L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Happy Take Your Dog To Work Day!

Working dog

It's that time of year again: Take Your Dog To Work Day, an annual event founded by the group Pet Sitters International in 1999. 

Take Your Dog To Work Day was created to celebrate the human-animal bond and promote pet adoption, but there are other notable benefits to having animals in the workplace. One recent study out of Virginia Commonwealth University noted a correlation between the presence of an employee's pet and a lowering of stress levels. Times science writer Eryn Brown reported:

The VCU researchers divided 76 employees into three groups: those who brought their dogs to work, those who owned dogs but left them home and those who didn't have pets. For one week, the scientists measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in samples of the workers' saliva and used surveys to gauge their stress levels four times during a workday.

There was no significant difference in cortisol levels among the study participants. But by the end of the day, the average stress level scores fell about 11% among people who had brought their dogs to work, while they rose as much as 70% for members of the other groups.

Daily Show dogs on Jon Stewart's deskSo which workplace is the dog-friendliest in the U.S.? Dog magazine The Bark recently bestowed that honor on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," where staffers' dogs roam freely throughout the office, have designated treat stations and lots of comfortable couches on which to nap. 

As for Stewart himself, he's a big dog lover. Though his own dogs don't come to work with him, his office is a frequent stop for staffers' dogs -- and he didn't even mind when The Bark's photographer took some shots of dogs sitting on his desk. 

One interesting aspect to bringing his dog Ally to work, supervising producer Tim Greenberg notes, is that she "seems to meet an inordinate number of our celebrity guests. I only know any of this because people show me pictures later. She met Betty White and I found out about it when I saw the video on YouTube."

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Days-old beluga whale calf rescued in Alaska

A baby beluga whale was rescued in Alaska after being separated from his mother

SEWARD, Alaska -- A beluga whale calf, believed to have been separated from his mother during a storm, has been rescued from Alaska's Bristol Bay.

The calf, estimated at 2 to 3 days old when it was found Monday, was taken in by the Alaska SeaLife Center, after attempts by others to encourage the calf to the open ocean failed.

This is the first beluga the center has housed.

President and CEO Tara Riemer Jones said the biggest challenge has been providing 24-hour care. She said staff from U.S. aquariums with experience with belugas have come or are coming to help.

Jones said a federal agency will ultimately decide placement of the animal, as he won't be released into the wild. Calves in the wild nurse for about two years.

Japanese rescuers save finless porpoise stranded in rice paddy by tsunami
State troopers escort wayward sea lion off Oregon highway and return it to ocean

-- Associated Press

Photo: A rescued beluga whale calf swims at the Alaska SeaLife Center. Credit: Associated Press

Happy Feet, wayward emperor penguin found in New Zealand, is released

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — He needed a little push before speeding backward down a makeshift slide. Once in the water, he popped his head up for one last look. And then he was gone. The wayward emperor penguin known as "Happy Feet" was back home in Antarctic waters after an extended sojourn spent capturing hearts in New Zealand.

Happy Feet was released Sunday into the ocean south of New Zealand, more than two months after he came ashore on a beach nearly 2,000 miles (3,000 kilometers) from home and became an instant celebrity.

Speaking from a satellite phone aboard the research vessel Tangaroa, Wellington Zoo veterinarian Lisa Argilla said Happy Feet's release went remarkably smoothly given that the boat was being tossed about in 25-foot (8-meter) swells in the unforgiving Antarctic ocean.

Argilla said crew members from the boat carried the penguin inside his custom-built crate to the stern of the ship for his final send-off about 50 nautical miles (90 kilometers) north of remote Campbell Island. The crew had already cut the engines and put in place a canvas slide that they soaked with water from a hose.

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Starving Malaysian cats spark call for animal-cruelty crackdown

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian pet owners and activists who found nearly 300 starving cats caged and soaked in excrement at pet-care centers demanded sterner laws Tuesday against cruelty to animals.

The felines had been left with a company in Malaysia's central Selangor state that was supposed to take care of them while their owners returned to their hometowns for a week to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.

Many owners became worried when they were later unable to contact company representatives. Rescue volunteers broke into the company's two facilities Sunday and discovered the emaciated cats lying in their own feces and urine in cages stacked atop each other.

Activists estimated that at least 12 cats were dead and that dozens more were missing. Police have questioned the company owner and an employee, but no arrests have been made.

The case has energized activists to push for stronger prosecution against people who mistreat animals, said Christine Chin, who heads the Malaysian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"There is no deterrent in this country for animal cruelty, so the problem just spreads," Chin said.

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A note about our commenting system

Webmaster Kitteh iz in ur interwebz Hi, readers! You'll notice that, beginning Wednesday, our commenting system is a bit different than you may be used to if you're a regular Unleashed reader.

Along with most of our sibling blogs here at The Times, we've made the switch to Facebook's commenting system. For most of you, we think this will be good news: It means that your comments will appear on the blog as soon as you post them, rather than waiting for a moderator's approval. Another bonus: The new system allows for comment "threading," meaning you can respond directly to another commenter.

One thing some of you may see as a downside: You do have to have a Facebook account in order to comment. These are free and easy to set up, and you can choose to share very little information about yourself if privacy issues are a big concern for you. When you post a comment using the new system, you'll have the option to either have your comment appear only on the blog or on both the blog and your own Facebook wall. To ensure that it doesn't show up on your personal wall, just uncheck the box that says "Post to Facebook."

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Stan Lee, simians' superhero?

Comic book legend Stan Lee

Since my column on comics wunder mensch Stan Lee appeared, I've heard from loads of his fans –- and now, I've heard just what he’s a fan of.

The Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville, Ky., is the beneficiary of Lee's pen and brain and heart. He and artist Dean Haspiel drew a zinger, a four-panel comic for the online charity graphic anthology called Panels for Primates, to benefit the center. Have a look.

The killing in the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Murders in Rue Morgue," often credited as the first detective story, was committed by an orangutan; maybe it's time for someone like Stan Lee to put the Spandex suit on a simian and make a superhero out of him for a change?

Justin Bieber's hair helps rescued farm animals -- wait, what?
Paul McCartney asks India's prime minister to declare a national Vegetarian Day

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Lee arrives at the premiere of "Thor" in Hollywood on May 2, 2011. Credit: Gabriel Bouys / AFP/Getty Images

Nesari, among the few northern white rhinos left, dies at Czech zoo

PRAGUE — A 39-year-old northern white rhinoceros has died at a Czech zoo, further reducing the world's dwindling population of the endangered animal, an official said Friday.

Nesari died in her sleep of old age on May 26, Dvur Kralove zoo spokeswoman Jana Mysliveckova said. She called the death "an irretrievable loss."

The rhino was brought to the zoo in 1975 from Sudan. Nesari's death leaves the zoo with one remaining northern white rhino, 30-year-old Nabire.

In an attempt to save the species from extinction, the Czech zoo moved four of its northern white rhinos to a game park in Kenya in December 2009, hoping it would be easier for them to breed there than in captivity.

Mysliveckova said few of these rhinos are now left: two at a zoo in San Diego; three or four believed to live in Sudan have not been seen since last year.

Zimbabwe's rhinos are the targets of poachers with advanced technology
Black rhinoceros who survived being shot by poachers is transported to South African zoo

-- Associated Press

Patrick the pit bull: Judge decides abused dog should stay at animal hospital for now

NEWARK, N.J. -- Accusations of greedy motives and arguments over visitation rights made it easy to forget that a recent court hearing centered not on the child of warring parents but on a four-legged animal, albeit one with his own Facebook page and thousands of fans worldwide.

When the rancor had subsided, state Superior Court Judge Joseph Cassini III on Thursday ruled that Patrick the pit bull, the popular pooch found nearly starved to death in a Newark trash chute in March, will stay at an animal hospital while the criminal case against his owner proceeds.

The ruling ended -- for now -- a custody battle that has raged since the end of April, when Cassini issued an order that Patrick would stay at Garden State Veterinary Specialists, the Tinton Falls facility where he underwent surgery after he was discovered in mid-March at Newark's Garden Spires apartment complex.

"The judge considered the law and the evidence and ruled accordingly, and that means justice for Patrick," hospital administrator Patricia Smillie-Scavelli, who has been overseeing the dog's recovery, said outside court.

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Fat cats up for adoption -- at a discount -- at Ohio shelter

A central Ohio animal shelter with an abundance of chubby cats is having a sale on its fattest felines, hoping a discount entices potential owners to take one home.

The Capital Area Humane Society says the fat cats are on sale this summer for $15 each or two for $20, instead of the usual $70 adoption price.

Development manager Mary Hiser says the cats packed on the pounds before arriving at the shelter, and the extra weight can cause them health problems.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that nine of the shelter's 55 cats are overweight. Volunteers keep them in an area that offers extra room to run and burn off calories.

The largest cat is a 6-year-old black-and-brown shorthair named Zebe, who weighs 23 pounds.

Animal lovers clamor to adopt Oklahoma puppy that survived euthanasia attempt
OK Go's new music video features talented dogs (and raises money for homeless animals)

-- Associated Press

Madagascar's wildlife -- including some newly discovered species -- imperiled by unrest, WWF says

Ring-tailed lemurs

JOHANNESBURG — From giant palm trees to mouse-sized lemurs, unique plants and animals are threatened on Madagascar as political deadlock drags on after a 2009 coup.

The World Wildlife Fund conservation group drew attention to the Indian Ocean island's natural wealth in a report released Monday that looks at the more than 600 new species discovered on the island between 1999 and 2010. Many of the new finds are already endangered, the group said, in large part because deforestation is destroying their habitat.

"We as a species, the human race, we don't understand the complexities of the natural world around us," Richard Hughes, the WWF's Madagascar-based regional director, said in a telephone interview. Yet "we people are the one species with the most power to destroy or protect what's there."

Madagascar's rain forests, with their precious rosewood and other timber, were pillaged amid the instability and political and economic isolation that followed the 2009 coup, the WWF said in its report "Treasure Island: New biodiversity in Madagascar." The killing of forest animals, including lemurs, for food also increased, as did poverty as the crucial tourism trade suffered, the environmental group said.

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