Why is Florida Forcing Dogs to Race?

Did you know that our state is home to 12 dog racing tracks? That’s more than any other state in the nation, and you won’t believe why.

Florida law forces some businesses to operate Greyhound tracks if they want to offer other forms of gambling—even in cases where Greyhound racing is causing these businesses to lose money!

This strange rule doesn’t make economic sense and inflicts terrible, unnecessary cruelty on the dogs forced to race.

Once this rule is eliminated through a process called decoupling, thousands of dogs will be freed from constant confinement and suffering.

What You Can Do

We have no time to lose: Florida’s legislative session ends soon. Please visit the visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center now to contact your state representative and senator in Tallahassee and urge them to support a decoupling measure and require Greyhound injuries to be reported to the public.

Thank you, Florida.

Take Action for Greyhounds Now »

Dogs Tap Into Human Bonding System to get Close to our Hearts

Ever felt hopelessly bonded to your pooch when it stares at you lovingly? It turns out that man’s best friend may have hijacked a uniquely human bonding mechanism, ensuring that we love and care for it.

Knock-on chemical and behavioral effects occur when humans bond: eye contact leads to release of the “love hormone” oxytocin, which elicits caring behavior, and this in turn causes the release of more oxytocin. This loop has been shown to be important for human bonding, for example between mothers and their children.

Oxytocin bonding occurs in other mammals, too, but humans were thought to be unique in using eye contact as part of this cycle. “Facing others is a threatening behavior in other animals,” says Miho Nagasawa at Azabu University in Japan.

But when she and her colleagues got a bunch of dog owners to gaze into their pets’ eyes, they found that oxytocin levels rose not just in the humans – but in the pooches too.

In contrast, when Nagasawa’s team tested hand-reared wolves, they found no such effect, and wolves spent little time gazing into their owners’ eyes.

They then sprayed either oxytocin or a placebo into 27 dogs’ noses, in a randomized experiment. Female dogs that received the hormone spent more time staring longingly at their owners, and oxytocin levels also rose in those people.

This means that the tendency to gaze into eyes must have evolved during the domestication of dogs, says Nagasawa. She adds that it’s the first demonstrated case of convergent evolution in cognitive traits between a human and another species.

The only hitch was that although both male and female dogs – and their owners – received an oxytocin boost from eye contact, male dogs didn’t spend more time looking at their owners’ eyes when they were sprayed with the hormone.

Nagasawa suggests that this could be because among males oxytocin is known to increase hostility towards members of other groups, so the sprays might have made the male dogs more vigilant about strangers in the room during the experiment.

Pat Shipman at Penn State University in University Park has argued that the co-evolution of dogs and humans – possibly starting as long as 36,000 years ago – gave humans the edge over Neanderthals.

“I had predicted that both domestic dogs and humans would show adaptations to enhanced non-verbal communication, but I had not thought of the oxytocin link,” she says. “As the first species to be domesticated, dogs have a very ancient and very profound link to humans that affected both of us.”

But not everyone is convinced this shows that dogs evolved to hijack our bonding mechanism through staring into our eyes.

Jessica Oliva at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, agrees that oxytocin was key to the evolution of dogs from wolves, allowing them to bond with humans. But she thinks that the eye-gazing behavior could be learned rather than having evolved over time. “It could be a conditioning thing,” she suggests.

Clive Wynne of Arizona State University in Tempe agrees. He says that wolves he works with do make eye contact if they’ve been brought up in close contact with people. “I’m questioning the attempt to interpret these results as an evolutionary process,” says Wynne.

Nagasawa agrees that wolves and other animals can learn to make eye contact, but says it comes easier to dogs. And to her, that suggests the behaviour has evolved.

She says this might just be the tip of the iceberg, too. Next, she wants to study whether dogs feel empathy with humans. “Most dog owners say when they feel sad, their dogs feel sad too. And when the owners feel happy, maybe the dogs feel happy too. So maybe the dogs are very sensitive to the owners’ feelings,” she says.

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The Pet Collar of the Future is Now Here

It’s Fido’s turn to get connected. Voyce is a futuristic looking pet collar that tracks your pup’s health by monitoring and measuring key metrics such as resting heart and respiratory rates, rest, activity, calories burned, distance, and more! The device, which retails for $299, is now shipping to those in the US.

Like a Fitbit for your dog, Voyce uses sensors integrated into a collar your pet wear’s to collect data. The lightweight, dust proof and waterproof Voyce band is equipped with a 3-axis accelerometer to measure things like steps and activity. But Voyce goes well beyond Steps by measuring heart and respiratory rates using its proprietary and sophisticated non-invasive, radio frequency based technology. Once collected, the data is sent to the companion Voyce portal via WiFi where dog owners can gain insights on the web or in the Voyce app.

There are number of pet wearables on the market that are focused on activity measuring or GPS tracking. Voyce is the only pet collar on the market that tracks heart rate and respiratory.

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How Dogs Laugh With You, Not At You

Human happiness is a shabby thing compared with a dog’s. For eons, humans benefitted from the canine gift for happiness and favored happy dogs, who thus passed along their happy genes, producing a species that is now besotted, almost deranged, with happiness. Of course, many other animals take pleasure in being alive—eagles soaring, otters skidding down slides, cows content to the point of smugness. But there’s a selfishness to that happiness. Dog happiness always looks outward. To reach fullest expression, a dog’s happiness has to be lived large and strewn around. The only thing that slows down a dog’s happiness is if he can’t infect you with it so you can be happy together.

And dogs laugh! Not only do they laugh, they mean it, unlike such sarcastic types as monkeys, hyenas, and dolphins. (I know dolphins are friendly, but that high-pitched chuckle of theirs can wear on you.) A dog will laugh at anything. Hiding the ball, then pulling it out of your coat—hilarious! Watching you load the car before the vacation—a riot! Dogs are like an audience someone has already warmed up so that they laugh and voice their approval the minute the featured act (you) steps onto the stage. Dogs laugh even when they don’t get the joke, which is often. But hey, if you’re laughing, it must be funny, and that’s good enough for them.

To understand the sense of humor dogs have, it’s useful to contrast it with that of their main pet competitor: cats. Cats do not really have a sense of humor. In its place, they cultivate a deep sense of the ironic. The detached, ironical pleasure cats take in watching and inflicting suffering is a horrid substitute for the hearty wholesomeness of dog laughter. And a cat never laughs out loud. The best that cats can muster is a sardonic smirk, an “I told you so” bared in their pointy incisors.

Dogs laugh just as hard when the joke is on them, but cats hate being the butt of laughter. One time my cat was asleep on the mantelpiece in the living room. In his sleep, he turned over, woke up, found himself lying on empty air, and began scrabbling frantically on the mantel with his front paws to keep from going down. Cartoonlike, he lost the struggle and dropped to the floor. I saw the whole thing and laughed my head off. Only the cat’s dignity was injured, but he never forgave me, for the course of his half-hour memory span. He slunk around and shot me dirty looks and was really a bad sport about it, I thought. A dog would’ve made that same pratfall and hopped back on the mantel and done it again just for laughs.

Best of all, dogs live to go outdoors, where they find their funniest and timeliest material. They want to show you that running fast to nowhere in particular and then back, muddy and burr-covered, is such great comedy that you ought to join them in guffawing and jumping around with your tongue hanging out. They invite you to follow them to the railroad tracks and the run-over opossum that will be a good joke for them to roll in, or to the Canada geese on the baseball field, where a side-splitting chase scene will ensue. The bits are somehow even funnier because the dog is confident that you will love them as much as he does.

Dogs exult in the world itself. No matter if your neighborhood is interesting or not, your dog will want to go out in it. This is a godsend for human beings, most of whom would otherwise vanish into their screens. When I ramble around the part of New Jersey where I live, I see very few people on the sidewalks, and blue glows in many windows. The actual world has been abandoned for the virtual one—but not by dogs. They lobby for the world’s reality and the unending comedic opportunities it provides. The only other humans I see on my rambles in the worst weather are the ones who have to walk their dogs. Dogs never stop showing us that gigantic happiness inheres in the world, waiting to be run to earth or sniffed on a tree.

Pets of the Homeless… Affected Affection

“Once a dog forms a close relationship with a caring owner, their loyalty can be unbreakable, and they will stick with their owner through thick and thin. And unlike us, dogs don’t pass judgment on people who are down on their luck or homeless. This post is a tribute to homeless dogs, who love and stick with their homeless owners no matter what.

Pet dogs offer vital help to the homeless. They provide them with unconditional love in a time when much of society has turned their back on them and they protect their owners from the many dangers of the streets. Surprisingly, many homeless dogs are relatively well-cared for. Homeless owners will often choose to go hungry themselves rather than see their companion go hungry, although they are often unable to provide their pets with professional veterinary help.

For more information on how you can help these loving companions, please visit: http://www.petsofthehomeless.org/

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