Pet Photos: Who Needs a Babysitter? Part 1 PLUS The Debate Over Hybrid Dogs

Pet Tree House Brings
the Outdoors In for Your Cat
Barbara Kohn - Cats Examiner

If your indoor cat is longing for a taste of the outdoors, the Pet Tree House – a feline twist on a child’s playhouse –may be just the answer. Created with the visual appeal, sound and smell to stimulate a cat’s senses, the Pet Tree House is a unique, green alternative to a conventional cat-scratching tree. Each tree features a small house for hiding and sleeping, carpeted perches, scratch-able bark posts and decorative tree leaves.

Pet Tree House founders Shelley and Joe DelRocco, who live in Lake Mary, Fla., came up with the idea for the novel cat playhouse after shopping for cat trees for their own family of cats. They thought by using real tree limbs, they could not only captivate a cat, they could draw its attention away from human furniture.

“Our goal was to make something that would be pleasing to the eye, so cat owners would be able to attractively "green up" their homes,” said Joe DelRocco. “We wanted something natural that a cat would enjoy and an owner could easily maintain.”

DelRocco explained that the ‘real’ trees are left intact and the platforms and perches are integrated around it. “We hand select all of the trees and custom build or "grow" each house to compliment the tree’s natural growth.”

Silk foliage provides visual and audible stimulationThe trees move as they would in nature, which provides a great exercise platform for the cat, according to DelRocco. “Our research indicates that the natural movement of the ‘real’ trees encourages the cat to climb and jump in response, providing it with a good workout and helping maintain its flexibility. Also, the foliage, which is silk, provides cats with visual and audible stimulation.

The Pet Trees are easy to maintain. The carpets are stain resistant and removable. In the event the cat does what cats do, you can remove the carpet, clean it, and Velcro it back in place. The foliage is removable too, so if it gets soiled or dusty, simply remove the stems, clean them with water and re-install.

The Pet Tree has already met with industry approval. At the Global Pet Expo in February, it won an award from the American Pet Products Association in the Cat Category.

Pet Tree Houses are available in extra small (Seedling), small (Sapling), medium (adult) and large (Mature), ranging from four to seven-feet tall. An extra-small Sprout Tree House is also available in custom sizes.

For more information or to order a Pet House Tree, visit

Tips for Transporting Your Pet in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif., If you are going on a road trip and bringing along a pet, you should be aware of California's laws on pet safety. The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) also has a few tips to make your travel experience safe.

"There are a lot of things to consider when traveling with pets," says Mark Nunez, DVM, president of the CVMA. "By taking a few precautions, travel with your companion pets can be both safe and enjoyable."

Dogs are often transported in the back of pickup trucks. California law requires anyone carrying a dog, or any other animal, in the back of a pickup to protect it in a secured container or cage, to cross tether the animal to the vehicle, or to have side and trail racks at least 46" high. The goal is to prevent animals from falling, jumping or being thrown from the vehicle. Fines range from $50 to $250.

In California, it is also against the law to leave an animal unattended in a vehicle under conditions that endanger the animal. Law enforcement officials are authorized to break into a motor vehicle to rescue an animal if they determine the animal is in danger. Fines begin at $100.

The CVMA recommends the following:

-- Protect your pet in a car. Everyone has to hit their brakes from time to time to avoid a road hazard; when that happens, an unrestrained pet may get hurt. At high speeds, a pet could become a flying projectile. Pets also can get in the way of rescue workers or can escape and cause additional accidents. Keep your pet in a secured crate, car seat, or soft carrier for smaller dogs and cats. Also consider a pet buckle, which works with a human safety belt. Never place your pet in the front seat because airbags are unsafe for them. The CVMA also recommends against having a pet in your lap while driving.

-- Never leave pets unattended in vehicles, as they can get injured, stolen or suffer or even die from temperature extremes.

The California Veterinary Medical Association is the largest state veterinary medical association in the United States, with more than 6,000 members. For more information, visit

SOURCE California Veterinary Medical Association

Can’t Afford Your Pets? There are Options
By Thema Ponton - WBTW News 13 Reporter

At the Murrells Inlet Veterinary Hospital, manager Jennifer Hoffman said they have not seen a lot of people who have come to the point where they cannot keep their animals due to foreclosure or other financial issues, but they have seen a number of people who cannot provide as much veterinary care due to the economy.

Hoffman said if you find yourself not able to provide for your pet, your local humane society may offer lower cost hospitals and care.

But Hoffman said the veterinary hospital may be able to work with you and keep your animals healthy by doing a few things every couple of months, you just have to communicate with them.

Hoffman said what they don’t want are people just leaving their pets. The veterinary hospital has had people leave pets on their doorstep and the outcome has not been good. Hoffman said more often than not, the animals that are left behind are scared and hot, if they are left outside in the heat in carriers or cardboard boxes and sometimes the animals escape.

“A lot of times we come across animals that are very sick and we don’t have the option to treat them without the owners and owners permission to go ahead and treat them due to the degree of illness a lot of times humane euthanasia is necessary for those animals and we feel really bad for them because their last moments are with us, strangers, rather than with their family who’s cared for them their whole lives.” Hoffman said you need to have a plan, in case caring for your pet becomes too much of a financial burden.

“You do need to think of you animals in your plan as well, doing planning for family and friends to see if someone could adopt or even provide foster care for your pets while you get yourself back on you feet is a great option, probably the best option.”

Another option may be a bulletin board like the one at the Murrells Inlet Veterinary Hospital; it is filled with advertisements from people looking for a place for their pets. Hoffman said people have come into the hospital just to check the bulletin board because they know there are people out there willing to take care of their pets.

Michelle Lopinto, director of the North Myrtle Beach animal shelter said the shelter is overwhelmed with the number of animals they have right now. Lopinto said the shelter is only taking animals from the city limits that animal control officers bring in. She said if you can’t take care of your pet, for whatever reason, do your research before taking your pet to a shelter, it might not be the best option.

A rescue organization may be another option.

Bob Checkaneck, president of South Carolina Greyhound Adoption Program (SC GAP) said the group works to find foster homes for greyhounds and dogs less than thirty pounds. “We try to work with the shelters and help the shelters, not try to do anything else, there’s no competition here, we’re out for the best for the animal.” Checkaneck also said if you have the foggiest idea that you cannot keep your animal, SC GAP, try to get in touch with them or another rescue group as soon as possible. He said the more advance notice they have, the easier it will be for them to work with you and find the right temporary home for your pet.

You can find more information about foster care and adoption by logging on to

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Who Needs a Babysitter? Part 1
Thanks to Kathy in BHC, AZ

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Baby's Injuries Spark Debate Over Wolflike Dog
By Amy Wilson, Greg Kocher and Emily Ulber -

Dakota, the animal that badly injured 3-day-old Alexander James Smith on Monday, is at the center of a now national discussion that isn't likely to end soon.

Is she a bad dog who should be destroyed? Or is she a dog acting on a dog's instinct and unfairly taking the blame for what was, essentially, human fault? And, now because of her complicated breed and background, has the matter become so incomprehensibly muddled that she is no longer considered a backyard dog at all?

When Michael Smith, Alexander's father, spoke to the media Tuesday, he said Dakota was "a Native American Indian" breed and said the breeder told him the dog's grandparentage as "90 percent wolf."

How to acclimate your dog to your new baby

■ Make sure the dog is house- and obedience-trained, with reward and motivation, not punishment. Make sure it understands sit, stay, off, leave it, and lay down.

■ Address any possible "sibling" rivalry by rewarding the dog with attention while the baby is present. Try not to push the dog aside but occupy it with new toys and equal time.

■ The dog should be not allowed too close to smell or lick or lay down with the baby. The dog should not be allowed in the baby's bedroom, even if others are present, nor in any place when the child is not supervised.

■ Teach the dog to ignore the baby scent with deliberate training. For example, lay a blanket or used diaper on the floor and keep the dog from going near it.

■ Allow suitable time for the baby and the dog to get to know one another. Don't expect them to be best buds overnight.

■ If there is any concern about the obedience and control of the dog at any time the baby is present, it should either be on leash or in a crate. This includes any mouthing or biting behavior, even if playful.

For more information, go to or

Source: Mary Ann Zeigenfuse, Best Friends Obedience, Lexington; Dr. Andrew "Butch" Schroyer from the Animal Care Clinic, Lexington.

Critics argue that hybrids are unpredictable and dangerous, that they make poor pets and that there is no rabies vaccine available for wolves or their hybrids. Proponents claim the hybrid wolf is a good companion and is useful in educating the public about wolves. Many claim "once you have had a wolf hybrid, you will never own a dog again."

Mary Ann Zeigenfuse, a Lexington dog trainer and owner of Best Friends Obedience, said if Dakota is part wolf, she is no expert.

"If this is a wolf-hybrid, this is not a dog," she said. "It is still partly undomesticated. It may, in some cases, have no fear of humans."

When asked if she and loving pet owners could domesticate a wolf, she responded, "if I had 10,000 years."

There have been numerous reports of wolf hybrids injuring people, sometimes fatally. In 2002 in Ballard County, a wolf hybrid killed a 5-year-old boy; the animal's owner pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless homicide.

Janece Rollet, a certified canine behaviorist in Georgetown, is among the people who say that wolf hybrids are potential trouble. She said they are essentially wild animals.

A wolf hybrid "is not an animal you want living in your house," Rollet said. "Because you're dealing with the basic tenets, the basic behavior of a wolf, not the basic behavior of a dog."

David Wise of Frankfort is among those who defend wolf hybrids.

"It's probably one of the most loyal animals I've ever had," Wise said. "I had one for 15 years, and it was the most docile animal you ever had. He never once snapped at a child."

So how does Wise respond to reports of wolf hybrids biting and injuring people?

"It's all in how they're raised," Wise said. "When they're pups, pups are going to be rough. But as they get older, you show 'em more affection than the rough-housing, and they're gentle as a lamb. They're no different than any other breed of dog in that respect."

A matter of controversy

Michael Smith says they have had Dakota and Nikita, her sister, for four years — since they were pups. They got the dogs from a Michigan breeder.

But are Dakota, and her sister who still remains in the Smith home, wolf hybrids?

The dog breed itself is a matter of some controversy. Is it the same as a Carolina Dog or an American dingo?

Depends on who you ask.

Spokesmen for the American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club said Wednesday that those registry organizations do not recognize the Native American Indian dog as a breed.

However, do an Internet search and you will find sites that refer to Native American Indian dogs. According to Web sites devoted to the dog, there are only five breeders in the United States, and there's much discussion about their position and whether they have any verifiable claim to a dog with a specific native American origin with wolf ancestry.

Apparently, even the legal status of the dog has been challenged by some Native Americans.

Sherman Jett, supervisor of Jessamine County Animal Control, said he has never heard of a Native American Indian dog, nor has his predecessor. Beckey Reiter, director of Boone County Animal Control, also said "that's not a breed I'm aware of."

Jett said he could not say with certainty what type of animal Dakota is. "I honestly don't know," he said.

There are animals known as Native American dogs, "but they do not contain wolf," said Rollet. Native American dogs, she said, "are a combination of multiple, larger dogs: husky, German shepherd, malamute and so on."

A classic mistake

Dr. Andrew "Butch" Schroyer from the Animal Care Clinic in Lexington said that in 25 years of practice, he has never seen nor treated this breed of dog.

That means it's hard to talk about its predilections. Still, he added, if it is a wolf hybrid, it is unpredictable, which is not good in a pet. And, he cautioned, like any exotic pet, "just because you can have one, doesn't mean you should have one."

The disposition of the Native American Indian dog is being hotly defended this week.

Karen Markel, a breeder at Majestic View Kennels in Lowell, Mich., said that in general, Native American Indian dogs are social and get along well with children. "Any dog trainer will tell you it's negligence" to leave a small child alone with any kind of canine, she said. "Of course the dog will suffer as a consequence."

Ray Coppinger, a biology professor at Hampshire College who studies canine behavior, said the dog's history — where it came from, what it has experienced — is exponentially more important than what breed it is. He's seen similar incidents happen with dachshunds, he said.

Coppinger said that although what happened to the Smiths is tragic, it's a relatively common problem.

The Smiths made a "classic mistake, out of ignorance, and now they're suffering badly for it," he said. Dogs like Dakota don't recognize infants as people, Coppinger said. "It's no more of an act of violence on the dog's part," he said, "than you eating a steak."

Herald-Leader staff reporter Greg Kocher contributed to this story.

Is Cruelty Different When It's Not Deliberate?
By Peter Wedderburn -

You must have heard about the two police dogs that died after being left in a car during the heat wave at the end of June. I’m sure that the police officer involved is devastated at the loss of his dogs, but the consequences of the event for him are going to continue for some time.

Yesterday it was confirmed that he’s going to be prosecuted for cruelty to animals. He faces up to six months in jail, a £20,000 fine and a lifetime ban on keeping or working with animals if he is convicted.

Cruelty can be shockingly deliberate. Individuals have been known to torture animals, choosing to inflict pain on them, perhaps gaining some sort of bizarre pleasure from their suffering. Other examples include cats being thrown on bonfires and dogs being forced to fight with each other for human entertainment. Deliberate cruelty of this type needs to be dealt with severely under the law, both to deter other potential wrong-doers and to send out the message that our society will not tolerate abuse of animals in this way.

Other wilful acts of cruelty include pets starving after being shut in sheds with no food. Such cases may be marginally less appalling, in that the perpetrator may not revel in the suffering of the animal in the same way. But they cannot deny knowledge of the consequences of their actions in depriving animals or food. The suffering of the animals is a predictable result of their decision to withhold nutrition.

What about the cruelty involved when dogs are left to die in a hot car? Clearly, nobody would choose to cause the deaths of their dogs in this way. Yet the suffering of the animals is as severe as if the person who shut them into the car had done it for their own entertainment. Is the guilt of the humans involved any less because they did not wish the adverse consequences to happen? Is irresponsibility as culpable as willful cruelty?

Co-incidentally, a similar case has just been reported in the USA. A police dog died in New Orleans after being left in a car on a hot day: the report shows photographs of the car afterwards. The dog had tried to escape, destroying the interior of the car in his effort to survive. His body temperature was 109.8’F by the time he was taken to the vets, and he died shortly afterwards. A poll on the news site shows that 84% of the voting public believes that criminal charges are appropriate, with only 2% stating that “accidents happen and while it was tragic, it was just an accident”.

I’ve no doubt that a similar sentiment would apply in the current case in the UK. With hindsight, of course the policeman would not have followed the same course of action, but like any dog owner, he was responsible for the care of his dogs. If an act of cruelty followed his actions, then it’s unarguably his fault, and like any other individual, he needs to face the consequences.

Babies Can Understand Dogs, Study Finds
By Jeanna Bryner -

Dogs may be man's best friend, but babies might also really understand Fido.

A new study found that 6-month-olds can match the sounds of an angry snarl or friendly yap with photos of dogs showing the corresponding body language.

The results, published in the July issue of the journal Developmental Psychology, suggest that babies can decipher emotions even before they learn how to talk.

"Emotion is one of the first things babies pick up on in their social world," said lead researcher Ross Flom, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University in Utah.

Barking dogs

The study involved 128 infants, with 32 from each of four age groups (6, 12, 18 and 24 months), who had little or no exposure to dogs.

The babies first looked at two images of the same fluffy canine, one showing the dog in an aggressive posture and facial expression while the other showed the dog in a friendly stance.

The researchers wanted to figure out whether infants had a preference for one expression over the other before including the dog barks. They didn't.

Then, the researchers played a 2-second sound clip of either a friendly or threatening dog bark while the child viewed the two images. In the next trial, the other sound clip (aggressive or friendly) was played.

The researchers videotaped the young participants as they looked at one or both of the dog images (or glanced around the room, at a parent, or elsewhere).

The 6-month-old babies spent most of their time staring at the matching photograph, so a mean bark would garner a stare at the dog with the vicious facial expression.

"The six-month-olds would look in that direction and kept looking in that direction," Flom told LiveScience. "The older kids would glance at it and then kind of look away as if to say, 'Oh yeah, I get it, it goes with that face. The task is ridiculous. I'm going to move on and look somewhere else around the room.'"

Baby smarts

The results suggest both 6-month-olds and babies up to 2 years old could distinguish a rowdy bark from a benign one. But the older babies just showed their correct responses differently than the 6-month-olds.

Past research in the field of baby smarts has relied on the proportion of time a baby looks in a certain direction or the proportion of time he or she exhibits some other signal of response to show a baby's skills in distinguishing facial expressions or intonations in speech patterns.

These studies have suggested that while 6-month-olds are experts in verbal and facial perception even when it comes to monkeys, as they get older they lose this ability.

The idea is that babies are born with a full toolbox of broad abilities. Over time, as they experience the world, the toddlers refine their abilities and focus on what's really relevant, say, human faces rather than monkey or dog mugs.

But according to the new results, perhaps the little ones don't lose the ability, Flom said. They just show it differently. So instead of calculating the time spent looking in a certain direction, researchers could take into account a baby's first glance, he added.

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Unusual Things Happening
Amongst the Bird Population - Staff reports

Have you seen a cardinal with a white stripe on its chest? How about two birds' nests welded together?

Helen Peacock, a bird aficionado, recently witnessed both at her residence in Salisbury.

"I have never seen anything like it in all the years I've lived here," Peacock said.

Peacock found the unusual bird's nest lying on the ground outside her home Thursday morning after spotting a bird resembling a cardinal eating from her bird feeder earlier in the week.

"I think the warmer weather is causing some birds to alter their migrating habits," Peacock said.

While birds in North America typically fly south in the winter, warming climate changes can cause birds to migrate south earlier than usual.

According to an Audubon Society analysis examining four decades of Christmas Bird Count observations, bird populations grow most in the states experiencing the greatest warming.

"We're seeing compelling signs that climate change has been with us and having serious biological consequences for the past 40 years," the Audubon Society stated. "This means that even small shifts actually have an impact on many species."

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