Tag: Australia

Going To Asia? Leave Your Pets At Home, Plus: Aussie Former Soldier Pleads In Shelter Assault

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been kind to pets, but the virus itself has done little damage to animals compared to the actions of scared and misinformed people.

After finally admitting it had a human-to-human transmissible virus on its hands — months after it knew privately about the virus outbreak — the Chinese government waged a war on pets in the first few weeks of 2020 as the world watched in horror.

People abandoned pets en masse in empty homes and apartments, while government authorities shot dogs and cats on sight to prevent the spread of the virus even though there was no evidence they could be infected, much less pass the virus to people. As paranoia and misinformation spread, people even resorted to clubbing pets to death on the streets.

Now we know cats can get the virus, but there’s still no evidence they can transmit it to humans, which makes the practice of killing COVID-infected pets even more infuriating in addition to pointless.

The latest incident is from Vietnam, where authorities killed 15 dogs and a cat belonging to a local bricklayer who returned to his home province after work dried up. Authorities seized his pets and “destroyed them” last week in what a government official is now calling a mistake prompted by “COVID prevention pressure and local coercion.”

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Pham Minh Hung, 49, with his dogs as he returned home to Ca Mau, Vietnam. Credit: Pham Minh Hung

That story follows an incident in the Chinese city of Harbin, where three cats were euthanized in late September — over the owner’s objections — by authorities who said they were worried the pets would “re-infect” their owners.

Pet ownership and respect for animals among the public has increased in countries like China and Vietnam in recent years, prompted by an increase in disposable income and the influence of the internet. Both cases caused widespread backlash in their respective countries, with users defying laws prohibiting criticism of government to complain about the pet killings.

“It doesn’t seem very realistic that the cats would contaminate the environment so badly that they would be a risk for their owner to re-contract COVID,” Rachael Tarlinton, a virology professor at the UK’s University of Nottingham, told Reuters.

He REALLY Wanted His Cat Back

Meanwhile in Australia, a former soldier has pleaded guilty to reduced charges after he “stormed” a pet shelter in Melbourne’s suburbs to recover his cat in January.

Prosecutors say 45-year-old Tony Wittman was outfitted with a fake but real-looking rifle and full military gear when he went to the Lost Dog’s Home in Cranbourne West late on a January night, holding a female employee at gunpoint while demanding to know where the cats were kept.

Wittman had called the shelter 10 minutes before it closed earlier that night, Australian media reported at the time, and was told the shelter had recovered his cat, but that he’d have to wait until morning to claim her.

Wittman, who threatened to shoot the employee if she didn’t comply with his demands, told the court he suffers from PTSD and felt he needed to retrieve the lost feline immediately because he “loves his cat and relies on his cat for support.”

Wittman got spooked and left the shelter before taking his cat. He dumped his tactical vest and other gear in bushes not far from the shelter.

The incident was captured on the shelter’s security cameras, and Wittman was caught when he dropped by the following morning to pick up his cat as if nothing had happened.

“The victim and her work colleagues are absolutely traumatised by what’s happened,” a detective told the court in an earlier hearing. “He’s aware of their workplace. He lives close by. He has shown a complete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of the general public.”

Wittman’s lawyers were able to negotiate a deal with prosecutors in exchange for a guilty plea to lesser charges

Cats: The Not-So-Ultimate Spider Hunters!

As if Australia doesn’t have enough terrifying critters, there’s the Huntsman spider, a big tarantula-looking monstrosity that welcomes itself into houses.

Luke Jones, who uploaded the below video to TikTok, says it’s “not unusual” to see them hanging onto walls or poking out from behind curtains, and they “get into everything, all the linen clothes on the bed.”

In his position I’d get a hermetically sealed chamber to use as my bedroom, but Luke’s got his own solution: Let his cat take care of the problem. In the video, a woman — presumably Luke’s girlfriend or wife — hoists the couple’s pet cat up so kitty can ruthlessly earn his keep as an exterminator half-heartedly paw at the spider:

Cats are famous for “playing” with their prey, so maybe what we’re seeing is an initially curious cat getting a close look at the Huntsman before unleashing a dose of feline whoop-ass.

One thing I know for sure: If I tried to get Buddy to play exterminator with a spider that large he’d go hide underneath a table.

Cat Performs Record 26 Tricks In A Minute

“Hey Bud, c’mere!”

“I’m lounging.”

“Get your lazy ass up and come here!”

“This better be good…”

“Check it out, little dude: This cat performs 26 tricks in 60 seconds.”

“That’s a world record. Whattya think, wanna try to beat it?”

“No.”

“Aw, come on! You can already do stop, sit, high-five and fist bump. It’ll be fun. You only need to learn 23 more.”

“Sounds like a lot of work. I’m just not that ambitious, Grand Amigo.”

“Seriously? You’re gonna let some Austrian cat claim the title of world’s smartest kitty?”

“I’m sure she needs it. What else is there to do in that backwater country except drink Foster’s and punch kangaroos?”

“Austrian, not Australian.”

“That’s what I said. G’day, matey! Beautiful day to skip uni, how ’bout we throw some shrimp on the barbie and drink our non-alcoholic beer?”

“Austria. It’s a different country, you idiot.”

“Now you’re just trying to confuse me so I’ll agree to learn more tricks. I will not fall for another one of your schemes, human!”

Buddy the Cat

Cat Dies Fighting Off Venomous Snake To Protect Kids

Arthur the tabby cat made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the children of his human family.

The “adorable domestic shorthair cat was playing in the backyard with his family in their backyard, following his two little hoomans around when danger slithered right up to the young children,” Animal Emergency Services staff of Queensland, Australia, wrote in a Facebook post honoring Arthur.

Eastern brown snakes are no joke: They’re the second most-venomous snakes in the world as measured by the toxin release in their bites, and they’re responsible for 60 percent of snake bite deaths in Australia.

Brave Arthur killed the snake before the adults in the family shooed everyone inside, but he was fatally injured.

Arthur the Cat
Arthur the tabby cat saved his family from an extremely venomous snake but died from the snake’s toxic venom.

“Unfortunately, in the process, Arthur received a fatal envenomation snake bite. In the chaos of getting the children out of the yard, no-one saw the actual bite, but Arthur collapsed and quickly recovered like nothing was wrong not long after,” staff at Animal Emergency Services wrote. “Collapse events like this is a common symptom of snake bites, although not a well-known symptom amongst pet owners.

When they realized Arthur was seriously hurt, his family rushed him to the nearest animal hospital, but “Arthur’s symptoms were too severe to recover.”

Arthur’s humans, who live in Tanawha, Queensland, are “devastated” at the loss of their beloved, mischievous cat, Animal Emergency Services staff wrote. One thing’s for certain: They’ll never forget the little guy or what he did for them.

Conservationists Want Cat Owners On Their Side

Wildlife conservationists are worried, and they have a right to be.

In addition to the billions of animals we humans kill every year in our ruthless exploitation of life on this planet, our pet cats have their own separate impact, killing birds and small mammals in significant numbers.

Yet conservationists aren’t making headway with cat lovers, primarily because their approach frequently relies on shaming and drastic, often cruel proposals: Some Australian states are outright culling cats, offering $10 a head for adults and $5 for kittens, for example, while a pair of academics from the Netherlands advocate criminally prosecuting cat owners who let their pets outside combined with a policy of euthanizing millions of cats. Extremists in the US are pushing for similar measures, arguing that TNR (trap, neuter, return) isn’t an effective way of managing cat populations.

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Something has to be done, and a few smart conservationists are realizing the accusatory, Richard Dawkins-style of engaging “the enemy” just causes people to withdraw, not to listen and cooperate.

“I get quite sick of the conflict focus of some conservation biologists,” Wayne Linklater, chairman of the environmental studies department at California State, tells New Scientist. “The solutions lie with the people who care most about cats, not with the people who don’t care about them.”

Great. Now there are a few things conservationists should know as they engage with people who care for cats:

  • Most of us want what you want: We want cat owners to keep their pets inside. Cats aren’t wild animals. They have no “natural habitat” and contrary to misconceptions, they don’t belong outside. They’re not equipped to provide for themselves, and they face dangers from traffic, predators like coyotes and mountain lions, fights with other cats, and perverse humans who kill and torture them for fun. Strays and ferals live short, brutal lives (living to an average of 3.5 years) while indoor cats live 17 years on average. The “cats belong inside” angle is common ground from which to start a dialogue.
  • Stop repeating bunk studies as fact! The idea that cats are an all-consuming plague on wildlife came about as a result of a handful of studies, yet all but the most recent of them are based on old data and manipulated numbers compiled by people with an agenda. One of the earliest studies, which claimed cats kill up to 3.7 billion birds and 20.7 billion mammals annually, relies so heavily on invented numbers and massaged data that it’s worthless and outright dangerous to informed discourse on the topic, yet it’s repeated as fact by credulous conservationists and the press. Knowing the true scope of the problem is key to understanding whether mitigation efforts really work. Misinformation only sabotages those efforts.
  • Come get your people: Peter Marra is one of the co-authors of the bunk 2013 Nature Communications study with the above oft-cited numbers, and he’s also the author of the shrill Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer. Marra is an advocate of using taxpayer money to kill millions of cats. He also says that anyone who questions his claims about cats — a group that includes major animal rescues, welfare organizations, and many academics — is tantamount to climate change deniers and tobacco companies that denied for decades that cigarettes have a negative effect on health. Marra’s major contributions amount to sowing misinformation, polarizing the issue and inflaming opinions on both sides. Everything about his behavior indicates he wants to sell books and promote himself, not save wildlife from predatory domestic cats. He should not be taken seriously and his research should not be reported as fact.

Cat lovers are, by definition, animal lovers. They’re people who care about wildlife and domestic animal welfare. It shouldn’t be difficult to engage with them.

At the same time, cat advocates need to purge the crazies out of their ranks as well. Sending death threats to scientists (see the New Scientist link up top) is way out of order, it’s inhuman behavior and it only hurts the legitimacy of our cause.

A good first step toward reconciliation could involve enlisting cat owners in an effort to properly study feline impact on small wildlife, producing reliable data to facilitate a measured, fact-based approach that doesn’t begin and end with the notion that cats are hellspawn.
If all sides engage in good faith, there’s no reason why we can’t protect wildlife and cats.

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