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WebClawer: Rock 'n' roll finches bring their music to London; complaint about PETA U.K.'s Hitler-themed ad dismissed; dachshund Spork gets a reprieve

March 24, 2010 |  8:36 pm

-- French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot enlisted a flock of zebra finches for his upcoming exhibition at London's Barbican concert hall and art gallery. But these aren't just any zebra finches -- they're rock 'n' roll zebra finches. Boursier-Mougenot created a walk-through aviary for the musical birds, complete with a Gibson Les Paul guitar for a perch and cymbals doubling as water and food bowls. "If you want to understand a creature then you have to interact with it," Boursier-Mougenot said of the aviary project. "Here, I am not using the birds, I am collaborating with them." The birds were obtained from a company that supplies animal actors for the entertainment industry. Not exactly what Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-honored singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen had in mind when he wrote "Bird on a Wire," we suppose, but the prospect of animals creating music is an intriguing one, nonetheless. The exhibition runs through late May. (The Guardian)

-- A new study shows what any owner of multiple dogs already knew: Dogs gain specific information from one another's growls, despite the fact that the sounds may be indistinguishable to human ears. Researchers first recorded the growls of 20 adult dogs in each of three unique situations: When guarding a bone, when approached by a threatening stranger and during play. They then used a computer program to analyze the sounds and discovered that the play growls tended to be shorter and more high-pitched than those the dogs made when they were guarding food or when they felt threatened. Then came the second part of the twofold study: Playing back the recorded growls to live dogs in a research setting. Forty-one adult pet dogs from Austria and Hungary were each offered a meaty bone as the researchers played the recorded growls. The team observed that the dogs jumped when they heard the recorded "guarding" growls, but didn't when the play growls or threatened growls were played. (Discovery News)

-- Spork, the miniature dachshund from Colorado whose legal case spawned a "Save Spork" movement, has received a reprieve. The dog was issued a vicious dog citation last year after he bit a veterinary technician; his owners, Kelly and Tim Walker, vigorously fought the citation, which could have meant life in a kennel or even euthanasia. The Walkers say Spork, who is 10 years old and neutered, panicked at the vet's office where he was to have five teeth and a cyst removed and shouldn't be labeled "aggressive" for the one-time occurrence. Nearly 25,000 people who joined a "Save Spork" Facebook group seem to agree. A judge ruled last week that the charges against Spork will be dropped if he's on his best behavior for the next six months. (Denver Post)

-- A controversial advertisement placed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' U.K. wing to coincide with Britain's most prestigious dog show, Crufts, was apparently offensive enough to purebred dog fanciers that the country's Kennel Club filed a formal complaint with the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority. The ad depicted a white Maltese dog with a black comb placed strategically in front of its muzzle, making a visual reference to Adolf Hitler's mustache, alongside the text "Master Race? Wrong for People. Wrong for Dogs. Boycott Breeders. Adopt." The Kennel Club said the ad was misleading, but the ASA responded by saying it had "carefully assessed three complaints that we received ... but did not consider there were grounds for a formal investigation" because consumers could reasonably be expected to understand that the ad represented PETA's own opinions. Earlier this year, protesters from PETA crashed the famous Westminster Kennel Club dog show bearing signs that read "Mutts Rule" and "Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs' Chances." (Telegraph)

-- Lady Gaga, the pop-culture force of nature known as much for her often-bizarre clothing choices as for her music, has inspired a new breed of fashion imitator: dogs. San Francisco-based artist Jesse Freidin used two of the few remaining packs of Polaroid instant camera film and a group of willing animal models to create "The Doggie Gaga Project." The result, Friedin says, is "a toast to instant photography. Oh, and dogs." Memo to Tyra Banks: Pancake the Boston terrier truly deserves to be America's next top model. (Paw Nation)

-- Everyone take a deep breath; it's all going to be all right. Formerly hedgehog-haired reality TV star Kate Gosselin has announced that family dogs Shoka and Nala, who were returned to their breeder by her ex-husband Jon last year, will be coming home again soon. "My kids' lives have been changed and compromised and altered enough over the past year," she said, referencing the very public disintegration of her marriage. "I realized if I had two difficult kids I wouldn't send them away and ask for new kids." Whew! We were really worried there, for a minute. Now we can sleep soundly again. (People)

-- Lindsay Barnett

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