DEAR READERS: The COVID-19 pandemic, while bringing out some of the best and worst aspects of human nature, has exposed the vulnerable underbelly of modern civilization. This underbelly -- beneath the superficial carapace of scientific, medical and technological progress and prowess -- is especially vulnerable because of a global economy dependent upon the wholesale trade of domestic and wild animals for human consumption. These animals are a significant source of a variety of diseases, viral and bacterial, which are zoonotic (transmissible to humans), causing epidemics and pandemics past, present and future.
It is time to reassess such wholesale exploitation, which entails much animal suffering and is endangering the survival of some wild species. For example, between 2014 and 2016, more than 50 million birds (egg-laying hens, chickens raised for meat, turkeys and others) were killed across more than a dozen states in an effort to contain a bird flu outbreak transmissible to humans. This did as much as $3 billion worth of damage to the U.S. economy, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service spent over $900 million cleaning up the mess it describes as ”the most serious animal health disease incident in history.”
NO VETERINARIAN ON TRUMP’S ADVISORY, RESPONSE TEAMS
Journalist Phyllis M. Daugherty, in her Los Angeles CityWatch article “Animal ‘Wet’ Markets Reopen in China -- Veterinarian Missing From Trump’s COVID-19 Task Force,” raises an important point about the Trump administration’s limited approach to addressing pandemic diseases of animal origin. This should be rectified by the inclusion of a veterinary adviser, since future pandemics and epidemics of zoonotic diseases will be inevitable so long as billions of animals, wild and domesticated, continue to be slaughtered around the world for human consumption.
DEAR DR. FOX: I read your recent column regarding riding a bike with a dog on a leash. A number of years ago, a young neighbor of ours was riding his bike with the dog running beside him. When the dog yanked on the leash, the boy fell off his bike and as he fell, his arm yanked up and broke the dog’s neck. Ever since then, I have worried when I see people ride with their dogs. I did speak to one man I saw frequently, and suggested a harness rather than a collar for his dog, but I could tell he didn’t find my suggestion worthwhile.
Have you heard of this type of accident happening, or was this a strange fluke? -- S.L., Central Point, Oregon
DEAR S.L.: During the lockdown, I hope that people of all ages who are getting exercise on their bicycles with their dogs will take your advice and put their dogs in a harness. I also advise harnesses for small dogs, and for those who like to pull when being walked, to prevent injury to their necks and possible windpipe collapse.
DOGS BEING TRAINED TO DETECT CORONAVIRUS CARRIERS
Dogs trained to detect people infected with malaria have a high success rate. Now, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are crowdfunding a project to train dogs to detect COVID-19. The researchers think a COVID-19 infection changes human body odor in a way that can be detected by trained dogs. If successful, the canines could be deployed to transit stations, hospitals and long-term care facilities. (Bloomberg, April 16)
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