DEAR READERS: The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service proposed a rule earlier this year that would require anyone involved in the handling of wild and exotic animals for exhibition to undergo training. The rule would also set standards for environmental enrichment of all animals covered under the Animal Welfare Act. APHIS is accepting comments by mail and online through March 10. (Full story: AVMA News, Feb. 14)
I am more encouraged by the British Veterinary Association, of which I am a member, publishing their policy position on the importation, captive-breeding and ownership of "exotic" pets: bva.co.uk/exotic pets. This position statement includes an end to the import of wild-caught reptiles and amphibians for non-conservation reasons. I am calling for the AVMA to take a similar position. But so long as some veterinarians see exotic pets as a generator of income, this may not be soon forthcoming.
Veterinarians with expertise in dealing with "exotic" animal health issues are nevertheless engaging in wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, release and conservation. We do need veterinary expertise in dealing with these pets, whose owners too often do not know how to care for them properly, until their keeping becomes something of the past. The less contact we have with exotic animals, whether wild-caught or captive-bred, the lower the possibilities of people contracting various diseases from such animals -- a significant public health issue today.
For additional details, see my post: drfoxonehealth.com/post/saying-no-to-wild-and-exotic-animals-sold-as-pets.
DEAR DR. FOX: There are flea and tick preventatives on the market today that are safer and more effective than what was available 10 years ago. Alzoo has all-natural repellents, from collars, to spot-on treatments to sprays, to keep your pets safe.
I wanted to send you some information on these natural, plant-based products for any stories you are working on. -- J.K.
DEAR J.K.: In my opinion, the natural ingredient-based products that you offer to repel fleas, ticks and biting insects from dogs and cats would be effective, as well as safer for animals and the environment than the various pesticides being widely marketed -- and even sold -- by veterinarians.
However, I would never put a collar impregnated with essential oils of cedar and peppermint on a cat or dog since this could interfere with their sense of smell, tracking, orienting and processing olfactory information. I would limit application to the backs of cats, since they could otherwise ingest these substances while self-grooming, and I would stop animals who have been sprayed or powdered with your products from grooming each other.
Read below for a notable study of the insect-repellant value of tree resins and tars that bears seem to understand!
BROWN BEAR WISDOM: USING TREE RESIN TO REPEL TICKS
In a recent Journal of Zoology article, Polish scientists present evidence that ticks are repelled by the resin that bears will rub on their backs after clawing beech and other resin/tar-secreting trees. (Full story: doi.org/10.1111/jzo.13045)
The high levels of compounds called terpenes in these resins are no doubt the key that makes these trees so beneficial, and why bears select them.
GOOD NEWS FOR LABORATORY ANIMALS
Animal testing is no longer needed in the U.S. now that President Joe Biden has signed the FDA's Modernization Act 2.0. This act amends the federal mandate that has stood since 1938 requiring all medicines in development to undergo animal testing before proceeding to human trials.
I was one of a few scientists raising the ethical questions, as well as the unreliability of laboratory animal tests and the need to develop more reliable alternatives, in my 1986 book "Laboratory Animal Husbandry: Ethology, Welfare and Experimental Variables." I feel a sense of vindication and deep relief for the decades of animal suffering that may soon come to an end -- even though COVID-19 vaccine developers have recently complained about the paucity of monkeys needed for vaccine testing.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)