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Archive for October 2009

Remember Remember the 5th November - HedgeHogs

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), the UK's leading hedgehog charity, has teamed up with Ernie Hedgehog, lovable icon of cleaning company Spontex, to support the plight of British hedgehogs.

According to the BHPS, hundreds of hedgehogs needlessly die or suffer horrific injuries throughout Bonfire Night celebrations.

A bonfire looks like a 5-star hotel to a sleepy hedgehog searching for the perfect place to hibernate. Most people don't think about checking a bonfire before lighting which can result in the death of all sorts of unsuspecting wildlife and pets asleep inside.

The BHPS offers these simple suggestions:

  • Try not to actually construct your bonfire until the day it's to be lit.
  • This also stops a bonfire getting soaked should it rain the night before!
  • Check, dismantle and move stored bonfire materials to another spot just before lighting.
  • Build it on clear ground and never on top of a pile of leaves
  • Avoid building it close to pampas grass -this ignites easily and is another favorite spot for hedgehogs to hide under.
  • Large display bonfires have to be built in advance - encircle the entire construction with one-metre high chicken wire held in place with stakes and sloping outwards to make it difficult for a hedgehog to climb
  • Hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet of the bonfire so check by gently lifting the bonfire, section by section, with a pole or broom.
  • Never use a spade or fork as you might inadvertently stab one
  • Using a torch will help and listen for a hissing sound - the noise made by a hedgehog when disturbed
  • Going to an official, organised firework display is a safer option for both humans and animals.

Ernie Hedgehog has become a cult icon in France - as well as appearing on Spontex scouring products, he has starred in his own TV adverts and there is a huge demand for Ernie merchandise including lovable soft toys.

Ernie will promote the BHPS and its campaigns on the Spontex website as well as on his twitter and Facebook sites.

Commenting on Bonfire Night, Fay Vass, BHPS chief executive, said:

"If you find a hedgehog in your bonfire, take as much of its nest as you can and place  in  a  high-sided  cardboard  box  along  with  plenty  of  newspaper/old towelling.  Ensure there are air holes in the lid which should be firmly secured to  the box to stop the hedgehog escaping. You can offer it meat-based pet  food and fresh water.

"Protect your hands from the prickles by wearing Spontex garden gloves or use an old,  folded  towel. This also stops any human smells being transferred  to  the hedgehog which causes additional stress."

"Put  the box in a safe place, such as a shed or garage, and well away from  the festivities, as fireworks terrify them.  Once the bonfire is completely dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs."

For free advice and to obtain the names of carers in your area in advance of bonfire night, contact the BHPS on 01584 890 801 or see their website at

Bearly hanging on!

This bridge is on the  Old Donner Pass Highway (in Canada).

It has a spectacular view of  Donner  Lake  and  Donner Pass on Route 80.

A bear was walking across
Rainbow Bridge ( Old Hwy 40 at Donner Summit, Truckee) on Saturday when two cars also crossing the bridge scared the bear into jumping over the edge of the bridge.

Somehow the bear caught the ledge (see unbelievable photo, above) and pulled itself to safety. Authorities decided that nothing could be done to help Saturday night so they returned Sunday morning to find the bear sound asleep on the ledge.

After securing a net under the bridge the bear was tranquilized, fell into the net, lowered, then woke up and walked out of the net.

There is a moral to this story you know.
This old bear made a wrong move and found he was hanging by his nails.
Somehow he was able to pull himself up onto the ledge where he saw he was in a very bad, impossible situation and what did he do?
Yep, he took a nap and sure enough the situation took care of itself while he was asleep.

The moral is that when confronted with a bad situation sometimes the best solution is . ... .

take a nap

Treat your pets this Halloween!

From Pets News and Views

Kitty Cookies

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 6-ounce can tuna in oil (do not drain)

1 tablespoon oil

1 egg

Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl, adding a little water if dough is too stiff. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutter, or use a pizza cutter to cross-cut into small diamond shapes. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until firm. Store in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Cookies for Dogs

1½ cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ cups unbleached flour

2 tablespoons dry milk

1/2 cup oatmeal

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon dry yeast

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

Use your bread machine to mix the dough, or your mixer with a dough hook, or mix by hand. Place all the ingredients in your mixer and set it for the dough cycle. When the dough is done, remove it and roll it into 1/4-inch thick sheets.

Use bone-shaped cookie cutters, or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into squares or diamonds. Place the dog cookies on a lightly greased pan, and let them rise for an hour.  Bake the dog treats for 45 minutes to an hour, at 275 degrees F.

Turn off the oven, and let the cookies continue to dry overnight in the oven. In the morning, they will be hard and crisp. And they will keep well, stored in an airtight container, at room temperature, for about 30 days.

Sony Eye Pet - Virtual pets better than real ones?

Article from Petwire

Anyone who remembers the 90’s will remember one particularly squeaky and annoying fad that kept children entertained for hours on end – the Tamagotchi – a cyber pet contained in a little handy, carry-everywhere device. However technology has come a long way since then and we’re now being offered a new generation in cyber pets thanks to the new Sony EyePet.

This new computer game enables players to view themselves on screen with their virtual animal in their living room. Players are filmed by video camera connected to a PlayStation 3 console and can give commands to their creatures simply by moving around in front of their TV.

The animal, which looks a bit like a cross between a dog, cat and monkey (and a cabbage patch doll!), reacts to voices and gestures and can recognise objects, such as toys, that a player puts on screen.

Speaking ahead of the game's launch, a Sony spokesman said: ''By completing daily tasks, you can teach your EyePet brand new games to play.

"The more he learns the more exciting new tasks you'll get to teach him. EyePet is fully aware of people in the room and will play with you and your family in your home. Poke him and he jumps, stroke him and he'll roll over in contentment, tickle him and he'll laugh."

And it’s not just the EyePet that’s set to be big this year. Leading retailers, Argos, have predicted that role-play toys with a technological "twist" are predicted to be the hot trend this festive season. The retailer is tipping Go Go Hamsters - artificially intelligent rodents able to talk and move around their hamster ''funhouses'' – and Lu Lu My Cuddlin' Kitten - an interactive pet which purrs, rolls over and responds to her owner - as two of the top 10 toys for Christmas.

Ian Chaplin, Argos toys trading manager, said: "Role-play inspired products with a technology twist are one of the hot trends for kids this year and 'poopless pets' have become increasingly popular. We have 20 electronic pets in our toy range this Christmas. They're great fun for kids and less mess than real pets, which goes down well with parents."

Now whilst this all seems like fun I can’t help that think the novelty will wear off pretty quickly. Whilst they may be fun for a few hours, maybe even a few days if you stretch it out, are we really ready to trade in our fluffy, four legged friends for the convenience of virtual friends? Maybe virtual pets are taking it too far, but perhaps people are looking for more convenient, low maintenance pets. However, in time they may find that the real thing is much better, despite the mess! Let me know your thoughts! 

Would you give your pet CPR?

CPR on pets

According to an article from, fifty-eight percent of pet owners  or 63 percent of dog owners and 53 percent of cat owners — would be willing to perform CPR on their pet in the case of a medical emergency. 65% of woman would give CPR to their pets compared to 50% of men

An increasing number of people are taking pet first aid classes and buying pet first aid kits for their homes...

Read more

Pets, Halloween and Costumes

Halloween can be great fun and in recent years, more and more people have got their pets involved in the celebration. Whilst it can be great fun to dress our beloved pets up in freaky halloween costumes, here are a few tips on dressing your pet safely for halloween:

A pet costume should not restict your dog/cat or pets breathing, nor should it prevent your pet from barking or meowing.

The halloween outfit should not block a pets vision or hearing

Your pets movement should not be restricted by the costume

Try the costume on prior to halloween and if your dog or cat shows signs of distress, remove the costume immediately.

Remove any loose your sharp objects that your pet could chew or take off the costume and cause it harm.

Supervise your pet when it is wearing the Halloween costume, and if out trick or treating on the streets, insure your pet has an id tag and is watched at all times.

Treat your pet when he/she wears the costume, so that he/she has a positive association with the costume.

If there are likely to be loud bangs and flashes during the Halloween celebration, provide a safe area where the animal can hide and feel safe.

And just for fun, check out this great clip on pets in Halloween costumes!

Former marine from Essex honoured for work rescuing dogs from Afghanistan war zone

An animal welfare hero from Essex who rescues street dogs from Afghanistan war zones is to receive a special award at the House of Lords from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (

Former Marine Sergeant Pen Farthing (40) set up the charity Nowzad Dogs after being moved by the plight of abandoned and mistreated dogs while on a tour of duty in the Now Zad area of HelmandProvince, southern Afghanistan, almost three years ago.

Pet dogs were left to fend for themselves on the streets as local people fled the fighting, with many then being used by gangs for organised dog fights which resulted in serious injury or death. After Pen intervened to stop one such fight and free the victims, one of the dogs involved, later nicknamed Nowzad, found its way into the marine compound after him. Others soon followed, including a young stray female, later named Tali, who also crawled under the wire fence to safety, after carefully carrying through each of her six newborn pups, one by one.

Pen and his fellow marines began feeding and caring for these strays and even built them their own underground mortar shelter. Worried what would happen to the dogs when the time came for the marines to leave three months later, Pen began to look into ways to move the dogs out of Now Zad to an animal shelter in a safer area in the far north of the country, with help from his Navy wife Lisa (36) back in the UK.  

Pen will receive his Pets and People award at IFAW’s prestigious Animal Action Awards ceremony, hosted by Baroness Gale, at the House of Lords on October 21.

IFAW’s UK Director, Robbie Marsland said: “We are very pleased to be able to recognise Pen’s efforts. It is amazing what he and his wife have achieved and fantastic that their work in Afghanistan continues to help many more needy animals through their charity Nowzad Dogs.”

Celebrity vet Emma Milne, from TV’s Vets in Practice, nominated Pen for his award and said: “I am delighted that Pen is receiving this award from IFAW in honour of his amazing efforts to rescue these dogs and offer them a brighter future. His story is truly inspirational.”

While most of the dogs cared for at the base were eventually moved to the shelter for rehoming, Nowzad had struck a particularly special chord with Pen who decided to adopt him and take him home to a better life in the UK. As news of Pen and Lisa’s efforts spread back home, donations began to trickle in and they set up the official charity, Nowzad Dogs ( to fund the work.

Pen has since retired from service and devotes much of his time to running the charity with assistance from Lisa. While the main aim is to rescue strays for rehoming within Afghanistan, the couple also adopted Tali. One of Tali’s puppies, Helmand, was also brought to the UK where he lives with Lisa’s parents.

Pen has since written a book about the dogs, One Dog at a Time: Saving the strays of Helmand, with proceeds going to the charity. He is currently writing a follow-up while continuing to support work to rescue dogs in need all over Afghanistan. The charity also works to improve educational opportunities for potential vets in the country. 

Mini Pigs - The latest prized pets!

The latest pet trend in the UK is to purchase your own "micro pig". As youngsters, they are tiny enough to fit in a teacup, but their price tag in by no means small. Selling for up to £700!

TV celebrity Jonathan Ross bought two of the pint-sized porkers as pets at £150 each and there have even been offers from as far away as Australia. Harry Potter Actor, Rupert Grint is also known to own two.

The Pigs, which grow to be just 14in tall, have become so popular that they are now almost impossible to get hold of in Britain.

“Demand for micro pigs is soaring and we are inundated with enquiries every day,” said Jane Croft, 42, who breeds them. “It’s amazing how popular they have suddenly become and just how many people want pigs as pets.”

Mini pigs are a lot smaller than standard sized farm pigs and weigh in at 9oz. They are fully grown at two and weigh about 40-65lb, or 12-16 inches tall, reaching human knee height.

They are one of the cleanest animals and are very easy to keep. They can live up to 18 years of age.

“Micro pigs make fantastic pets as they are very low maintenance. You don’t have to take them for walks and they have very few health issues,” said Mrs Croft, who runs Little Pig Farm in Christchurch, Cambridgeshire.

“They don’t make much noise, they are easy to lavatory train and once they have bonded with you they are very loving.

She also states that “They are actually very clean and never mess in their bedding and are just so adorable. They are also highly intelligent and are the fourth most intelligent species after man, monkey and dolphin."

“They really are the perfect pets, I don’t know why people haven’t thought of them before.” Micro pigs are also good alternative pets for people with allergies. “Lots of people are allergic to cats and dogs but you can’t get allergies from pigs as their skin is very similar to ours, and the have hair not fur” added Mrs Croft.

The world's smallest pig is thought to be the 28in-long wild pygmy hog, an endangered species which lives in wildlife sanctuaries in Assam, India.

UK Challenged to Help Save the Hedgehog

CSV, the UK's largest volunteering and training organization is rallying support to save endangered hedgehogs in the build up to the nation's Make a Difference Day following reports that the much loved prickly garden friend is facing extinction, some believe within 16 years. 

In a CSV poll conducted by ICM, the hedgehog was one of the top three mammals the nation would be saddest to lose  yet they are in continued and sustained decline.

Hedgehogs' preferred environment of bushes, hedgerows and unkempt gardens are being replaced by wooden decking, concrete slabs and manicured lawns, decreasing the areas where they can hide and find food.  The once common and welcome visitor is now a rare sight which, if we do not act fast, may not be enjoyed by the next generation's children.  

David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Co-ordinator for the People's Trust for Endangered Species said "the overall picture for hedgehogs is worrying and it is not inconceivable that in some areas of the country they may be lost entirely". 

"The UK hedgehog population was estimated in the 1950's to be about 36 million, compared to estimates in 1995 of just over one and a half million.  Studies so far indicate a further decline of 25%".

As part of the CSV Make a Difference Day campaign, free how-to guides for building hedgehog houses in association with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society are available to anyone who wants to help.  The simply constructed houses provide suitable shelter, warmth and protection for the small mammals to hibernate for the winter, ready to roam the garden after the cold weather.

Mrs Pauline Kidner, Founder of Secret World Wildlife said, "Prior to hedgerows being protected in this country we lost enough hedgerows to go around the circumference of the Earth twice.  I urge anyone looking to tidy up their garden, believing a fence would be a neater and easier option than a hedge, to think about the affect their decision will make on wildlife.  It is important we all play our part on Make a Difference Day and think about the other inhabitants we share this planet with.  Build a hedgehog a home and do your bit to create an environment to support the wonderful array of creatures searching for food and shelter in your garden".

On average, a hedgehog can munch through 200g of food per night including insects, snails and slugs making them a powerful natural form of pest control and a great ally for gardeners with vegetable patches and shrubs. 

TV Presenter Kate Humble said, "With one of our hedgehog kits you can build a safe, warm and secure place for a hedgehog to spend its hibernation this winter.  And you'll be rewarded by having your very own slug exterminator!  Make a Difference - help a hedgehog!"

This year CSV Make a Difference Day takes place on Saturday 31 October, with activities taking place the two weeks either side.  Whether you want to take part with your company, school, community group, or even go it alone with your own random act of kindness, get in touch now by visiting or calling FREEPHONE 0800 284 533. 

Exploring the Health Benefits of Pets

From The New York Times

When Chad, a yellow Labrador retriever, moved in with Claire Vaccaro’s family in Manhattan last spring, he already had an important role. As an autism service dog, he was joining the family to help protect Ms. Vaccaro’s 11-year-old son, Milo — especially in public, where he often had tantrums or tried to run away.

This week Dr. Melissa Nishawala, clinical director of the autism-spectrum service at the Child Study Center at New York University,answers questions about pet therapy, companion animals and the treatment of autism spectrum disorder.

Like many companion animals, whether service dogs or pets, Chad had an immediate effect — the kind of effect that is noticeable but has yet to be fully understood through scientific study. And it went beyond the tether that connects dog and boy in public.

“Within, I would say, a week, I noticed enormous changes,” Ms. Vaccaro said of Milo, whose autism impairs his ability to communicate and form social bonds. “More and more changes have happened over the months as their bond has grown. He’s much calmer. He can concentrate for much longer periods of time. It’s almost like a cloud has lifted.”

Dr. Melissa A. Nishawala, clinical director of the autism-spectrum service at the Child Study Center at New York University, said she saw “a prominent and noticeable change” in Milo, even though the dog just sat quietly in the room. “He started to give me narratives in a way he never did,” she said, adding that most of them were about the dog.

The changes have been so profound that Ms. Vaccaro and Dr. Nishawala are starting to talk about weaning Milo from some of his medication.


Anecdotes abound on the benefits of companion animals — whether service and therapy animals or family pets — on human health. But in-depth studies have been rare. Now the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, is embarking on an effort to study whether these animals can have a tangible effect on children’s well-being.

In partnership with the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition in England (part of the Mars candy and pet food company), the child health institute is seeking proposals that “focus on the interaction between humans and animals.” In particular, it is looking for studies on how these interactions affect typical development and health, and whether they have therapeutic and public-health benefits. It also invites applications for studies that “address why relationships with pets are more important to some children than to others” and that “explore the quality of child-pet relationships, noting variability of human-animal relationships within a family.”

The national institutes’ interest in this type of research goes back at least two decades. Valerie Maholmes, who directs research on child development and behavior at the children’s health institute, said that at a broad-ranging meeting in 1987 on the health benefits of pets, the N.I.H. “concluded that there needed to be much more research,” especially on child development.

Other sessions confirmed the need for research, but most studies focused on negative interactions, like the ways pets could spread disease, said James A. Griffin, the institute’s deputy chief of child development and behavior.

Meanwhile, the Waltham Center was expanding its own research to do some small studies about human-animal interaction, said Catherine E. Woteki, global director of scientific affairs for Mars Inc. “We are a pet food company and pet care company,” Dr. Woteki said, “and we’re interested in seeing that that relationship stays a strong one.”

Reviews of the Waltham research program indicated that larger studies over longer terms with appropriate control groups were needed. When Mars became aware of the institutes’ interest in this type of research, a public-private partnership was established, with the company committing more than $2 million. The National Institute of Nursing is also providing money.

Peggy McCardle, chief of the institutes’ child development and behavior branch, said the money from Mars helped jump-start the efforts. Dr. McCardle added that the N.I.H. had established protocols for public-private partnerships and that all proposals got two levels of review before being approved.

People working with animals expect the research to back up their observations. At Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Southern California, for instance, dozens of volunteers regularly take their dogs to visit patients. Children being treated for serious illnesses often have the blues, anxiety or depression. “The dogs brighten them up,” said Emily Grankowski, who oversees the pet therapy program at the hospital.

Some patients who have refused to speak will talk to the dogs, she said, and others who have refused to move often reach for the dogs so they can pet them. So the animals become part of the therapeutic program, especially in the areas involving speech and movement.

“The human-animal bond bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart and emotions and nurtures us in ways that nothing else can,” said Karin Winegar, whose book “Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform” (Da Capo, 2008) chronicles human-animal interactions. “We’ve seen this from coast to coast, whether it’s disabled children at a riding center in California or a nursing home in Minnesota, where a woman with Alzheimer’s could not recognize her husband but she could recognize their beloved dog.”

Such observations are not new at Autism Service Dogs of America, which brought Milo and Chad together. “Many children with autism can’t relate to a human,” said its director, Pris Taylor, “but they can relate to a dog.” 

RSPCA urges dog fight law change

From the BBC

A change in the law is needed to tackle a rise in dog fighting that is leaving an increasing number of animals with horrific injuries, the RSPCA has said.

The existing ban on four breeds was inadequate and the law must "focus back on the real problem... the owner", said the charity's Claire Robinson.

Dog fighting-related calls to the RSPCA had risen 12-fold since 2004, with two thirds involving youths, it said.

Ministers say penalties for dog fighting have been toughened.

City parks

The new wave of dog fighting, known as "chain fighting" or "rolling", involves informal fights often held in inner city public parks, says the RSPCA.

"[People] are seeing young people, often gangs of young people, in parks, on estates, some even put two dogs in a lift at the top of the block of flats and will press the button and let the dogs fight until they get to the bottom," Ms Robinson told BBC News.

"Fortunately they are reporting it to us and the police, but often by the time we get there the people are gone and the dogs can't be found."


Dog fight
The RSPCA says a new generation are using rottweilers (left) in dog fights

But one eye-witness who contacted the BBC said he felt complaints to police about dog abuse and fighting were on the increase, but not taken seriously enough.

Teg Davies was on a family trip to the park in Mill Hill, London, to play football with his sons, when he saw three men, "kicking two dogs and throwing them at each other to provoke them".

He says no-one came to investigate, despite a call to local police.

Ministers say there are now tougher penalties for dog fighting and that the new Policing and Crime Bill will make it easier to seize dogs owned by criminal gangs.

But the RSPCA insists the authorities still have limited powers to seize dogs kept by their owners as weapons.

The charity is seeing dogs with "unprecedented levels" of injuries, says the charity's David Grant.

"We see two or three fights most days. At the weekend it can be quite bad - a few weekends ago we had 10", he said.

"We frequently see ears torn off, eyes torn out. In my career as a vet - nearly 42 years - this is the worst it has ever been.

"I have never seen things as bad as this."

'Limited powers'

The Dangerous Dogs Act, which came into force in 1991, bans four different breeds - the pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.

But NHS figures show dog attacks have tripled since 1991, with many blamed on cross-bred dogs which are not illegal.

Rottweilers or Staffordshire bull terriers were often involved in the "ad hoc" fights staged by gangs of young men in parks, the RSPCA said.

The charity wants the law to focus on people keeping aggressive dogs as a status symbol or weapon, with more checks on owners and stiffer penalties for people mistreating dogs or keeping them for criminal use.

"It's a lot to do with the sort of MTV gang culture - people want to look hard, they want to look tough, with a dog that looks tough," Ms Robinson said. 

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