Rats Like Tickling: Why Is the Animal Welfare Act So Lame?

New research shows the benefits of tickling rats before rather than after they are subjected to pain, that pigs display empathy, and much more. We've known that rats, mice, and many other animals display empathy and are highly emotional and sentient beings, so why does invasive research continue and why does the federal Animal Welfare Act ignore research on these animals?

Is Sandra Orangutan a Person and More Free? No, She Is Not.

The personhood case of Sandra Orangutan, who still languishes in the Buenos Aires Zoo, remains a mystery. She is still in the zoo, no one seems to know if and when she will go to a sanctuary, the action taken on her behalf doesn't mean that the zoo has to release her to a sanctuary, and her status under Argentine law really hasn't changed. Good luck and many blessings.

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun: Birds, Fish, and Reptiles Too

A recent issue of Current Biology is devoted to the biology of fun and covers animals including dogs and other mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and invertebrates. The online essays are free, and I highly recommend reading them to learn what we know about the emotional lives of animals and why having fun has evolved. It's a no-brainer, many animals simply love to have fun.

The Cow's Nose Shows How They're Feeling About Life

New research shows that nasal temperature in dairy cows is affected by positive emotional states. Specifically, researchers have discovered that a drop in nasal temperature is associated with a more positive emotional state induced by stroking the cows. We owe it to cows and others to give them the very best lives we can and it's easy to assess what they're feeling.

I'm Glad I'm Not Sarah Palin's Dog: Dogs Aren't Stools

Sarah Palin: "Chill. At least Trig didn't eat the dog." Rather than making heartless comments about her son, Trig, using their family dog, Jill, as a stepping stool, Ms. Palin could have provided valuable lessons in humane education concerning the importance of respect for other animals.

The Jane Effect: A New Book Celebrating Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall has had a significant impact on the lives of innumerable people and other animals. This new book contains essays about Dr. Goodall as friend, colleague, partner, professor, naturalist, exemplar, visionary, and inspiration, written by researchers and many others whose lives she has touched. It was conceived as a gift to celebrate her 80th birthday.

Let's Make Compassion and Rewilding All the Rage in 2015

An "old" book, two new books, and a growing international movement all call for compassion and rewilding revolutions. It's about time to make compassion rock, as a young student once told me, so let's all do something as a unified community to foster global compassion for all animals, human and nonhuman, and their homes. And, then, let's be creative and do even more.

Sandra Orangutan and Personhood: An Essential Clarification

Worldwide media about granting personhood and rights to Sandra Orangutan needs closer scrutiny. Here, attorney Steven Wise, who heads the Nonhuman Rights Project, provides an essential clarification.

Sandra Orangutan Declared a Person With a Right to Freedom

An Argentine court has ruled that the Buenos Aires zoo has to release Sandra, an orangutan, to a sanctuary, because that she has suffered "unjustified confinement of an animal with proven cognitive ability" and "should be recognized as a person with a right to freedom." Let's hope this decision paves the way for future success for many other animals in other countries.

Do Cows Moo "Get me the Hell out of Here" on Factory Farms?

New research on "cow talk" shows that mothers and young share important messages using various types of moos. I hope this landmark research will be used to learn more about what cows and other food animals are saying and feeling as they're "processed" on the way to human forks, knives, spoons, and plates. This is not a happy time for them nor for their family or friends.

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

Cesar Millan gets bitten as he moves into Holly's space after repeated warnings by Holly not to do so. This is an excellent lesson in dog/canid ethology.

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.