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Archive for the ‘veterinary medicine and animal welfare’ Category

Marine mammals trace anthropogenic structures at sea

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Marine mammals trace anthropogenic structures at sea
Source: Current Biology

On land, species from all trophic levels have adapted to fill vacant niches in environments heavily modified by humans (e.g. [1] ). In the marine environment, ocean infrastructure has led to artificial reefs, resulting in localized increases in fish and crustacean density [2] . Whether marine apex predators exhibit behavioural adaptations to utilise such a scattered potential resource is unknown. Using high resolution GPS data we show how infrastructure, including wind turbines and pipelines, shapes the movements of individuals from two seal species (Phoca vitulina and Halichoerus grypus). Using state-space models, we infer that these animals are using structures to forage. We highlight the ecological consequences of such behaviour, at a time of unprecedented developments in marine infrastructure.

See: Seals Are Drawn to Offshore Wind Farms (The Atlantic)

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EU — Environment: Commission launches new platform to help resolve social conflicts over large carnivores

June 13, 2014 Comments off

Environment: Commission launches new platform to help resolve social conflicts over large carnivores
Source: European Commission

Europe’s brown bear, wolf, wolverine, lynx – at least one of these species can now be found in 21 EU Member States. After a lengthy period of decline their numbers are growing once more, but coexistence with man can be problematic. In an effort to solve the social and economic problems that sometimes result from this new expansion, the European Commission has launched a platform where farmers, conservationists, hunters, landowners and scientists can exchange ideas and best practices on sharing the same land with large carnivores.

The EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores will support constructive dialogue between key stakeholder organisations at the European level. Launching the platform, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “We need to treat our natural neighbours with respect – but we also need to heed the concerns of those whose lives are genuinely affected by their close proximity. My warm congratulations to the organisations that have worked together to set up this important platform, which represents a major step forward in efforts to address the issue of peaceful coexistence.”

The European Union is home to five species of large carnivores. All suffered dramatic declines in numbers and distribution as a consequence of human activity, but increasing protection and public awareness about their vital role in healthy ecosystems have caused many populations to stabilize or increase, and to return to areas from which they had been absent for decades or even centuries.

While this recovery is seen by some as a great conservation success, it has not been without its opponents. The issue involves a diversity of stakeholders such as hunters, foresters, livestock producers, reindeer herders, landowners, rural communities, conservation organizations and the wider public. These groups are influenced by and perceive large carnivores in different ways, and in some cases these differences can be a source of conflict. The platform will facilitate exchanges of knowledge and promote ways and means to minimize, and wherever possible, find equitable solutions to these conflicts.

NOAA study shows educating, warning, and citing speeding mariners helps lower ship speeds in areas with endangered North Atlantic Right Whales

June 12, 2014 Comments off

NOAA study shows educating, warning, and citing speeding mariners helps lower ship speeds in areas with endangered North Atlantic Right Whales
Source: NOAA

NOAA’s policy of notifying — but not necessarily citing — speeding vessels in protected areas along the East Coast was effective in lowering their speeds through these sensitive areas, protecting the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales from ship collisions, while keeping punitive fines to mariners to a minimum, according to a new study.

A NOAA regulation, instituted in December 2008, requires vessels 65 feet or greater in length to travel at speeds of 10 knots or less in areas seasonally occupied by the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

The NOAA-led study looked the compliance with speed regulations by 8,009 individual vessels that made more than 200,000 trips between November 2008 and August 2013, mostly in areas where the endangered whales are known to travel. Some were remotely monitored by radio signals sent from the vessels.
Virtually all ships received notification of the speed regulations. The owners or operators of 437 of these ships received non-punitive notifications of violations and were reminded of the regulation, or cited after they were observed violating the restrictions. Twenty-six of them received citations and were fined.

Compliance with the regulation was low at the beginning of the regulatory period but steadily improved, according to the study. Vessels that received fines or citations later showed improved compliance. Informational letters issued by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, monthly public summaries of vessel operations, and direct at-sea radio contact also were effective in keeping the vessels in compliance with the law.

Monitoring Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions in the Information Age: How Smartphones Can Improve Data Collection

June 6, 2014 Comments off

Monitoring Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions in the Information Age: How Smartphones Can Improve Data Collection
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Currently there is a critical need for accurate and standardized wildlife-vehicle collision data, because it is the underpinning of mitigation projects that protect both drivers and wildlife. Gathering data can be challenging because wildlife-vehicle collisions occur over broad areas, during all seasons of the year, and in large numbers. Collecting data of this magnitude requires an efficient data collection system. Presently there is no widely adopted system that is both efficient and accurate.

Methodology/Principal Findings
Our objective was to develop and test an integrated smartphone-based system for reporting wildlife-vehicle collision data. The WVC Reporter system we developed consisted of a mobile web application for data collection, a database for centralized storage of data, and a desktop web application for viewing data. The smartphones that we tested for use with the application produced accurate locations (median error = 4.6–5.2 m), and reduced location error 99% versus reporting only the highway/marker. Additionally, mean times for data entry using the mobile web application (22.0–26.5 s) were substantially shorter than using the pen/paper method (52 s). We also found the pen/paper method had a data entry error rate of 10% and those errors were virtually eliminated using the mobile web application. During the first year of use, 6,822 animal carcasses were reported using WVC Reporter. The desktop web application improved access to WVC data and allowed users to easily visualize wildlife-vehicle collision patterns at multiple scales.

Conclusions/Significance
The WVC Reporter integrated several modern technologies into a seamless method for collecting, managing, and using WVC data. As a result, the system increased efficiency in reporting, improved accuracy, and enhanced visualization of data. The development costs for the system were minor relative to the potential benefits of having spatially accurate and temporally current wildlife-vehicle collision data.

A Shared Population of Epidemic Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus 15 Circulates in Humans and Companion Animals

May 22, 2014 Comments off

A Shared Population of Epidemic Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) 15 Circulates in Humans and Companion Animals
Source: mBio

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a global human health problem causing infections in both hospitals and the community. Companion animals, such as cats, dogs, and horses, are also frequently colonized by MRSA and can become infected. We sequenced the genomes of 46 multilocus sequence type (ST) 22 MRSA isolates from cats and dogs in the United Kingdom and compared these to an extensive population framework of human isolates from the same lineage. Phylogenomic analyses showed that all companion animal isolates were interspersed throughout the epidemic MRSA-15 (EMRSA-15) pandemic clade and clustered with human isolates from the United Kingdom, with human isolates basal to those from companion animals, suggesting a human source for isolates infecting companion animals. A number of isolates from the same veterinary hospital clustered together, suggesting that as in human hospitals, EMRSA-15 isolates are readily transmitted in the veterinary hospital setting. Genome-wide association analysis did not identify any host-specific single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or virulence factors. However, isolates from companion animals were significantly less likely to harbor a plasmid encoding erythromycin resistance. When this plasmid was present in animal-associated isolates, it was more likely to contain mutations mediating resistance to clindamycin. This finding is consistent with the low levels of erythromycin and high levels of clindamycin used in veterinary medicine in the United Kingdom. This study furthers the “one health” view of infectious diseases that the pathogen pool of human and animal populations are intrinsically linked and provides evidence that antibiotic usage in animal medicine is shaping the population of a major human pathogen.

See: Humans and Companion Animals Harbor the Same Types of MRSA Infections (American Society for Microbiology)

Fact Sheet – The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Program

May 21, 2014 Comments off

Fact Sheet – The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Program
Source: Federal Aviation Administration

The FAA requires airport sponsors to maintain a safe operating environment which includes conducting Wildlife Hazard Assessments and preparing Wildlife Hazard Management Plans, when there has been a wildlife strike. The Wildlife Hazard Management Plan identifies the specific actions the airport will take to mitigate the risk of wildlife strikes on or near the airport. The FAA’s wildlife hazard management program has been in place for more than 50 years and focuses on mitigating wildlife hazards through habitat modification, harassment technology, and research.

Dog Fighting and the Growing Social Epidemic of Animal Cruelty

May 15, 2014 Comments off

Dog Fighting and the Growing Social Epidemic of Animal Cruelty (PDF)
Source: Journal of Law Enforcement

Cases of animal cruelty have gained much attention in recent years, due in part to increased numbers being reported and the use of social media in reporting such cases. Sadly, thousands of domesticated animals (i.e., primarily horses, dogs, and cats) are victims of cruelty every year. Exact numbers are unknown, because a national reporting system does not currently exist. However, the number of cruelty cases reported each year indicates that a real problem exists. Additional areas of concern include correlations between animal cruelty and other criminal activities, to include abuse and neglect against humans.

Pet Dog Ownership Decisions for Parents of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

April 23, 2014 Comments off

Pet Dog Ownership Decisions for Parents of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder (PDF)
Source: Journal of Pediatric Nursing (pre-publication dissertation)

This study compared the social skills of children wit h Autism Spectrum Disorder who lived with dogs and those who did not live with dogs. Interaction with dogs was investigated in this population, along with the attachment of those children who lived with dogs. This cross – sectional, descriptive study was conducted using a telephone survey. Seventy caregivers rated their child using the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scale, and responded to open – ended questions regarding their child’s interaction with dogs. Children living with dogs completed the Companion A nimal Bonding Scale . Two – sample t – tests were used for comparison of children with and without dogs. Thematic analysis was used to evaluate the qualitative data. In seven of eight social skill areas, the mean social skill scores of children with dogs were greater than for those without dogs . Eighty – nine percent of parents with dogs described their child as “ very attached ” and children reported high bonding to their dogs using the CABS. Parents indicat ed the benefits of dog ownership for their child with ASD were companionship, unconditional love and responsibility opportunities. The findings suggest that dog ownership may be beneficial for some children with ASD.

CRS — Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Related Non-Tariff Barriers to Agricultural Trade

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Related Non-Tariff Barriers to Agricultural Trade (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are the laws, rules, standards, and procedures that governments employ to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, toxins, and other contaminants. Examples include meat and poultry processing standards to reduce pathogens, residue limits for pesticides in foods, and regulation of agricultural biotechnology. Technical barriers to trade (TBT) cover technical regulations, product standards, environmental regulations, and voluntary procedures relating to human health and animal welfare. Examples include trademarks and patents, labeling and packaging requirements, certification and inspection procedures, product specifications, and marketing of biotechnology. SPS and TBT measures both comprise a group of widely divergent standards and standards-based measures that countries use to regulate markets, protect their consumers, and preserve natural resources.

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), SPS and TBT measures have become more prominent concerns for agricultural exporters and policy makers, as tariff-related barriers to trade have been reduced by various multilateral, regional, and bilateral negotiations and trade agreements. The concerns include whether SPS and TBT measures might be used to unfairly discriminate against imported products or create unnecessary obstacles to trade in agricultural, food, and other traded goods. Notable U.S. trade disputes involving SPS and TBT measures have included a European Union (EU) ban on U.S. meats treated with growth-promoting hormones and also certain pathogen reduction treatments, and an EU moratorium on approvals of biotechnology products, among other types of trade concerns with other countries. Foreign countries have also objected to various U.S. trade measures.

CRS — Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

From an environmental quality standpoint, much of the public and policy interest in animal agriculture has focused on impacts on water resources, because animal waste, if not properly managed, can harm water quality through surface runoff, direct discharges, spills, and leaching into soil and groundwater. A more recent issue is the contribution of air emissions from animal feeding operations (AFOs), enterprises where animals are raised in confinement. This report provides background on the latter issue.

CRS — Table Egg Production and Hen Welfare: Agreement and Legislative Proposals

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Table Egg Production and Hen Welfare: Agreement and Legislative Proposals/strong> (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The United Egg Producers (UEP), the largest group representing egg producers, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the largest animal protection group, have been adversaries for many years over the use of conventional cages in table egg production. In July 2011, the animal agriculture community was stunned when the UEP and HSUS announced that they had agreed to work together to push for federal legislation to regulate how U.S. table eggs are produced. The agreement between UEP and HSUS called for federal legislation that would set cage sizes, establish labeling requirements, and regulate other production practices. As part of the agreement, HSUS agreed to immediately suspend state-level ballot initiative efforts in Oregon and Washington.

The Voice of Emotion across Species: How Do Human Listeners Recognize Animals’ Affective States?

April 14, 2014 Comments off

The Voice of Emotion across Species: How Do Human Listeners Recognize Animals’ Affective States?
Source: PLoS ONE

Voice-induced cross-taxa emotional recognition is the ability to understand the emotional state of another species based on its voice. In the past, induced affective states, experience-dependent higher cognitive processes or cross-taxa universal acoustic coding and processing mechanisms have been discussed to underlie this ability in humans. The present study sets out to distinguish the influence of familiarity and phylogeny on voice-induced cross-taxa emotional perception in humans. For the first time, two perspectives are taken into account: the self- (i.e. emotional valence induced in the listener) versus the others-perspective (i.e. correct recognition of the emotional valence of the recording context). Twenty-eight male participants listened to 192 vocalizations of four different species (human infant, dog, chimpanzee and tree shrew). Stimuli were recorded either in an agonistic (negative emotional valence) or affiliative (positive emotional valence) context. Participants rated the emotional valence of the stimuli adopting self- and others-perspective by using a 5-point version of the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM). Familiarity was assessed based on subjective rating, objective labelling of the respective stimuli and interaction time with the respective species. Participants reliably recognized the emotional valence of human voices, whereas the results for animal voices were mixed. The correct classification of animal voices depended on the listener’s familiarity with the species and the call type/recording context, whereas there was less influence of induced emotional states and phylogeny. Our results provide first evidence that explicit voice-induced cross-taxa emotional recognition in humans is shaped more by experience-dependent cognitive mechanisms than by induced affective states or cross-taxa universal acoustic coding and processing mechanisms.

Investigating the Role of State Permitting and Agriculture Agencies in Addressing Public Health Concerns Related to Industrial Food Animal Production

February 27, 2014 Comments off

Investigating the Role of State Permitting and Agriculture Agencies in Addressing Public Health Concerns Related to Industrial Food Animal Production
Source: PLoS ONE

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Objectives
Industrial food animal production (IFAP) operations adversely impact environmental public health through air, water, and soil contamination. We sought to determine how state permitting and agriculture agencies respond to these public health concerns.

Methods
We conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with staff at 12 state agencies in seven states, which were chosen based on high numbers or rapid increase of IFAP operations. The interviews served to gather information regarding agency involvement in regulating IFAP operations, the frequency and type of contacts received about public health concerns, how the agency responds to such contacts, and barriers to additional involvement.

Results
Permitting and agriculture agencies’ responses to health-based IFAP concerns are constrained by significant barriers including narrow regulations, a lack of public health expertise within the agencies, and limited resources.

Conclusions
State agencies with jurisdiction over IFAP operations are unable to adequately address relevant public health concerns due to multiple factors. Combining these results with previously published findings on barriers facing local and state health departments in the same states reveals significant gaps between these agencies regarding public health and IFAP. There is a clear need for regulations to protect public health and for public health professionals to provide complementary expertise to agencies responsible for regulating IFAP operations.

Protecting Iconic Species for Future Generations: A New National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking

February 14, 2014 Comments off

Protecting Iconic Species for Future Generations: A New National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking
Source: U.S. Department of State

To protect threatened species like elephants and rhinoceroses for future generations, today the President approved a new National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. The Strategy strengthens U.S. leadership on countering the global security threat posed by poaching and illegal trade in wildlife, which is decimating iconic animal populations. Because of the actions of poachers, today species like elephants and rhinoceroses face the risk of significant decline or even extinction. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Today, we are taking action to stop these illicit networks and ensure that our children have the chance to grow up in a world with and experience for themselves the wildlife we know and love.

The new Strategy establishes three strategic priorities: strengthening domestic and global enforcement; reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife at home and abroad; and strengthening partnerships with international partners, local communities, NGOs, private industry, and others to combat illegal wildlife poaching and trade.

Climate Change Increases Reproductive Failure in Magellanic Penguins

February 5, 2014 Comments off

Climate Change Increases Reproductive Failure in Magellanic Penguins
Source: PLoS ONE

Climate change is causing more frequent and intense storms, and climate models predict this trend will continue, potentially affecting wildlife populations. Since 1960 the number of days with >20 mm of rain increased near Punta Tombo, Argentina. Between 1983 and 2010 we followed 3496 known-age Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) chicks at Punta Tombo to determine how weather impacted their survival. In two years, rain was the most common cause of death killing 50% and 43% of chicks. In 26 years starvation killed the most chicks. Starvation and predation were present in all years. Chicks died in storms in 13 of 28 years and in 16 of 233 storms. Storm mortality was additive; there was no relationship between the number of chicks killed in storms and the numbers that starved (P = 0.75) or that were eaten (P = 0.39). However, when more chicks died in storms, fewer chicks fledged (P = 0.05, R2 = 0.14). More chicks died when rainfall was higher and air temperature lower. Most chicks died from storms when they were 9–23 days old; the oldest chick killed in a storm was 41 days old. Storms with heavier rainfall killed older chicks as well as more chicks. Chicks up to 70 days old were killed by heat. Burrow nests mitigated storm mortality (N = 1063). The age span of chicks in the colony at any given time increased because the synchrony of egg laying decreased since 1983, lengthening the time when chicks are vulnerable to storms. Climate change that increases the frequency and intensity of storms results in more reproductive failure of Magellanic penguins, a pattern likely to apply to many species breeding in the region. Climate variability has already lowered reproductive success of Magellanic penguins and is likely undermining the resilience of many other species.

See also: Antarctic Climate Change: Extreme Events Disrupt Plastic Phenotypic Response in Adélie Penguins

Phasing Out Certain Antibiotic Use in Farm Animals

December 18, 2013 Comments off

Phasing Out Certain Antibiotic Use in Farm Animals
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is implementing a voluntary plan with industry to phase out the use of certain antibiotics for enhanced food production.
Antibiotics are added to the animal feed or drinking water of cattle, hogs, poultry and other food-producing animals to help them gain weight faster or use less food to gain weight.

Because all uses of antimicrobial drugs, in both humans and animals, contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance, it is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary. Governments around the world consider antimicrobial-resistant bacteria a major threat to public health. Illnesses caused by drug-resistant strains of bacteria are more likely to be potentially fatal when the medicines used to treat them are rendered less effective.

Acculturation – Perceptions of breed differences in behavior of the dog (Canis familiaris)

December 11, 2013 Comments off

Acculturation – Perceptions of breed differences in behavior of the dog (Canis familiaris)
Source: Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin

This study borrows the concept of acculturation from Social Anthropology to explore human perception of breed behavior in domestic dogs. A core component of acculturation studies is the contact hypothesis. This concept proposes that once culturally diverse individuals come into contact with each other and are able to develop an understanding of their differing cultures, prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination should be reduced resulting in more positive interactions in the future. Accordingly it is hypothesized that people with more limited contact with dogs will be more likely to accept breed stereotypes and less likely to recognize the significance of individual variation within breeds. Items within a survey were developed to investigate if personal perception of breed-typical behavior is associated with the informant’s experience with dogs. This was tested with reference to response to three statements premised on somatotyping assumptions (the tendency to link behavior with certain types of physical characteristic). The results were consistent with the prediction that level and quality of contact are major influences on the tendency to believe popular breed stereotypes, despite scientific evidence which challenges the justification for such generalizations. These results are of scientific, ethical, and practical significance since they suggest breed stereotyping in dogs is a similar phenomenon to the racial stereotyping of people.

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The Urbanization of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in the United States

December 9, 2013 Comments off

The Urbanization of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in the United States
Source: Journal of American History

The urbanization of the gray squirrel in the United States between the mid-nineteenth century and the early twentieth century was an ecological and cultural process that changed the squirrels’ ways of life, altered the urban landscape, and adjusted human understandings of nature, the city, and the boundaries of community. Squirrels were part of the new complex of human-animal relationships that emerged in the American city at the turn of the twentieth century as laboring animals were replaced by machines, and as dairy, meat, and egg production and processing were shifted to the urban margins. Accounts of urban squirrels in newspapers, magazines, scientific journals, diaries, and other sources provide evidence of these changes and of the development of a new understanding of community that crossed species borders to include some types of animals and exclude some types of humans. These sources help explain why Bailey and many others saw the eastern gray squirrel not merely as an interesting object of nature study but also as a morally significant member of the urban community

Replicability and Heterogeneity of Awake Unrestrained Canine fMRI Responses

December 5, 2013 Comments off

Replicability and Heterogeneity of Awake Unrestrained Canine fMRI Responses
Source: PLoS ONE

Previously, we demonstrated the possibility of fMRI in two awake and unrestrained dogs. Here, we determined the replicability and heterogeneity of these results in an additional 11 dogs for a total of 13 subjects. Based on an anatomically placed region-of-interest, we compared the caudate response to a hand signal indicating the imminent availability of a food reward to a hand signal indicating no reward. 8 of 13 dogs had a positive differential caudate response to the signal indicating reward. The mean differential caudate response was 0.09%, which was similar to a comparable human study. These results show that canine fMRI is reliable and can be done with minimal stress to the dogs.

See: Multi-Dog Study Points to Canine Brain’s Reward Center

Canaries in the coal mine: a cross-species analysis of the plurality of obesity epidemics

December 3, 2013 Comments off

Canaries in the coal mine: a cross-species analysis of the plurality of obesity epidemics
Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society

A dramatic rise in obesity has occurred among humans within the last several decades. Little is known about whether similar increases in obesity have occurred in animals inhabiting human-influenced environments. We examined samples collectively consisting of over 20 000 animals from 24 populations (12 divided separately into males and females) of animals representing eight species living with or around humans in industrialized societies. In all populations, the estimated coefficient for the trend of body weight over time was positive (i.e. increasing). The probability of all trends being in the same direction by chance is 1.2 × 10−7. Surprisingly, we find that over the past several decades, average mid-life body weights have risen among primates and rodents living in research colonies, as well as among feral rodents and domestic dogs and cats. The consistency of these findings among animals living in varying environments, suggests the intriguing possibility that the aetiology of increasing body weight may involve several as-of-yet unidentified and/or poorly understood factors (e.g. viral pathogens, epigenetic factors). This finding may eventually enhance the discovery and fuller elucidation of other factors that have contributed to the recent rise in obesity rates.

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