Category Archives: Furry Friends
Animal Abuse Registry: Suffolk County, NY Creating Nation''''s First Public Database Tracking Animal Cruelty Offenders
By FRANK ELTMAN
FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. — You””ve heard of Megan””s Laws, designed to keep sex offenders from striking again. Now there””s a law created in the hope of preventing animal abusers from inflicting more cruelty – or moving on to human victims.
Suffolk County, on the eastern half of Long Island, moved to create the nation””s first animal abuse registry this week, requiring people convicted of cruelty to animals to register or face jail time and fines.
“We know there is a very strong correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence,” said Suffolk County legislator Jon Cooper, the bill””s sponsor. “Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals, so in a strange sense we could end up protecting the lives of people.”
The online list will be open to the public, so that pet owners or the merely curious can find out whether someone living near them is on it. Some animal abusers have been known to steal their neighbors”” pets.
Cooper is also pushing legislation that would bar anyone on the registry from buying or adopting a pet from a shelter, pet shop or breeder.
The law was prompted by a number of animal abuse cases in recent months, including that of a Selden woman accused of forcing her children to watch her torture and kill kittens and dozens of dogs, then burying the pets in her backyard.
Animal welfare activists hope the law, passed unanimously Tuesday in the suburban New York City county of 1.5 million people, will inspire governments nationwide in the same way Megan””s Law registries for child molesters have proliferated in the past decade.
A spokesman for county Executive Steve Levy said he intends to sign the legislation. It then requires a six-month review by state officials before it goes on the books, said the spokesman, Dan Aug.
As Fred Surbito took his Yorkshire terrier, Sasha, in for grooming at a Farmingville pet store this week, he applauded the legislation.
“It””s very, very important,” he said. “If you don””t love an animal, you should not have an animal. An animal is part of your family. Like your children, they should never be neglected or harmed. Anybody that does should never own a pet again.”
More than a dozen states have introduced legislation to establish similar registries, but Suffolk County is the first government entity to pass such a law, said Stephan Otto, director of legislative affairs for the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will administer the database, to be funded by a $50 fee paid by convicted abusers. All abusers 18 or older must supply authorities with their address, a head-and-shoulders photograph and any aliases. Convicted abusers will remain on the registry for five years. Those failing to register face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
After the 2009 arrest of Sharon McDonough, accused of burying kittens and as many as 42 dogs in her yard, neighbors whose pets had disappeared feared the worst. But authorities later concluded that McDonough – who is expected in court this month and could get up to two years in prison if convicted – bought the animals or adopted them through shelters or other traditional outlets.
While some abuse is motivated purely by cruelty, Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross said, some recent cases are linked to the poor economy.
For instance, an emaciated Doberman mix was recently found near death inside a foreclosed-on home, he said. And sometimes, pet rescuer Cathy Mulnard said, elderly people on fixed incomes must decide between eating, or feeding their pets.
“They don””t mean to be bad to the animal, but they get overwhelmed and don””t know how to ask for help. They may be innocent abusers,” said Mulnard, a founder and co-director of Second Chance Rescue, a Suffolk animal shelter that works closely with the SPCA.
Mulnard called the legislation “a godsend for the animals.”
“We take care of our animals and love our animals the way you do your children,” she said. “We need to protect every animal that””s out there because they don””t make the decisions in their life; human beings do.”
Associated Press researcher Monika Mathur in New York contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS that the waiting period for the law to go into effect is 180 days, not 30 days.)
This limestone feline is among some 600 cat statues from a newfound temple dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet. The ancient temple was recently discovered under the streets of modern-day Alexandria, Egypt.
Egyptian archaeologists who found the temple say it was built by Queen Berenike II, wife of Greek King Ptolemy III, who ruled Egypt from 246 to 221 B.C.
“This is one of the most important discoveries in Alexandria in the last hundred years,” said Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of antiquities of Lower Egypt for the Supreme Council of Antiquities and lead archaeologist for the find.
—Andrew Bossone in Cairo
Published January 21, 2010
It’s fair to assume that if a pit bull and a cat are engaged in battle, the pit bull’s going to have the upper hand. But what if that cat is on a Roomba vacuum? And what if that pit bull is wearing a really dorky sweater? Looks like the playing field just got evened.
BlueMatter, a new algorithm created in collaboration with Stanford University, exploits the Blue Gene supercomputing architecture in order to noninvasively measure and map the connections between all cortical and sub-cortical locations within the human brain using magnetic resonance diffusion weighted imaging. Mapping the wiring diagram of the brain is crucial to untangling its vast communication network and understanding how it represents and processes information. (Credit: Image courtesy of IBM)
IBM has announced significant progress toward creating a computer system that simulates and emulates the brain’s abilities for sensation, perception, action, interaction and cognition, while rivaling the brain’s low power and energy consumption and compact size.
The cognitive computing team, led by IBM Research, has achieved significant advances in large-scale cortical simulation and a new algorithm that synthesizes neurological data — two major milestones that indicate the feasibility of building a cognitive computing chip.
Scientists, at IBM Research-Almaden, in collaboration with colleagues from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, have performed the first near real-time cortical simulation of the brain that exceeds the scale of a cat cortex and contains 1 billion spiking neurons and 10 trillion individual learning synapses. The announcement was made at SC 09, the supercomputing conference, being held in Portland, Oregon.
Additionally, in collaboration with researchers from Stanford University, IBM scientists have developed an algorithm that exploits the Blue Gene® supercomputing architecture in order to noninvasively measure and map the connections between all cortical and sub-cortical locations within the human brain using magnetic resonance diffusion weighted imaging. Mapping the wiring diagram of the brain is crucial to untangling its vast communication network and understanding how it represents and processes information.
These advancements will provide a unique workbench for exploring the computational dynamics of the brain, and stand to move the team closer to its goal of building a compact, low-power synaptronic chip using nanotechnology and advances in phase change memory and magnetic tunnel junctions. The team’s work stands to break the mold of conventional von Neumann computing, in order to meet the system requirements of the instrumented and interconnected world of tomorrow.
As the amount of digital data that we create continues to grow massively and the world becomes more instrumented and interconnected, there is a need for new kinds of computing systems — imbued with a new intelligence that can spot hard-to-find patterns in vastly varied kinds of data, both digital and sensory; analyze and integrate information real-time in a context-dependent way; and deal with the ambiguity found in complex, real-world environments.
Businesses will simultaneously need to monitor, prioritize, adapt and make rapid decisions based on ever-growing streams of critical data and information. A cognitive computer could quickly and accurately put together the disparate pieces of this complex puzzle, while taking into account context and previous experience, to help business decision makers come to a logical response.
“Learning from the brain is an attractive way to overcome power and density challenges faced in computing today,” said Josephine Cheng, IBM Fellow and lab director of IBM Research — Almaden. “As the digital and physical worlds continue to merge and computing becomes more embedded in the fabric of our daily lives, it’s imperative that we create a more intelligent computing system that can help us make sense the vast amount of information that’s increasingly available to us, much the way our brains can quickly interpret and act on complex tasks.”
To perform the first near real-time cortical simulation of the brain that exceed the scale of the cat cortex, the team built a cortical simulator that incorporates a number of innovations in computation, memory, and communication as well as sophisticated biological details from neurophysiology and neuroanatomy. This scientific tool, akin to a linear accelerator or an electron microscope, is a critical instrument used to test hypotheses of brain structure, dynamics and function. The simulation was performed using the cortical simulator on Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s Dawn Blue Gene/P supercomputer with 147,456 CPUs and 144 terabytes of main memory.
The algorithm, when combined with the cortical simulator, allows scientists to experiment with various mathematical hypotheses of brain function and structure of how structure affects function as they work toward discovering the brain’s core computational micro and macro circuits.
After the successful completion of Phase 0, IBM and its university partners were recently awarded $16.1Min additional funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for Phase 1 of DARPA’s Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) initiative. This phase of research will focus on the components, brain-like architecture and simulations to build a prototype chip. The long-term mission of IBM’s cognitive computing initiative is to discover and demonstrate the algorithms of the brain and deliver low-power, compact cognitive computers that approach mammalian-scale intelligence and use significantly less energy than today’s computing systems. The world-class team includes researchers from several of IBM’s worldwide research labs and scientists from Stanford University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornell University, Columbia University Medical Center and University of California- Merced.
“The goal of the SyNAPSE program is to create new electronics hardware and architecture that can understand, adapt and respond to an informative environment in ways that extend traditional computation to include fundamentally different capabilities found in biological brains,” said DARPA program manager Todd Hylton, Ph.D.
Modern computing is based on a stored program model, which has traditionally been implemented in digital, synchronous, serial, centralized, fast, hardwired, general-purpose circuits with explicit memory addressing that indiscriminately over-write data and impose a dichotomy between computation and data. In stark contrast, cognitive computing — like the brain — will use replicated computational units, neurons and synapses that are implemented in mixed-mode analog-digital, asynchronous, parallel, distributed, slow, reconfigurable, specialized and fault-tolerant biological substrates with implicit memory addressing that only update state when information changes, blurring the boundary between computation and data.
For more information about IBM Research, please visit www.ibm.com/research.
Technical insight and more details on the SyNAPSE project and recent milestones can also be found on the Cognitive Computing blog at http://modha.org/.
Adapted from materials provided by IBM.
Officials Say Male Cat in Iowa is First to Catch H1N1
By LAUREN COX
An unidentified male cat in Iowa is believed to be the first in the nation diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, sparking concerns that pets may transmit the swine flu or that frightened pet owners may abandon their cats in droves.
The 13-year-old, mixed-breed cat showed the symptoms of lethargy, sneezing and coughing typical to sick cats. He was brought last week to Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where it was confirmed he had the H1N1 virus.
Veterinarians refused to release his identity and would not divulge the coat color or any other identifying characteristics to protect client-veterinarian privacy. One veterinarian who treated the cat, Brett Sponseller, said two people in the cat’s Iowa home had flu-like symptoms before he became ill.
Officials at the Iowa Department of Public Health released the unnamed cat’s diagnosis Wednesday.
“In this particular instance, the cat was treated for its dehydration with fluid therapy and also treated with antibiotics upon the results of testing,” said Albert Jergens, professor of internal medicine at Iowa State University.
“The cat has been on therapy now for approximately seven days,” he said. “I think the prognosis on this cat for a full recovery is excellent.”
This is the first known transmission of influenza from a person to a cat, an expert at the Centers for Disease and Control told ABC News senior medical editor Dr. Richard Besser.
The expert, Dr. Carolyn Bridges, who is the associate director of Science in Influenza at the CDC in Atlanta, said flu viruses tend to stick to one species or another but the case of the Iowa cat shows the ability of the flu to cross species.
In light of the news, some veterinarians are worried about the well-being of other cats across the nation; whether the cats contract the H1N1 virus.
“This could be a thing that just fizzles out but it also has the potential for huge impact,” said Tony Johnson, a clinical assistant professor at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. “We have these little fuzzy things living in our house that could be vectors for nasty diseases.”
Johnson isn’t so worried that cats will spread the flu to humans: “Most influenza viruses are not going to kill you,” he said.
Rather, he worries cat owners might abandon their animals at the first sign of a sniffle.
“I think that’s what’s going to wig people out,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to see the shelters filled with cats and dogs tomorrow.”
Veterinarians have long heard of the flu jumping from animals to humans, and some cases of pets to humans. But it’s uncommon for a flu virus to jump from a human to a cat.
The Honda Element would seem to be a fine choice for anyone with an active lifestyle that wants a vehicle that’s able to haul a ton of stuff while getting reasonable fuel economy and not breaking the piggy bank. Now – if you’ll forgive us for regurgitating this very tired joke – it’s gone to the dogs.
Starting on November 16, Honda will begin selling a “Dog Friendly” version of the Element for an extra $995 with a “pet accommodation system designed to improve safety, comfort and convenience for dogs and their owners alike.” Out back, a nylon-webbed car kennel is intended to be a secure place to keep your precious pooch, and a soft floor and dedicated fan keep Fido comfy. To ease ingress and egress, an integrated ramp is also included.
For the 2010 model year, pricing for the Honda Element 2WD LX model starts at $20,525, and a fully-loaded 4WD EX with navigation will peg the meter at a fair $25,585. All Elements come with the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission. Two-wheel drive models garner EPA ratings of 20 mpg city and 25 highway; adding 4WD drops each of those figures by one. Want to know more? Hit the jump for the official press release.
Maine Coon kitten photo by John Berg
Officials in San Francisco are considering a citywide ban on the practice of declawing cats. In August, San Francisco Board Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, introduced legislation banning the practice of declawing in the city and county of San Francisco unless deemed medically necessary. Another California town, West Hollywood, passed similar legislation banning the procedure unless medically necessary.
Declawing cats has been a common practice for years. The surgical procedure, called onychectomy, is usually performed for cosmetic and convenience reasons. The procedure involves the removal of the claw and digital amputation of the last bone in the cat’s paw. The removal of the flexor tendon, tendonectomy, is also included in the proposed ban.
The proposed ordinance would amend the San Francisco Health Code. Section 45 states that the declawing procedure involves “ten, separate, painful amputations.” According to the proposed ordinance, the procedure is similar to having our fingers cut off at the last joint, “the last bone of each toe is amputated, including the claw, bone, joint capsule, nerves, collateral ligaments and extensor and flexor tendons – all critical for normal paw functioning.”
Many cats suffer physical and emotional pain due to the procedure. Some suffer lameness and others exhibit behavioral problems that can last for life. 25 countries around the world have banned the procedure.
While many consider the practice cruel, barbaric and inhumane, some argue the proposed legislation may result in more cats being abandoned due to damage to belongings from scratching, ultimately resulting in more felines being euthanized. Although the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SFSPCA) opposes the declawing procedure, the organization is opposing the ban on the grounds that politicians should not regulate medical procedures and for the reasons cited above.
If the ban passes, anyone found guilty of performing, assisting or ordering the procedure, faces imprisonment up to six months in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.