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Category: December 2009

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Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres named PETA's people of the year for 2009

Gunn Ellen

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has named Tim Gunn and Ellen DeGeneres its Man and Woman of the Year for their animal-friendly stances on issues like veganism and fur in fashion.

Gunn, whose hit show "Project Runway" is fur-free, is so emphatic about his anti-fur stance that he narrated a video for PETA detailing the abuses suffered by animals killed in the name of fashion.  DeGeneres -- who with wife Portia de Rossi received the Humane Society of the United States' Wyler Award earlier this year for their efforts on behalf of last year's Proposition 2 ballot initiative -- has used her popular talk show as a platform to discuss issues like factory farming and veganism since giving up animal products in 2008.

The group's people of the year "show us that one person really can make a difference in the world by rejecting cruel deeds in favor of compassionate acts," PETA co-founder and president Ingrid Newkirk said.  "Their message that animals must be treated kindly and respectfully has reached scores of people, and many of them have changed their buying habits, all because Gunn and DeGeneres spoke up for the voiceless."

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Scientific breakthrough may help save Tasmanian devils from bizarre, contagious cancer

Taz2 Fierce as they are, Tasmanian devils can't beat a contagious cancer that threatens to wipe them out. Now scientists think they've found the disease's origin, a step in the race to save Australia's snarling marsupial.

The furry black animals spread a fast-killing cancer when they bite one another's faces. Since the disease's discovery in 1996, their numbers have plummeted by 70%. Last spring, Australia listed the devils -- made famous by their Looney Tunes cartoon namesake Taz -- as an endangered species.

There's no treatment and little hope of finding one until scientists better understand what's fueling this bizarre "devil facial tumor disease." So an international research team picked apart the cancer's genes and discovered that it apparently first arose in cells that protect the animals' nerves.

The surprise finding, reported in Friday's edition of the journal Science, has led to development of a test to help diagnose this tumor.

Next, scientists are hunting the mutations that turned these cells rogue, work they hope could one day lead to a vaccine to protect remaining Tasmanian devils, or perhaps treatments.

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PETA to Pope Benedict XVI: Veganize the Vatican

Pope Taking a cue from Pope Benedict XVI's message for the Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, in which he calls for "a real change of outlook which will result in new life-styles" as a means to combat damage to the environment, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals vice president Bruce Friedrich fired off a letter asking the pontiff to become a vegan and decree that only foods free of animal products be served in Vatican City.

Citing a 2006 report from the United Nations' food and agriculture organization titled "Livestock's Long Shadow," in which the harmful environmental affects of meat production are detailed, Friedrich urges the pope "to consider the fact that the most effective action an individual can take to fight climate change is to go vegan." 

By cutting meat, dairy products and eggs from the Vatican's menu, Friedrich argues, Benedict XVI could further not just his goal of reduced energy consumption worldwide, but also influence his followers to live healthier lives as a result of vegan eating habits.  (Of course, he notes, animals raised for food stand to benefit from the Vatican's shift to veganism as well.)

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Your morning adorable: Puppy, meet reflection

Our hearts are only moderately heavy as we bring you this, the final Your Morning Adorable of 2009 -- because we're excited for an entirely new year full of puppies and kittens, panda cubs and elephant calves and even the occasional grouping of festively attired penguins. (If you're feeling nostalgic as the year comes to a close, be sure to check out our rundown of 2009's top 20 most adorable animals.)

Apparently, no one told this 8-week-old golden retriever puppy what a mirror is -- or perhaps they did, but the English-to-dog translation left something to be desired. At any rate, he's adorably clueless when he encounters his own reflection; we love his high-pitched barks and the way he "loses" the other puppy when he reaches the mirror's edge.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: paddybarnes via YouTube

Judge bars construction of controversial monkey-breeding facility in Puerto Rico

A monkey in a cage reaches for a 



slice of potato at a ranger station used for animal control in the Cambalache 



Forest in Puerto Rico.

A judge has barred construction of a monkey-breeding facility in southern Puerto Rico that has pitted people seeking an economic lifeline for their poor mountain town against other residents and animal rights activists.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by nine residents of Guayama and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They argued that Bioculture Ltd., the company planning the facility, failed to hold public hearings or submit a full environmental impact statement. Bioculture denied the allegations.

"We're not resting on our laurels," PETA spokesman Justin Goodman said Wednesday. "If Bioculture attempts to pursue this project any further, we are poised for action."

Bioculture will appeal the ruling by next week, lawyer Jorge Martinez Luciano said. He represents the Mauritius-based company seeking to build a facility that would hold at least 3,000 macaque monkeys and supply them to pharmaceutical companies for research.

Superior Court Judge Juan Frau Escudero ruled that construction permits should not have been awarded because the facility would be built on land reserved for agricultural purposes.

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L.A. County officials confirm first H1N1 case in a local pet

An 8-year-old female domestic shorthair cat whose owner had a confirmed case of swine flu has also been diagnosed with the disease, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced.

The cat, who was taken to the Pico Boulevard Pet Hospital with symptoms including nasal discharge, sneezing and an occasional cough, "had spent a considerable amount of time on the owner's lap," according to a statement released Tuesday by the department. Its owner had apparently been sick for several days before the cat developed symptoms. The treating veterinarian submitted swab samples to Idexx Laboratories. Those samples tested positive for the H1N1 virus as well as a separate infection, Mycoplasma felis, and the H1N1 diagnosis was later confirmed by laboratory staff at UC Davis. The American Veterinary Medical Assn. reports that the cat is recovering.

This is the first confirmed instance of H1N1 in a local pet, although several other cats have been infected with the illness in other parts of the U.S. Earlier this month, the nation's first confirmed case of swine flu in a dog was reported in New York, and several ferrets have also been infected.  

The AVMA has stressed that reports of swine flu in pets are "not cause for panic and extreme measures," but it encourages pet owners to wash their hands regularly and consult their veterinarian should their pet show signs of illness. Symptoms of swine flu in pets, beyond the nasal discharge, sneezing and coughing present in the recently infected cat, may include lethargy, loss of appetite, changes in breathing and fever.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Judge rules in favor of Ringling Bros. in case alleging abuse of circus elephants

Circus

A federal judge Wednesday ruled in favor of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in a case brought by animal rights activists who accused the circus of abusing elephants.

In Washington, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said former Ringling Bros. employee Tom Rider and the Animal Protection Institute did not have legal standing to sue the circus, owned by Feld Entertainment Inc. Rider and the animal protection group brought the lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act.

During the six-week trial in February and March, the attorney for the animal rights groups asked the judge to stop the circus from harming the elephants during performances and punishing them for bad behavior. They alleged that the use of bullhooks and prolonged chaining violated the federal law.

Feld Entertainment argued that the animals are not hurt and that the instruments are necessary to keep the pachyderms under control and protect public safety.

At the time, the judge expressed some reluctance to police circus methods and asked how the prods and chains are different from spurs used on horses and whips with tigers.

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Texas company at center of exotic-animals neglect probe puts blame on undercover PETA investigator

SlothAttorneys for a Texas exotic-animal dealer have accused an employee of intentionally neglecting animals to further his work as an undercover investigator for an animal rights group.

Howard Goldman could have done more to provide food, water and care for the animals that he said were being mistreated, said Lance Evans, an attorney for Jasen and Vanessa Shaw, the owners of U.S. Global Exotics.

Instead, Goldman secretly took photos and made daily reports to send to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Evans said.

"He was more concerned about helping PETA achieve its goal of putting U.S. Global out of business than actually aiding any animals that he felt were in distress," Evans said. Goldman worked at the Arlington facility for seven months.

During that time, he did all he could to help the animals, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement e-mailed to the Associated Press. She accused U.S. Global Exotics of trying "to pin the blame for a litany of horrors on the one person who actually cared about the animals."

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Connecticut foster program provides pet care for hospitalized owners, domestic violence victims

HugPlenty of people come to the Branford Animal Shelter near New Haven, Conn., to surrender pets, but director Laura Burban still recalls one particular woman who gave up her dog.

The woman said she was being abused by her husband, as were her two children and their dog. Finally deciding to leave him, she had nowhere for her pet to go.

"She was facing the devastation of not only leaving her abuser and home, but losing her dog as well. She may have also had to live in a shelter for a while, and she couldn't take the dog there," Burban said.

The family pet is often an overlooked victim of domestic violence and family crises.

But it's a dilemma Annie Chittenden is trying to eliminate with a new foster program called CT SafePet, which provides temporary care for pets of people facing crisis situations or long-term hospital stays. There is currently no other initiative like it in Connecticut, though other states have their own versions.

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More California Chihuahuas to be transported out of state for adoption in response to shelter glut

Chihuahua A local organization plans to transport 35 Chihuahuas  to new adoptive homes in Colorado this week. It's an increasingly popular solution to the overabundance of Chihuahuas in California animal shelters.

SpcaLA, a private rescue organization that operates adoption centers in Long Beach and Hawthorne, is the latest group to move adoptable Chihuahuas to other parts of the country where there are fewer small dogs to be found in animal shelters. 

Actress Katharine Heigl's foundation recently arranged the transport of nearly 70 Chihuahuas to a New Hampshire humane society, which found new homes for each of them almost immediately.

SpcaLA was able to afford to move the dogs thanks to a private donor, Leslie Capin, who recently won $1 million in Paw Nation's Cutest Dog Competition and decided to use the money to help pets in need.  Pet Airways, the animals-only airline that launched earlier this year, offered a discounted fare.  Their flight is scheduled to depart Thursday morning from Hawthorne Municipal Airport. A Denver-based rescue organization will arrange for them to be adopted in Colorado, where shelters are crammed with larger dogs but few small ones are available for adoption. 

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