Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

By Jennifer Kay

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MIAMI _ The last orca has been born in captivity at a SeaWorld park in San Antonio, Texas, just over a year after the theme park decided to stop breeding orcas following animal rights protests and declining ticket sales.

The Orlando-based company said the orca _ the last in a generation of whales bred in confinement _ was born Wednesday afternoon. SeaWorld did not immediately name the calf because the park’s veterinarians had not yet determined whether it was male or female.

The mother, 25-year-old Takara, was already pregnant when SeaWorld announced in March 2016 that it had stopped breeding its orcas. The gestation period for orcas is about 18 months.

Preparing late last month for the moment, SeaWorld’s chief zoological officer, Chris Dold, told The Associated Press he expected the birth to be bittersweet, because it would be the last such event at any of the parks. But just hours after the calf was born about 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Dold said, SeaWorld staff only felt like celebrating. SeaWorld said mother and calf both appear healthy.

“These are extraordinary moments,” he said by phone while travelling to the U.S. from Abu Dhabi, where SeaWorld is developing its first new park without orcas. “It’s a tempered celebration only because we’re focused on the health of these guys.”

SeaWorld decided to stop breeding orcas, and phase out its world-famous killer whale performances by 2019, after public opinion turned against keeping orcas, dolphins and other animals in captivity for entertainment. The backlash intensified after the 2013 release of “Blackfish,” a documentary critical of SeaWorld’s orca care. It focused on the orca Tilikum, which killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando in 2010, dragging her into the pool before shocked visitors after a “Dine with Shamu” show.

Tilikum, which sired 14 calves over nearly 25 years in Orlando, died of bacterial pneumonia in January.

The newborn calf was sired by Kyuquot (pronounced ky YOO kit) at the San Antonio park by natural means. It brings SeaWorld’s orca population in the U.S. to 23. All the orcas are expected to remain on display and available for researchers for years to come in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio.

SeaWorld has said it plans to introduce new “natural orca encounters” in place of theatrical shows. This summer, the San Diego park will unveil a new, educational attraction in a revamped pool, and new orca attractions eventually will follow in San Antonio and Orlando.

The calf will be visible to visitors either in the orca stadium pool at the San Antonio park or in two adjacent pools. Observations about the calf and Takara by SeaWorld trainers will be provided from the moment of birth to researchers trying to fill gaps in their data about wild killer whales.

Dold said veterinarians at the San Antonio park told him the calf was born normally tail first after about an hour and a half of smooth labour. Both orcas were swimming calmly, including taking breaths at the water’s surface, and trainers would be watching for the calf to begin nursing.

“Mom generally will rest but she can’t rest too much …. mom’s not holding onto the calf, but it’s riding in her slipstream, and that’s how it gets around,” Dold said. “Our expectation is that all of this will go smoothly, but we take none of that for granted.”

Birth control and “social management” will prevent future orca pregnancies, said spokeswoman Suzanne Pelisson Beasley. SeaWorld has not collected a wild orca in nearly 40 years, and most of its orcas were born in captivity.

Researchers have said they worry that SeaWorld’s decision to stop breeding orcas will slowly reduce their ability to study orca health, growth and behaviour, limiting them in coming years to collecting data from a small pod of aging whales.

Heather Hill, a St. Mary’s University comparative psychologist who plans to monitor the sleeping habits of Takara and the calf over the coming year, said it was frustrating to see research opportunities at SeaWorld undermined by public opinion amid federal cuts to science funding.

“This will be one of the first times we’ll be able to see not just a mother with a newborn calf but also a newborn calf with siblings,” Hill said.

This is Takara’s fifth calf. Two of her other offspring remain at the San Antonio park, while one lives at SeaWorld Orlando and another has been loaned to a park in Tenerife, Spain. SeaWorld has no current plans to separate Takara and the newborn in the future, or to move any of its other orcas, Dold said.

In March, Dold said SeaWorld remains committed to orca research and conservation, calling the last orca birth in captivity “a solemn reminder of how things can change and how things can be lost.”

Nova Scotia SPCA Launches Pet Insurance Product with Petline Insurance Company

Every pet guardian that adopts a dog or cat from the Nova Scotia SPCA now has the opportunity to purchase lifelong protection for their new pet through Nova Scotia SPCA Pet Health Insurance, launched today in partnership with Petline, Canada’s largest pet health insurance company.

Supporters of the Nova Scotia SPCA can purchase the new insurance product online at www.spcanspetinsurance.ca or by phone at 1-844-737-7387.

“Partnering with Petline to create this product better ensures the continued good health of the pets after they leave the care of the SPCA,”  said Elizabeth Murphy, Chief Executive Officer of the Nova Scotia SPCA. “Support the SPCA and homeless, abandoned, injured animals by purchasing the new Nova Scotia SPCA Pet Health Insurance.”

“Nova Scotia SPCA is a strong brand that has demonstrated longevity and trust, providing humane care to animals for 140 years,” said Rod Cunniam, Divisional Vice President of Petline. “We’re taking our partnership to new and exciting heights with the Nova Scotia SPCA. Through this new product launch, the animals that they care for will receive everlasting care.”

About Petline Insurance Company
As the first and only licensed insurance company in Canada to focus solely on pet insurance, we are dedicated to responsible pet ownership. We help Canadian pets live longer and healthier lives by enabling their owners to provide the best in pet health care. Our core brand is Petsecure pet health insurance. We also underwrite PC pet insurance, Pet Insurance for Hudson’s Bay customers, Desjardins Pet Insurance Program, The Personal Pet Insurance Program and CAA pet insurance.

SOURCE Petline Insurance

B.C. lawyer says pet insurance not worth the cost

Excerpted article was written By Anne Drewa | Global News

When it comes to buying pet insurance and dealing with unexpected medical costs, critics argue you are better off self-insuring.

“I don’t believe in pet insurance because I have seen so many clients who have been on the spectrum of the gamut of people who do not benefit from pet insurance,”  said Victoria Shroff, a lawyer who specializes in pet litigation and an adjunct law professor at UBC.

Shroff has been practising animal law for close to 20 years and has witnessed clients let down by their pet insurance policies.

“It’s there for you when the sun is shining, the umbrellas are handed to you, but when it rains the umbrellas are taken away,” she said.

“That’s the same situation with pet insurance. People think they’ve got coverage, they go in and they need something done urgently with their animal, particularly older animals, and they’ll find – sorry, preexisting condition. We can’t cover you.”

Instead, Schroff recommends setting aside money every month for a  pet emergency.

“Have a specific savings account that you set aside for your animals. Put down $50 to $80 away per month per pet.”

Still, the BC SPCA recommends pet insurance.

“It can help your animal get better care faster and with less stress for you,” Dr. Emilia Gordon of the BC SPCA said. “Typically exclusions fall under a couple of categories. Many times preexisting conditions are excluded. Sometimes breed-related issues are excluded and sometimes it’s for a certain period and sometimes it’s for life.”

When choosing a policy, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association recommends pet owners ask the following questions:

  • Does the policy cover genetic conditions?
  • What percentage of fees will be reimbursed?
  • Does the policy cover vaccines?
  • What is the deductible?
  • Do your premiums change as your pet ages?

Gordon said consumers should read the fine print of any policy and consult with a veterinarian to help sort through the details. Policies are diverse and monthly premiums and deductibles can vary.

Alberta government knew farm worker insurance needed: Report

CALGARY _ A report commissioned by the previous Progressive Conservative government shows it was aware that Alberta farm workers needed workplace insurance protection.

The Sigma Risk Management report, obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour, was presented to the Tories in February 2015, three months before they were swept from power by the NDP.

The report says about 2,000 farm workers in Alberta suffer a lost-time accident each year and about 20 will die in workplace accidents.

It also notes that Workers Compensation Board coverage would be the cheapest insurance option for small and medium-size farms.

The AFL says its findings repudiate arguments against the farm safety changes that have been brought in by the NDP.

Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and PC leadership candidate Jason Kenney have both pledged to scrap the NDP legislation known as Bill 6 if they win the next provincial election.

“This utterly repudiates the arguments against basic workplace protections for agricultural employees,” federation president Gil McGowan said Tuesday in a release.

“Anyone who reads this report and still says that Alberta doesn’t need common-sense agricultural workplace laws has no heart.”

Mandatory rules that require WCB coverage for paid farm workers in Alberta have been in effect since January 2016.

The rules don’t apply to farm owners or their family members.

Regulations to cover workplace issues such as overtime, hours of work, collective bargaining, safety education and health rules are being studied by farm, labour and other groups.

The government has said once these groups make their recommendations, the government will give Albertans a chance to respond to draft regulations.

Safety of four legged actors must be paramount on set, says animal trainer

By Lauren La Rose

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Amidst outrage over the alleged mistreatment of a German shepherd while shooting the upcoming film “A Dog’s Purpose,” animal trainers and agents say it’s essential to consistently advocate for the safety of four-legged actors on set.

Video footage posted on entertainment website TMZ appears to show the distressed dog forced into turbulent water during the film shoot, which took place near Winnipeg in November 2015.

Javier Schwersensky, head of the Winnipeg Humane Society, said his group was consulted for two scenes in the movie, but not the one involving the alleged abuse. He said the video suggests the dog was not properly trained and “weeks if not months” of work would’ve been needed to prepare the animal for what it faced.

The film’s producer, Amblin Entertainment, and distributor, Universal Pictures, said in a joint statement “there were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts.”

Abbotsford, B.C.-based animal trainer Gerry Therrien says he’s been in the field for 36 years, working with animals including dogs, cats, lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, jaguars, bears and wolves on a wide range of projects.

Trainers must “be able to say ‘no’ to producers and directors,” he said in an interview.They’re in a hurry, they’re in a rush. You have to understand there’s a lot of moving parts in a movie. Everybody’s under the same pressures. You have to be able to stand up and say: ‘Yeah, guys, I’m not going to do this. This ain’t going to happen. I need this much time to do this, “said Therrien.

“They’re in a hurry, they’re in a rush. You have to understand there’s a lot of moving parts in a movie. Everybody’s under the same pressures. You have to be able to stand up and say: ‘Yeah, guys, I’m not going to do this. This ain’t going to happen. I need this much time to do this,”’ said Therrien.

“You have to stand by that, and sometimes it costs you the show.”

He said he makes a point of getting the director’s shot list and storyboards, and does a thorough walkthrough of sets ahead of time. He will also consult with special-effects co-ordinators, and if weapons are being used during filming, he wants to hear the sound of the gunshots in advance. Trainers can also request air-conditioned trailers or any other essentials to ensure the comfort of the animals, he said.

Therrien said he usually has multiple dogs that all look the same to play the same role to eliminate having one canine take on too much work. There are often instances in which particular dogs will be better suited in certain conditions, be it playing a more aggressive part or navigating through water, he added.

“You have to just be very diligent in your job,” said Therrien. “The training of the animal is a very, very difficult thing; it’s a very long and hard process. But I’ll tell you what: it’s nothing compared to walking onto set and standing an animal in front of 300 people with cameras and lights and wind and having it do what you ask it to do.

“It looks all cute and fuzzy when a guy is petting an animal. You have to remember: that’s not his animal. You’re making it look like it is, but it’s a very difficult thing to do.”

On well-run sets, “sometimes they treat animals better than they treat humans,” said Carolyn Nikkanen, president of Hot Paws Talent, a division of Carolyn’s Model and Talent Agency in Mississauga, Ont.

She recalled one canine that had to be placed in water to try to swim during a shoot for an insurance commercial. Throughout filming, a handler was standing by at all times and warm blankets were at the ready, she said.

“They told us right from the beginning that the dog was going to be looked after and not stressed out. They just kept taking frequent breaks.”

– With files from The Associated Press.

Fright night: Keep pets’ safety in mind this Halloween

Fright night: Keep pets’ safety in mind this Halloween

Source: BC SPCA

The days are growing shorter and chillier in B.C. With fall just arrived and Halloween around the corner, it’s a good time to think about the animals in your care and their safety at night. Firecrackers, fireworks and other loud noises, as well as plenty of little-people traffic in and out of the house can be upsetting to animals, and even lead to harm.

“Fireworks going off, a constantly ringing doorbell and the presence of costumed strangers can all cause animals to panic, putting both pets and people in danger,” says Lorie Chortyk, BC SPCA general manager of community relations.

When dogs and cats are frightened they are more likely to run away from their homes, jump out of open windows or dart into traffic. Stressed pets can also behave out of character — even scratching or biting people, says Chortyk.

It’s not only companion animals who are at risk.

“Frightened farm animals have even been known to run into barbed-wire fences or other obstructions. With a little planning, guardians can take steps to keep their all their animals safe on Halloween,” says Chortyk.

Help keep your animals safe on Halloween with these tips:

  • Keep pets inside: Pets who are inside have fewer opportunities to confront trick-or-treaters. Some pets do well left in a separate room with the radio or television on to mask the sound of fireworks and trick-or-treaters. Be sure to leave plenty of toys in the room for your pet so that he doesn’t think he’s being isolated as a punishment. If your pet finds the doorbell disturbing, consider disconnecting the doorbell for the night. Alternatively, you can leave a bowl of treats near the door outside where trick-or-treaters can help themselves. That way, they won’t knock or ring the doorbell – at least not until the bowl is emptied.
  • Identification: Make sure your pet is wearing identification. Dogs and cats may try to run away if they feel threatened. Clear, current identification is your best chance to have them returned to you.
  • Candy is for people: Candy can lead to health problems such as diabetes or obesity, and chocolate is especially dangerous because it contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs and cats. Keep treats well away from your pets.
  • Leave home without them: If you think it would be fun to bring your pet trick-or-treating, your pet may not share your view. The strange sights and sounds of Halloween can cause a normally friendly dog to bite if it feels scared or threatened.
  • Don’t costume your pet: Dressing your dog in a costume inhibits his ability to communicate, making him prone to display aggression himself or be subjected to aggressive behaviour from other dogs.

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.

 

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