younger child's kindergarten class were so excited to see the dead creature, some of them even stuck their fingers in its mouth. The kids in her fifth-grader's class were equally impressed. Then, the mom exhibited her bat in other classrooms, five in all. A total of around 80 children were treated to a touch. The bat was such a hit that, after leaving the school, the mom stopped by a soccer field and showed it to more people. Later that day, the school nurse got wind of the situation. A notice was quickly dispatched to parents. The bat body was confiscated and taken to a lab for testing. The results came back positive. The show-and-tell bat had rabies. Parents were called and informed that their children would need a rabies vaccination, a series of 5 shots given over a month's time.
The cost of the treatments could run as high as $800 per student. The school's insurance policy will cover up to $70,000.
In an effort to prevent something like this from ever happening again, the school has enacted a new policy requiring that all visitors to the school obtain a pass from the office!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


There's more than one way to skin a cat. In the last post, we read about a scholarly collection of essays on animal ethics, eloquently defending the non-human animal as our moral equivalent. Today, we read about another defender of all creatures great and small, Cutout What is it? Actually, the proper question would be, who is she? Cutout is a 19 year old PETA intern. She shed her former name, Jennifer Thornburg, in an effort to draw attention to her pet cause, eliminating animal dissection in school labs.

Every year, 6,000,000 animals are killed for use as dissection props in anatomy and biology labs. Cutout argues that alternatives, such as computer simulations, diagrams, or 3D models, could be used instead - and more economically. What's worse, these animals often suffer painful deaths which I won't elaborate on here. But for more information, you know where to go:

So, her Norfolk Virginia driver's license reads, Cutout, But do people really call Cutout "Cutout?" According to this interview, her PETA pals actually do call her Cutout. But to her family, she's still Jenny.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Animal Subjects

Animal Subjects: An Ethical Reader in a Posthuman World, is not an easy book to read. Whether or not you put animals on the same moral plane as humans, whether or not you believe that beasts should be bestowed with all the unalienable rights of "personhood", it's unpleasant to confront some of the truths in this collection of essays on animal ethics. Take, for example, "Power and Irony: One Tortured Cat and Many Twisted Angles of Our Moral Schizophrenia about Animals," by Lesli Bisgould. The essay recounts the case of Jesse Power, a Canadian art student who filmed himself and friends torturing a cat and then claimed it was part of a school project on animal rights. In 2002, Power was sentenced to just 90 days in jail, which he chose to serve on weekends so his class schedule wouldn't be disrupted. Bisgould makes the point that, while anyone who saw or even read about the feline torture film knew viscerally that it was wrong, we generally ignore that animals are used, abused and murdered every day, in order to produce food and clothing, test household products or medications, or just for purposes of entertainment. "Should we not finally confront Orwell's observation literally and ask, why are some animals more equal than others?" Bisgould asks. "Is there really a difference between the animals we call 'pets' and the animals we call 'dinner' or does the difference reside in the comfort of our own imagination?"

If you've ever taken your children to the zoo or aquarium for a day of wonder and fun, gazing at exotic animals, applauding for somersaulting sea lions, you might see things differently after reading "Monsters: The Case of Marineland." In this essay, author John Sorenson draws disturbing parallels between these animal exhibits and the sideshows of human "freaks" put on display by P.T. Barnum and other legendary exploiters of people with genetic disorders and physical abnormalities. "Zoos and aquaria are prisons for animals where the public can visit and observe the suffering of the inmates, just as the circus sideshow allowed paying customers the opportunity to derive pleasure from viewing the misfortunes of the disabled." Sorenson focuses in on Marineland, a marine mammal theme park in Niagara Falls Ontario, to illustrate his point with disturbing clarity.

Throughout the 14 essay collection, edited by Jodey Castricano, spirited arguments are made for the elimination of any moral distinction between human and non-human animals. In "Electric Sheep and the New Argument for Nature," Angus Taylor rejects a litany of mental attributes traditionally used to elevate humans above animals. "Not all humans can reason better than animals; not all humans are moral agents; not all humans can imagine an extended future for themselves or have a sophisticated conception of self. Many animals exhibit more autonomy than many humans do, in the sense that they are better able to care for themselves and to navigate successfully through their natural and social environment."

For those who believe all creatures should be treated with dignity, this volume is full of difficult reminders about how far we have to go. For those who abuse, mistreat or neglect animals, this book should be required reading.

I'll end where the introductory essay begins, with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Animal Subjects is published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press