L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: Holidays

Chinese animal advocates ask state TV not to air magician's goldfish trick

Goldfish trick

BEIJING — Animal activists in China say a now-famous magic trick with goldfish swimming in sync for the Lunar New Year may have involved abuse including implanted magnets, and are asking the state broadcaster not to air it again.

Hundreds of millions of people watched the magic trick during a China Central Television gala on the Jan. 30 eve of the Lunar New Year festival. The gala is China's most-watched broadcast of the year.

Goldfish are a symbol of wealth in China, but the image of six of them swimming in perfect sync under magician Fu Yandong's direction alarmed some Chinese, who worried that magnets were implanted in the fish or that they were controlled by electric current.

Fifty-three animal rights groups and other groups have sent a letter to CCTV asking it not to let Fu perform the trick again during Thursday's broadcast of the Lantern Festival, which ends the Lunar New Year events.

"We should stand for nonviolence, harmony and tolerance, but to my great surprise CCTV, the state broadcaster, tells the public we can use animals for entertainment. I think this is just wrong," said Qing Shaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Assn.

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Five ways to show your love for animals this Valentine's Day

Puppies at the South LA shelter

These animal-centric options will let you show your affection for a significant other, family member or friend on Valentine's Day and help animals at the same time. We'd call that a win/win situation!

• Local group the Lu Parker Project is working to make sure every last dog at the L.A. Department of Animal Services' South L.A. shelter gets a chance to sleep on a comfortable pet bed rather than on cold, hard cement. The shelter has 140 concrete kennel runs, most of which house more than one dog at a time -- and there are nowhere near enough beds to go around. Many commercially available pet beds aren't well-suited to use in animal shelters because they aren't sufficiently durable or become soaked through when the kennel runs are hosed down during routine cleaning. So pet-bed company Kuranda is offering its raised, chew-proof and easy-to-clean beds at a discount through this program. What does it have to do with Valentine's Day? If you donate a bed (cost: $65) before Feb. 14, you'll receive a free bouquet of flowers and a Valentine's Day greeting card. Flowers and cards can be picked up Feb. 13 or Feb. 14 at one of two local locations: Sporteve in Culver City or Peet's Coffee & Tea on Main Street in Santa Monica.

• When you purchase flowers through Teleflora's ASPCA page, 20% of the cost will be donated to the animal protection organization. Prices start at $29.99 and go ... well, pretty darn high. Just make sure to check the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center page to determine which flowers are nontoxic to your pet, or be prepared to be vigilant about keeping the flowers away from your animals if you opt for something harmful if swallowed. (For instance, lilies can cause liver failure if ingested by cats, and some varieties are also toxic to dogs; daisies can cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination and other symptoms in dogs and cats; and irises can cause vomiting, lethargy, diahhrea and excessive salivation in both dogs and cats.)

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Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring on Groundhog Day 2011

Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil, America's favorite groundhog, predicted an early spring when he failed to see his shadow Wednesday morning at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa.

Early spring predictions are rare for Phil. But Mike Johnston, vice president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, insisted that the groundhog's failure to see his shadow was based solely on his accurate foreknowledge of weather trends. Reuters reported Wednesday:

Johnston said the latest prognostication will be entirely accurate, and does not reflect any desire on Phil's part to cheer up Americans who are suffering through a grueling winter.

"There is no question that Phil is capable of feeling empathy," Johnston said in an interview. "But he is absolutely incapable of error."

Others doubt Phil's infallibility, however. And his record of accuracy isn't the only controversy that has surrounded the groundhog in recent years: In 2010, PETA protested the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's continued reliance on Phil as a weather predictor/tourist attraction and asked the group to move him to a sanctuary and replace him with an animatronic groundhog replica.

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Majority of pet owners say they plan to give their pet a holiday gift

Xmasdog1 Dogs have more to look for under the tree this Christmas than cats do.

Fifty-six percent of dog owners say they'll buy their pets a gift this Christmas, but only 48% of cat owners plan a gift.

A majority of all pet owners -- 53% -- said in an Associated Press-Petside.com poll that they plan to get their animals a present this holiday season.

Debbye Meszaros' two dogs, Sasha and Sophie, will be getting rawhide bones while the family hamster, Star, gets a bigger wheel, and Princess, the guinea pig, gets new bedding.

"There will also be something under the tree from the animals to the kids, too," said Meszaros, 40, of Olney, Md. Last year, when her husband was stationed in Italy for the Navy, the family managed to find edible rawhide greeting cards to give other dogs in the neighborhood.

The AP-Petside.com poll, conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, also showed that women (56%) are somewhat more likely than men (49%) to buy their animals a gift.

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What to get for the animal lover who has everything: A silver- or gold-plated Milk Bone

MilkBone

Say you're an animal lover with a burning desire to spend your money on something, and you've already got your own reindeer-dung necklace. What new purchasing frontiers are left to conquer?

Don't fret, dear shopper. Now you can add a silver- or gold-plated Milk Bone to your collection of animal-related oddities. As our colleague David A. Keeps explains at The Times' home and garden blog, L.A. at Home, California design company Still Life Gifts has licensed the famous dog biscuit and turned it into a festive ornament.

The decorative treats, with prices starting around $20, are made from real Milk Bones, which are preserved and electroplated before being hung on a satin ribbon.

Because the ornaments are plated, they don't smell like a treat, so your dog's unlikely to try to make a meal of one. "I offered it to three family dogs and none of them bit," Michale Dancer, co-owner of Still Life Gifts, told The Times.

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-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Vivaterra

L.A. restaurants gear up for vegetarian and vegan Thanksgiving feasts

MashedPotatoes

We remember not-so-fondly the days when vegetarians didn't have much to eat at Thanksgiving dinner beyond side dishes. You know, the dark ages before Tofurky.

Fortunately, those days are behind us. And for those who aren't into cooking and post-meal cleanup, a number of Southern California restaurants are offering animal-friendly Thanksgiving meals.

Local vegan- and vegetarian-friendly favorites like Native Foods, Mooi, Flore Vegan, M Cafe, Shojin, Cinnamon, Stuff I Eat, Madeline Bistro and Vinh Loi Tofu are serving their own twists on Thanksgiving food using ingredients like seitan, mushrooms and tofu instead of meat.

Check out a list of veggie holiday options from L.A. restaurants at The Times' sister publication Brand X. We also recommend the very thorough list from Quarrygirl.com (but be forewarned, reservation deadlines have passed for some options on that list).

-- Lindsay Barnett

Credit: M Cafe's whipped potatoes & rutabaga and green beans amandine. Credit: Cindy Choi / M Cafe

Farm Sanctuary asks Obama to send pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys to its rescue facility

Turkey

The humble turkey's connection to American politics dates back at least as far Benjamin Franklin, and more recently, of course, it has figured prominently in an event that has become political tradition: The President's annual pardoning of a bird otherwise destined for human consumption.

Although many animal lovers can get behind the idea of sparing a bird, one advocacy group, Farm Sanctuary, is asking for an adjustment in the turkey-pardoning protocol. Farm Sanctuary, which operates two large-scale rescue farms, is asking President Obama to allow this year's pardoned turkeys to be moved to its Watkins Glen, N.Y., sanctuary, rather than to a Disney park as planned.

According to Farm Sanctuary, it is uniquely qualified to provide care for turkeys bred for food, which are a far cry from their wild ancestors and often experience leg problems and other maladies as a result of breeding programs that emphasize fast weight gain rather than long-term health. "At Disney theme parks, which have been entrusted with the care of pardoned turkeys since 2005, many of the birds have died within one year," a petition circulated by the group reads in part. "At Farm Sanctuary, these birds can live happily and comfortably for many years."

Farm Sanctuary isn't the only animal advocacy group to have qualms about the pardoning ceremony. Jennifer Fearing, California state director for the Humane Society of the United States, told Unleashed last year that she sees the ritual as "an odd one, in that it suggests that turkeys have committed some offense for which they can be pardoned. In reality, these turkeys have done nothing to deserve the punishment we force them to endure on our nation's factory farms."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has previously urged President Obama to send pardoned turkeys to an animal rescue farm instead of a Disney park.

RELATED THANKSGIVING STORIES:
Your morning adorable: Rescued turkeys' pre-Thanksgiving spa day
Thanksgiving good deeds: Farm Sanctuary offers turkey-sponsorship opportunities

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Former President George W. Bush pets a turkey named Flyer after pardoning him in a 2006 ceremony. Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press

Southern California animal lovers' calendar: Weekend of Oct. 30-31 and beyond

Breakfast at Tiffany's Halloween dog costume

It's Halloween Weekend, and you know what that means: Dogs in costume! There are numerous events where you can gawk at spectacularly-outfitted canines over the coming days, as well as opportunities to learn about birds, party for a good cause, adopt a new pet or show your vegetarian pride. Think we're forgetting something or want to clue us into an upcoming event? Let us know by leaving a comment on this post or sending us a tweet @LATunleashed.

This Weekend:

Saturday, Oct. 30-Sunday, Oct. 31, the L.A. Zoo hosts "Boo At the Zoo," a family-friendly opportunity to celebrate Halloween alongside zoo animals. The event includes a "Creepy Crawly Encounter," where visitors can see snakes, spiders and insects up close; "Halloween Down Under," where kids can trick-or-treat through a ghostly graveyard to learn about extinct animals; an "Animal Stomp 'n Chomp" exhibit, where guests can see animals like otters, seals, a rhinoceros and a hippopotamus eat and/or stomp on a pumpkin; live entertainment; face-painting; pumpkin-carving demonstrations and more. For more information and a schedule of events, visit LAZoo.org.

Saturday, Oct. 30-Sunday, Oct. 31 and Saturday, Nov. 6, L.A.'s Audubon Society chapter hosts a three-day Introduction to Birdwatching class, which includes a workshop and two days' worth of field instruction. Cost is $30 for chapter members and $50 for non-members (non-member registration fee includes chapter membership). More information at LosAngelesAudubon.org.

Saturday, Oct. 30, Orange County rescue group Barks of Love hosts an adoption event and costume contest at Jabez Salon, 18513 Yorba Linda Blvd. in Yorba Linda, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Show us your pet's Halloween costume!

Halloween Doggies

Halloween approaches, and dogs and cats everywhere are bracing themselves gearing up for the day when they can show off their best costumes.

There will be pumpkin costumes, bumblebee costumes, lobster costumes, police officer costumes, devil costumes, hot dog costumes, Superdog costumes ... and maybe, if we're lucky, even an Antoine Dogson costume. We can hardly wait to see them all.

Of course, not all pets will want to dress up. The ASPCA offers this practical advice: "Please don't put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their 'birthday suits,' however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress." Check out ASPCA.org for more of the organization's Halloween pet-safety tips. One big hint: Chocolate isn't the only candy ingredient that can be harmful to pets if consumed. Xylitol, a sweetener, is another one that can be hazardous to both dogs and cats.

If your own pet is one of those Halloween-loving 'hams' the ASPCA mentioned, we'd love to see his or her costume! Show us by sharing your photo (.jpg format) or video -- just click on the photo gallery below to submit your best shot. Be sure to include a caption that tells us a bit about your pet, and we'll share some of our favorites in a post here at Unleashed. Happy pre-Halloween!

Share Your Photos

-- Lindsay Barnett

Top photo: xoch / Your Scene

Happy Frog Jumping Day!

Friends, it's time once again to celebrate our friends the frogs on Thursday's not-really-a-holiday-but-sort-of-a-holiday, Frog Jumping Day!

In honor of the humble amphibians' impressive jumping skills, we present the above video, which shows a jump in slow motion, allowing you to take in all the tiny movements that, under normal circumstances, happen too quickly for the eye to register.

According to vertebrate paleontologist Darren Naish, modern-day frogs "have very long legs, strongly modified hip bones and very short bodies that enable them to be expert leapers," which distinguishes them from the early proto-frogs whose fossilized remains have been studied by scientists. Those specimens "had rather longer bodies and shorter legs and may have been good walkers, but for reasons we don't quite understand, the leaping specializations came to be more important," Naish explains.

Whatever the evolutionary reasons behind frog jumping, it certainly is an entertaining thing to watch, as evidenced by the popularity of Calaveras County's Jumping Frog Jubilee, to be held this weekend. (If you're wondering, the Jubilee's longest recorded frog jump was made by a creature called Rosie the Ribeter in 1986. Rosie's winning jump was more than 21 feet in length.)

RELATED FROG NEWS:
Endangered California red-legged frog to receive large new protected habitat area -- finally
Species of frog thought to be extinct found in Australia

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: A frog jumping as seen in a slow-motion video provided by the University of Cincinnati's Biological Sciences department. Credit: jaynebc1 via YouTube

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