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Archive for July 2011

Canines and hot cars: a deadly combination

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

No one in their right mind would ever put a beloved animal companion in a hot oven, but every summer, people literally bake their dogs to death by leaving them in parked cars. Already this season, at least six dogs have suffered agonizing, panic-filled deaths inside hot vehicles. Many others have been rescued in the nick of time because a passerby cared enough to intervene.

In Ontario, Calif., a 19-year-old woman is facing cruelty charges for allegedly leaving her 1-year-old golden retriever in a hot car while she shopped at a mall. The dog was euthanized after veterinarians determined that she had sustained brain damage and heart and lung injuries. A Parma, Ohio, woman was recently sentenced to jail time after her dog was found suffering from heatstroke in a car in a bar parking lot. The temperature inside the car had reached 129 degrees. And in London, a police officer reportedly tried to commit suicide after two dogs whom he had left in the back of his patrol car died from the heat.

Each of these tragedies could have been avoided if the people responsible had simply left their dogs indoors with air conditioning or fans running. But every year, countless dogs pay the ultimate price because their guardians underestimate the danger of leaving a living being in a parked car. It doesn’t matter if it’s only slightly warm outside, if the windows are partially rolled down or if the vehicle is sitting in the shade: Parked cars are death traps for dogs.

A parked car can reach deadly temperature extremes faster than the time it takes to pick up a loaf of bread or dash into the bank to cash a check. On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a shaded car is 90 degrees, and the inside of a car parked in the sun can reach 160 degrees in a matter of minutes.

Hot cars are especially dangerous for dogs because they cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently as humans can. We can roll down the windows, blast the air conditioning, shed layers of clothing and sweat, but dogs can only cool themselves by panting and perspiring tiny amounts through their footpads.

With only hot air to breathe, panting doesn’t work, so panic sets in for many dogs. Their desperate attempts to escape the roasting-hot vehicle by clawing at the windows or digging at the floor or seats only makes the animals hotter. Collapse, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of consciousness soon occur as the dog’s organs begin to die. Some dogs have heart attacks. According to Plano, Texas, veterinarian Shawn Messonnier, “When you do an autopsy on a dog [who] died this way, the organs are soupy.”

Even if they survive close calls in hot cars, dogs may sustain severe organ damage, which requires extensive and costly veterinary treatment. And as shown by the three cases mentioned above, people who bake their dogs also have a price to pay—in criminal charges, jail time, fines and extreme guilt.

Please, when you’re out and about this summer, be on the lookout for dogs who are trapped in hot cars. If you see one, have the owner paged inside the store or call local animal control authorities or police immediately. Every second counts, and you are that dog’s only hope.

If a dog is showing signs of heatstroke—restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, dark tongue, vomiting or lack of appetite and coordination—get him or her into the shade immediately and call 911. Lower the animal’s body temperature gradually by providing water to drink; applying a cold towel or ice pack to the head, neck and chest; or immersing the dog in lukewarm (not ice-cold) water. Rush the dog to a veterinarian.

And whatever you do, don’t put your best friend through suffering that most people wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. Leave animals at home, where they will be cool, safe and happy—and where they’ll be waiting for you when you return.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;



Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

July 20, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Jellyfish—swimmers’ new BFFs?

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By Becky Fenson

Swimming is my passion. I learned to swim when I was 7 years old and have been drawn to the water ever since. I love it all—sprinting, long-distance swimming and everything in between. I once swam the English Channel, and I’ve swum around Manhattan Island numerous times.

But if there’s one thing that will get me out of the water, it’s jellyfish. While most swimmers shun jellies in order to avoid their painful stings—1,800 people were stung by mauve stingers off the coast of Florida over Memorial Day weekend—I’m more concerned about harming the jellyfish. I know that a misplaced stroke can easily damage a jelly’s delicate body. And now there’s another reason to give jellies their space: New research shows that these animals are far more complex than we ever imagined.

As a recent article in the New York Times reported, we now know that box jellyfish possess a complex visual system that allows them to navigate the murky swamps in which they live. Some of box jellies’ 24 eyes—yes, 24 eyes per jelly—are relatively simple and respond to light and shadow. But box jellies also have eyes that are surprisingly similar to our own—with lenses, retinas and corneas—that unerringly point skyward.

Why? In order to find food, box jellyfish need to stay within the tree canopy in the mangrove swamps where they make their homes. If they drift into the open lagoon, they will starve. These jellies look upward for navigational guidance.

Scientists have also discovered that jellies are not merely passive floaters, as was once thought. They dive down to reach still waters when tides start flowing out and also to find water that is salty enough to suit them. They can distinguish between friendly jellies and those who might eat them. When a moon jellyfish is touched by a predator jelly, the moon jelly swims safely away.

Jellyfish also have a centralized nervous system—places in their bodies where neurons cluster to take in sensory information and form an appropriate response. According to jellyfish expert David J. Albert of the Roscoe Bay Marine Biological Laboratory inVancouver, British Columbia, jellies also have brains. In his research paper “What’s on the Mind of a Jellyfish?” Dr. Albert concludes that the answer is “a lot.”

I’m not surprised. Every day, we discover something new about the animals who share our world with us. Research has shown that fish can count and tell time. They are fast learners who think ahead, form complex social relationships and have unique personalities.

Octopuses play, just as dolphins and dogs do, and are often mischief-makers in aquariums. Otto, an octopus in a German aquarium, has been observed juggling the hermit crabs who share his tank. Lobsters recognize individual lobsters, remember past acquaintances and have elaborate courtship rituals.

I began to have empathy for my fellow swimmers—fish and other sea animals—not surprisingly, while in the water. When I lived inSan Francisco, I spent so much time swimming in the bay that eating fish started to feel like eating my friends. Eventually, I decided to leave fish off my plate. Today I am vegan.

As we learn more about other animals, we begin to see that traits we once thought were uniquely human—such as feeling pain, enjoying life and forming close bonds—are shared, even with fish. This summer, as more of us take to the water, I hope that everyone will give at least a little thought to the jellies, fish and other sea animals they encounter. And perhaps some will take it a step further by passing on the seafood special at dinner and trying a humane vegetarian meal instead.

Becky Fenson is a manager for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;