My Pet World: A roundup of recent animal news

Pit bulls are not the problem, people are

Some people might be surprised at the results of a new Associated Press poll on public perceptions of various dog breeds. It turns out that the majority of American pet owners believe a well-trained dog is safe, even if the dog is a pit bull or another "bully breed."

Some breeds, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers, are considered truly dangerous by 28% of American pet owners, the poll found. The majority of those questioned, 71%, said any breed can be safe if dogs are well trained.

Sixty percent of pet owners feel that all dog breeds should be allowed in residential communities, while 38% believe some breeds should be banned, according to the poll, conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications.

Denver and Miami-Dade County in Florida have pit bull bans, as do other communities around America. The U.S. military has banned some breeds from on-base housing.

Of pet owners participating in the poll who support breed bans, 85% would bar pit bulls. Other breeds considered too dangerous were Rottweilers, Dobermans, German shepherds and chow chows. Seven percent said any violent, vicious, or fighting dog should be banned, and two percent said all large dogs should be outlawed.

Asked specifically about pit bulls, 53% of those polled said they were safe for residential neighborhoods, but 43% said they were too dangerous.

Interestingly, age played a major role in the pit bull questions: 76% of those younger than 30 said pit bulls were safe, compared with just 37% of seniors.


Not so special delivery

A Minneapolis postal worker might have thought she was on a TV sitcom when a package moved by itself and fell to the floor. Then came the sounds of heavy panting. Within minutes, the woman and co-workers unwrapped a tightly sealed box and rescued a 4-month-old schnauzer-poodle puppy that a Minneapolis woman actually tried to mail to Georgia.

The air holes the sender punched in the box were covered with mailing tape, and the priority mail trip would have taken at least two days. If the puppy didn't suffocate, it would have died as a result of traveling in the cargo hold of an airplane, where temperatures fall to around 40 below zero at an altitude of 40,000 feet.

Stacey Champion paid $22 to send the puppy, named Guess, to Georgia via priority mail. Champion reportedly cautioned postal workers to "be careful" as they handled the box because "it was so delicate."

On the outside of the package, Champion wrote: "This is for your 11th birthday. It's what you wanted."

She told the postal clerk that if sounds came from the package, not to worry, as it just contained a toy robot.

When the box began moving and making noise, workers called a postal inspector — the Postal Service's enforcement arm — and received permission to open the package. Once unwrapped, Guess seemed to be OK but drank a great deal of water.

Champion was charged with two animal cruelty offenses. She wanted the puppy back but that won't happen. When handing down his decision, Minneapolis Administrative Hearing Officer Fabian Hoffner called Champion's actions "disgraceful. You cannot tell me you thought you were doing the right thing," he commented.


Feline water diet

More than half of all indoor-only cats in the U.S. are overweight. According to research conducted by Waltham Pet Nutrition in the United Kingdom, it turns out that neutered cats are more likely to gain weight, and also that cats tend to be heavier when food is left out 24/7. Also, one of the best deterrents for weight gain is water. Cats who've had water added to their diets are less likely to gain weight.

None of this is surprising. What's really interesting is that, according to the research, increased water intake seems to also boost activity level. Of course, more activity also enhances metabolism, which inhibits gaining weight.

"We don't know why more water increases activity level, except for going to the litter box more, I suppose," says Ralph Merrill, scientific communications executive at Waltham Pet Nutrition, Melton Mowbray, England. Water is important for cats for other reasons, potentially inhibiting the onset of kidney disease and decreasing the potential of developing bladder stones.


Rooster kicks back

While attending an illegal cockfight in Kern County, Jose Luis Ochoa was stabbed to death by one of his roosters. Somehow, a blade became attached to one of the fighting roosters. Ochoa's right calf was severely cut, and he died before help arrived. The victim had previously been fined $370 for his involvement in a cockfighting ring.

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