Friday, May 29, 2009

Circus no fun for animals?

In continuance of our report on Pet Chat Radio earlier today, the ongoing debate about the whether the use of animals in circuses is inhumane has once again surfaced as the Carson & Barnes Circus is set to begin a string of performances on several dates throughout Northern California next week. reports that Bay Area and national animal welfare agencies, including the Marin Humane Society, Humane Society & SPCA of Sonoma County, Citizens for Cruelty Free Entertainment, Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County, Pets Lifeline and the San Francisco SPCA, have publicly called for a boycott of the Carson & Barnes Circus, citing the company's routine abuse of animals. These organizations are all strongly against the use of animals in circuses and the inhumane training methods that are often employed, such as whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods and bull hooks that can puncture and tear an elephant's skin. When not performing, animals are often transported and confined in small, cramped cages.

According to a statement from PETA, the Carson & Barnes Circus has "failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)." The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Carson & Barnes Circus numerous times for failing to provide: veterinary care and minimum space requirements, shelter from the elements, properly maintained and adequately ventilated transport trailers and cages, proper fencing to protect spectators and the animals, clean water for the animals and updated animal health records.

The Carson & Barnes website counters these attacks saying that they are essentially "lies" and that, "Data suggests that elephants are not stressed when they travel and find the life 'quite acceptable,' and that working elephants are in better physical condition, have more muscle tone, greater stamina and less excess fat than their sedentary counterparts."

From the Carson & Barnes Circus website:

"A part of circus history and a part of Carson & Barnes Circus are the animals. Animals have been a great addition to our family unit since the beginning. Often bred and born in the circus, our animals enjoy performing as much as their human counterparts. Appreciate the natural beauty, incredible force and speed, and God-given grace of these wondrous animals."

The problem with this statement, many argue, is that making these animals perform unnatural tricks can be injurious and stressful. By showcasing elephants walking on their hind legs or tigers jumping through flaming hoops, circuses potray animals as creatures whose sole purpose is to amuse us.

There was indeed a time long ago when the circus was the only interaction many people had with exotic and wild animals. But now that we have easy access to zoos, Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel to help educate people about the natural habitats and behaviors of animals, many maintain that using them as circus performers has become an outdated, unnecessary and inhumane concept. So why are they are still used? Many opponents of circuses that the reason is purely monetary reward.

Twelve years ago, the Marin Humane Society attempted to block a Carson & Barnes circus in Novato. Thanks to the county's unique permitting process, the organization was able to require that clean food and water and regular health monitoring of the circus animals be provided. "Circus officials were not happy about having to provide these basic needs and they have not been back to Marin County since," said Marin Humane Society spokesperson Carrie Harrington.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pet Chat Radio's First Broadcast

It was decided a while ago that we were going to enhance the interactive communicative aspect of Web-DVM augmenting the blog and message boards with a weekly Internet radio broadcast, Web-DVM's Pet Chat Radio. The blog especially will now be geared toward expanding on topics presented in the broadcast beginning with my own commentary and continuing with listener/reader comments.

Regarding this week's maiden broadcast, one particular news story I wanted to expand on a bit was La Jolla, California's program to keep seals from taking over Children's Pool Beach by scaring them away with loud barking dog noises, as well as their plan "B" to shoot water at them should they become refractory to the dog noise. Quick side note, I am quite embarrassed about my gross mispronunciation of "La Jolla," as following the broadcast, I was immediately notified by an L.A. base close friend of mine that it is actually pronounced, "La Hoya."

Per the broadcast, animal rights activists plan to oppose this plan, the question is, are they justified in making this an issue? Do La Jolla residents have the right to keep the seals in check to keep one of their favorite beaches clear for their own use? Are their tactics pf barking dog noise and possible water projectiles reasonable, or invasive or even inhumane? I would love for someone actually from that area to comment - provided you don't give me too much flack for my ridiculous mispronunciation of La Jolla.

And of course, comments on any aspect of the broadcast are welcome. Thanks for listening!

Click Here To Listen To Pet Chat Radio Directly from Feed

Monday, May 11, 2009

Incredible But True III

This is a little segment I like write periodically about recent experiences that seem hard to believe. Whether funny, inspirational, despicable, stupid, or miraculous, as incredible as these short stories may seem, they are oh so true. . .

Unwilling patient

A client picked up a kitten that she saw thrown out the window of a moving car. The kitten amazingly did not seem very hurt, but there was some bleeding from the mouth and she wanted her looked at. On her way over, she let the kitten loose in the car while she drove, and the kitten proceeded out of fear to climb up into the dash board of the car, out of the reach of the client.

Upon arrival, two of my techs were unable to help this client get the kitten out of the dash, and one hour later, the client gave up. She said she would leave the windows open and let her come out when she is ready, perhaps try to lure her out with a can of food. This was last week, and I still have not seen the kitten or the client.

Terrible patient, delusional owner

A Sharpei came into my office for seeming to have been bitten by "something" in the back yard and was "freaking out" every time the area was touched by the owner. On the disposition line of the check-in form the owner had written, "very sweet." Despite the owner's assertion, in typical Sharpei fashion, the dog was extremely stressed and apprehensive when approached, snapping, and literally climbing the owner to get away from us. After we managed to get a muzzle on the dog, things did not get any better.

During the exam, the dog remained curled in a tense little ball and could not have been more stiff if it had been a corpse in rigormortis. I had to pry the legs apart, expending a considerable amount of force just to get a look at what turned out to be little more than a scratch on the skin. From the dog's reaction, however, one would have thought there was a compound fracture, as it screamed, clawed my assistant, and urinated all over itself (and us).

All the while, the owner kept saying "you are such a good boy!"

Too many health problems for one little dog

Three years ago, a wonderful owner of a young, cheerful little Bichon Frise came into my office for a chief complaint of a bad cough. I treated what was ultimately kennel cough successfully, but this was only a tiny blemish in what would be a future of a number of diseases that this dog would ultimately have to contend with.

Since then this dog has been treated for severe skin allergies, pancreatitis, diabetes, ACL tear in the knee, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, ear infections, and is currently dealing with severe cataracts and chronically infected anal glands.

Fortunately for him, his Mom is fiercely dedicated his care, sparing no expense and painstakingly keeping up with all of his treatments. Fortunately for us, despite all he has been through and continues to go through, he remains sweet and amiable, and his owner is an absolute pleasure to work with, considered by the doctors and staff alike to be both client and good friend. Thanks to her, he remains alive with good quality of life and happy as a clam despite his constant health problems.