Weekly News Roundup 9/7–9/13


Teaching a dog to fetch owl vomit in the name of science

Zorro, a 19-week-old border collie and English springer spaniel mix, is being trained to sniff out owl pellets—large, stinky balls of bone and fur that owls regurgitate—as part of a study to learn more about one of Australia's largest and most elusive birds, the Tasmanian masked owl. Just how many of the endangered owls are left is a mystery—it’s estimated that fewer than 1,000 are living in Tasmanian forests, but a recent field survey found just 30 birds. The researchers hope Zorro will give them a true sense of population numbers. The pellets stink because they contain the regurgitated remains of prey that the owls eat, such as possums, rabbits, and rats. The pellets may sound disgusting, but Zorro likes the smell so much that his trainer has to stop the dog from trying to eat them. Scientists say the pellets Zorro finds will show them what the owls have been eating, while DNA testing could identity individual owls so scientists can figure out how many are living in the wild.

Lincoln Memorial University offers dual-degree veterinary program

Lincoln Memorial University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (LMUCVM) is now offering students an opportunity to earn a Master of Science in Veterinary Biomedical Science (MS-VBS). Those enrolled in the MS-VBS program will be fully integrated with first-year students and will be able to take specific professional courses that are facilitated by LMUCVM. “With only 30 colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States, admission is very competitive, and therefore, it is essential that students acquire as much knowledge as they can throughout their undergraduate and graduate studies,” said Holly Napier, MBA, director of Student Services and Admissions at LMUCVM. “Our program is specifically designed for students seeking advanced study in the veterinary biomedical sciences, to prepare them for admission into a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.”

Wanted: Reliable, responsible person with heart of gold to handle feral and unsociable cats in Mediterranean paradise

When Joan Bowell, founder of God’s Little People Cat Rescue, posted a job opening for a cat sitter on the shelter’s Facebook page last month, the ad went viral, generating more than 35,000 applications. Not surprising, given that the job comes with a small house on a beautiful Mediterranean island, a car, all expenses paid, and a salary of $590 per month. “We couldn’t have imagined this kind of response,” said Bowell. (Really???) Among the applicants is a self-described “catman” from Australia with cat-whispering superpowers, and a woman from Indonesia who wins the prize for the shortest-ever application: “Want job. Please call.” Here’s an update on the job search

Three-year study at University of Tennessee aims to increase access to veterinary care

The University of Tennessee’s (UT) College of Social Work Program for Pet Health Equity has received a $2.8 million grant from Maddie’s Fund to support research and development of the AlignCare “One Health” model, a healthcare system designed to improve access to veterinary care for underserved families. The three-year AlignCare study involves researchers from UT’s social work, business, veterinary, and public health schools. AlignCare’s One Health approach recognizes that access to veterinary care for underserved families requires different types of professionals to work together. Medical treatment for pets is one aspect of this model, but a family’s financial reality and other factors that prevent adequate veterinary care must also be addressed.

Dog walking wars

Wag and Rover are two of the newest and largest players in the booming pet industry, each with more than $300 million in venture capital funding. Both companies are digital marketplaces where pet owners can find dog walkers, pet sitters, and boarders via an app, with most services ranging from about $20 to $50. Wag is often referred to as “Uber for dogs,” since it assigns on-demand walkers and sitters, similar to the way Uber’s algorithm assigns drivers. Rover has earned the nickname “DogBnb,” as users can sift through hundreds of available workers who set their own prices. Wag and Rover are fighting each other for dominance while simultaneously embroiled in a different, messier kind of feud—one with pet owners themselves. Plenty of users praise the startups for their convenience, but many are also speaking out with allegations of negligence and empty guarantees