Weekly News Roundup 11/2–11/8


New California law: Talking pot with pet owners is OK

California will be the first state in which veterinarians are legally allowed to talk to clients about cannabis use for pets, but they will not be allowed to dispense or administer cannabis-based products. The legislation, signed by Governor Jerry Brown in late September, goes into effect on January 1, 2019, and prevents state regulators from penalizing a veterinarian for discussing the therapeutic use of cannabis in animals. Because the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled drug, most veterinarians have historically taken the stance that they should not discuss the drug’s possible medical uses with pet owners. California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) members were vocal about their support for the bill throughout the voting process. “It’s what’s best for animals, it’s what’s best for clients, and certainly, it’s what’s best for the veterinarians, because they’re the professionals,” said Valerie Fenstermaker, executive director of the CVMA.

Controversial dog testing at VA moving ahead

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is pushing forward with invasive and ultimately fatal experiments on dogs as part of the VA’s medical research program. The controversial procedures previously sparked outrage and opposition from some veterans’ advocates and prompted strict restrictions from Congress. In Milwaukee, the experiments call for researchers to remove sections of dogs’ brains to test neurons that control breathing before the animals are killed by lethal injection. In Cleveland, tests involve using electrodes on dogs’ spinal cords to measure cough reflexes before and after severing the cords. VA officials defend the research, saying it could lead to discoveries that may help veterans with heart conditions or breathing problems related to spinal cord injuries, and point out that more than 99% of the agency’s studies involve rats or mice, not dogs.

Cat tourism

Faced with a lack of jobs and an aging population of just 200 people—not to mention hundreds of stray cats—the tiny island of Hujing off the coast of Taiwan took an unlikely gamble: Use the stray cats to try and lure in tourists. Today, Hujing is actively pouring funds into turning the island into a cat-centric tourist attraction by making cat-themed items to sell to tourists while inviting artists to the island to create cat-themed public art. And maybe it’s not that much of a gamble—it turns out that cat tourism is a small but thriving industry, and Houtong, a village on Taiwan’s north coast, has proven that the concept can work: Locals began posting photos of their stray cats online a few years ago, and Houtong now draws nearly one million visitors a year, according to Taiwan’s annual visitor count, and is regularly listed as one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions.

Here’s how you can help former racing dogs who need to be adopted in Florida

An amendment to the Florida state constitution will outlaw greyhound racing by the year 2020, leading to thousands of animals needing homes. Amendment 13 passed 69–31 on Tuesday night as part of the congressional elections, easily beating the 60% threshold needed to turn it into law. Now, groups are working tirelessly to ensure racing dogs are able to find forever homes by the time the law takes effect. Florida is the nation’s biggest hotbed for greyhound racing, housing 11 of the country’s 17 remaining tracks, and there are an estimated 8,000 active racing dogs in the state, as well as another 7,000 currently in training. These animals won’t all be released at once, as racetracks will wind down operations over the next year, but the massive influx of animals needing to be adopted will take a coordinated effort to ensure none are neglected in the shift. Learn more about the effort and find links to adoption resources here.

New investment fund is aimed at animal-loving investors

A new investment fund that invests in pet-related companies—everything from pet food to veterinary services—is taking aim at Americans’ growing obsession with their pets. Americans spent about $70 billion on their pets last year, and the ProShares Pet Care fund, which began trading this week under the ticker symbol PAWZ, hopes to attract investors who want to bet on the growing sector. The pet industry is not only booming in the US, says ProShares Managing Director Steve Cohen, but it’s been expanding at twice the rate of the gross domestic product since the Great Recession. “95% of pet owners consider pets as part of their family,” Cohen noted. “[We] focus on what [we] eat, whether that’s eating healthier ingredients, like organic or grain-free foods, and we’re doing the same thing for our pets.” Those trends are at the heart of the new fund, Cohen said. The fund invests in 24 stocks tracked in the FactSet Pet Care Index, which includes large companies such as Nestlé—maker of pet foods such as Purina—and smaller businesses such as Pets at Home, a United Kingdom–based pet supply retailer. It could be a trend—ProShares is the second such animal-centric investment fund to launch this year.