Ricky Gervais helps stop breeding beagles for research

A big campaign blocked–for now–what would have been the UK’s biggest breeding farm for laboratory beagles. About 75,000 U.S. dogs are being tested on; the biggest US breeder, Charles River, has 736 dogs.

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Welsh cat claims to be 39, making it world's oldest

A tabby in Wales inherited from a relative turns out to be 39–and still playful but deaf.

Keep reading Welsh cat claims to be 39, making her world’s oldest

UK Repeating Survey that Last Year Found Widespread Charming Mammals

Hedgehog Ears!

Hedgehog Ears by by codepo8

Later this week up to 100,000 Brits will be going to their yards and counting badgers, hedgehogs, foxes, toads and moles. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds got 62,000 people to count last year when they started out.

The survey “is by far the biggest survey on garden mammals ever!” the site boasts. I’ve certainly never seen anything like it in the U.S. It’s a fantastic resource for wildlife watchers because you can see which counties have the most of which animals. Sure, it’s not totally scientific. People self-select to do it. And if I had a yard full of hedgehogs, I’d be filling out surveys and telling everyone I know about it.

The 2009 results showed a delightful amount of wildlife. In Wales, 9% of people who took the survey see badgers at least once a month and a quarter of the English live with have little hedgehogs on their property. What kind of magical place is this? Did anyone report any talking bunnies?

The survey just takes an hour, so they don’t demand that–unlike similar bird surveys–the animal doesn’t have to show up just at that moment. They let people report sign of an animal ask generally how often they’re seen. Otherwise you might get a whole lot of nothing from the survey.

As you might guess from its name the RSPB is more interested in birds than mammals. They also ask about cats, which they estimated recently that

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Starlings Murmur over Brighton

Brighton Starlings

Starlings over the West Pier, Brighton,courtesy of Howzey.

In the U.S. starlings are slaughtered by the millions, but in their native England they are enjoyed as one of the most mysterious spectacles.

Nature groups give tours of the starlings, but you can just show up yourself at dusk at the Brighton Pier, where 50,000 some starlings murmur–that is, swarm in a hypnotizingly coordinated dance in an effort to evade the hawks that are trying to eat them.

The starlings have always hung around Brighton, Sussex, but moved to the pier after a big storm knocked over their favorite trees in 1987. Their supporters think that’s just as well: the setting is gorgeous; the birds are safe from people; and the city is safe from guano. “You could not really have them in a more ideal spot. It is a great spectacle to have 50,000 birds in a big town wheeling about,” Steve Berry from English Nature told Regency Brighton. Starlings are legally protected in the UK; their numbers have fallen 66% since the 1970s, the RSPB reports.

Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), clever mimics with shimmering, multi-colored feathers, are treated far differently in the U.S. The 200 million that live here are treated an invasive species and pest here, topping the biological services hit list. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, improbably still in the business of mass culls of animals, especially predators, kills 1,117,000 starlings a year.

A homesick Brit, Eugene Scheiffelin, introduced 100 starlings into Central Park in 1891, hoping

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British Dog-Breeding Scandal Report: Meet Your Puppy’s Parents

The latest chapter in England’s purebred dog scandal is the Bateson report, which makes drastic but common sense recommendations on how dogs should be bought and sold. It recommends breeders stop inbreeding, breeding for extreme traits and breeding dogs with genetic defects. The aggressive BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed showed all of these, prompting a national scandal. The inquiry also has blame and advice that ordinary dog owners worldwide should follow: if you must buy a pedigree puppy, insist on seeing its mother.

The report and reforms, some already underway, are a direct result of the fantastic documentary. But there is plenty of responsibility for dog owners, too, who can’t even be bothered to figure out which breed fits their situation and where it comes from. “[I]f everybody refused to buy a puppy until they had seen its mother and satisfied themselves that the conditions under which it was reared were safe, healthy and provided a life worth living for parent and puppy,” writes Professor Sir Patrick Bateson, “if everybody took the sensible step of finding the breed that would best suit their family and their living conditions, then poor breeders would be out of business and far fewer dogs would require re-homing.”

In addition to genetic defects, these places often pass on bad hygeine and socialization. He mentions one Irish “puppy farm,” the Britishism for puppy mill, that produced 5,000 puppies a year. Who would want a dog born out of that misery?

Where to See Dog Events

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