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Weekly News Roundup 11/6 to 11/12

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Of mice and men: Could COVID spell the end of animal testing?  

A menagerie of genetically engineered mice, rats, macaque monkeys, rats, ferrets, hamsters, dogs, and even horses have been enlisted in the race to find drugs and vaccines to thwart SARS-CoV-2, the infectious agent responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. Grim statistics lend urgency to this marathon, with the World Health Organization reporting more than 1 million global deaths and well over 30 million confirmed cases. Governments, in attempts to calm a frustrated and frightened populace, speak optimistically about pending new treatments and vaccines. But some scientists and medical professionals are crying foul. The animals who are being used as laboratory test subjects in the search for COVID-19 therapeutics might be hindering, rather than helping, the race, they say. . . . more

Dog walkers are returning to work, and it’s been a joyous—but cautious—reunion

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been a difficult year for dog walkers everywhere; indeed, it’s been a difficult year for just about all workers whose livelihoods depend on other people leaving the house to go to work. Newly home-bound dog owners began walking their own pets during the day and effectively hobbled the entire industry. But as parts of Washington, DC, have reopened, dog walkers are reappearing on the city’s sidewalks and walking trails. Reunions between human and canine have been joyous—and the business has changed in ways that have forced both participants to adjust. . . . more

Flies for dinner: Purina to offer bug-based dog and cat food

In a move to more ecofriendly protein sources, Nestlé Purina Petcare is offering pet owners in Switzerland a new type of kibble for Fluffy and Fido. The secret ingredient? Black soldier fly larvae. Their Beyond Nature’s Protein line launches in Switzerland’s Coop stores this month, with plans to expand to other European markets. One option uses chicken, fava beans, and fly larvae protein. The other uses pig’s liver, millet, and chicken. Nestlé’s Purina brand is embracing what the company views as a growing trend among consumers seeking protein alternatives for their cats and dogs, say company representatives. A desire to be more environmentally conscious drives the consumer change, as does a perceived health benefit from a diet that substitutes meat. Purina also plans to offer US consumers an insect-based dry dog formula in January online, a Purina spokeswoman said. It will be rolled out along with several other formulas using protein alternatives, like the invasive Asian carp, she said. . . . more

COVID infections in animals prompt scientific concern

The now-retracted order this week by the Danish government to kill millions of mink because of coronavirus concerns has put the spotlight on simmering worries among scientists and conservationists about the vulnerability of animals to the pandemic virus, and what infections among animals could mean for humans. The most disturbing possibility is that the virus could mutate in animals and become more transmissible or more dangerous to humans. In Denmark, the virus has shifted from humans to minks and back to humans, and has mutated in the process. Minks are the only animals known to have passed the coronavirus to humans, except for the initial spillover event from an unknown species. Other animals, like cats and dogs, have been infected by exposure to humans, but there are no known cases of people being infected by exposure to their pets. . . . more

Joy over first White House shelter dog reflects growing embrace of rescue pets

Major the German shepherd spent his puppyhood in an animal shelter. In January, he’ll move into the White House. After four years without a presidential pet at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, dogs are coming back. Major, whom President-Elect Biden and his wife Jill Biden adopted from the Delaware Humane Association three years ago, will be the first shelter dog ever to live in the White House. With him will be 12-year-old Champ, the Bidens’ other German shepherd. This news has been met with elation on social media, reflecting a growing embrace by Americans of shelter dogs—more than 1.6 million dogs were adopted last year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. . . . more

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