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Weekly News Roundup 12/24 to 12/31

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FDA alert: Certain lots of Sportmix pet food recalled for potentially fatal levels of aflatoxin

The US Food and Drug Administration, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, is investigating certain Sportmix pet food products manufactured by Midwestern Pet Food that may contain potentially fatal levels of aflatoxin. The agency is aware FDA is aware of at least 28 deaths and 8 illnesses in dogs that ate the recalled product. . . . more

Exotic animal cafés featuring otters, lizards and owls raise alarms

Coffee shops where patrons can cuddle with a cat or pet a dog have sprung up in cities around the world in recent years. But some venues have gone beyond typical domesticated pets: during a visit to Japan, Sharne McMillan heard about otter cafés. She happened to be researching a rare Eurasian otter population for her PhD at the University of Hong Kong, and her interest was piqued, so she investigated further. She found that babies of a different species than she studied, Asian small-clawed otters, could be bottle-fed or walked on leashes at some cafés, while adult otters might be available to play with or feed. . . . more

Survival of the thickest: Big brains make mammal populations less dense

Mammals with big brains tend to be less abundant in local areas than those with smaller brains, new research has shown. The University of Reading in England led an international team of scientists in considering the effect of brain size for the first time in studying why populations densities of land mammals like mice, monkeys, kangaroos, and foxes vary so widely in local areas, even among similar creatures. Using statistical models to test different scenarios for hundreds of species, they found an overall trend of mammals with larger brains occurring at lower densities. Where different species had similar diets and body masses, brain size was found to be the deciding factor. . . . more

Track owners and animal shelters prepare for the end of dog racing in Florida

The gates open and long legs stretch onto a dirt track. The greyhounds sprint at over 40 mph toward the robotic rabbit leading the pack, desperate to be the first to reach it. After decades of dog racing at tracks across the state, they will stop chasing come January 1. That’s when Amendment 13 takes effect in Florida. Passed with 69% of the vote in a statewide election in 2018, the amendment to the state constitution prohibits wagering on live dog races held in Florida and will ultimately force the closure of 11 racetracks. Dog racing is now illegal in 41 states. . . . more

First year of pet ownership is hardest, survey finds

It takes three months and 23 days to finally get the hang of things with a new pet, according to a new study. The survey of 2,000 US dog and cat owners had been launched to investigate the highs and lows of pet ownership in the first year. Eight in 10 respondents said the first year of pet ownership is the most important, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy—results found that 64% of respondents believe the first year is also the most difficult. One of the highs, according to the survey: 73% said they bonded more with their pet in the first year than in any other, and that was especially true for respondents who adopted a puppy or a kitten (79%). For those who adopted a puppy or a kitten, they were also the most likely to say they were “very prepared” for their new family member to arrive (43%). . . . more

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