Sylvester Stallone kept the two turtles from Rocky – and they’re now 44

This is one of the most adorable stories that we have come across in some time.

Rocky turtles

Those who still watch the original “Rocky” film on a regular basis probably remember the part where the titular pugilist purchases turtles from a pet store. Those who are looking to refresh their memory can check out the scene for themselves. Can you believe that Stallone still owns both of them?

That’s right. Our pals Cuff and Link are still very much alive and well. This is not a new revelation to those who pay attention to the actor’s Instagram page. He posted a photo of the turtles during the shoot for Creed 2. We are proud to report that they are still in his possessions and he loves them very much. While you may not follow Stallone on Instagram, this Reddit post is here to spread the word.

We are so glad to see that these turtles are being taken care of by none other than Rocky himself. It is something out of the movies, isn’t it? His compassion and dedication to the well being of the turtles is just marvellous. It reminds us of the level of dedication that Mike Tyson has towards his pigeons. These turtles even got some screen time in Creed 2.

The Reddit thread that broke out in tribute to these turtles is too adorable for words. Social media is well known for its snark. However, even Reddit was not able to put on a brave front for this story. There is something about tough guys with pets that touches the hearts of everyone. It makes these types of actors so much easier to relate to.

We all have soft spots, right? While we never would have predicted that he would still own these turtles after all these years, we are psyched to see them so happy together. Turtles are fun pets for a wide range of reasons. First of all, they live for a very long time. Secondly, they live so long that their owners are very rarely forced to watch them die.

We are willing to bet that Cuff and Link will be able to outlive their famous owner. In case you were wondering, the Bull mastiff that played a role in the first two Rocky films is also residing with the turtles. This is one happy family that we would love to see more of. Maybe when the Creed franchise runs its course, they can all start their very own sitcom.

(Story source: Beopeo)

Bomb-sniffing dogs awarded animal OBEs after years working in RAF

Two RAF Police dogs have been awarded the animal version of OBEs.

animal obes

Metro reports that English spaniel Alfie and Labrador AJ are being recognised for their ‘exemplary careers’, which involved helping to locate arms, ammunition and explosives. The military dogs served in Number 4 RAF Police (Typhoon) Squadron for six years, and have now received the PDSA Order of Merit for their contributions to society. The pair, who operated in dangerous environments for most of their careers, have now retired. Alfie and AJ were described as being the best in their field for the number of search hours, searches and operational finds.

Provost Marshal (RAF), Group Captain David Wilkinson said: ‘Alfie and AJ were truly outstanding members of the team, performing impeccably during their careers. ‘They regularly worked in challenging and dangerous situations but never faltering in their duty. They are a credit to the Royal Air Force. ‘To have their actions recognised in this way is truly fantastic and I am immensely proud of everything they both achieved.’ The award was introduced in 2014 and has seen 32 animals – including horses and dogs – recognised for their contribution to society or devotion to their owners.

‘It is with great pride that we award Alfie and AJ the PDSA Order of Merit today,’ Jan McLoughlin, director general of the UK veterinary charity PDSA, said. ‘They have both had exemplary careers, playing a pivotal role in the vital work of the RAF Squadron and providing outstanding service to society. ‘Through the PDSA Animal Awards programme we seek to raise the status of animals in society and honour the incredible contribution they make to our lives. ‘Alfie and AJ’s extraordinary work warrants the highest recognition, making them worthy recipients of the PDSA Order of Merit.’

(Story source: Metro)

UUP demands pet dogs are allowed to travel freely in the UK

The party’s DEARA spokesperson Rosemary Barton said: ‘Ways must be found to provide reassurance for pet owners and protect them from an extra expense of approximately £200 per pet’.

Pet Travel

The UUP (Ulster Unionist Party) is demanding urgent government action to allow people to travel freely with their pets within the UK. It comes as news emerged that 29% of English holiday-makers coming to the island of Ireland bring their dogs with them. But confusion, fear and misinformation about new rules on trips with pets, have created chaos for those planning breaks and visits.

UUP DEARA spokesperson Rosemary Barton MLA said: “As we approach the summer months many people are turning their attention to a long-awaited break and many are choosing to stay within the UK because of the uncertainty that still prevails regarding travel to other countries.

“Once again concern has been raised about travelling with pets, particularly on the return journey from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, due to problems stemming from the Northern Ireland Protocol. “While requirements that all pets are microchipped, are vaccinated against rabies and have had treatment against tapeworms, together with a valid European pet passport have been postponed until 1st October, it is clear that a permanent solution is required.

“Ways must be found to provide reassurance for pet owners and protect them from an extra expense of approximately £200 per pet. They cannot be dependent on continued last minute derogations on the Protocol regulations. “Many responsible owners today have their pets already microchipped, something that is encouraged particularly by local councils. The last case of rabies in the United Kingdom was in the 1920s. Is this medical intervention, which has implications for the over-vaccination of pets, necessary?

“Solutions must be found and people must have confidence that they can travel freely throughout the United Kingdom with their pets.”

The UK saw an increase of more than 3 million dogs in homes across two Covid lockdowns, with an estimated 500,000 households in Northern Ireland having at least one dog, and today with overseas travel still affected by changing quarantine rules, many people are staying put. And for a lot of families, the staycation has become the petcation, with increasing numbers of hotels, Airbnbs, cafes, pubs and restaurants now actively catering for visitors with dogs.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots postponed the introduction of pet passports for travellers within the UK until October 1 to allow the department and the public to prepare for the introduction of new documentary and health requirements of EU Pet Travel Regulations. And DAERA is developing a process to handle compliance checks while officials still reserve the right to undertake checks if suspicions about illegal activity or welfare concerns arise. But confusion still reigns for travellers and carriers.

A spokesperson for DogLoversNI, a group campaigning for a more dog-friendly Northern Ireland said: “Miro Sefcovic gave evidence to the Stormont Assembly as the chief EU negotiator who has power to remove the restrictions on dog travel. We ask our MLAs, which of you raised pet travel restrictions directly with him? Who asked the all important questions for hundreds of thousands of pet owners in this country?

“It appears our government doesn’t care about the hardships suffered by people with dogs who face travel restrictions and the cruelty involved in over medicating our beloved dogs. We need a champion to have our voices heard where changes can happen, so we can scrap these absurd restrictions on travel with pet dogs in the UK and Ireland and we call for it to be done now.”

Earlier this month Tony Barclay was told his guide dog Wallace would have to show proof of a pet passport complete with a note of a rabies vaccination despite Mr Poots ruling. The airline later apologised for the error and changed their website to reflect the current legislation.

But at Liverpool port, travellers have reported receiving paperwork which states travellers with dogs, cats or ferrets cannot use a pet passport issued in Britain to travel to Northern Ireland. The paperwork stated pet owners must ensure the pet is :

  • microchipped
  • vaccinated against rabies
  • medicated against tapeworm, and
  • have an animal health certificate signed by their vet no more than 10 days ahead of travel.

However these rules are not in place and are currently not applicable. Niall Gibbons from NI Tourism said: “We know that 29% of GB holiday makers are dog owners. If some arrangement could be found over pet passports it would make the whole island of Ireland an awful lot more appealing.”

(Story source: Belfast Live)

More dog blood donors are needed for transfusions to keep unwell pets alive

Just like humans, sometimes animals depend on blood donors in emergencies – but donations have dropped 40 per cent during the pandemic.

dog Blood Donors

It might be tricky to get blood out of a stone, but whoever coined the old adage had clearly never tried to drain half a pint of the stuff from a Great Dane or a German Shepherd. Suddenly that saying seems like an understatement.

Aside from getting them to lie still while the needle is inserted, canine blood donors also appreciate a tummy rub. They’re unlikely to leave until they have received a post-donation bowl of water and some doggy treats. And the less publicity-shy also like to record their achievement by posing for a Facebook photograph.

“My dogs were fine, it was me who nearly passed out,” says Ali Scott, who regularly takes five of her nine labradors to one of the Pet Blood Bank UK’s mobile blood donation units near Newcastle. “I first heard of the service five years ago. I knew that as someone who owns a lot of dogs there was a chance that at some point I might need their help, so I thought I should do my bit.

“One of my dogs, Red, has just notched up his 15th donation. I know some people might be a bit wary, but it’s completely pain free and my dogs really enjoy the attention.”

Following a change in the law regarding the storage of animal blood, Pet Blood Bank UK was founded in 2007. Since then, thousands of creatures have been saved.

However, the past 15 months has been tough for the service, which transports donated blood to veterinary surgeries across the country.

A few years ago, when one of our dogs needed a transfusion, I began looking into canine donation,” says Alison, from Suffolk. “Newfoundlands are big dogs, so it can be quite tricky getting them on the table and the poor nurse gets covered in fur. However, knowing that we might be able to save another dog makes it all worth it.”

Prior to the launch of the service, vets had to rely on their own list of potential donors. However, with time of the essence, organising transfusions was often tricky.

“Pet Blood Bank has helped to save our family twice,” says Luke Carvalho, who owns four dogs with his partner, Fern. “Our whippet Wendy needed a plasma transfusion after she ate something poisonous and more recently our terrier Toby needed blood after he swallowed a rubber toy and later suffered a burst intestine.”

The blood bank is hoping to expand its operation by creating a similar setup for cats – and the country’s small but growing herd of alpacas. It’s not the only place which is pioneering animal blood transfusions, however. While there is no national equine blood bank, the Royal Veterinary College keeps four horses at its Hertfordshire campus who each month donate blood and plasma.

A spokesman says: “We started keeping blood donors over 20 years ago, but as equine critical care has advanced, their role has become even more important.

“Our equine hospital, which treats everything from haemorrhages to diseases of the blood, is always open, so these donors can be called upon at any time. Horse blood has a limited shelf life, so having on-site access to donors is the only way we can carry out cutting edge procedures. They really are lifesavers.”

“Although our donor owners have been brilliantly supportive, because of social distancing restrictions we have seen a drop off in the number of sessions we have been able to hold,” says the organisation’s marketing manager, Nicole Osborne. “We’ve also seen a 40 per cent reduction in the number of dogs attending sessions and together that has had a big impact on our stock levels.”

With Monday marking World Blood Donor Day, the team, along with the UK Kennel Club Charitable Trust, is hoping to encourage more dog owners like Alison Daltrey – whose Newfoundlands Simba and Storm have recently been accepted as donors – to come forward.

(Story source: Inews)

Dog and rescue duck are best friends – they share food, cuddle and even play fight

They say birds of a feather flock together, but that couldn’t be further from the truth in the case of this dog and duck duo.

dog and duck

Metro reports that Fern the puppy and Dennis the duck are best buds who live with owners Sarah-Jayne Little and Sam Leadley in Whitby, Yorkshire.

When the couple first brought Fern home, they were worried Dennis might get a bit territorial. However, it didn’t take long for it to be clear to Fern and her humans that Dennis wasn’t going to bite her – in fact, they became firm friends. Now, the first thing Dennis does in the morning when he’s let out of his hutch is run around the farm looking for Fern.

Meanwhile, Fern, now six months old, will watch Dennis while he swims across their little pond ‘to make sure he’s safe’. She’ll also happily roll around with him and even share her food.

Account manager Sarah-Jayne, 26, says: ‘They love chasing each other all day every day. When Dennis gets in the pond, Fern watches over him.

‘She’s not brave enough to get in with him yet, but she stands at the side and looks over him, so he’s safe. ‘They’re now rolling around together on the floor daily. She’ll lay down and let Dennis jump on her having a play. We were worried he might have been being territorial, but it’s definitely playing now.

‘Dennis was the boss from day one, but they’ve developed into best friends ever since. Now everything is a game for them. ‘The first thing Dennis does in the morning is to go looking for Fern. If she’s not with us later in the day for some reason, you can see he’s disappointed.’

Sarah-Jayne and joiner Sam, 27, rescued Dennis along with another duck called Dorothy at the start of the year. They now have four ducks, four chickens and a rooster, as well as little Fern.

Sarah-Jayne adds: ‘Fern isn’t interested in any of our other three ducks, and they’re not bothered about her. It’s only Dennis who has made the cut. ‘I think she realised she had to fit in with him, which has helped. As she’s known him since she was a pup, she knows to play with him rather than hunt him.

‘He’s very bold and the first thing every morning when we take Fern outside to go see all the animals, Dennis will run over to her. ‘What is even funnier is Dennis isn’t interested in any other dogs. If our family brings their dogs over, he’s not bothered by them at all.

‘As she’s a working dog, Fern will still flush other birds when we’re out walking, but because she’s had Dennis there since she was a pup, that hunting connection has never been made.

‘Some people have suggested Dennis might be a bit confused and fancies Fern, but it’s definitely a friend relationship. ‘When Dennis first started to chase her, Fern wasn’t quite sure what was going on, and I think she was a little scared, but when he let her get close, and he wasn’t going to hurt her, she started running after him too.’

(Story source: Metro)

Depressed rescue dog who had no one to play with becomes best friends with a rat

Osiris and Riff Ratt are best friends who are completely inseparable despite their huge size gap.

dog and rat

Osiris is a 5-year-old Dutch Shepherd, while Riff Ratt is as his name would suggest, a 7-month-old rat. The partners in crime can’t stand a second apart and the level of trust they have for one another is mind-blowing! Riff Ratt and Osiris, the unlikely friends who have become inseparable.

The strange but endearing friendship started back then Osiris’s owners rescued 4-week-old Riff Ratt. He was so fragile and small, he hadn’t yet even opened his eyes and needed to be nursed back from the brink with the use of a syringe.

Osiris himself was actually a rescue himself who was abandoned in a parking lot when he was just a little pup. When the family took him in temporarily, they fell head over heels for him and decided to keep him forever – so it would stand to reason that he would take well to a fellow rescue.

Osiris is now a trained therapy dog and he has helped his family look after lots of different animals over the years.

Admittedly, Osiris’ parents were really worried that the two wouldn’t be able to stand each other – or even worse, that the pooch would try to hurt Riff in some way. After all, Osiris is a huge dog and Riff is a tiny rat.

However, those fears were completely unnecessary as it didn’t take them long to hit it off. They’re so close in fact that Osiris even lets Riff crawl in his mouth and clean his teeth for him!

“Riff Ratt really likes licking the inside of Osiris’ mouth. I’m sure you all are wondering if we’re afraid Osiris will eat Riff – NOPE! Osiris has helped foster and care for dozens of animals and he is the gentlest dog I’ve ever met,” their owner said on Instagram.

Not only do they like to hang out and spend time together, but they’re not afraid to show affection for one another. They’re pretty much inseparable! This duo’s friendship knows no bounds.

“Seeing them care for each other and have such an unexpected friendship gives me a tiny bit of hope for the rest of the creatures on this planet – especially humans”

(Story source: Woof Woof)

Hot dog? Six potentially cooler places to walk your dog in summer

Summer dog walks can be very rewarding, but on the hottest days of the year they can also be difficult if not impossible to achieve safely. You should never walk your dog when it is very hot, which may mean taking them out very early or very late or in extreme cases, not at all on some days.

hot dog

However, some specific types of environments may be notably cooler than others in the same area; and knowing about these can open up a few more options for you, and make it easier to find safer summer walks for your dog. This article will tell you about six potentially cooler places to walk your dog in the summer, which you might want to check out.

On the coast

A packed beach in summer with no shade and full sun won’t be any cooler for you or your dog than anywhere else, and hot, dry sand itself might be dangerously too hot for your dog’s paws and mean that you can’t walk on it at all. This latter is particularly something to bear in mind if you head out for a walk on wet sand but then have to work out how to get your dog back safely if the sand dries out and becomes too hot.

Also, some beaches don’t allow you to walk dogs on them at all during the summer or at certain times of the day in hotter weather, and this tends to be beaches that are very popular with visitors and tourists and where dogs might be a hazard or a problem.

However, near to the coast rather than on the beach there might be a whole range of cooler options to allow you to walk your dog in more comfort and greater safety than in surrounding areas.

Costal paths and headlands are one such place, but you do need to factor in the potential dangers in some such areas, which will not always be fenced off.

Always keep your dog on a lead on costal paths, and even so, pay them proper attention to ensure they don’t wander too close to the edge and risk slipping or even for some dogs, considering jumping down.

Headlands can be great for cooler dog walks too and tend to attract a breeze, but once more keep your dog on a lead, this time to ensure they don’t disturb nesting birds or other wildlife.

Near to water

Even if you’re nowhere near the sea, you will often find that expanses of inland water and streams, rivers and so on can all provide opportunities for cooler dog walks in summer.

Larger bodies of water like lakes and reservoirs often have paths around them and will pick up a little breeze over the water. Even canal towpaths can be a little cooler, and are often shaded too. Streams and rivers again will tend to be a little cooler along their shores, giving you a few more options.

Always bear in mind the various facets of safety with dogs around water you need to consider, and also, don’t allow your dog to paddle or particularly, swim unless you’re sure this is safe. Blue-green algae, pollutants, underwater hazards, and a range of other things all need to be considered first.

In a valley

Valleys will sometimes have an air temperature a few degrees lower than their surrounding areas, and some will get quite a brisk breeze going through them as well. They might also be a little more shaded, although this does depend to a great extent on the time of day.

In the woods

If there’s woodland or forested areas near your home, these will often be an absolute beacon for dog owners in the summer months.

The tree cover means that the temperature under the canopy will always be a little cooler than outside, and the surface and ground itself will tend to stay at a comfortable temperature for your dog’s paws.

Check that any such areas are public access and that you can walk your dog safely there, and stick to any paths and follow signage if you don’t know the area to ensure you and your dog stay safe and don’t get lost.

Hill walks

Not all hill walks will be a cooling experience for summer dog walks, and if there is no shade, this can be a very poor idea. Also, factor in the added effort of walking uphill and how this might heat your dog up more rather than keeping them cooler in some cases!

However, some hilly or mountainous areas will result in quite a brisk breeze and lower temperatures on the hill rather than in the surrounds, which can take the edge off the worst of the heat and allow your dog to remain safe and comfortable.

On marshland or wetlands

Some areas of marshland or wetlands will have nesting birds and other wildlife, and these should be avoided if indicated, or if they’re home to rare species. Aside from this, if you keep your dog on a lead and properly controlled, wetlands and marshlands that are open to dog owners can provide a final option for summer dog walks that are a little cooler underfoot and often, in terms of the air temperature too. On this flipside, some such areas provide the perfect environment for ticks to thrive, so try to find out more about tick hotspots ahead of time so that you can avoid them, and always check your dog over thoroughly for any passengers they may have picked up when you get home!

(Article source: Pets 4 Homes)

Bedford school dog joins staff and helps with anxiety

A dog has been made an official member of a school’s staff to help pupils deal with anxiety brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

therapy dog

BBC News reports that Buddy, a Labrador, works three days a week at Castle Newnham School in Bedford, with pupils aged nine to 16.

Nik Maund, his owner and vice principal, said: “He’s a calming influence and a distraction when children become anxious.”

Tyler, a pupil, said he “helps students when they’re feeling stressed”.

Mr Maund, who is in charge of pastoral care at the state school, said: “Because of the pandemic we’re seeing more anxious children.

“He’s a calming influence, somebody they can read to who doesn’t cast judgement, someone they can walk with, and who acts as a distraction if they’re feeling worried as it can take their focus away from a difficult situation.

“We’re seeing children being able to open up to adults through Buddy… he’s reaching children that we would normally not be able to reach.”

Buddy first visited the school for a take-your-dog-to-work day.

“Seeing the impact he had on children and how their faces lit up, we thought this is something we could pursue,” said Mr Maund.

With the support of the head teacher, Ruth Wilkes, and official assessment, he was allowed in again.

When in March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic meant the school was shut for most pupils, his visits were paused, until he was welcomed back in April, 2021.

His help was needed “now more than ever”, his owner added.

Tyler, a year 10 pupil, said: “We love having Buddy in our class; he always puts a smile on our face and helps students when they’re feeling stressed.”

Buddy’s time at the school is closely managed, as all the fuss and attention can leave him worn-out.

“The mental stimulation he gets, he does get tired, it wipes him out, so we have to be careful,” Mr Maund said.

The owner-teacher said because pupils were “opening up” because of Buddy, he was looking at bringing the dog’s sixteen-weeks-old sister, Belle, into the school, so more pupils could benefit.

(Story source: BBC News)

Animal care: Can our passion for pets help reset our relationship with nature?

As lockdown puppy sales soar and the cats of Instagram are liked by millions, endangered species are vanishing from the planet. Can pets teach us how to care about all animals?


It was the carefree summer of 2019, and I was on a beach in San Francisco – surrounded by a thousand corgis. Sand is not the natural environment for dogs whose legs are only as long as ice lollies. But this was Corgi Con, possibly the world’s largest gathering of corgis. It was weird. It was glorious.

There were corgis in baby harnesses and corgis under parasols. There were corgis dressed as a shark, a lifeguard, a snowman, a piñata and Chewbacca from Star Wars (the latter two were overweight). There were stalls selling sunglasses and socks for dogs. I overheard two people considering whether to buy a corgi-emblazoned cushion, but decide against it on the basis that they already had one.

If a Martian wanted to understand the depth of humans’ obsession with their pets – the commoditisation of animals and the merging of our social lives with theirs – Corgi Con would have been an ideal first stop. In California, such pet-wackiness is not unusual. San Francisco’s newest doggy day care was charging up to $25,500 (£18,500) a year, more than the state minimum wage. Google declared dogs “an integral facet of our corporate culture”.

Marc Benioff, founder of software firm Salesforce, had appointed his golden retriever as the company’s “chief love officer”. But pet worship is worldwide: the archbishop of Canterbury says that pets can go to heaven, while Japanese architects have designed a ramp to help dachshunds sunbathe alongside their owners.

Our love for them is easily dismissed as frivolous or private. But in a way, it’s revolutionary. Our pets represent our closest ties to another species. If they can sensitise us, and make us care for other sentient beings, they could change the course of history.

For the last two years, I have investigated how we treat other animals – including working in an abattoir and a pig farm, and visiting fish markets and zoos. Pets are truly the exception. We push slaughterhouses to the back of our minds. We delay turning to the destruction of forests and coral reefs on which wild animals depend. Compare that with domestic dogs and cats, for which we’re always on emotional speed-dial. Pets are animals whose lives we value, whose emotions we appreciate and whose flesh we wouldn’t dream of eating.

Lockdown has seen a pet boom. Deprived of the company of other humans, we looked for the company of animals instead. Britain’s dog population exploded, rising by an estimated 2 million. There were complications. Soaring prices fuelled unscrupulous breeding and thefts. New owners found themselves unable to socialise their puppies in a time of social distancing. They struggled on, hoping that their pets would help their mental health, although therapy sessions might have been cheaper. Over a lifetime, a dog costs a minimum of £4,600 to £13,000, depending on size; care costs can take the total above £30,000, says animal charity PDSA. Americans’ pet spending has surpassed $100bn a year for the first time. Meanwhile, shelters are preparing for a wave of unwanted animals.

Like many parents, I hoped that having a pet would help to teach my children about nature. I grew up with a terrier, which I fondly remember as the source of my internet passwords. We now have a cat, which generally lies on my laptop whenever I try to work. Yet I wonder if pet ownership is not a missed opportunity. We needed a new relationship with nature, instead we ended up with feline Instagram accounts. We love pets, yet accept factory farms and extinctions. Shouldn’t pets spur us to treat all animals better? Or is that hope, like new-born puppies, too cute?

The first stumbling block is that our love for pets is not as pure as we would like to think. Pet ownership is so ingrained that we rarely question its implications. The relationship can bring great joy, and not just to us: when was the last time you saw a person happier than a dog chasing a Frisbee? But that’s not the whole story.

By owning animals, we take control of their lives. We decide who they live with, when they socialise with others of the same species, and whether they can have offspring. Often we feed them into obesity. Often we decide when they die. The extent of our control only hits us belatedly: one colleague admitted that taking his dog to be neutered was “some serious Handmaid’s Tale shit”.

In Chile, many dogs roam the streets in packs. They have more freedom, and perhaps more fun, than their pampered cousins. In Europe and North America, many pets arguably live in a form of lockdown: they are well fed and safely homed, but lack social interaction and autonomy. This lockdown lasts their whole lives.

What we love about dogs, in particular, is that they offer us unconditional love. Yet this has “almost made us lazy about meeting their needs”, Bacon says. Nowhere is this more evident than in breeding. Dogs were probably domesticated more than 20,000 years ago. Breeds, as we understand them today, have existed for under 200 years. They were standardised, often on arbitrary, aesthetic criteria, based on dogs from small gene pools. This was the Victorian age of empire and of social hierarchy. Ideas of pure bloodlines and racial improvement were acceptable. London Zoo was trying (unsuccessfully) to domesticate wild animals. Dog breeders’ ability to manipulate a single species into very different shapes and sizes helped to inspire proponents of eugenics.

Breeding has had indefensible results. Some of our most popular pets are brachycephalic dogs, such as pugs and French bulldogs, whose flat faces affect their airways and much else. Brachy dogs are three times more likely to have respiratory problems. Some cannot close their eyes. Many cannot give birth without caesarean sections (that is, they would not be able to breed without us).

Yet people find flat faces cute and loving. Some owners also believe that brachy dogs are low maintenance because they don’t require much exercise (in fact, the dogs just cannot breathe properly). So one-fifth of dogs in the UK are flat-faced. In March Lady Gaga offered a $500,000 reward after her French bulldogs were stolen. It’s weird to value your dogs’ company so much, but value breeding for health so little.

Our unethical breeding also affects cats too: Scottish fold cats, which Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran have helped to popularise, suffer a cartilage defect. Most Persian cats have at least one health disorder. Put a cat in a wheelie bin and you become a national hate figure; create a cat vulnerable to eye disease and you become a wealthy breeder. As Dan O’Neill, a companion animal epidemiologist at the Royal Veterinary College, puts it, pets’ health problems are “actually human problems”.

We could start to solve these human problems. Right now, pet-buyers often seem to be acting on a whim – like the hapless narrator in Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s novel Fleishman Is in Trouble, who panic-buys a miniature dachshund to turn his life around, but wakes up to find the dog peeing on his head. We could do our research, and stop trying to make fashion statements through animals. We could also try to offer our dogs choice (when Bacon walks her dogs, she let them help to choose the route: “It’s their walk, not my walk”). Advertisers could stop using French bulldogs and other unhealthy flat-faced dogs. Another option is to push breeders to cross-breed – diversifying the gene pool, even though it breaks the supposed purity.

This is being trialled in the Netherlands, where the government has restricted the breeding of purebred bulldogs and pugs. Why not be radical, and drop our obsession with pets’ appearance altogether? We regard eugenics as beyond the pale; why should we celebrate the canine and feline equivalents?

We should start prizing mongrels. We need to think less about how our pets look, and more about how our world looks to them. The problem isn’t that we think of pets as almost human-like; it’s that we don’t think of them as human-like enough.

Even if pet owning is done well, it only brings us close to a small slice of the animal kingdom. At least 1,300 species of mammals, including both species of African elephant and 1,400 species of bird, such as snowy owls, are endangered. Few of these animals would live happily in our homes. To save other animals, humans must shrink their footprint on the natural world – by eating less meat, creating more protected areas, and so on.

The difficulty is that our love for our pets increases our footprint. We need more chickens, cows and fish to feed our pets: US dogs and cats eat as many calories in a year as 62 million American people, according to the UCLA geography professor Gregory Okin. Pets no longer just eat our offcuts, because we want them to have the best. As a result, feeding an average size dog can emit more than a tonne of greenhouse gases a year.

There’s more: in the US, cats have been estimated to kill between 1.3 and 4 billion birds a year, and between 6.2 and 22.3 billion mammals each year. It’s not clear how big a chunk of the bird population this represents, or whether the cats are taking mainly weaker birds that wouldn’t have survived anyway.

I find this tricky: I love cats and birds. Having shared more nights on the sofa watching Netflix with cats, I value their individual existence over most birds’. I also recognise that cat and dog populations are doing well, while those of birds are not, and that this puts our ecosystems off balance. Our cat has rarely brought anything back into the house, but I have to admit that our garden is not full of birds. Owners can try training their cats or attaching bells to their collars. Yet the failsafe way to protect birds is to keep your cat indoors: something that affects the quality of a cat’s life.

Dogs, too, impinge on wildlife – as shown by the sad recent incident on the River Thames where a pet dog savaged a seal known as Freddie, after the singer Freddie Mercury. Farmers complain about dogs disturbing nesting lapwing and other birds. Other pets can be even more disruptive: Florida’s Everglades have been overrun by Burmese pythons and green iguanas, which have escaped or been released by bored pet-owners.

This is not an argument against pets. It’s a call for balance. There are, on a back-of-an-envelope calculation, as many parrots in captivity as in the wild. The world has close to a billion dogs and several hundred million cats. Meanwhile, some of their closest wild relatives – such as dholes, a species of Asian wild dog, and African lions – are losing their habitats. Britain has found space for tens of million of dogs and cats, but no wolves or lynx and ever fewer Scottish wildcats. If we truly love animals, we should make sacrifices for them, whether or not they curl up on our sofa.

If pets represent our deeper love for the natural world, perhaps we could match every pound we spend on them with a pound given to conserve wild animals.

Maybe we could use our love for pets to reconsider where our food comes from, too. Farm animals exhibit many of the same emotional and social behaviours as pets. Right now, we exaggerate pets’ abilities – Barbra Streisand thought her dog Samantha could speak English – and ignore farm animals’ instincts, such as dairy cows’ desire not to be separated from their calves after birth. Before lockdown, half of UK adults had a pet, but only one in 20 was vegetarian.

We are outraged when dogs are killed in China or South Korea, but not when 11 million pigs are killed every year in the UK. We should think about why we wouldn’t be happy for our pets to live on farms, or be put down in slaughterhouses.

Our pets can sensitise us. Jane Goodall said that her dog had taught her about animal emotions, long before she carried out her ground-breaking observations of chimpanzees. The American activist Henry Spira said that taking care of a friend’s cat pushed him to become interested in animal rights: “I began to wonder about the appropriateness of cuddling one animal while sticking a knife and fork into another.”

For the Victorians, who laid the groundwork for our modern petkeeping, the natural world was a vast treasure chest to be explored and tamed. Things have changed. Our challenge now is to live on a finite planet, without jeopardising our own existence or the animals that we love. It requires a shift from a mentality of hierarchy to one of humility.

In San Francisco and beyond, conscientious humans often refer to their pets as “companion animals”, and themselves as “guardians”, rather than pet owners. This phrasing doesn’t quite work for me. It implies that animals are only our companions if we keep them in our homes. Yet the birds in our cities, the beavers in our rivers, the pine martens in our forests – these are our companions, too, and our wellbeing depends on their survival. I take more joy from the ring necked parakeets in the park (presumably descendants of someone’s escaped pets) than I would do from a parrot living mate-less in my home. Our cities and countryside should have space for wildlife, not just dogs and cats.

Corgi Con hasn’t decided whether to go ahead this year. I hope it does, but I also hope we pet owners look beyond it. There is more to loving animals than owning them: our pets should be the beginning of our love for other animals, not the end.

(Article source: The Guardian)

Pets on planes: Australians may soon be allowed animals in cabins but airlines are hesitant

Pilots will be able to decide whether pets can ride alongside owners under changes to aviation laws coming this year.

pets on planes

The Guardian reports that Australians may soon be able to take their pets into the cabin on commercial flights as federal laws governing the practice will be relaxed later this year.

However, the country’s major airlines appear not to be rushing to allow animals to ride alongside their owners.

Currently in Australia all non-service animals must travel in the cargo hold of planes. But in many overseas jurisdictions pets can be carried in cabins for a fee, with everything from pigs, miniature horses, and ducks spotted on flights in the past.

Under the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s changes to flight rules to come in December, pilots will be able to decide whether pets can ride in the cabin.

“A rule change will allow airlines to carry pets without applying for approval from CASA,” a CASA spokesperson said.

But CASA said it would be up to each airline to determine if they wish to carry pets in cabins, and they must demonstrate they can do so safely.

“They must consider how to restrain animals, effects on other passengers, not blocking exit rows, dealing with droppings/urine. The procedures for pets would be added to their operations manuals,” the spokesperson said.

A Virgin Airlines spokesperson said the airline will “consider the regulatory changes as part of a wider pet travel review we’re currently undertaking”.

“Regardless of the outcome, designated service dogs will still be able to travel in the cabin of our aircraft.”

But Qantas and Jetstar said they “aren’t looking to update our policies on animals in the cabin at this stage”.

The airline industry has suffered major losses over the past year because of Covid-19, and these changes could potentially make pet owners more likely to travel.

The US has long allowed people to fly with emotional support animals as long as airlines allowed. Passengers have tried to bring a diverse range of creatures on board over the years as they tested the parameters of the rules.

The BBC reported a woman was prevented from bringing a peacock on board a United Airlines flight, despite its owner being willing to pay an additional fare for her feathered friend.

But the scores of requests for out unusual support animals eventually led the US transport department to ban all animals except dogs as service or emotional support animals in December 2020. Both cats and dogs can be brought in cabins as pets, subject to fees and the airline’s own rules.

Some Middle Eastern airlines also allow falcons inside cabins and have their own passports.

In New York City, animals were banned on the subway unless they fit in a bag, leading many to get creative with ways to get their dogs on board.

(Story source: The Guardian)