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Culture Corner

Scribblings and Screenings for the Animal Set

It’s a Bird! It’s a Pain! (But Not Anymore)

For shelter staff who handle the occasional feathered visitor but get their feathers ruffled due to lack of know-how, there’s a bevy of humane-minded, in-depth, and free materials on captive birds newly available through the Avian Welfare Coalition. If you’re looking for virtually any information about birds—including the threatened/endangered status of various species, physical/medical problems shelters should watch for, tips on performing an intake exam, housing, adoption tips—check out the resources offered at

More visual learners interested in the practical side of bird care can get the basics from Dr. M. Scott Echols’ Expert Companion Bird Care DVD series, which provides a solid overview of the optimal environment for birds kept as pets. The short programs are driven by board-certified avian veterinarians and renowned behaviorists, and they delve into foundational subjects including the importance of quality veterinary care, appropriate diet, housing, and enrichment. A caveat: Though the DVDs provide some sound advice on selecting the right bird for particular lifestyles, from a humane perspective, the series falls short in its implicit support of purchasing a bird as a pet and its silence on adoption as an option. That said, while designed to educate bird owners on the care of their pets in the home, the tips translate to the shelter environment and serve as good guidelines for providing humane temporary care.

New Edition

Shelter medicine is an evolving field, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all that’s happening. This is especially true if you’re charged with creating a comprehensive text that tries to encompass its many facets. Since the first edition of Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff was published in 2004, there have been important developments in the field, including the publication of the textbook Infectious Disease Management by veterinarians Lila Miller and Kate Hurley in 2009 and the release of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Veterinary Medical Care Guidelines for Spay/Neuter Programs and Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters. The updated version, edited by Miller and Stephen Zawistowski, Ph.D., C.A.A.B., has many new features. Dog and cat husbandry are now covered in several separate chapters instead of one, and the book provides treatment and control guidelines for infectious diseases; a full-color, user-friendly design with information cross-referenced between chapters; updated and expanded coverage of animal cruelty, including new laws, animal hoarding, forensics, and toxicology; and new information on shelter design, sanitation, and spay/neuter techniques and programs. It’s a must-have for veterinarians working in and with animal shelters.

Exploring the Canine Brain

Brian Hare learned early that dogs can read human gestures. Growing up, he’d play fetch with his dog Oreo, a Lab who could fit three or four tennis balls in his mouth. While Oreo fetched the first ball, Hare would throw a second in a different direction. When Oreo looked back at him after grabbing the first ball, Hare would point to where the second one was, and Oreo would go get it, eventually returning in triumph, his cheeks bulging. A decade later as a college student, Hare assisted with research into chimpanzees’ cognitive abilities. They were failing to follow signals such as pointing, which led one of Hare’s professors to suggest that only humans can understand such gestures. But Hare suspected otherwise, at one point blurting out, “I think my dog can do it.” Now the founder and director of a canine cognition center at Duke University, Hare (along with his co-author and wife, journalist and research scientist Vanessa Woods) recalls his experiences with Oreo and delves into the subsequent research in The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think. In prose that thankfully doesn’t read like a research paper, Hare and Woods explain how, by learning to get along with people, dogs developed a unique social intelligence. Researchers have learned more about how dogs think in the past decade than they did in the previous century, Hare and Woods write, and “the cognitive world of every dog is far more complex and interesting than we thought possible.”

Read the rest of this issue from Animal Sheltering magazine

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