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 This Week on Animal Radio

Animal Radio for May 11, 2024  

Christina Lindquist, VGL

Christina LindquistChristina Lindquist is a forensic investigator at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Forensic Unit (VGL), which is part of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She uses evidence from animals, usually dogs and cats, to nab the bad guy. You'll hear about a murderer that was busted when he stepped in dog-poop and a rapist that was tied to the crime when a dog urinated on his car tires.

One such example of how animal DNA was used was in the case of 3 carpenters who were murdered in September 2000. They were building a barn in Lakeville, Indiana when they were robbed and shot execution style. There were no witnesses, but there were dogs on the property. During the crime, the criminal had stepped in dog poop and got some on his sneakers. A DNA testing of the criminal's shoes and one of the dogs at the property was a match, proving that he was at the scene of the crime. The criminal was then found guilty for murdering all three men and received a sentence of life in prison.

Another case was solved with dog urine in 1999. A woman, who was the victim of an attempted sexual assault case, was unable to identify her attacker. However, she did remember that her dog lifted his leg on her perpetrator's truck. Through a DNA analysis of the urine from the truck and from her dog, they were able to place the man at the scene of the crime.

Dog in Front of PoliceTapeOver the years, the VGL has put away more than 500 criminals using evidence, which consisted of pet hair, feces, urine, blood and drool. Just like our fingerprints, DNA from animals is unique to a specific animal, whether it is their feces, hair, etc. While this evidence is used in trial, many cases don't even make it that far and end up in a plea bargain, as the evidence is too strong to fight.

With an average of 66 percent of all households owning a pet, we are all walking around with a little bit of animal DNA on us at all times!

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Animal Homes
Chris Morgan, Ecologist

Chris MorganImagine if you cross HGTV with Animal Planet. You'd get Chris Morgan, who explains how some animals build their homes bigger and better and shinier to attract the opposite sex.

Animals were the first homebuilders and their structures are stunning examples of architecture and even art. Each is built with a purpose, to protect the young, and like us, real estate in the animal kingdom relies on one thing: location.

Animals, like humans, need a place they can call home to provide a safe and stable place to raise a family, but they go about building it in entirely different ways. Whether it is a bird's nest, bear den, beaver lodge or spider web, these are homes of great complexity, constructed from a wide range of natural as well as man-made materials.

Chris states that animals are incredibly resourceful in their homebuilding. One home he talks about is the pack rat, which surprisingly designs a home much bigger than you would expect a rat to have. They pull in all sorts of things into their homes, and love building large nests and adorning them with shiny objects. A lot of birds do the same thing. The homes go way beyond a practical home to give birth in or lay their eggs and are quite intricate.

Bird's Nest with BlueprintsIn some cases, an animal will build a home or nest to attract a mate. One time Chris flew to the France Mediterranean (someone had to!) and went diving to find a male oscillated wrasse, which is a small fish about the size of the palm of your hand. It builds its nest out of algae to attract and impress females. The females will then all line up and look at the nest, and as soon as one female dives in to lay her eggs, the male will then fertilize them. Then the other females think, "Well, if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me." So they all go in and lay their eggs, which the male will then fertilize as well.

But then the plot thickens. Chris says it becomes, "Sort of an underwater soap opera." If a male is not very good at building a nest, he needs to attract females so he takes on a female body to do it. He will then infiltrate another nest and fertilize some of those eggs. You would expect the male who built the nest to be upset, but since the male entered looking like a female, he has actually attracted other females who think it must be a good nest.

But that's not all. There is also the "sneaky" male. He doesn't cooperate with anyone and just fertilizes the eggs when the other male's backs are turned. Chris sates," It is like an episode of Sopranos – underwater!"

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"HERO PEOPLE OF THE WEEK" - Kristina Rinaldi - Bringing Animals In From the Cold

Kristina RinaldiKristina M. Rinaldi is the Development Associate at Detroit Dog Rescue. She tells us that winters in Detroit are really brutal and even Spring in Detroit can still mean freezing temperatures. This can be especially hard on the animals, both those left outside the family home and strays roaming the streets.

Detroit Dog Rescue works with the community to tries and teach them proper pet ownership. But unfortunately, they do run across a lot of cases of dogs chained up outside without proper shelter.

On a regular basis, staff members load up donations, which can include food, igloos, proper tie-outs, etc., and actually go out block-by-block helping animals. They also get calls day and night to help out animals in need.

There is also a big stray dog problem in Detroit. Over the years it has been estimated that between 10,000 and upwards to 50,000 stray dogs roam the streets, but no one has been able to gauge and get a real number.

Kristina tells us that there is no shortage of stray dogs that they pick up all of the time. They also get the worst of the worst cases. These include dogs with gunshot wounds or dogs that come from homicide. They also get the dog raid dogs and the dogfighting dogs.

There are a lot of drug dealers in Detroit with these "beefed up" Pit Bulls on large chains and they just have the "gnarliest" look to them. However, Kristina states that when they go into these drug raids, most of these dogs are the nicest dogs that they rescue. Some of them might have a little dog aggression because they've been abused, but they love humans and do make great pets.

As staff members prepare for the next run, they have this word of advice for anyone with a dog, "Please keep your dog inside. The cold weather is brutal on animals. We find more than most times, these dogs don't survive."

As the rescue calls increase, staff members say they need your help to make this mission work. You can donate to them by going to their website, and they will use that money to buy hay, dog houses, bedding, and food.

How To Build The Perfect Litter Box - Dr. Debbie

Dr. Debbie WhiteOne sniff upon entering your home and you recognize the unmistakable odor of cat urine and feces. Simba has used your entry hall as his litter box again. But before you lose your temper - stop. By scrutinizing the environment through your cat's eyes, you will likely discover the cause of his toileting mishaps.

Elimination issues are a main reason for veterinary visits and a primary reason for relinquishment of cats at shelters. House soiling problems can be multi-factorial, with an overlap of behavioral, environmental and medical causes. Feline house soiling can be managed however with sleuth work and patience. The challenge is to think like a cat.

First and foremost, say this and repeat it…"My cat does not eliminate out of the litter box to get even with me." Cats do use urine and fecal scent marks to communicate territory, but this isn’t done with spite or in effort to "get even" with you. Inappropriate elimination is a cat’s way stating that something isn’t right in their world. Understanding this is key before tackling feline house soiling. Focus on what’s wrong in Simba’s toilet area, not on how the house soiling makes you feel.

Start With a Vet Check
Cat owners often struggle with house soiling mishaps for months or years before enlisting help from their veterinarian. But seeing the veterinarian should be the first step, since health disorders may be at the root of some house soiling issues. Your efforts in restoring litter box usage will be doomed if an underlying medical cause is not addressed at the same time.

Size Does Matter
Make sure your cat’s litter box is of adequate size to allow maneuvering. Litter box size should be one and a half times the length of cat’s body length. Height of the edge also matters. For older kitties, try lower profile litter boxes or plastic under bed storage boxes. An arthritic older cat won’t complain or cry in pain with arthritis, she’ll just chose to eliminate elsewhere.

Consider the View
Cats don’t want to be startled while in the loo. Don’t place the litter box in a high traffic area where people and pets are always a-coming and going. Cats prefer a low traffic area where they can have an eye out on things.

Don’t place the litter box near appliances which give off noise, vibration and heat, all which disturb your cat while eliminating. Once a negative aversion is created, your cat may not return to use that box in the future.

Litter BoxDitch the Litter Box Cover
While some nervous kitties prefer the privacy of litter box covers, the majority of cats dislike the tight quarters and limited ventilation litter box covers provide. Consider how you feel in a public porta-potty... do you like to touch the walls when inside? Sure, people like the way the lid contains odors, but does it really matter how little odor comes from the litter box when your cat is pooping on your oriental rug?

Provide More Than One Box
A common error is assuming that one litter box is all your cat needs. What cat owner loves the litter box, and relishes seeing more of them in the home? But the more the better when it comes to faithful litter box usage, especially with multiple cats. The general rule is to provide one more box than the number of cats. Some cats share litter boxes, others will not. Unless you provide alternate sites you may have elimination issues in multiple cat homes.

Another special consideration is differences in cat’s personalities- timid cats may avoid crossing paths with other more assertive pets in home. Be sure to provide litter box sites that won’t be blocked by other animal’s movements.

If you live in a multilevel home- you must provide litter box sites on each level. This is especially important in multi-cat homes, those with senior cats or those with health conditions.

The Pick of Litters
Litter texture preferences vary and there are many choices from scoopable, clay, crystals, or natural litters. However in one research study of cat’s litter box habits, it demonstrated that the majority of cats prefer fine grained scoopable clay based litters that have carbon as their odor absorbing ingredient. Every cat is different though, so try other litter varieties until you find your cat’s preference.

Skip the Scents
The verdict is still out on what odors cats prefer, but avoid heavily scented litters or deodorizers if your cat is missing the box. Interestingly enough, one study showed cats preferred cedar and fish odors, while avoiding citrus and floral scents, while another study concluded cats preferred fish or bleach smells to other scents.

Kitty Litter Depth
Ideal litter depth is 2 inches- more isn’t always better. Some cats thrive on scratching the bottom of the pan, which is obscured by excessive amounts of litter.

Keep It Clean
Cats are fastidious by nature and will avoid using a soiled or smelly box. The overall cleaning frequency depends on the number of cats in the home. General advice is to scoop twice a day and deep clean the litter pan weekly. Change out clumping litter every 2-3 weeks.

Build It and Kitty Will Use It
By building your cat's dream litter box, your cat will find litter box nirvana. And you’ll come to enjoy a better relationship with your kitty family members without those unwanted "presents" in the foyer.

Featured veterinarian known as "Dr. Debbie" on national pet radio program, Animal Radio. Ebook author of "Yorkshire Terriers: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend"; "Pugs: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend"; "Mini Schnauzers: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend"; and "Shih Tzu: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend." Dr. Debbie's books.

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Tammy TrujilloAnimal Radio® News - Tammy Trujillo

Could Your Child Be Allergic To Your Pet's Food?
This makes sense, but it really hasn't been examined that much. If a food that your child is allergic to is also in your pet's food, that could be a problem. A study by a company called Sylvana Research was prompted by the case of a young boy in California who had a peanut allergy. He broke out in hives after his puppy, which had just eaten a peanut flavored snack bone, licked him. It means that many kids who are thought to be allergic to dogs and cats might actually have been allergic to what the animals have been eating. Parents of kids with food allergies need to double-check the ingredients on pet food labels as well.

Burberry and IanPolice Go To Wrong House and Shoot Dog
A man in San Diego demanded police take responsibility for a mistake that cost his service dog his life. He woke up to police pounding on his door early on a Sunday morning. His 6-year-old Pit Bull barked until he opened the door. One of the officers is seen on a surveillance video petting the dog. When the dog went over to the other officer, he backed away with his gun drawn and then, out of video range, he allegedly shot the dog in the head. The man said the officer restrained him as he tried to get to his dog after she was shot. He stated his dog was a registered service dog, who helped him deal with anxiety and depression, and visited with children with Down syndrome and autism. The San Diego Police Department investigated, but the man said officers went to the wrong house number. After this incident, he circulated a petition requiring officers to take a mandatory training course to teach them when it's appropriate to use force on dogs, similar to Colorado's Dog Protection Act.

Dog Kssing WomanKiss Your Dog - It's Healthy for You!
After several studies saying that kissing your dog could expose you to some unhealthy things comes a study that says - go ahead and kiss your dog! The study was done at the University of Arizona and researchers think that the microbes contained in a dog's gut could have a probiotic effect on the human body, encouraging the growth of positive microorganisms. They actually think that all the interaction through the centuries between people and dogs may have caused something mutually beneficial to happen. The study was conducted under the university's new Human-Animal Interaction Research Initiative. It works to bring researchers from different areas of expertise together, to explore the mutual benefits of human-animal relationships.

Dog Meat FarmDogs Rescued From Dog Meat Farm
A hundred dogs arrived in California, saved from an unspeakable fate in South Korea. They were rescued from a dog meat farm by the Humane Society International, which then shut down the farm and got the owner to start planting crops instead of raising dogs. HSI also worked with other dog farmers who agreed to get out of the dog meat trade permanently and transition into trades like crop growing. This first group of rescued dogs were evaluated and treated for medical issues and were put up for adoption and a chance to start their new lives.

Ear Listen to the entire Podcast of this show (#1275)

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