It's been a good few months for animal rights advocates: Massachusetts banned surgeries to silence a dog or cat and a Spanish province approved a ban on bullfighting.
The silencing procedure, called debarking, severs or removes an animal's vocal cords making it difficult or nearly impossible for a dog or cat to vocalize. Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., signed a bill April 22 banning the procedure, which activists said left scar tissue in the pet's throat making it difficult for the animal to breathe.
Some dogs and cats that underwent "debarking" were left wheezing, coughing and choking for the rest of their lives, said Beth Birnbaum of the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets. The law bars veterinarians from performing the surgery and carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $2,500 fine.
"This is so remarkable, the passage of this legislation," she told the Boston Globe.
Massachusetts may also consider making it illegal for landlords to require a cat be declawed or a dog be devocalized to rent an apartment.
Opponents of debarking said it was usually performed on dogs owned by commercial breeders and the public should understand it was done for convenience.
Animal advocates say it's more important to understand why a pet is making noise, adding behavior modification and obedience training can help keep chronically noisy pets quiet.
Is the dog barking because it is left alone, isolated or unsupervised for long periods? Is there constant noise in the environment, especially in urban areas? Does the dog have other bad social habits like constant chewing?
Some techniques to mitigate barking include confronting a dog immediately when it starts to bark. Approach the animal and say "No!" or immediately spritz it with a blast of water from a spray bottle, BarkingDogs.net suggests. Don't reinforce bad behavior by running to play with a dog to get it to stop barking. You have to be in charge, not the pet.
Some owners use electronic bark collars that deliver a mild electric shock when the dog begins to bark. Others leave a radio or television on when they leave home so the pet left alone won't be totally bored.
Exercise or the presence of another pet, even a singing or talking bird, can ease isolation and be a good non-aversion barking deterrent. The Monks of New Skete, in their book "How to be Your Dog's Best Friend," warn keeping a dog in a rectangular outdoor dog run can encourage fence running and incessant barking in some dogs. Their advice: Enrich the dogs' environment by turning a kennel into a fun obstacle course with bridges, tunnels, curved boards, rope toys and safely hanging toys with bells. Shrubs planted around a dog run can block a dog's view and help keep it quiet.
In the Spanish region of Catalonia, lawmakers voted to ban bullfighting, considered a part of traditional Spanish culture, starting in 2012.
Animal welfare groups had campaigned against bullfighting for more than 18 months calling the ritualized killing of bulls barbaric and outdated.
However, observers said bullfighting has been on the decline in the region for years and had been mainly a draw for tourists. They contend an end of bullfighting is akin to the gradual disappearance of the afternoon siesta as Spain modernized.
"This is a historic day for all who have worked to promote animal rights in a modern society like ours," animal rights activist Jose Ramon Mallen of Fundacion Equanimal told the New York Times. "This is not about politics and Catalan identity but about ethics and showing that it's simply wrong to enjoy watching an animal getting killed in public."
Catalans have long sought greater independence from Madrid and the rest of Spain.
Odds and Ends:
While some 4H members may consider a prized bull more pet than livestock, few farmers go as far a Canadian bison rancher Henry Makinson, who lets buffalo roam inside his home in Grandview, Manitoba. The 80-year-old rancher allows his massive pets inside a one-room farmhouse and a larger home, and one bison likes to lie down and nap on the living room carpet. The Winnipeg Free Press said Makinson's bison can perform tricks like dancing in a conga-like line at rodeos.
Best Friends Pet Care Resort opens Aug. 27 at Disney World in Florida. People traveling with their pets to the Magic Kingdom can drop them at a 50,000-square-foot resort that includes a water park for dogs, a "kitty city," VIP suites with flat-screen televisions and two doggy day camp rooms that open onto a yard. The suites rent for $69 to $79 a night. Smaller pets like rabbits and ferrets can stay for $12 to $23 a night, but no reptiles or primates are allowed.
Chew Chew, an all-organic restaurant for pets, opened in Sydney, Australia. The popular spot has a regularly changing menu with such entrees as beef steak, carrot and shitake mushrooms, goat yogurt jelly and lamb bones and chicken wings -- for dogs and cats only. Pet owners can buy a coffee or cappuccino next door for themselves.
Online voting ends Aug. 16 for the second annual "VPI Hambone Award, given to the pet responsible for the most unusual pet insurance claim of the year. The award is named after a dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate a Thanksgiving ham. This year's nominees include a Labrador retriever that ate an entire bee hive -- bees and all -- and a cat that tumbled around inside a clothes dryer. www.VPIHamboneAward.com