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Compendium November 2008 (Vol 30, No 11)

News Bites (November 2008)

    Personality Goes a Long Way

    Previously dismissed as anthropomorphism, the concept of animal "personalities" is gaining traction in scientific research. In the October 14, 2008, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers present a mathematical model to help explain the evolution of competing personalities—in this case, rigid versus flexible, or unresponsive versus responsive. They conclude that having a mix of responsive and nonresponsive individuals benefits the group.

    To test their model, the researchers ran simulations of situations in which responsive and nonresponsive animals react to the availability of resources. According to one of the authors of the PNAS article, Franz Weissing, PhD, of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, a sample scenario might be a duck pond where twice as much food is put out along the left side as along the right side each day. If, one day, the larger amount of food is put on the right side of the pond, some of the ducks will notice and respond by going to the right to eat. Others will continue their routine of eating on the left side. The model shows that if too many ducks are nonresponsive and remain on the left, there will not be enough food for all the ducks. However, the same is true if too many of the ducks are responsive and go to the right. When the balance between responsive and nonresponsive individuals is right, all the ducks benefit.

    Although the researchers did not specifically analyze human behavior, they point out the correlation of their results with various traits that cross species, such as boldness and aggressiveness. They also conclude that when an animal benefits from its personality, that personality tends to persist. (Source: www.livescience.com)

    New Legislation Cracks Down on PA Puppy Mills

    In October, Pennsylvania joined Virginia, Louisiana, and Arizona in passing state legislation this year designed to help protect animals. The Pennsylvania law imposes new, strict standards on commercial kennels in an effort to help the state shut down unregulated puppy mills. These standards include exercise and caging requirements, a minimum of two veterinary examinations annually for breeding dogs, and safety and hygiene requirements. In addition, the law states that commercial kennels shall establish a veterinarian"client"patient relationship and that euthanasia may be performed only by veterinarians and only to prevent a dog from suffering from a medical condition. In August 2008, 80 dogs were shot by the operators of two Pennsylvania kennels after veterinary examinations were ordered for some of them.

    The new law regulates kennels designated as "commercial kennels," which are defined as those that sell at least 60 dogs per year to private owners or one or more dogs to dealers and pet shops. This classification accounts for about 650 of the state's 2600 licensed kennels. (Source: www.msnbc.com)

    US Veterinarian Shortage Reaching Critical Levels

    At a time when many sectors in the United States are facing employment uncertainties, veterinary medicine seems like a safe place to be. However, while veterinarians and students currently in veterinary programs may have better job security than most, the reason for that security is not so bright: there are not enough veterinarians in the country to fill a rapidly increasing number of important positions. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that careers in the veterinary field will grow by 35% over the next several years, the capacity of veterinary colleges to graduate new veterinarians has not changed in 30 years. As a result, the AVMA reports, dozens of rural counties are without much-needed large animal veterinarians.

    An act to create a competitive grant program to fund large expansion projects at US veterinary schools stalled in Congress this year, but a smaller grant program to pay for improvements at veterinary schools passed. (Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com)

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