Inside This Issue:

  • Uruguay’s Battle Against the Cattle Fever Tick, Our Battle to Properly Vet Imported Animals
  • Georgia Aquarium: More Water Than Boston, 98% Recycled
  • Turning Deadly Marine Life into Lifesavers
  • On Pet Surveys and the Definition of Common Sense
  • When Your Conservation Efforts Work a Little Too Well...

Uruguay’s Battle Against the Cattle Fever Tick, Our Battle to Properly Vet Imported Animals

Uruguay boasts about 3.5 cattle per person – the highest ratio in the world.

If you know NAIA, you know we have long been alarmed by the lack of proper oversight in the world of rescue dog importation. It’s a big topic and it brings numerous issues to be concerned about: animal welfare, public safety, and fraud/scams to name a few. The biggest issue is how unfettered importation can introduce dangerous new diseases and parasites into the US, harming pets, people, wildlife, and livestock.

Cattle growers have also been ringing alarm bells over the lack of veterinary oversight, in particular regarding the potential for dog imports to introduce diseases such as heartwater disease into US cattle herds. Given the devastating outbreaks of African swine fever and highly pathogenic avian influenza that have already caused extensive losses in animal agriculture, these fears are well-founded.

New research raises concerns over yet another pathogen-carrying tick that is currently causing death in cattle and massive economic damage to ranchers in South and Central America. This nasty arachnid of the Rhipicephalus genus (just call it a cattle fever tick) caused devastation in the US from the late-19th to mid-20th centuries, though eradication programs and a quarantine along the Texas/Mexico border have kept ours under control since then. Uruguay, with the help of a Fulbright award-winning professor from the University of Nevada, Reno, is now toiling to solve their issues with cattle fever, too – this time through genetics. The goal here is to unravel their tick's genes, thus unlocking the "cheat codes" to more effective pesticides, methods of genetic control, and vaccines that will protect the health of tick-hosting cattle.

Fortunately, dogs are not a preferred host for Uruguay's tick, so the above story is somewhat less alarming than instructional. But what a lesson it is. For when you you see the struggle of scientists and farmers working to control diseases like cattle fever, boy... it is a lot! And when you look back at our own history and the sickness, deaths, and billions of dollars (adjusted) in damages this tick has already caused US ranchers, it is impossible not to see the importance of oversight, vetting, biosecurity, and even quarantines. We aren't omnipotent, but we can – and should – engage in practices that reduce the risk of reintroducing "old friends" like canine rabies, screwworm, and cattle fever!

Tiny tick a big problem for cattle

★     Why Cattlemen Should Care About Dog Import Legislation
★     USDA Agencies Work Together to Eradicate an Old Foe: the Screwworm



Georgia Aquarium: More Water Than Boston, 98% Recycled.

Cold water ONLY.

Advances in filtration systems have allowed aquariums to get bigger, better, and cleaner in recent years. The Georgia Aquarium, with its state of the art closed loop of recycled water, is leading the way. One of the largest and best-known aquariums in the world, the Georgia Aquarium has over 80 miles of pipes that clean and process more water a day than the city of Boston. Since there are so many functioning parts and mechanisms working in tandem for all the facility's plants and animals, these are called life support systems. These systems require entire control rooms and plenty of staff to operate.

What sets the Georgia Aquarium even further apart from other aquariums is its geographic location. Instead of being on the coast like other major aquariums, it is located inland in Atlanta. This (necessity as the mother of invention) has inspired new innovations in processing water and maintaining filtration systems. They boast being able to recycle 98% of their water! The main water cleaner is the protein skimmer, also known as foam fractionation, which is commonly used in saltwater aquariums to remove dissolved organic compounds and proteins. By injecting air bubbles into a column of water, organic molecules adhere to the surface of the bubbles and form a foam that can be removed from the water.

Next, the water is treated with ozone gas. Ozone (O3) is a highly reactive form of oxygen that has strong oxidizing properties, making it effective at killing bacteria, viruses, algae, and other microorganisms present in the water. After that the water is heated or cooled and sent to different exhibits - cold for the king crabs and puffins and warm for discus fish. Water quality scientists test the water daily to make sure it is clean and safe for every animal in the aquarium. Their pioneering efforts will help other facilities –  zoos, aquariums, and beyond – conserve water with closed system filtration.

The innovative way the Georgia Aquarium manages millions of gallons of tank water

★     Georgia Aquarium
★     Monterey Bay Aquarium



Turning Deadly Marine Life into Lifesavers

No step.

Australia is so well-known for its venomous animals, it’s become a tired punchline. That said, even if the deadliness of Australia’s animals is often overstated, it does host an awful lot of venomous critters. The marine life in its surrounding oceans is no exception – and researchers find many of these animals absolutely impossible to put down. Not in spite of their venom… but because of it. This research creates antivenoms, teaches people how to be safer, and even creates medicine.

Creating the antivenom is quite a process. Once the venom is extracted, it is shipped to a different lab where it is injected into another host animal slowly over time. When that animal begins to produce antibodies in its plasma, it is collected and used to make the antivenom. Chasing venom is not easy: as oceans have warmed in the past few decades, researchers have found that jellyfish seasons and ranges have increased, and the potency of their venom adapts to changing temperatures. Keeping up with this information is a lot of work, but it allows antivenom to be effective throughout that area of the Pacific. 

Studying venomous animals while in human care sheds light on their behaviors, and ultimately helps keep people safer. An additional benefit to these particular studies is a growing understanding of the chemical makeup of venoms which has led to medical breakthroughs. Some venom components, like peptides and proteins, have been studied for their potential to alleviate pain. ACE inhibitors, a class of drugs commonly used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, were initially developed this way. Researchers are also exploring venom compounds that have shown promise in targeting and killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. Meanwhile, other venoms are being studied for their potential in treating diabetes, epilepsy, and even arthritis.

While Australia's reputation for hosting some of the world's deadliest animals may evoke fear, researchers are turning these venomous creatures into lifesavers.

Milking venom from Australia's deadly marine animals

★     Why does Australia have so many venomous animals?
★     A blue-ringed octopus bite is rare but potentially deadly. Here's what you need to know



On Pet Surveys and the Definition of Common Sense

A clear case of voter intimidation.

In San Antonio, a community survey on pet ownership policies revealed two big truths. First, simply based on the sheer number of responses, it is apparent that people are passionate about pets, pet ownership, and how these things affect our communities. Of course, we already knew this, but the level of participation and number of comments is impressive, especially when compared to other surveys.

Secondly, while our passions run high, our responses may run in wildly different directions. And not only that, our interpretation of the questions and even the meaning of other people’s responses may differ, based on our own perspectives.

For example, the question of whether someone feels safe from other pets while walking through their neighborhood could be interpreted in multiple ways. As a baseline yes/no answer, that’s easy – either you are or you aren’t. But going deeper than that, there’s a question of what specific pets and situations are we even talking about? Are these owned pets that are roaming free? Are they strays or feral dogs (some people interpret all dogs as “pets”)? Are these pets accompanied by and/or under the control of people (in which case the primary concern is obviously less about pets than people)?

Furthermore, and playing off the Animal Care Services director’s statement that “Common sense isn’t common practice,” we have to ask ourselves what is common sense? To some people, vigorously enforced mandatory spay/neuter laws might seem like “common sense,” even though that outdated ineffective idea is a non-starter for people like us (and hopefully it was a nonstarter to people on this survey, too – if it’s included in the questionnaire, you know it’s being considered!). From a more moderate perspective, some people consider widely available, low-cost spay/neuter services to be a great boon for pet owners and the public in general – or, again, simple “common sense.” But there are still plenty of folks who consider even milquetoast positions like that to be untenable or even offensive. So, again, what is common sense these days?

That said, while we’re admittedly having a bit of fun parsing this survey, our intent is not to denigrate anyone. We do believe the survey would be a lot more valuable if it were limited to residents and a little more specific. However, the idea is great: inviting participation and getting a read of the community is a fantastic way to start a dialogue, and this can lead to a deeper and more personal understanding of the issues affecting pets and pet owners in the community. We are thrilled with how many people are participating, and hope that this leads to dialogue, debate, and ultimately sound policy decisions that improve the community.

Animal Care Services reevaluates pet ownership policies with community-driven survey

★     The Survey in Question
★     AVMA: Mandatory spay/neuter a bad idea



When Your Conservation Efforts Work a Little Too Well...

I am shocked. Just shocked.

Any time you introduce change to a system that contains multiple interacting components, it’s good to be prepared for unintended consequences. Sometimes these consequences are beneficial (artificial reefs from sinking ships), sometimes they’re disastrous (Australia's introduction of rabbits and cane toads), and usually they fall somewhere in between. This week’s example of unintended consequences answers the question of “What if our shark conservation efforts become just a little too effective?” – with predictable results!

As you probably know, shark conservation and outreach has been a hot issue over the last few decades, occupying the time and effort of some of the world’s best ichthyologists (and at least one cable network). What you might not know is that these efforts have been so successful, researchers are now having to divert some of their attention to mitigating human-shark interactions.

Now, when we talk about “interactions” we aren’t referring to beach vacationers – your odds of being killed by a shark are still astronomically low – we are primarily referring to fishers having to deal with more and more nuisance sharks and shark bycatch. And this is something that needs to be addressed for the livelihood of both fishers and sharks.

One method employed thus far to keep sharks from attacking catch – and from becoming bycatch themselves – is the “SharkGuard,” an electrical cylinder that looks like something out of a Guillermo del Toro directed episode of Doctor Who. This device sends out a short-range electrical pulse that sharks, thanks to their ampullae of Lorenzini (sensory organs that detect electrical fields), find absolutely detestable. When a shark gets hit by a pulse, it runs off to pout for a bit. And since fishing boats are after tuna and other fish that lack ampullae of Lorenzini, the SharkGuard doesn’t deter the intended target at all. While some sharks are determined enough to come back and try again after the first zap, the device still buys time for fishers who want to keep their catch, and reduces the chance of that shark becoming a bycatch statistic.

Pretty neat stuff! And, of course, we’re ready to start taking your friendly bets on the downstream consequences of implementing devices like SharkGuard.

Shark conservation has been so successful that researchers are finding ways to curb human-shark interaction

★     The chances of getting bitten by a shark while you're swimming at the beach are surprisingly low
★     (Video) Watch a shark encounter a hook outfitted with SharkGuard


Also in the News...

★     'Clumsy' fatal disease seen in California animals for first time ("Zombie Deer"; Chronic Wasting Disease; Prions)
★     The Push to Humanize Wildlife (Anthropomorphism & Animal Rights-Driven Legislation)
★     Puppies Rescued from Car in Parking Garage Adopted by District Fire Department Staff Who Helped Save The Animals (Folks, Please Don't Do This I)
★     ‘Filthy, unsanitary and inhumane’: Court records allege poor conditions at Du Bois rescue, owner out on bond (Rescue & Shelter Issues)
★     As NC wildlife officials confirm investigation into reported taking of wild geese from shopping center, a look at wildlife laws (Folks, Please Don't Do This II)
★     Decoding service animals: Navigating their importance, legal framework (Working Animals; Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, and the ADA)
★     The list of animals that have already entered the ‘Stone Age’ and use their own tools (Brainy & Hungry Lists; Hey, What About Crows & Octopi?)

Click here to see what is happening legislatively

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