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Ireland Bans All Fur Farming
Becomes only the fifth EU country to ban fur
Kannus - Fur farm - 2019 by Oikeutta eläimille

Ireland keeps surprising the global community.  After much discussion, the Irish Parliament has approved a total ban on fur farming and sales in the country.  Joining Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg EU countries, it's another maverick Irish decision.  Ireland's embrace of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel and the lowest corporate taxes in the EU (just 12%) have made the country a trendsetter of sorts.  Independent and thought provoking. Now they have banned an entire industry based on humanitarian and health concerns.

There are currently three fur farms in Ireland where some 120,000 animals live and breed. These farmers will be compensated for the forced closing of their business.  The Finance Ministry estimates a cost of $4 to $8 million.  The law that sets the rules will also includes the provision that cats, chinchillas, dogs, foxes, mink and weasels (including stoats) shall not be farmed for their fur or skin.

Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture heralded the landmark law.  The amendment thus also negates fears of a new, more deadly COVID variant emerging among these populations.  Ireland had such a fear in November 2020 as the country's Chief Medical Officer suggested the culling of all mink.  However further testing revealed that no such variants had emerged among the target populations.

The law is slated to go into effect in early 2022 making Ireland only the fifth country of the 27 EU member states to have instituted such a complete ban.  New York City tried to prohibit sales of fur in 2020 when activists were energized by the mayor's support.  However after heated hearings in the City Council the committee council shamefully cracked under industry pressure and cowered to not hold a vote thus letting the legislative session expire.

Sadly in America capitalism, business and money tower over any and all morality as shown by the NYC Council's cowardly posture, even in a heavily left leaning city.  Bravo brave Ireland!

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

China's wildlife food ban is vital for public health and threatened species
COVID roiled the planet but may be just tip of the iceberg
Amnat30/Shutterstock

World leaders are attending an online summit to discuss the future of life on Earth. With one million species threatened with extinction this century, the UN biodiversity conference, known as COP15, is supposed to yield a new global plan for protecting nature. The host nation, China, has committed to protect more of its land for nature. But one of the most radical and far-reaching measures introduced by the Chinese government in recent years came at the beginning of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has shown the risk to human health posed by the trade in and consumption of wildlife. To strengthen the protection of wildlife and to reduce the risk of zoonotic viruses spilling over into human populations, China issued a ban on eating wild meat and the related trade in February 2020. This targeted the illegal wildlife trade and poaching, but also the legal farming and selling of terrestrial wildlife for food – from snakes to bamboo rats – which previously was possible through a complex system of licences.

It still allows people to eat certain species, such as sika deer, which are farmed according to established techniques and pose a low risk to human health. The ban doesn’t apply to wild aquatic species, such as fish. Nor does it cover other uses of wildlife, such as rearing species for medicinal purposes or as pets.

Critics argue that improved regulation, rather than an outright ban, would be a better solution, maintaining the benefits of the trade for local communities while reducing pressure on wild populations and health risks. But for that to work, the Chinese state would need to manage the wildlife trade. And our research, published in Current Biology, revealed that China’s existing laws and regulations covering the wildlife trade are insufficient.

The ban, then, is a useful, short-term stop gap, but must now be backed up by updated, evidence-based legislation and regulation for the future.

The 2020 ban aimed to close loopholes in existing legislation, such as China’s Wildlife Protection Law, which was last amended in 2016 and is being revised again now. This law legalised and regulated the wildlife trade through a complex license system. Before the ban, most wildlife species could be farmed and traded for different purposes legally as long as a license had been granted.

Troublingly, there was no evidence-based framework for establishing which species could be farmed and traded and which couldn’t. This meant that species which were potential vectors of zoonotic diseases, or declining in the wild, could still slip through the regulatory net and be farmed and traded legally. There was also little collaboration between the different government departments responsible for supervising the trade in wildlife, such as those covering forestry, markets and agriculture.

A booming business
At the beginning of 2018, the Chinese government began promoting the farming of wildlife as a means of reducing rural poverty. The state offered loans and broadcast programmes about successful wildlife farmers on Chinese television to entice more people into joining the industry. Official state and provincial licenses granted for the trade in and farming of wildlife trebled between 2017 and 2019. But the number of criminal cases related to the illegal hunting or trade in wildlife increased over the same period too, suggesting the system was unable to control unlawful practices in the industry.

There were also problems with the licenses granted lawfully. We looked at 13,121 trade licenses granted by state and provincial Forestry Bureaus between 2001 and 2020. Under these licenses, 254 species were traded legally for different commercial purposes, of which 69 – including masked palm civets, red deer and common buzzards – have been identified as possible hosts or vectors for at least one zoonotic disease.

Equally troublesome was the pre-ban legislation’s approach to quarantine. The law required all wildlife to be quarantined before entering a market, but the official methods suggested for doing this were patchy at best. There were protocols in place for domestic species, such as pigs. But while some similar wild species, such as boar, could be quarantined under the protocols for related domestic animals, no rules were in place for widely-traded species such as bamboo rats, palm civets or porcupines.

Bamboo rat meat is a popular commodity among China’s poor traders. Gerardo C.Lerner/Shutterstock
Under the ban, only a limited number of species can be farmed, depending on whether quarantine standards are available and whether farming techniques are cost-effective and safe enough for wild populations and human health.

To safely govern the trade in wildlife in the future, quarantine protocols for different species must be informed by the latest scientific evidence. Licensing and tracing – perhaps by introducing microchipping – of legitimately farmed animals should also vary according to each species and what evidence suggests is most likely to reduce the risk to human health and the conservation of species in the wild. And there must be closer collaboration between government departments and farmers and traders, both within China and internationally.

But it is also important to reduce the demand for wildlife as food in China. While COVID-19 has highlighted the potential risks of trading and eating wildlife, these lessons must extend to trading and farming wildlife for other purposes, such as medicine and pets.

Evidence-based changes to the way China manages its wildlife trade could help inspire and inform policies at COP15, especially among the leaders of developing countries facing a similar situation at home.

*** Assistant Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University. I'm a wildlife ecologist at XJTLU, a China/UK partner university, focusing on wild mammal ecology and conservation in one of China?s biodiversity hotspots: the Tibetan Plateau.

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

Republished under Creative Commons license. Originally published by The Conversation. Original article may be found by clicking here.

Worlds Largest Food Producer Entering Plant Based Market
Nestle CEO announces the benefits of plant based foods
Photo by Howard Lake

That Breyers ice cream you love so much and the Oscar Myers hot dog you ate for lunch have a similarity. No they are not made by the same animal, but they are manufactured and sold by the same company.  Nestle! The planet's largest food producer and maker of everything from Maxwell House to Stouffers (and a lot in between).  Now, the CEO of this behemoth, Mark Schneider has spoken about the emerging plant based foods market. “We think less meat and dairy is good for the planet, but it’s also good for diet and health, and it is also a big commercial opportunity,” Schneider told the BBC.

While Schneider’s comments acknowledge the climate benefits of a plant based diet, he also notes the sales opportunity inherent in the category. A report from earlier this year found that in 2020, the vegan food market in the US grew nearly twice as fast as the nation’s total retail food market – boosting 27 percent vs 15 percent respectively. Additionally the vegan food market grew twice as fast as conventional meat.  Bloomberg estimated that the vegan food market will top $162 billion dollars within a decade.

So it's not just the environment or being a good citizen driving the Nestle decision.  There are hard cold numbers backing Schneider’s announcement.  Just look at a brand such as Oatly.  In a period less than five years they have increased sales umpteen percent.

Schneider went further revealing that Nestlé plans to launch a plant-based protein to 'replace every animal protein out there'. Now this one is of particular interest, if anyone can perform magic of this sort, Nestle can. They also recently introduced a vegan version of their immensely popular KitKat chocolate wafer bar.

Why plant based now for Nestle
The shift towards animal-free food has been driven, in part, by Nestlé's aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.  Meat and animal products are some of the largest contributors to global warming, with methane (which comes as a byproduct of animal farming) pumping in almost 20% of all gases.  Animal farming is also to blame for significant deforestation, air and water pollution, and biodiversity loss.

Leadership counts!
Nestle is the crème de la crème in the food business.  The leadership displayed by Nestle will be noticed and mimicked by other global giants such as the UKs Unilever and the US's Kraft Foods.  We can only hope the incompetence of our political leadership in tackling climate change can be at least partially offset by the good governance of multinationals.  Sounds insane, but when desperate...

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

State announces puppy mill inspections in advance: 'Let's do Wednesday at 10:30'
Inspectors bring shame to the word 'inspection'
This dog with severely overgrown toenails was found at a breeding facility run by Daniel Gingerich in Iowa.

State inspections at Iowa's dog-breeding facilities are supposed to take place on a 'surprise' basis, but some of Iowa's biggest offenders have their inspections scheduled at their own convenience. Although the federal U.S. Department of Agriculture handles the enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship also plays a role. Under Iowa law, all USDA-licensed commercial dog breeding facilities operating in Iowa are also required to have a permit or license from the state ag department. The state doesn't conduct routine inspections at these USDA-licensed facilities. The state ag department has published information saying if it receives a complaint about such a facility, it will relay the complaint to the USDA and may 'assist the USDA with an inspection' or take some unspecified 'additional steps.'

Iowa Department of Agriculture states in a guide published for breeders that its inspections of these facilities are 'unannounced.' But state records show that even when dealing with breeders with a past history of serious, recurring violations, state inspectors are not only notifying breeders of the precise time and date of their upcoming visits, they are consulting with the breeders as to the times most convenient for them.

For example, Kurt and Hollie Pille of St. Anthony, Iowa, run a breeding operation that has been cited for numerous issues and been listed among the 100 worst puppy mills in the nation.

In January of this year, state inspectors visited the Pilles' facilities and reported that some dogs had no protection from the cold, and most had only frozen water in their kennels.

Other issues found during the January inspection included a 'lack of roofing' in an outbuilding that put the dogs at risk, dirty conditions and dogs exposed to unfinished walls and

exposed insulation that they were at risk of ingesting.

Iowa Department of Agriculture inspector Stephanie Black wrote in one January report that 'basset hounds do not appear to have adequate cover from weather and wind. It is the responsibility of the licensee to ensure that all animals are protected against freezing temperatures and that bedding is not allowed to blow away.'

Later in January, Black returned to the facility and wrote that 'the roof of the large out-building remains at issue,' but added the dogs inside the building were 'protected from falling debris with sufficient structural change.' Black's report suggested there were too many animals for the Hollie Pille to care for, stating: 'The population is currently 34 canines in the care of one adult. Reduction conversation will continue.'

Inspector general says federal oversight is lacking

Earlier this year, the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Agriculture reviewed the agency's enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The inspector general concluded that the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 'did not consistently address complaints it received or adequately document the results of its follow-up.'

The inspector general noted that the inspection service did not even have a 'process for responding to complaints or for recording the results of the agency's actions. As a result, some dog breeder facilities may be conducting regulated activity without a USDA license or oversight.'

As of January 2020, there were, there were 2,422 USDA-licensed dog breeders in America.

The five states with the highest number of USDA-licensed dog breeders are: Missouri: 764 Indiana: 331 Ohio: 310 Iowa: 217 Oklahoma: 155

In early February, Black was traveling to the facility to conduct another inspection. In her notes on that visit, Black indicated the visit was a pre-arranged appointment. She wrote: 'Scheduled for 10:30. During drive, appointment was cancelled due to personal, family emergency. Will attempt to re-schedule for the week of February 8, 2021.'

Black then emailed Hollie Pille and stated, 'Thank you for having Kurt contact me to reschedule today's appointment. I currently have Monday or Wednesday of next week available, if 10:30 works for you. Just let me know which day.'

Hollie wrote back: 'Let's do Wednesday at 10:30, I'll see you then.'

Black responded: 'Hollie: My Wednesday is already booked. My earliest opportunity to your area is Friday the 12th or Tuesday the 16th of February. Do either of those mornings work for you at 10:30?' According to Black's notes, Hollie never responded.

In February, Black drove to the facility. In her notes, she wrote: 'On this day Thursday, February 25, 2021, 10:54, I'm attempting an unannounced inspection. The residence appears occupied, with usual autos on site. The front door is not accessible by foot due to loose canines. I attempted a text message and a phone call. Ms. Pille appears to be avoiding regulation. I sat in vehicle in driveway twenty minutes.'

In March, Black returned and found the facility to be in complete compliance. She wrote that while the outbuilding roof was still in disrepair, the four dogs housed there were 'protected by a cover of fencing sections.'

She also noted that walls that once were lined with exposed insulation were now covered in plastic sheeting, and that she had a 'realistic discussion' with the owner about 'heated water bowls or buckets for winter 2021.'

State agency: Some inspections must be announced

Iowa Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Keely Compass said the agency attempts to make all of its inspections unannounced, but adds that this isn't always possible.

'If we go there a certain amount of times and we're unable to reach someone, then we may have to schedule a time,' she said.

Animal advocates say that process makes no sense: All a dog breeder must do to avoid a surprise inspection by the state is violate the federal regulation that guarantees inspectors access to any licensed facility during regular business hours.

Since that violation rarely results in a penalty, a breeder risks nothing by simply refusing to come to the door or answer the phone.

'We've often heard that breeders who are not ready for inspection just will not answer the door and take a minor ?unavailable' violation, as opposed to getting more severe violations,' said Mindi Callison of Bailing Out Benji, an Iowa-based animal-advocacy group.

'This does a huge disservice to the animals in their care because the inspectors are not seeing how these animals live year-round. We saw this in the Daniel Gingerich puppy mill case where he denied entrance to an inspector and said, ?Just cite me for refusing the inspection.'

Gingerich is a Wayne County breeder now facing state and federal sanctions for dozens of Animal Welfare Act violations. Federal officials say that this summer, Gingerich repeatedly refused to let them inside a barn on his property in Seymour, telling inspectors to just write him up for denying them access. Eventually, the inspectors got inside and found 27 dogs Gingerich had allegedly hidden there in 'filthy' conditions, including some dogs that were dead, emaciated or left without water.

Callison said while it's important for inspectors to 'get eyes on the facility, even by means of scheduling an appointment,' there must be consequences for denying access to the inspectors. Nebraska, she said, imposes a $125 reinspection fee on breeders in such cases, and also has them pay costs based on the inspector's mileage.

Under the Trump administration, the USDA moved away from surprise federal inspections. In 2018, the agency sent licensees a letter announcing a pilot project that would make use of scheduled, announced inspections to determine whether they would improve 'the efficiency of our inspection program and improve the humane treatment of animals.'

That proposal died after animal-rights groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, protested. At the time, the organization said planned, announced

inspections 'give puppy mills plenty of time to clean up filthy conditions and temporarily conceal suffering animals.'

Asked how often Iowa's dog breeders are informed in advance of the precise time and date of a state inspection, Compass said she would follow up on that question with the department's 'animal team' and report back. The agency has yet to provide that information.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch recently requested access to all of the emails Black exchanged with the Pilles. An Iowa Department of Agriculture representative said the fee for access would be $25 an hour to retrieve the emails, plus 25 cents per page. The Capital Dispatch declined the offer.

*** Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa's largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens's complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

Republished under Creative Commons license. Originally published by Iowa Capitol Dispatch. Original article may be found by clicking here.

Vaccinating domestic dogs reduces rabies in the wild. Why this matters
Vaccinating domestic dogs is a successful and cost-effective way to prevent rabies in dogs.
Vaccinating domestic dogs is a successful and cost-effective way to prevent rabies in dogs.

Every year nearly 60,000 people globally die of rabies, a deadly virus most commonly transmitted to humans by animal bites. Over 99% of these deaths are due to bites from domestic dogs. Rabies is invariably fatal once symptoms develop, so it’s vital that person gets treatment when they are exposed.

Treatment consists of a course of vaccinations known as post-exposure prophylaxis. These are highly effective at preventing rabies when promptly administered. But sometimes people do not seek treatment because they are unaware of the risk of rabies. Even when they know that treatment is urgent, some may still struggle to access it due to its high cost and often limited availability.

Instead of relying solely on post-exposure prophylaxis, an alternative strategy is to focus interventions on the animal populations responsible for maintaining the virus and transmitting it to people. Vaccination of domestic dogs has been shown to be a successful and cost-effective way of preventing human rabies. But it is still not routinely undertaken in the countries worst affected by rabies.

While this is mainly due to lack of investment, concerns are often expressed that wildlife may play a role in maintaining rabies transmission and that dog vaccination may, therefore, be ineffective. This is of particular concern in wildlife-rich areas of sub-Saharan Africa, for example in the Serengeti ecosystem where rabid wild carnivores including hyenas and mongoose have led to human rabies deaths.

How The Conversation is different: All our authors are experts.
Domestic dogs have been shown to be the only species necessary to maintain rabies across most of Africa. This means that dog vaccination should control the disease in all species. But in parts of Namibia and South Africa rabies is thought to be independently maintained in wildlife like jackals and bat-eared foxes.

The purpose of our study was to evaluate the impact of dog vaccination on rabies in south-east Tanzania, where no vaccination had previously been conducted. The study took place from January 2011 to July 2019 in the rural regions of Lindi and Mtwara. Five rounds of domestic dog vaccination campaigns took place between 2011 and 2016, each covering over 2000 villages. These regions contain many areas of suitable wildlife habitat including forest reserves, plantations and the Selous Game Reserve. The regions were selected for vaccination so that the potential impact of wildlife on rabies elimination could be evaluated.

Contact tracing to uncover rabies cases
We aimed to collect detailed data on the rabies situation to understand the impacts of these vaccination campaigns. But official figures for rabies deaths often under-report the true burden of disease as most people die from rabies at home and are not counted in statistics. To combat this issue we used data from healthcare facilities to guide extensive contact tracing.

Hospital records of animal bite patients were used to identify people potentially exposed to rabies. We then traced and interviewed these people to determine the details of the bite including the species involved and whether or not the biting animal was likely to have been rabid. During contact tracing, additional bite victims and owners of rabid animals were identified and further traced. So in addition to collecting valuable data, we advised people of the risks of rabies and the importance of seeking care.

Somewhat unexpectedly we found that over 40% of the animal rabies cases that we detected were jackals. This is very unusual given that domestic dogs usually account for the vast majority of cases. We also found evidence of chains of rabies transmission within jackals and frequent cross-species transmission – that is transmission from dogs to jackals and vice versa.

Over the period of widespread dog vaccination we saw substantial declines in animal rabies cases and human rabies exposures throughout the study area. In 2011 we recorded 218 potential human exposures to rabies and 18 deaths. This dropped to just 15 exposures in 2017 and a single death in 2016 and 2019.

Despite the high level of wildlife involvement, vaccination of domestic dogs alone appeared to reduce the risk of rabies in all species. During 2017 there were only 12 reported rabies cases in dogs and 7 in jackals compared to 77 and 74 respectively in the first year of the study. After mass dog vaccination ceased in early 2017, dog rabies cases began to increase in some districts. We suspect this may be due to waning immunity in the dog population.

Why does this matter?
These regions have unusually large proportions of wildlife rabies. But our study still found that domestic dog vaccination reduced the number of rabies cases in all animal species – this also greatly reduced the risk of rabies to people.

The importance of sustained annual dog vaccinations is highlighted by the observed increase in dog rabies after the dog vaccination campaigns ended.

If we are to stop people dying unnecessarily from this preventable disease, it is critical that there is continued investment in domestic dog vaccination and the presence of rabies within wildlife should not be seen as a barrier to implementing these programmes.

*** I am a PhD student funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Grantham Institute Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctoral Training Partnership (SSCP DTP). Following a career in veterinary clinical practice, in 2017 I completed a Masters in Epidemiology at Imperial College. I have a strong interest in the ?One Health? initiative which recognises the link between human, animal and ecosystem health. By combining my veterinary knowledge and skills with epidemiological and statistical training, my goal is to contribute to valuable research in line with this initiative. Under the supervision of Professor Christl Donnelly and Dr Pierre Nouvellet, my PhD is focussed on using mathematical and statistical methods to improve our understanding of the biological contact networks underpinning the multi-species transmission of rabies virus. Data from African field settings will be used to parameterise novel, multi-species dynamic transmission models which will then be used to characterise the contact networks that allow rabies virus to be transmitted within and between different species in each field setting. The objectives of this research are to aid in determining which species are contributing to maintaining rabies virus in each setting and thus help to inform strategies for eradication.

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

Republished under Creative Commons license. Originally published by The Conversation.com. Original article may be found by clicking here.

Can animals sense when an earthquake is about to happen?
Animals may simply be much better than us at detecting tiny vibrations or sounds in the ground.
Puppy in grass looking nervous

Within minutes of Melbourne being rattled by yesterday’s earthquake, my Victorian friends reported changes in the behaviour of their animals.

One friend wrote on social media that her dog Harvey stood in the hallway howling for five full minutes before the earth moved. A colleague reported his television reception went fuzzy, but when he walked outside to check the aerial, he noted an “unusual and striking absence of birdsong” before he felt the quake.

My friend’s cat Henry inexplicably disappeared before the quake, but returned home safe after a few hours. Conversely, her rough collie Angie — who is terrified of storms — was reportedly “totally chilled” before, during and after the seismic event.
How The Conversation is different: All our authors are experts.

Earthquakes are unsettling, terrifying and potentially fatal. The 1989 Newcastle earthquake killed 13 people and injured 160. If our animal companions can give us a heads-up when an event like this is about to happen, it could be truly lifesaving. But can they really? Let’s have a look at the evidence.

The scholarly literature provides dozens of anecdotal reports of companion animals, livestock, wildlife and even insects behaving strangely before earthquakes.

But a review of 180 publications reporting 700 records of abnormal or unusual animal behaviours prior to 160 earthquakes found the evidence correlating these behaviours with subsequent earthquakes was weak.

The majority of reports were anecdotal, and were made after the earthquake, making them vulnerable to “recall bias”. Put simply, people may be more likely to interpret their animal’s behaviour as strange in the light of a particularly memorable or traumatic event.

To establish that unusual animal behaviours can predict earthquakes, scientists would need to observe animals under controlled environmental conditions for extended periods of time — long enough to be able to observe their behaviour before, during and after earthquakes. To be confident animals do indeed behave strangely before an earthquake, we would need to also see them not behaving strangely when there isn’t an impending quake.

Sadly, the evidence doesn’t come close to satisfying this. But the authors of the review did find the supposed “predictive” behaviour in animals occurred around the same time as “foreshocks” — smaller earthquakes that precede the main seismic event.

Animals may simply be much better than us at detecting tiny vibrations or sounds in the ground. Marcus Wallis/Unsplash, CC BY-SA
If this is the case, then what people interpret as animals’ ability to “predict” earthquakes may in fact be reactions to the vibrations or sounds from earthquakes that are too faint for us humans to detect.

This wouldn’t be surprising, given that animals often outperform us when it comes to sensory perception, such as smell. And it makes sense, given almost 60% of unusual animal behaviours associated with earthquakes occurred in the five minutes preceding the quake.

<b>Fright and flight</b>
Fear, anxiety or distress triggered by foreshocks might explain why animals display behaviours such as vocalising (like Harvey the howling dog) or fleeing to somewhere they feel safer (like Henry the disappearing cat).

But of course it’s possible Harvey and Henry behaved like this for purely non-earthquake-related reasons and the timing was sheer coincidence. There are many reasons a dog may howl (a courier opens the front gate) or a cat may go missing (your cat may hear a loud noise and hide under the bed), but we tend to make the connection only when we’re aware of the same stimuli.

What we do know is that animals can be seriously affected by earthquakes, whether through injury, displacement or compromised access to food and water. Thousands of animals, along with 185 people, died in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and many more animals were left homeless by property damage.

Yesterday’s quake is also an important reminder for people with companion animals to include them in emergency planning. Dogs and cats should be identified with a collar and be tagged and microchipped. And don’t forget to update the contact details if you move house or change your phone number — that way you’ll more easily be reunited.

*** Anne Quain works in companion animal practice as well as teaching in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science. She is a member of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists Animal Welfare Chapter, and a Diplomat of the European College of Animal Welfare and Behaviour Medicine in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law.

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

Republished under Creative Commons license. Originally published by The Conversation.com. Original article may be found by clicking here.

For the love of animals: High suicide rates reflect the many stresses of veterinarians
Rates for suicide amongst veterinarians running high
Working with animals is immensely rewarding for Jason Sweitzer and other veterinarians, but also highly stressful. Veterinarians are 2.7 times more likely than the general public to die by suicide, according to a 2020 study. (Photo courtesy of Jason Sweitzer)

In 2014, veterinarian Jason Sweitzer started his 10-minute drive home from the clinic in Conejo Valley, California, where he routinely treated animals that had been stabbed, shot, abused and made to suffer other horrors.

This time, his thoughts drifted to suicide.

“No one else was on the road. What if my car just veered off the highway?” Sweitzer recently recalled, his voice wavering.

Although he was alone that night, hundreds of other veterinarians have traveled the same path as Sweitzer. Many veterinarians face a mountain of debt after medical school and struggle to cope with the trauma endured by pets, the emotional distress and stressful social interactions in a line of work where the patient can’t speak, and pet owners facing life and death decisions.

Veterinarians are 2.7 times more likely than the general public to die by suicide, according to a 2020 study from Merck Animal Health in partnership with the American Veterinary Medical Association. Female veterinarians have higher levels of suicidal thoughts, but male veterinarians have a higher rate of suicide attempts, the study found.

Shortly after Sweitzer’s scare, he became a founding board member of Not One More Vet, an organization working to help prevent veterinarian suicide. It was founded after California veterinarian Sophia Yin died by suicide in September 2014 at age 48. She served on the executive board for the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and was an award-winning columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I had to ask myself, well, if she could be lost to suicide, what’s to stop all the rest of us, all of those who aren’t as successful?” Sweitzer recalled.

Jordan benShea, the executive director of the VIN Foundation, has seen some of the struggles veterinarians share with the network firsthand.

“I think the two most challenging factors in the veterinary profession right now are mental health and student debt, and they play off each other,” benShea said.

The VIN Foundation’s student debt center includes a map that lists general costs for all veterinarian schools within the U.S., the U.K., Australia and the Caribbean. Of the 52 colleges listed, University of California, Davis is the ninth most expensive, with an average cost of $265,309. The most expensive U.S. school is the Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine in Glendale, Arizona, where the average cost is $421,137.

Medical schools of any kind come with steep prices, but one factor makes it more difficult for those in animal medicine to climb out of debt: Veterinarians face that debt while making about half what doctors in human medicine earn.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a veterinarian in California in 2019 was $116,440, while surgeons and physicians in the state on average made $208,740 annually. Nationally, veterinarians make an average of $104,820 annually; in Arizona the average is $107,700.

Mental health concerns have led to support groups like VIN Foundation’s Vet4Vet organization, a counseling program offering worldwide confidential peer support for veterinarians.

Under the skin
Paul Pion – DVM, DACVIM, a board certified veterinarian and a founder of the Veterinary Information Network – distinctly remembers his internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City in 1983. Some nights he was the only veterinarian on duty from midnight to 8 a.m.

“I was walking out into the waiting room at 2 a.m. and standing there saying, ‘OK, who’s bleeding more?’” he said.

Not all of California veterinarian Jason Sweitzer’s patients are cats and dogs. (Photo courtesy of Jason Sweitzer)

It was traumatic for a new graduate. There were days after rough shifts when Pion went windsurfing and almost didn’t turn back to shore.

“I didn’t want to go back that night,” he said.

Other board members could testify to the hard days on the job as well. Many of the accounts led back to one memory: euthanasia.

Sweitzer graduated in 2009 from the prestigious UC Davis Veterinary School, where, in one of his clinics, the colored dye of the euthaniasia drugs was changed frequently so it wouldn’t be as traumatic for the veterinarians. UC Davis’ VetMed department has its own counseling services to serve student needs, and coordinator Dr. Zachary Ward told Cronkite News his schedule is booked with appointments and meetings to help support students.

During his time with the VetMed department, Ward has heard students share their anxiety, fear and grievances. A major concern he has is the trauma of putting down animals on a sometimes daily basis.

Common responses to an animal being put down include relief that they “aren’t in pain anymore” or they’re “in a better place.” Such comments can begin to bleed into veterinarian philosophy, Ward said.

“Veterinarians have much greater access to the means that they would use to end their life, and are quite literally been trained on how to euthanize another living thing,” he said. “They’ve really come to understand that euthanasia can be a viable treatment plan for suffering and it can be a natural next step for them to think that it could be a viable treatment plan for their own suffering.”

There is one more facet of veterinarianism that blindsides students and early vets, benShea said.

“The other aspect of it is a lot of veterinarians get into the veterinary profession because they love animals,” she said. “But you’re dealing with people, because animals don’t talk.”

A common misconception between veterinarians and clients is how expensive animal medicine is. More than 70% of respondents claimed that scathing reviews and customer’s unwillingness to pay for animal health care were a major concern in the veterinary field, according to the 2019 survey done by Merck Animal Health. What many owners don’t realize, benShea said, is that some of their pet’s medical bills are significantly high because pet owners lack health insurance.

According to a 2020 research report from IBISWorld, as little as 3% of companion animals in the United States are insured. Additionally, a survey conducted by LendEDU stated that those without insurance had an average expense of $1,458 annually on their pet’s medical expenses. The dissonance between the need to fund veterinarian clinics and the public’s reluctance to pay for costly care affects veterinarians, benShea said.

The road ahead
After Sweitzer made it home the night he contemplated suicide, the house was dark and his family already was asleep. He was relieved.

“I did what any person these days will go ahead and do in an unhealthy way: I went ahead and shared it on Facebook.”

The morning after, he woke up to a stream of messages, many of which blindsided him. Notifications pinged as people reached out not to ask whether he was OK but why he would write such a thing, and how he needed to take it down before he lost his credibility as a veterinarian. It opened his eyes to the stigma around suicide and mental health in his field, and how much needed to be done.

Sweitzer also received many messages from people who thanked him for sharing his struggles and let him know he was not alone.

“I had no idea that some of these family members, friends, colleagues, were struggling anywhere near what they were,” he said. “And just by accident or sharing what my struggles brought so many people out that were in my close circles. It really, really, truly hit home for me that this is a very widespread problem.”

Around the country, the demand for mental health assistance in the veterinary field is high. UC Davis’ VetMED counseling program is expanding, the VIN Foundation receives emails from veterinarians asking for help and Not One More Vet has grown to more than 20,000 members in six years.

Since his suicide ideation, Sweitzer has relocated to a new veterinarian clinic, one where mental health is emphasized greatly. Despite his perfectionism, he is forced to be human, which is a challenge for him. Since he opened his eyes to his own suffering and the suffering of those around him, his future has taken him down a different road – one that’s far less lonely.

*** Alison Cutler grew up in Tucson and expects to graduate in December 2020. A reporter for Cronkite News, she has previously reported on environmental issues in national parks and the impacts of the government?s ?zero-tolerance policy? along the southern border.

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

Republished under Creative Commons license. Originally published by The Cronkite News. Original article may be found by clicking here.

State hits puppy mill owner with $20k fine and license suspension
Iowa goes after puppy mill operator
Dog breeding operation run by Daniel Gingerich

In a rare move, Iowa regulators are imposing a significant fine against a dog breeder that federal officials have called one of the nation’s biggest repeat violators.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is fining Wayne County breeder Daniel Gingerich $20,000 and suspending his Iowa license for 60 days, the department announced Monday. Gingerich does business as Maple Hill Puppies.

The state’s action coincides with federal action in civil court, where U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose recently agreed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s request for a temporary restraining order against Gingerich due to numerous violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The state’s action is based on the USDA’s findings and on Gingerich’s alleged “failure to meet standards of care” for the hundreds of dogs in his control in July.

Federal records indicate Gingerich has been operating kennels or breeding facilities in 10 different locations throughout Iowa, several of which are unlicensed. One unlicensed facility, where dogs allegedly went without water for three days, is in Redding, and others are in Lamoni and Cantril.

Gingerich’s main base of operations appears to be in Seymour, where he lived before moving to Ohio in May, according to court records. Although it’s not clear how many dogs Gingerich owns, the records suggest that at one time this year, he had at least 1,000 dogs and puppies on hand.

No criminal charges have been filed in the case. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship says that in the past two years, it has issued only six administratively ordered penalties against state-licensed animal-welfare facilities.

Although state inspections of breeding facilities are supposed to be unannounced,  IDALS records indicate that sometimes those visits are scheduled in advance with the owners.

In Gingerich’s case, IDALS says one of its inspectors received a call from Gingerich in July, during which he agreed to meet the inspector for a July 28 inspection of one of his two properties located in Seymour. When inspectors arrived there for “the previously agreed upon inspection,” Gingerich was not present, IDALS says, but he arrived 45 minutes later after being contacted by phone.

Although the site was operating without a state permit, there were 148 dogs on the premises, including some outside and some located inside a barn. Several dogs were exhibiting signs of heat stress and were panting and drooling, IDALS alleges. The heat index in the barn was measured at 112 degrees.

A dead, decaying puppy was found in the grass outside, and Gingerich was allegedly unable to provide inspectors with any vaccination or veterinary records for the 148 dogs.

The inspectors next went to Gingerich’s other Seymour facility, which has a state permit. Inspectors found 527 dogs there, including a poodle sitting in direct sunlight inside a small crate, and other dogs that appeared to be in immediate need of veterinary care. Several dogs have open, painful wounds on their heads.  A dead puppy was found inside one of the kennels.

Some of the dogs at the site appeared to be showing signs of heat stress and were laying in their drinking water to keep cool. Dozens of puppies were housed in kennels with slat flooring, with gaps big enough for their legs to fall through.

Gingerich allegedly denied there were any other dogs on the property but when inspectors pressed, he admitted there were more dogs inside “the old horse barn” on the property. When inspectors went inside the barn, they found 27 dogs there confined to “excessively dirty horse stalls” with no water present in their enclosures. The heat index inside the barn was measured at over 110 degrees.

Two more dead dogs, each about 15 weeks of age, were found inside the barn. A golden retriever had to be euthanized on the spot. Gingerich later told investigators he had to euthanize seven additional dogs.

After the two inspections, the USDA gave Gingerich special permission to begin selling the dogs. According to IDALS, 53 dogs were given to another breeder, and roughly 250 dogs were moved to a Missouri facility to be auctioned.

By Aug. 11, there were only 307 dogs remaining at the Seymour properties.

In an administrative order accompanying the $20,000 civil penalty, IDALS alleges that Gingerich failed to meet the minimum standard of care expected to breeders and failed to have the required license or permit for one of his facilities.

According to the USDA, in the two years since it issued Gingerich a license to breed and sell dogs in Iowa, he has amassed more than 100 citations for violations of the act.

Dr. Heather Cole, a supervisory veterinary medical officer for a division of the USDA, stated in a recent declaration to the court that she has “never encountered a licensee who has this high of a level of chronic and repeat noncompliance across every category of Animal Welfare Act requirements.”

The court-issued restraining order requires Gingerich to provide federal authorities with a list of every location at which he has any dogs intended for breeding or sale; to provide authorities with a complete animal inventory for each location; and to ensure that within two weeks every dog listed on the inventory receives a “complete physical examination from head to tail.”

The court stipulated that the veterinary care provided as a result of the order must be provided by someone other than Gingerich’s regular vet, Dr. William McClintock, or any of the other vets working at the Country Village Animal Clinic in Centerville.

Gingerich has not yet filed a response to the court action or the state’s administrative order.

*** Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa's largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens's complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

Republished under Creative Commons license. Originally published by Iowa Capitol Dispatch. Original article may be found by clicking here.

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