What Do Dogs Know, Think, and Feel? A New Book Tells It All

Research-based "Domestic Dogs Cognition and Behavior" edited by Barnard College psychologist Alexandra Horowitz is a must read for anyone interested in what dogs know, think, and feel.

What Do Zoos Teach about Biodiversity and Does it Matter?

This week I was alerted to a new international study called "A Global Evaluation of Biodiversity Literacy in Zoo and Aquarium Visitors". The data, which were published in-house by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, showed an increase "in respondents demonstrating some positive evidence of biodiversity understanding". What this means for the animals is unknown.

What the Dog's Nose Tells the Dog's Brain: Humans Come First

fMRI studies show dogs discriminate familiar from unfamiliar odors and that the response of the caudate nucleus in their brain is strongest to the odor of a familiar human scent rather than to the odor of another dog. Neuroimaging studies are important in demonstrating not only the power of the dog's nose but also provide confirmation of the strong dog-human relationship.

Zoos "Zoothanize" Many Healthy Animals According to BBC

European zoos "management euthanize" 3,000-5,000 animals a year. In a BBC Magazine essay we read, "'The numbers game can be made to sound awful,'" says Simon Tonge..."The headline 'Zoos euthanize thousands of animals per year' would be misleading," he says. "Well OK, but you know most of those animals were rats or mice or something like that." Animals are not things.

Killing Squid, a Giraffe, and the Common Sense of Science

Scientific inquiry is not and cannot be objective because scientists are humans. Here I revisit Professor Bernard Rollin's important idea called "the common sense of science" and agree with him that science is neither value-free nor ethics-free. Being on the side of animals isn't being more of an advocate than being on the other side. Both are forms of advocacy.

Marius the Giraffe: Zoo Should Have Covered up Killing Him

In a blog about Marius, a young giraffe who was killed at the Copenhagen Zoo as if he were a worthless object because he wasn't a breeding machine and didn't fit into their breeding program, Peter Dickinson writes, "I still support Copenhagen's decision. Perhaps though they should have just gone ahead and did the deed one early morning before the zoo opened to visitors."

The Marius Effect: A Giraffe, Food, and Invasive Research

The killing of a young healthy zoo giraffe is an anthrozoological gem. It clearly shows we have very confused, troubling, and paradoxical relationships with other animals. Why get upset with killing a giraffe and allow animals to be harmed and killed on factory farms and in research labs? Why the disconnect?

Healthy Giraffe is Killed at Zoo Despite Offer to Save Him

Yesterday I wrote about the plight of Marius, a young giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo who was to be killed because he didn't fit into the zoo's breeding program. Today I learned he was killed despite another zoo offering to save him. To quote from a BBC article: The director of a wildlife park in the Netherlands said, "Zoos need to change the way they do business."

Grief of an Emperor Penguin Mother Will Rock Your Soul

This video is the most moving I've seen in a long time. You can hear and feel the pain of the mother who lost her chick and also rejoice when another penguin consoles her. Words can't adequately describe this short film and it leaves no doubt that the mother is deeply grieving her loss. Displays of grief are being observed in more and more animals, not only mammals.

Healthy Young Zoo Giraffe to be Killed: "Zoothanasia" Redux

A healthy young male giraffe will be killed because he doesn't fit into the Copenhagen Zoo's breeding program. This is another reprehensible example of "zoothanasia" in which an individual is killed, not euthanized, because they are considered to be disposable. When is this reprehensible killing going to stop? None too soon. Compassionate conservation offers sage guidance.

Sport Killing Dogs Sochi Style: A New Olympic Event

Clearly, human-animal relationships are all over the place. How can people who say they love dogs support the Olympics and handle these inconsistencies? Numerous dogs are paying a dear price.

Happy Cows: A Heart-Warming Video Offers an Important Lesson

Watch rescued cows free to run gallop around with unmistakable joy and glee. These are truly happy cows, not "happy" cows. View this video for an up and share it widely. It is worth countless words and offers a valuable lesson.

Animal Smarts and Emotions: A Scholars' Circle Discussion

A Scholars' Circle discussion about animal intelligence, animal emotions, and animal protection in which the similarities and differences between human and nonhuman animals are considered by myself, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz (co-author of Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health), and Stan Kuczaj, who studies dolphin cognition and behavior.

Animal Abuse at Animal Planet: Drugs, Death, and Neglect

Animal Planet's show "Call of the Wildman" is a fake and involves animal abuse according to recent articles in Mother Jones magazine. It is essential that people not only know about the wanton abuse of nonhuman animal stars but also what they are seeing aren't true stories, but rather fabrications made to sell.

Zoo Conservation Efforts Lack Strategy and Are Too Random

A new published report concludes that conservation programs in zoos are too opportunistic and not strategic. Zoos need to change their ways to do a better job for preserving various species, including those that are endangered. Regardless of one's position on zoos a summary of the longer published paper and a shorter review essay make for very useful reading.

Carole Noon's Tireless Work to Save Chimps: A True Heroine

A new book by Gary Ferguson called "Opening Doors" tells the story of Dr. Carole Noon's selfless work and some of the many very fortunate chimpanzees who benefited from being cared for at Save the Chimps in Fort Pierce, Florida. Supported by many organizations including the Arcus Foundation, Dr. Noon gives many reasons to keep ours and the animals' hopes and dreams alive.

Is Killing A Rhino For $350K Really Good For Other Rhinos?

In today's New York Times Richard Conniff published an essay called, "A Trophy Hunt That's Good for Rhinos". He writes, "auctioning the right to kill a black rhino in Namibia is an entirely sound idea, good for conservation and good for rhinos in particular." This conclusion is too fast for me, and he does not present data that support this claim.

Perils of Pooping: Why Animals Don't Need Toilet Paper

Animals don't use toilet paper and don't need it because they don't walk tall. We are indeed exceptional in matters of "the bottom"—they define us—but not in many other areas, so to speak.

Empathic Rats Free Known Trapped Rats From Being Restrained

It's well established that rats display empathy and now we know this prosocial behavior is influenced by social experience. Unfortunately, what we know about the emotional lives of rodents and other animals has not been factored into the U.S. Federal Welfare Act in which rats are not considered to be animals. We must use what we know about other animals on their behalf.

Black Rhino Auctioned for $350K in the Name of Conservation

A Texas hunting club auctioned off a black rhino purportedly to save other rhinos and their homes. This sale raises many questions about how we try to save other species. One major question is, "Should we kill in the name of conservation?" People disagree. My take and that of compassionate conservation is this is not acceptable. The life of every individual matters.

Tool Use By a Dog: A Crafty Beagle Uses a Chair to Get Food

A recent video clearly shows goal-directed planning by a dog trying to get chicken nuggets from a toaster oven. "Operation Nugget Liberation" is well-worth watching. Cleverness in tool manufacture and use is clearly widespread among diverse animals, as shown by the numerous examples in a recent book, a wide variety of experiments, and observations by citizen scientists.

"Decoding Your Dog": Honoring What Dogs Want and Need

A new book offers valuable guidelines for giving dogs the best life possible by our learning what they want and need, what they're telling and asking us, and respecting their desires. It also stresses positive, rather than abusive, training. I like to think of dog "training" as dog "teaching" that centers on a close reciprocal respectful relationship between dog and human.

Elephant Matriarchs, Untethered Brains, and Nature is Good

Female elephants lead, human brains have many more connections in the association cortex than nonhuman brains and size isn't everything, and getting outside has long-term benefits on mental health.

Dolphins Get High With a Little Help From Their Friends

What a way to begin 2014. Dogs who poop and pee aligned with the Earth's magnetic field and now dolphins who get high on pufferfish. New video shows that young dolphins chew on and pass around pufferfish who produce a neurotoxin that seems to produce an altered state of consciousness. We're not exceptional in getting high with a little help from our friends.

Dogs Line Up With the Earth's Magnetic Field to Poop and Pee

A recent study supports the conclusion that dogs line up with the Earth's magnetic field to poop and to pee. The data show not only do dogs prefer the North-South direction when pooping and peeing but also that they avoid an East-West direction. This is the first demonstration of magnetic field sensitivity in dogs. What an interesting start to 2014.

We Are Animals and Therein Lies Hope for a Better Future

By paying attention to who other animals are we can learn many valuable lessons about ourselves and keep alive our hopes and dreams for a much better world. Sensationalist media that portrays other animals as brutal bloodthirsty beasts is thoroughly misleading. We should be proud to be members of the animal kingdom and therein lies hope for a better future for all beings.

Animal Minds: Some Big Questions Motivated by Dolphins

Denise Herzing's recent TED talk on dolphins made me think of "big" questions about animal minds. Are "they" like us? Do other animals have language? Are dogs smarter than cats or vice versa? Are there "higher" and "lower" animals? Many animals experience emotions ranging from contagious joy to deep sadness, make and use tools, and some play "just for the hell of it."

Endangered Przewalski’s Horse Dies as Zoo Releases Report

Just as investigations expand into neglect at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., news breaks of another endangered animal's death, this time a young Przewalski’s horse who broke his neck, at their Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia

Animals in Print: Three New Outstanding Books

Three new, outstanding, and well-researched books, "Behemoth, The History of Elephants in America", "Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering", and "After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind", are well worth the read.

Crafty Crocodiles Use Sticks to Lure Prey and Zoo Problems

Is the fascinating observation of the use of sticks to lure prey by crocodilians really tool use and what's the National Zoo going to do about new charges of serious animal neglect that are reminiscent of what happened more than a decade ago?