Valerie Harper, friend of Talkin’ Pets and animals everywhere who scored guffaws, stole hearts and busted TV taboos as the brash, self-deprecating Rhoda Morgenstern on back-to-back hit sitcoms in the 1970s, has died.
Longtime family friend Dan Watt confirmed Harper died last Friday. She had been battling cancer for years, and her husband said recently he had been advised to put her in hospice care.
Harper was a breakout star on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” then the lead of her own series, “Rhoda.” She was 80.
She won three consecutive Emmys (1971-73) as supporting actress on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and another for outstanding lead actress for “Rhoda,” which ran from 1974-78. Beyond awards, she was immortalized — and typecast — for playing one of television’s most beloved characters, a best friend the equal of Ethel Mertz and Ed Norton in TV’s sidekick pantheon.
Fans had long feared the news of her passing. In 2013, she first revealed that she had been diagnosed with brain cancer and had been told by her doctors she had as little as three months to live. Some responded as if a family member were in peril.
Scientists at the University of Oxford have developed new artificial intelligence software to recognise and track the faces of individual chimpanzees in the wild. The new software will allow researchers and wildlife conservationists to significantly cut back on time and resources spent analysing video footage, according to the new paper published today in Science Advances.
‘For species like chimpanzees, which have complex social lives and live for many years, getting snapshots of their behaviour from short-term field research can only tell us so much,’ says Dan Schofield, researcher and DPhil student at Oxford University’s Primate Models Lab, School of Anthropology. ‘By harnessing the power of machine learning to unlock large video archives, it makes it feasible to measure behaviour over the long term, for example observing how the social interactions of a group change over several generations.’
The computer model was trained using over 10 million images from Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute (PRI) video archive of wild chimpanzees in Guinea, West Africa. The new software is the first to continuously track and recognise individuals in a wide range of poses, performing with high accuracy in difficult conditions such as low lighting, poor image quality and motion blur.
‘Access to this large video archive has allowed us to use cutting edge deep neural networks to train models at a scale that was previously not possible,’ says Arsha Nagrani, co-author of the study and DPhil student at the Visual Geometry Group, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford. ‘Additionally, our method differs from previous primate face recognition software in that it can be applied to raw video footage with limited manual intervention or pre-processing, saving hours of time and resources.’
The technology has potential for many uses, such as monitoring species for conservation. Although the current application focused on chimpanzees, the software provided could be applied to other species, and help drive the adoption of artificial intelligence systems to solve a range of problems in the wildlife sciences.
‘All our software is available open-source for the research community,’ says Nagrani. ‘We hope that this will help researchers across other parts of the world apply the same cutting-edge techniques to their unique animal data sets. As a computer vision researcher, it is extremely satisfying to see these methods applied to solve real, challenging biodiversity problems.’
The Superior Court of the State of California has issued a critical ruling that a lawsuit against the Animal Kingdom pet store and two sham "rescue groups," Bark Adoptions and Rescue Pets Iowa, can move forward. The lawsuit alleges the companies engaged in an illegal puppy laundering scheme in an attempt to unlawfully circumvent a California “retail pet sales ban.” The ban, which went into effect in January, seeks to stanch the inflow of dogs from commercial breeders — commonly called puppy mills — and requires pet stores to obtain animals from public animal control agencies, animal shelters, or legitimate rescue groups.
The lawsuit — filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals, on behalf of Bailing Out Benji and a corporation for the prevention of cruelty to animals — alleges pet store Animal Kingdom has been selling puppies who were commercially bred for profit by working with sham rescue entities to transport the puppies into California as “rescued” animals. In particular, the lawsuit alleges Bark Adoptions obtained puppies from Rescue Pets Iowa, which operates as a front for puppy mills – and Bark Adoptions then passed the dogs along to Animal Kingdom to sell to unsuspecting consumers.
In the new ruling, the court denied Bark Adoptions’ and Rescue Pets Iowa’s attempts to dismiss the lawsuit against them. The court also ruled the plaintiffs can seek both monetary civil penalties and injunctive relief against Animal Kingdom, Bark Adoptions, and Rescue Pets Iowa. Animal Kingdom's motion to dismiss the claims against it was previously denied.
"The goal of puppy mills is to produce the largest number of puppies as quickly as possible, without consideration of injuries — many caused by inbreeding — or the care and well-being of the animals," says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. "These companies engaged in unfair business practices by deliberately misleading consumers that the dogs they purchased were rescues."
At puppy mills, dogs are generally kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions. They often lack good food, clean water, and veterinary care. The mother “breeder” dogs may give birth to multiple litters per year throughout their adult lives. They, and aging father dogs, will regularly be abandoned or killed when they are no longer “useful” to their breeders.
"This should send a strong message to other businesses that might be thinking about deceiving the public and attempting to sell puppy mill puppies where the law prevents it," says Mindi Callison, Executive Director of Bailing Out Benji.
A woman in Nassau, Bahamas, took in 97 homeless dogs ahead of Hurricane Dorian.
Chella Phillips wrote on Facebook that she was keeping 79 of them in her master bedroom. She posted a series of photos of her makeshift shelter.
Conditions were as crowded as you’d imagine, but Phillips, founder of the Voiceless Dogs of Nassau shelter, said none of the dogs had tried to jump on her bed.
“We have barricaded the refuge and nobody is outside, the music is playing in all directions of the house and the AC is blowing for them,” she wrote. “I managed to bring some less fortunate ones and I really appreciate some of you donating for crates. I really needed it for the scared ones and the sick ones.”
She added: “We may not get hit as hard as other islands and the saddest part is that after the hurricane leave the Bahamas, some islands will take a long time to recover. Each island has abundance of homeless dogs, my heart is so broken for the ones without a place to hide a CAT 5 monster and only God can protect them now.”
CNN reported that it tried to reach Phillips on Tuesday but was not successful.
Pet ownership continues is trending upward, and more than a third of new dogs are adopted from pet shelters or rescue sources, according to a new report from market research firm Packaged Facts.
Similarly, three out of 10 cats are adopted from pet shelters or rescue sources.
For both dogs and cats, pet shelters and rescue sources are the leading single method of acquisition.
By the end of 2019, an estimated 7 million U.S. households will have acquired a new dog during the year, while more than 5 million U.S. households will have acquired a new cat over the same period of time.
The data and research are featured in the new report “U.S. Pet Market Focus: New Dog and Cat Owners.”
Primary motivations for adopting a new dog or cat include:
- Love of dogs or cats.
- Companionship for self or for others in the household.
- Companionship for other pets in the household.
- Personal mental health/stress reduction benefits.
- Companionship for the sake of children in the household (though this tendency is notably more important in households adopting dogs versus households adopting cats).
When it comes to adding a new dog to the home, the size of the dog matters more than just about any other factor. Packaged Facts found that the majority of newly adopted dogs are medium-size or smaller.
Cases of salmonellosis in humans connected to contact with pig ear treats continue to rise and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising pet owners to take precautions to avoid illness.
The organization, in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is reporting 143 cases of Salmonella human infection tied to exposure to pig ears, spread across 35 states.
Thirty-three people have been hospitalized, CDC says, with many cases classified as multidrug-resistant.
FDA and CDC recommend owners not buy any pig ears at this time and safely discard any already purchased. Further, the organizations recommend in-store and online retailers stop selling the treats immediately.
Three companies in the United States recalled products in August, with some treats having tested positive for Salmonella. Additional testing is underway to identify the specific strain(s).
When it comes to emotional support animals on airplanes, there has been confusion, strong emotion and much suspicion that passengers are taking advantage of government policies in the last few years. In response, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has provided guidance on how it will enforce existing regulations concerning air travel, disabilities and animals in airplane cabins.
Exotic species can be acceptable emotional support animals. Airlines can deny transport only to “certain unusual species” of service animals—snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents and spiders. The DOT may take “enforcement action” on a case-by-case basis against airlines that fail to transport other species as service animals but will primarily focus on ensuring that dogs, cats and miniature horses—the most common ones—are accepted for transport.
- Passengers can be required to take extra steps. The DOT says airlines can require passengers with psychiatric service animals (PSAs) or emotional support animals (ESAs)—but not traditional service animals—to do the following: 1) provide the airline advance notice of intention to travel with the animal, 2) appear in person in the airport lobby to verify that an animal can be transported safely, and 3) check in one hour earlier than the general public. Airlines cannot force passengers to use airline-specific medical forms and letters or require medical professionals to fill them out; any valid form or letter will do.
- Health and safety must be documented—within reason. To verify that an animal is safe to fly, the DOT says airlines can require passengers with ESAs and PSAs to present documentation 48 hours before a flight showing proof of vaccinations, training or behavior. A number of forms created by airlines, however, are unacceptable—for example, one requiring a veterinarian to guarantee that an animal will behave. The DOT says certain airlines’ bans of “pit bull type dogs” are also prohibited, but “airlines are permitted to find that any specific animal, regardless of breed, poses a direct threat based on behavior.”
- Containment of an animal must be reasonable. The DOT says it will consider appropriate ways to leash, restrain, tether and carry service animals on a case-by-case basis, with a focus on “reasonableness.” Factors include size and species of animal, other passengers’ foot space and the continuing ability of an animal to provide emotional support to the passenger.
- Three’s the magic number. The DOT says it will focus on ensuring that airlines allow passengers to travel with one emotional support animal (ESA) and as many as three service animals total. Airlines have complained about the number of allowed animals, but the DOT counters that “if 10 qualified individuals with a disability each need to bring an ESA, then … the airline must accept all 10 ESAs, so long as the ESAs are sufficiently trained to behave in a public setting.”
The DOT also considered other, newer policies by airlines, and found these to be enforceable: Animals must be older than 4 months (younger animals are unlikely to be properly trained). Animals may not be uniformly restricted by weight (animals should be judged on a case-by-case basis). Animals may be allowed on flights longer than eight hours (as long as they won't need to relieve themselves or can do so a sanitary way).
An annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan, made infamous by the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, started for 2019 on Sunday.
According to BBC, the event is controversial for its tactics — fishermen drive the dolphins into the shallow waters of Taiji’s cove and kill or capture the mammals — and for its resistance to change.
Dolphins slaughtered during the hunt are sold for their meat, while those that are captured are sold to aquariums and marine parks.
The BBC reports that the demand for dolphin meat is down, partially due to the high levels of mercury found in the meat over the past few years, and that interest in purchasing live dolphins has also declined as more marine parks and aquariums come up against criticism for buying wild animals and keeping them in captivity.
Even as the worth of dolphins, dead or alive, continues to drop, the 26 fishermen granted permits by the government to hunt Taiji’s dolphins continue to take part in the annual hunt to support their community’s livelihood, according to ABC News.
There is a quota of 1,400 dolphins set for this year’s hunt, reports the outlet. This quote extends to six different species of dolphin. The 26 fishermen permitted to take part in the hunt are also allowed to slaughter 3 different species of whale.