Scratchpay Financial, a veterinary care-focused financial technology company, has secured a $6.4 million Series A funding round.
The round was led by Companion Fund, which is described in a press release as "the first venture capital fund focused on pet care innovation."
Scratchpay "helps more pets get access to the care they need with simple and friendly payment plans for veterinary services that benefit clinics and pet owners alike," according to the release. It plans to use this funding to fuel growth in the U.S. and expand internationally.
TTV Capital, Struck Capital and SWS Venture Capital, the investment arm of Green Dot Corporation founder Steve Streit, also participated in the round.
“53 million pets today aren’t able to get the care they need as costs continue to increase even faster than human healthcare costs — and that’s the problem we’re aiming to solve,” said John Keatley, CEO and co-founder of Scratchpay. “Our mission is to remove the financial barriers that prevent pets from getting care, and as we continue to pursue that, we’re thrilled to have the validation and support of these pre-eminent venture firms.”
Since launching in 2016, Scratchpay "has helped tens of thousands of pets receive vital veterinary care through its mobile-first financing platform that offers transparent plans with no hidden fees or deferred interest, and without impacting their owners’ credit score when they compare payment options," according to the release.
Scratchpay serves more than 2,000 pet hospitals with its payment plans.
Drew Taylor, partner with Digitalis, which manages Companion Fund, said: "With the veterinary industry reaching nearly $20 billion in the U.S. alone, the market opportunity is huge for companies like Scratchpay that can find ways to make vets’ lives easier. Our goal with Companion Fund is to bring to light new startups that have the potential to reshape the pet care industry — fast-tracking innovation and driving change across the $100 billion global pet market. Scratchpay is one such startup poised to grow and make a real impact in the lives of pets, pet owners and vets."
In mid-May, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed virulent Newcastle disease in a small flock of backyard exhibition chickens in Los Angeles County, according to an agency release. Since that time, the disease has also been found in flocks in San Bernardino County. These are the first cases of virulent Newcastle disease, formerly called exotic Newcastle disease, in the United States since 2003, the release states.
Virulent Newcastle disease is a contagious and fatal viral disease that affects the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry, the release states. It is so virulent that many birds and poultry die without showing clinical signs, and a death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated flocks. It can even infect and kill vaccinated poultry.
Besides sudden death, clinical signs of the disease include sneezing; gasping for air; nasal discharge; coughing; greenish, watery diarrhea; decreased activity; tremors; drooping wings; twisting of the head and neck; circling; complete stiffness; and swelling around the eyes and neck, the release states.
APHIS notes that no human cases of the disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products and that properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat. In very rare cases, people working directly with sick birds can become infected, though symptoms are usually mild and limited to conjunctivitis or influenza-like symptoms. The use of personal protective equipment can easily prevent infection in humans.
The agency is working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to respond to the cases. Federal and state partners are conducting additional testing and surveillance in the area, according to the release. For bird owners, it's essential that they follow good biosecurity practices to helpaprotect their birds from infectious diseases, including washing hands and scrubbing boots before and after entering the poultry area; cleaning and disinfecting tires and equipment before moving them off of the property; and isolating birds that are returning from shows for 30 days before returning them to the flock.
Bird owners should also report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state and federal officials through their state veterinarian or through the USDA's toll-free number at (866)536-7593.
14 canines were in the running.
Zsa Zsa, a rescued English Bulldog from Anoka, MN, charmed her way into judges' hearts to win the World's Ugliest Dog Contest.
Her prizes included a large trophy, $1,500, and a donated prize match for Underdog Rescue, from which she was adopted. Zsa Zsa’s adopted parents, Megan and Jesse Brainard, were flown to New York for a live appearance on NBC’s Today Show.
The red carpet runners up included second-place winner Scamp, owned by Yvonne Morones, who also claimed the Spirit Award and third-place winner Josie, owned by Linda Elmquist.
Fourteen dogs competed in this year’s World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, with each receiving a gift basket and a personalized pet tag. The contest took place in Petaluma, CA.
A lobbying group for several airlines wants the federal government to ban all emotional support animals except dogs from flights.
Airlines for America made the request in a report to the U.S. Department of Transportation, The Mercury News reports. The organization represents nine airlines, including United, American, Southwest and Jetblue.
In 2017, U.S. airlines accommodated more than 750,000 emotional support animals in-cabin, according to the report.
The organization stated that "our member airlines have experienced a disturbing growth in the number of passengers with questionable claims of disability seeking to travel with animals that they suggest are necessary to provide 'emotional support,' but which are not trained as service animals (or even trained at all to behave in public settings like aircraft or airports).
"These animals, which may include wild and/or untrainable species, often are unable to behave appropriately in a public setting, including within the confines of an aircraft cabin."
Earlier this month, Delta said it would no longer accept "pit bull type" dogs as service or support animals as of July 10. It's also introducing a limit of one emotional support animal per customer per flight.
In May, American said it would no longer allow certain animals, including insects, hedgehogs and goats, under its emotional support animal policy.
The barn cats at the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service have a new bungalow to call their own – complete with perches, catwalks and lots of places to hide. The “working” cats, who are typically unsocialized feral cats, live together in a new building measuring 12 feet by 12 feet nestled among the trees behind the dog walking area. “The kitties really seem to be enjoying it,” said SCRAPS director Lindsey Soffes.
There are three cats living in the bungalow and another three are finishing their time in quarantine before moving in. The shelter usually has between three and 15 working cats, though there were 25 in residence when volunteers began building the bungalow a few weeks ago. “It seems like they come in waves,” Soffes said.
The building is simple and has walls of lumber and wire with 2-by-4-inch openings. Boards have been laid across the sturdy rafters to give the cats additional perches. Two cat trees are placed in corners and small hiding boxes sit along the back wall. There haven’t been any cat fights despite the communal living. When the cats were first released into the bungalow they would often huddle in pairs or groups, Soffes said.
During a recent visit to the bungalow one black cat sat on one of the boards in the rafters, another was curled up in a section of one of the cat trees. The ear of the third was just visible from behind another rafter. They didn’t try to run or hide but kept their distance. “They live among people,” Soffes said. “They just like to be free.” Several bowls of food and water are placed around the small building. The cats get wet food at night.
Soffes heard about a similar bungalow created by Austin Pets Alive in Texas and wanted to replicate it for her barn cats. “She had the idea of having one at SCRAPS,” said animal protection officer Ted Adams, who headed the project. “We just started the ball rolling.”
Adams recruited friends and family to help in the effort. Money for the project was collected during an April fundraiser. When the weather gets colder Adams will install sliding plywood panel walls that can be moved into place easily. Insulated cat houses will also be added. “These guys are outdoor kitties so they’re used to living outside,” Soffes said. The bungalow is a big step up from the quarantine room where they used to be housed, she said. “They were having to wait in cages,” she said. “That was so stressful to them.”
The feral cats are usually trapped by animal protection officers or members of the public. They are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and given an exam by a veterinarian when they arrive. They are adopted out as barn cats, though some have also gone to warehouses and shops. “There’s a decent demand,” she said. “We’re able to place all our barn cats. Sometimes it takes longer depending on the season. They trade their really refined mousing skills for food, water and shelter.”
Barn cat owners should expect to feed the cats even if they are catching mice. Soffes said it’s best to get two cats at once so they’re more likely to stick together and stick around. Soffes said she’s pleased she can help an underserved part of the pet population. “We really want to save every one we can,” she said. “This is a big step for us.” ---------------------------------------------------------------
It is with heavy hearts that WAN shares the news that Koko, the gorilla known for her extraordinary mastery of sign language, and as the primary ambassador for her endangered species, passed away Tuesday morning in her sleep at the age of 46.
A western lowland gorilla, Koko was born Hanabi-ko, Japanese for “Fireworks Child”, on July 4, 1971, at the San Francisco Zoo. Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson began working with Koko the next year, famously teaching her sign language. Dr. Patterson and Dr. Ronald Cohn moved Koko and the project to Stanford in 1974 and went on to establish The Gorilla Foundation which eventually relocated to the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Koko’s capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions. She has been featured in multiple documentaries and appeared on the cover of National Geographic twice. The first cover, in October of 1978, featured a photograph Koko had taken of herself in a mirror. The second issue, in January of 1985, included the story of Koko and her kitten, All Ball.
Following the article, the book Koko’s Kitten was published and continues to be used in elementary schools worldwide. Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world. The late Robin Willimas was among Koko’s greatest admirers. The two became friends in 2011.
According to the organization, the day of Williams untimely passing on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, Koko and Penny and Ron were together when phone calls started coming in about the sad event. After the first call, Koko came to Dr. Patterson with an inquiring look on her face. Dr. Patterson explained that “we have lost a dear friend, Robin Williams.” Koko was quiet and looked very thoughtful.
The foundation will continue to honor Koko’s legacy and with its ongoing projects including conservation efforts in Africa, the great ape sanctuary on Maui, and a sign language application featuring Koko for the benefit of both gorillas and children.
“Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy,” The Gorilla Foundation said in a statement. “She was beloved and will be deeply missed.”
But never forgotten!
May you rest in peace sweet Koko!
Authorities are investigating a suspected burglary and arson that led to the theft on an incredibly rare white alligator, and the death of 43 other reptiles at a sanctuary run by reality television stars the “Swamp Brothers,” Sumter County deputies said.
Now, investigators are looking for the rare Leucistic gator named “Snowball.”
The white alligator with dark markings was last seen in the structure at 11:30 a.m. the day of the fire but was nowhere to be found when detectives searched the wreckage.
However, evidence at the scene led detectives to believe the structure was burglarized — with Snowball being taken — before the fire began, Sumter Sheriff’s Capt. Pat Breeden said.
The fire started about 8:30 p.m. Friday, and by the time it was extinguished the structure housing the alligators and crocodiles was destroyed, deputies said.
Among the destruction, authorities found 43 other crocodiles and alligators dead within the burned structure.
The State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire, though evidence suggests it was intentionally set after the theft of the rare alligator, Breeden said.
The Swamp Brothers is a reality television show based on Stephen and Robbie Keszey and aired on Discovery Channel in 2011 and 2012.
The brothers took to social media pleading for the return of their beloved reptile. Central Florida theme park Gatorland says there are only a dozen such gators known around the world.
The Swamp Brothers run Animal Crossings of Florida, Inc., a reptile sanctuary, based west of Interstate 75 in Bushnell.
If you’ve seen Snowball or have information about the case, call Sumter County Sheriff’s Office Det. Chris Merritt at 352-793-2621 or Crimeline at 1-800-423-8477.