Did Pope Francis Open the Pearly Gates to Other Animals?

As noted in a wide array of press about Pope Francis' comments about animals and the afterlife, the pearly gates may be open to other animals. While it remains unclear as to how open they really are and how the Pope meant his comments to be interpreted and implemented, more open and much needed discussion is now on the table.

Giving Puppies as Gifts: What if They're "The Wrong Dog?"

The ASPCA's advertisement "Puppies Are The World's Best Gifts" troubled me. I beg everyone who is thinking of giving a puppy or other animal to someone as a holiday or other type of gift really think it through. I worry that if indeed the animal is "the wrong animal," he or she will pay a huge price for the well-intentioned move that turns into a grievous mistake.

Unearthing Ted Turner: "Last Stand" is a Fascinating Read

Todd Wilkinson's book about Ted Turner called "Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet" tells it like it is. I really enjoyed Mr. Wilkinson’s book and was fortunate to do an interview with him about it and this fascinating and enigmatic man. There's tons of information between the covers of "Last Stand" that will be of great interest to a broad audience.

On Killing Wolves: Should Only Trained Ethicists Weigh In?

News about the massacre of 890 wolves in Canada by researchers has reached a global audience. Recently, one of the world's leading wolf experts wrote that only trained ethicists could reliably weigh in on the ethics of this "research" project. I disagree. Scientists are humans and we all come to the table with a point of view that should be openly discussed with civility.

Musical Dogs: Moving Dogs From Home to Home can be Perilous

An essay in the New York Times called "The Wrong Dog" raises many difficult questions about possible perils of rescuing and re-homing a dog. Living with a dog is a two-way street and assigning unilateral blame gets us nowhere and once again leaves the dog out in the cold. Playing "musical dogs" is bad for the dogs, as much research and common sense tell us.

Getting Shelter Dogs to Rescue Us: A Solution for Adoption

A wonderful video shows how the "human walking program" organized by the Lost Dogs Home in Melbourne, Australia, helped 5000 shelter dogs get adopted. What I love about this program is how simple it is, and how people came to realize that by rescuing dogs in need, the dogs also rescued them. It's a win-win for both the dogs and the humans.

A Most Unlucky Rare Spider Meets and is Killed by Researcher

Harvard researcher Piotr Naskrecki had the great fortune of meeting a large harmless spider and, most unfortunately for her, he killed her and "deposited" her in a collection. Recently 890 wolves were killed "in the name of science." When will the killing of animals stop? We need to give this question serious consideration because research and conservation are too bloody.

Smarty Plants: Research Shows they Think, Feel, and Learn

An essay in New Scientist called "Root Intelligence" is a fascinating read. Research shows that plants can think, feel, and learn, and that "a plant's awareness of its environment is often keener than an animal's precisely because plants cannot flee from danger and so must sense and adapt to it." Plants also see light and have a sense of smell, taste, touch, and hearing.

Do Animals Play for the Hell of It? Watch This Fox

Watch this video of two red foxes discovering a trampoline. One chooses to play on the trampoline while the other is cautious and never goes onto it. The lessons offered in this video are that animals do play for fun and that personality differences can be displayed, ranging from being exploratory and playful to being very curious and cautious. I really enjoyed it.

Cesar Millan Is Alive and Well

Many of my readers have contacted me to tell me that Cesar Millan has died. The purpose of this short post, and I can think of no other way to get out this message, is that I am pleased to let you know that this is a hoax.

Killing 890 Wolves to Learn About Them: Something's Wrong

An "experimental" study performed under the guise of conservation involved killing 890 Canadian wolves (and other animals) using aerial gunning, trapping, and strychnine poisoning. This research and publication represents the moral failure of the Alberta government, participating universities, the Canadian Journal of Zoology, and the scientists; and it didn't work.

The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins: We Are Not Alone

A new book called "The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins" by renowned researchers Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendall is a must read. It is perfect for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses and also for a broad audience that is interested not only in whales, dolphins, and other cetaceans, but also in other animals in which culture is clearly and amply present.

Cephalopods: The Fascinating Lives of Sensitive Beings

A new book summarizes what's known about the fascinating lives of cephalopods, including octopus and cuttlefish. We learn, for example, that who some call the "two-brained" octopus engage in exploration and object play, have different personalities, demonstrate complex foraging strategies, show dynamic forms of camouflage, and may have simple forms of consciousness.

Big-Balled Males Kill Infants More than the Less Endowed

Large testicles are associated with males of a given species killing youngsters. Big-balled males kill infants more than the less endowed. A recent essay in New Scientist magazine begins, "GREAT balls of fury. Large testicles could be a giveaway sign that the males of a species are given to killing their rivals' offspring." They kill so that they can then reproduce.

"Animal Weapons" and "Why Life Matters," Two Excellent Books

Two new books deserve a wide readership. In "Animal Weapons" researcher Douglas Emlen concludes, "Weapons of mass destruction change the stakes … We're not likely to survive another arms race." In "Why Life Matters" Michael Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison provide a global view of what numerous people are doing to keep diverse ecosystems and all animals alive and thriving.

The Last Great Wild Places: Rewilding Through Photographs

A new book by world renowned photographer Thomas Mangelsen called "The Last Great Wild Places" is a most welcomed volume of awe-inspiring photographs and a reminder of just how influential we have been in destroying landscapes globally. It surely will serve to rewild ourselves and also can be a valuable lesson in anthrozoology, the study of human-animal relationships.

Wolves: Hunting Affects Stress, Reproduction, and Sociality

Hunted wolves show elevated levels of stress and reproductive hormones that influence reproduction (more multiple litters in a pack) and social organization. Wolf expert Paul Paquet notes the "resulting harm can be acute, chronic, and permanent, sometimes spanning generations.” Merely counting wolves and then deciding how to manage them is a shoddy unscientific practice.

Is Going to a Zoo Like Shopping for a Car? Musical Semen

At a recent meeting of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) many different issues were discussed, including the effects on animals being shipped around as breeding machines (musical semen), the formation of captive groups and the removal of animals for various reasons, and what zoos really do in terms of education and conservation.

Holly Bites Cesar: When You Hit a Dog There's a Price to Pay

I recently received a video of Holly, a dog, being hit -- cuffed in the neck -- by, and later biting, Cesar Millan, as he moves closer to her. It's rare to see such confrontations and I highly recommend those who want to see what happened to study this video closely. There are many lessons here in dog body language -- canid ethology -- and for respecting what a dog needs.

Animal Heroes: "Daisy to the Rescue" Celebrates Compassion

A new book about animal heroes called Daisy to the Rescue: True Stories of Daring Dogs, Paramedic Parrots, and Other Animal Heroes contains numerous stories of compassion and caring in a wide variety of animals. It is a very inspiring read and can be used to generate further studies into the study of animal consciousness and animal minds in the field of cognitive ethology.

SeaWorld Exposed: Behavioral Profiles of Captive Orcas

The information in this file of behavior profiles of captive orcas released by SeaWorld needs to be analyzed and is perfect for theses. I want to inform a wide public about these data as they are a goldmine for studying the behavioral profiles of captive orcas, many of whom are extremely aggressive and understandably go crazy in captivity. It's a study in "orcazoology."

The Emotional Lives of Cows: Ears Tell Us They're Feeling OK

A new study of the emotional lives of dairy cows shows that relaxed ear position is an indicator of positive emotions and can be used to assess an individual's well-being. We owe it to these and other animals to give them the very best lives we can. And, often, it's easy to assess what they're feeling and we must use this information on their behalf.

Killing Barred Owls to Save Spotted Owls? Problems From Hell

"There Will Be Blood" is a very important read. Its author notes, "The pressure to reach for a gun to help save one animal from another is stronger than ever. And it has triggered a conservation problem from hell." Does there really have to be blood? Some experts say "No," whereas others say "Yes." Historically conservation has been a bloody affair. But times are changing.

Rewilding: A Cultural Meme for Rehabilitating Our Hearts

My new book "Rewilding Our Hearts" calls for a personal/spiritual transformation of our relationships with all beings and their homes. In a video interview I recount how rewilding is necessary to undo the unwilding that occurs in all of our lives. Rewilding is a cultural meme and is all about rehabilitating our hearts and souls. It is about acting from the inside out.

Keeping Dogs with Special Needs Happy, Healthy, and Active

A new book called "No Walks? No Worries!" is a wonderful guide for dogs on restricted exercise. Written by Sian Ryan, who has a degree in clinical animal behavior, and Helen Zulch, a veterinarian, this book will be useful to the countless people who, from time to time, have to enrich their dog's life when she or he isn't allowed to frolic or take much exercise.

Dogs at Play: What They Do, Know, Think, and Feel

A beautifully illustrated and well referenced book called "Canine Play Behavior" by German dog trainer Mechtild Käufer is a thorough and current review of what dogs do, know, think, and feel when they play and why they do it. It also is a goldmine for future research and exposes readers to studies about which they were unaware or published in languages they cannot read.

Animals in the Media: Guidelines for Accurate Representation

Important guidelines for giving voice to the voiceless are now available. At the website "Animals and Media" you'll find a style guide for how animals should be represented in journalism, advertising, PR, and entertainment, and there are also extremely valuable resources. This website should be mandatory reading for anyone reporting about nonhuman animals. It is that good.

Rats vs. Mice in Research: Were We "More Humane" Years Ago?

Why do researchers and the federal Animal Welfare Act continue to ignore what science has told us about animal sentience? A recent research report that shows that rats and mice perform similarly in different cognitive tasks totally ignores the ethics of their use in invasive research although we know that they and other animals are highly emotional and sentient beings.

Does Your Dog Really Love You? Canine Cognition and Emotions

In this short video you will view some of the latest research on dog behavior. In this crash course you'll learn about Dr. John Pilley's renowned Border collie, Chaser, who knows the name of more than 1000 objects, Dr. Brian Hare's research on dog cognition, and Dr. Gergory Berns' use of neuroimaging to study what's going on in a dog's brain. It's a great family show.

War Dogs: Would You Send Your Dog to Fight Our Battles?

A new and well-done book by Rebecca Frankel called "War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love" tells many stories -- the ups and the downs -- of war dogs and their handlers, and supports their use to fight our battles. It is a very important and deeply troubling book that highlights our complex and paradoxical relationships with dogs and other animals.