DEAR DR. FOX: Why is your book "Not Fit for a Dog" not in the library system in Denver and surrounding area, nor in Prospector materials databases and interlibrary loan? -- A.L., Denver
DEAR A.L.: Thanks for your email on a very important issue for authors -- not about making money, for me at least, but all about getting the message out to help improve the health and well-being of our animal companions as well as those who love and care for them.
There are many reasons why libraries don't carry certain titles (mine being mainly in the nonfiction area, although I have received literary awards for some of my children's fiction books). These reasons range from increasingly limited budgets to assumed lack of public readership interest. In some backward areas, it's even a case of censorship.
I know that many of my books have been pilloried by the animal industry complex. One sector of this complex, which my book "Not Fit for a Dog!: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Food," co-authored with two other veterinarians, criticizes and urges to improve pet food quality and safety, has much money to use for lobbying and political influence. This sector even put my job on the line, complaining about me to one particular CEO of the Humane Society of the United States in the late 1990s when I began investigating what goes into pet foods.
Some people who like a particular book and want to share it with others will donate it to the library. If you prefer, you could ask the librarian to pull up the book title on the Internet and see if he or she would consider carrying it. Then take it from there.
DEAR DR.FOX: Thank you so much for answering. I finally did find your book in a different library system. I'll be persistent with my own library to buy the book. There's also an excerpt of "Not Fit for a Dog" on the library website that condenses your book and tells a lot of important information. I've had a huge vendetta with Purina, whose name I can barely get out, because growing up I had a black Lab on Purina who had kidney disease by age 6. Photos of the dog at 5 and 6 years look like he's only half alive. He lived to be 7.
Maybe people can get educated. Many have blind faith in advertisements that companies take advantage of. Additionally, some people may feel that dogs shouldn't get expensive food -- it is part of our Puritan ethic against frivolousness. I can't thank you enough for writing. I'm sure my county library will buy your book. Thank you for your bravery as the harassment I'm sure has been immense. -- A.L., Denver
SOCIALLY ISOLATED PARROTS AGE FASTER THAN THOSE IN GROUPS
If you feel sad or mad seeing "pet" parrots living alone, isolated from their own kind, then you are right on the mark! Telomeres act as a protective cap on the ends of chromosomes and have been likened to the binding on the ends of shoelaces that prevent shredding. These telomeres degrade with age, and a team of Austrian veterinarians and others has provided the first evidence that social isolation affects telomere length.
African gray parrots bred in captivity and raised alone seemed to age faster because they had shorter telomeres compared to those raised in pairs or groups. This supports the investigators' hypothesis that telomeres provide a marker indicating exposure to chronic stress and may be a better indicator of measuring stress in nonhuman animals than measuring corticosteroid stress hormone levels.
These findings support my long-held contention that the common practice of keeping various highly social species as solitary pets, which often makes them abnormally attached to humans, is both harmful and ethically questionable. For a penetrating critique of the animal industry complex and of currently condoned ways of keeping animals for pleasure and profit, see "Slaves of Our Affection: The Myth of the Happy Pet," by veterinarian Dr. Charles Danten. The author tells me that he was inspired by my earlier book, "Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals."
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)