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Talkin' Pets News

September 10, 2022

Host - Jon Patch

Co-Host - Dr. Linda Register - East West Animal Hospital, Lutz, Florida

Producer - Lexi Adams

Network Producer - Ben Boquist

Social Media - Bob Page


The venomous puss caterpillars are popping up around Central Florida – and you'll want to keep your distance!

They're normally about an inch long and are often found near oak and citrus trees. The critters are mostly active in the spring and fall. 

Under its innocent looking hairs are stiff spines attached to poison glands. When touched, these spines break off into the skin and cause severe pain.

"I just saw one red welt and then it just started transferring down my arm towards my watch, towards my elbow, both ways. And the pain was getting worse and worse," one woman said. "It was like someone was stabbing me." "People have shown up in the emergency department because it was so painful they couldn’t stand it," the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa said.

There are a few things you can do if you get stung.

  • Place clear tape over the affected area
  • Strip off repeatedly to remove spines
  • Make sure not to use the same piece of tape twice
  • Apply ice packs to reduce the stinging sensation
  • Follow with a paste of baking soda and water

According to, Florida's puss caterpillar is one of the most venomous in the country.


Beach goers in Southern California are being targeted by swarms of tiny, aggressive sea bugs who have an appetite for human feet. 

The bugs, who have earned the nickname "mini shark," have been identified as water-line isopods (Excirolana chiltoni), a crustacean species that grows to be around 0.3 inches (0.8 centimeters) long and can form swarms of more than 1,000 individuals, according to Walla Walla University in Washington. 

The "mini-sharks" live in the shallow waters of the Pacific Ocean and seasonally migrate up and down the coast leaving in their wake beach goers hopping in pain.

The bugs quickly find barefoot waders, and will bite into their flesh, drawing blood. Since the animals are so small the bites are tiny but painful like a pin prick. Experts recommend rapidly shuffling the feet reduces but does not eliminate the number of bites.

People attacked by the isopods describe the bite as being "painful" and "surprising," noting how the bugs looked like a group of tiny piranhas had attacked their feet and ankles. Those attacked noted that the pain faded after 15 to 20 minutes.

Southern California beaches have not issued any warning to swimmers at this point.


A bomb-sniffing dog that was named the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s “Cutest Canine” is celebrating his retirement.

Eebbers, a vizsla-Labrador mix, worked at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for a decade, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

In a recent ceremony, he was presented with dog toys and a puppy cake (which was shaped like a bomb). He was the agency’s oldest working dog at age 11.

His handler, Jean Carney, said: “I want him to enjoy his last few years just being a dog.” Carney is also retiring.

Marty Robinson, TSA’s federal security director for Minnesota, said, “Our biggest threat is explosives coming through, and our canine teams are the best defense against that.”

The public voted for Eebbers as TSA’s 2022 Cutest Canine in a national social media contest.


In the U.S., a heat wave on the West Coast has sent temperatures soaring above 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the past few days. About 100 million Americans across the country suffered another heat wave earlier this summer. And floods have ravaged parts of the U.S., including Kentucky and Missouri.

The earlier heat wave that hit Pakistan reached India, too. A severe drought also struck parts of India this summer, reducing the country’s food exports. And floods in Bengaluru, India’s tech capital, forced workers to ride boats and tractors to get to the office.

A heat wave and drought in China dried up rivers, disabling hydroelectric dams and cutting off ships carrying supplies.

Another heat wave in Europe sent temperatures in Britain to a record 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Droughts across the continent dried up rivers, exposing sunken ships from World War II and disrupting the river cruise industry. And wildfires in Europe have burned nearly three times as much land so far this year as the 2006-2021 average.

In April, heavy rainfall caused floods and mudslides in South Africa that killed at least 45 people.

“Some of these events have no historical comparisons from 200 years ago,” says Raymond Zhong, who covers climate change.

Rising temperatures create the circumstances for more frequent and more intense heat waves. Prolonged heat causes more frequent and more intense droughts and wildfires. And as it gets warmer, more water evaporates from the oceans — leading to more moisture in the air, and then heavier rainfall, floods and mudslides.


An American tourist was killed in a shark attack Tuesday in the Bahamas.

The woman was snorkeling with a group of five to seven relatives when a bull shark attacked her shortly after 2 p.m. at Green Cay, Royal Bahamas Police Superintendent Chrislyn Skippings said at a news conference. The area is about a half-mile northwest of Rose Island, a private island off Nassau.

While authorities have not released the victim's name, the woman's employer identified her as Caroline DiPlacido. The employer, Gannon University, said she was vacationing with her family in the Bahamas at the time of the attack.

"Caroline was a powerful presence of kindness and friendship to colleagues, students, and the wider community and cherished many family ties to Gannon," the school's chaplain said in a message to the university, where DiPlacido was a project coordinator for the Erie campus’ office of community and government relations. "The news is devastating, and she will be missed."

The woman, who officials said was 58, had no vital signs after the attack, Skippings said.


The risks of wandering in war-torn Kharkiv alone did not seem to faze Chichi, the runaway chimpanzee whose escapades this week have made her famous on social media. It was not until a timely intervention from the heavens in the form of rain that her Ukrainian zookeepers were able to persuade her to return home — with a little help from a raincoat and a bicycle.

The 13-year-old female chimpanzee escaped from Kharkiv Zoo on Monday, with zookeepers tracking her down about two hours later in the northeastern city’s Freedom Square, not far away.

Video shows Chichi eventually being persuaded to put on a yellow hooded rain jacket, before being returned home perched on a bicycle, after briefly roaming through Ukraine's second largest city.

Videos of the incident have been shared widely, offering both a rare moment of levity in the thick of Russia's war and an insight into the plight of animals in Ukraine whose homes have also come under bombardment.

“Chimpanzees are highly intellectual creatures, it wasn’t difficult to her to break the fence and leave,” Victoria Kozyreva, the zookeeper at Kharkiv Zoo who helped persuade Chichi to return home, told NBC News. "After I heard that she left, I followed her to the square and began to talk to her."

Kozyreva, who has known Chichi since the primate's childhood, can be seen approaching her and helping her put on the yellow jacket in the video. It took careful negotiations, she said, to overcome the chimp's initial skepticism.

"It wasn’t difficult to convince her. All that's needed is negotiations,” the 45-year-old zookeeper said. "There was rain. I talked to her and invited with my jacket, helped to put it on and gave her a hug."


Members of a criminal gang in the city of Jinan, in east China’s Shandong province, have been arrested by local police for using live-caught sparrows to lure cats who they sold to the meat trade, according to the Chinese animal protection group Vshine. Thirty one sparrows, a protected species in China, were retrieved at the scene, along with seven cages crammed with 148 cats who had been captured by the thieves; two kittens were born post-rescue. The Jinan Zhuang Qiu District Police Office also found the gang’s fleet of mopeds fitted with cages for collecting cats, and reported that the thieves caught curious local pet and community cats by placing the flapping and chirping sparrows inside a wire bag within a remote controlled trap.

Although China has no animal protection laws with which to prosecute the gang for cruelty to the cats, Chinese law generally prohibits possession of protected sparrows and given that two local Jinan residents identified their stolen pets among the caged cats, the individuals who were arrested may also be charged with violating laws prohibiting property theft.

“We had been tracking this gang of cat thieves and traders for a while and finally found the place they stored all of the cats they stole from the streets. These poor animals were tightly crammed together in rusty cages waiting to be shipped off to south China to be killed for meat,” said Mr. Huang from Vshine, who was at the scene. “It was shocking to see the state they were in, many of them emaciated and crying out. Our discovery of dozens of live sparrows used as bait to lure the cats was also a big shock, but shows the lengths these ruthless traders will go to.

“We are really grateful that the local Jinan police accompanied us on the rescue and detained the cat traders. Although sadly, the men responsible won’t face charges for the suffering they caused the cats, we are pleased to see the police increasingly using other laws at their disposal to crack down on this cruel trade,” concluded Mr. Huang. The cats are now being cared for by Jinan activists and local shelter groups. Vshine will also look after some of the cats at their shelters in northern China, which are partially funded by global animal protection organization Humane Society International (HSI), which campaigns across Asia for an end to the dog and cat meat trades.

“This sparrow method is mostly used in urban communities where cat lovers feed, as well as spay and neuter roaming community cats. Unlike neglected and hungry street cats who can be caught with fish or meat, these cats are well fed but would have been attracted by the flapping birds,” said Dr. Peter Li, HSI’s China policy specialist. “We don’t know how long these poor cats had been caged up without food or water in China’s extremely hot weather, but had it not been for the police and rescuers, they would have gone on to suffer even more being driven for miles across China to be killed in markets and slaughterhouses in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces in south-west China to satisfy a dwindling number of people who consume their meat. These are China’s two main cat meat eating hotspots. Throughout the rest of mainland China, cat meat is not part of the food culture at all.”

The 29 sparrows who survived were released back into the wild. Once the cats have received immediate veterinary care, the shelters will determine the options for adoption. They will also appeal for owners of missing cats to come forward for further possible reunions. The street cats, who would not adapt well to longer term shelter care or home adoption, will be released back to community carers.


Ecuadorian authorities are investigating the recent hunting and slaughter of four endangered Galápagos giant tortoises for their meat. The carcasses were found on Isabela, the largest island in the Galápagos archipelago.

Tragically, despite the fact that the killing of the rare tortoises has been illegal since 1933, the illicit wildlife meat trade continues. In September 2021, the remains of 15 Giant Tortoises from the same Chelonoidis guntheri subspecies were also found on the island of Isabela, reportedly also killed for their meat. Under Ecuadorian law, anyone found guilty of killing a giant tortoise faces up to three years in prison.

The Galápagos Conservancy, the only U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to the protection and restoration of the Galápagos Islands and its more than 2,000 species that are found nowhere else on earth, strongly condemns the poaching and eating of Giant Tortoises as an “environmental crime.”

The Conservancy and the Galápagos National Park Directorate announced nearly one year ago that they are working together on the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, a collaborative effort to restore tortoise populations to their historical distribution and numbers across the Galápagos Islands.

“We trust in the management of the Galápagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), an organization that, in spite of incidents like these, works diligently to safeguard the biodiversity of the islands,” the Conservancy said in a statement posted on its website. “GNPD is currently awaiting the findings of the investigation, so that if the perpetrators are identified, the full force of the law is used to ensure that this crime is not left unpunished.”

There are 14 different species of giant Galápagos tortoise that are classified as either vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered or extinct. This recent poaching incident is particularly egregious as very few individuals of this subspecies remain in the wild.

“We must safeguard Giant Tortoises and the ecosystems they depend on. The Galápagos Archipelago is of worldwide interest due to its significance in the disciplines of biology, ecology, and evolutionary studies,”concluded the Conservancy. “Through contributing to Park-led initiatives, Galápagos Conservancy affirms its commitment to carrying out ongoing efforts to protect and rebuild the populations of these iconic species that are unmatched in the world,”

Despite living for between 80 and 120 years, sadly, the Galápagos giant tortoise population has been dwindling for years. There are now only an estimated 15,000 left of the 200,000 that were believed to be in existence in the 1800s.


Eric Merda who's still adjusting to life with one arm, says he spent three grueling days in the swamp after a gator bit his arm off when he was swimming in Lake Manatee.

There have been at least a half dozen gator attacks this season around the Tampa Bay area, the most recent involving a 77-year-old woman over Labor Day weekend.

Merda is one of those who lived to tell his story.

"Not the smartest decision a Florida boy could make," Merda said during an exclusive interview with 10 Tampa Bay less than two months since the attack.

Merda said, he got lost in the woods at the Lake Manatee Fish Camp in Myakka City. When he finally found the lake, he decided to swim across rather than walk around.

"I look over and there's a gator on my right-hand side so I went to swim and she got my forearm so I grabbed her, she was trying to roll but she snapped her head so my arm went backwards," said Merda who continued to fight for his life.

The alligator dragged him underwater three times.

"She's already got my arm, so when we came up the third time, she finally did her death roll and took off with my arm," he explained.

That's just where Merda's story begins.

He says he swam back to where he started and began to walk, wander, and scream for help.

"Bones poking out, muscles, if I try to move my fingers, you could see it twitching," said Merda who couldn't quite put the pain into words. He says he spent three days trying to find his way out of the swamp.

"I felt like I was walking in circles, I didn't know," he said. "So I followed the sun and power lines, stuff I could see."

Finally, on day number three, he stumbled on a fence and a man on the other side. "I said a gator got my arm, he said, 'holy smokes man!'" Merda exclaimed.

The first thing Merda said he wanted was water. Then, he was on a stretcher headed to Sarasota     Memorial Hospital where he says surgeons amputated the majority of his right arm.

Merda says he's adapting to a new normal with a new perspective and wants to warn others to be more cautious around Florida waters. "Do not feed the gators and you guys know who you are, throwing rocks at them, I've seen it on the job sites, leave them gators alone," Merda warns.


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