News Bites for 1 October 2021

Oct 1, 2021 | News Bites

World Animal Day, October 4th

Next Monday, October 4th is World Animal Day, an international day of action to raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards. First held in 1925, the day is a means of drawing attention to animal welfare issues across the globe by encouraging businesses, schools, clubs and others to organise and participate in various World Animal Day events, with the goal of improving the lives of all animals through recognition and awareness. Veterinary practices that would like to participate on October 4th can find a list of ideas to get involved on the World Animal Day website.

The impact of pets on pandemic loneliness

A recent study has shown that a large majority of pet owners felt their pets provided a positive effect on their wellbeing during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Led by the University of the West of Scotland, the study of 1,199 participants found that 85% of dog owners and 75% of cat owners believed their pets had an extremely or moderately positive effect on their wellbeing. “Despite being physically isolated from friends, family or colleagues, having a pet meant never truly being alone. Companion animals not only helped to take their guardians’ minds off negative thoughts associated with the pandemic, but also provided a much-needed source of purpose,” said researcher Heather Clements. Read more

New specially-built hideout for bats

There’s a newly-built bridge in Kentucky that doubles as a specially-designed hideout for bats. Used as a roosting spot for thousands of endangered gray bats, the box beam bridge was beginning to show signs of structural damage. A team of engineers, wildlife officials and ecologists came together to construct a new bat-friendly structure but were unsure if the bats would return once it was built. The new bridge was installed in March, and ecologists counted around 400 bats, including pups, in a June survey and more than 1,100 two months later. Read more

AI could help scientists ID the next zoonotic disease

In a new proof-of-concept study published in PLOS Biology, researchers suggest artificial intelligence can be used to predict the likelihood that an animal-infecting virus will infect humans. Researchers compiled a database of 861 zoonotic virus species from 36 animal families and then used machine learning to identify genomic patterns linked with the risk of human infection. While animal populations host millions of viruses, studies suggest only a small percentage hold the potential for human infection. Machine learning can make it easier for scientists to rule out non-threatening viruses and home in on those posing the greatest threat. Read more

22,338 Australians call on Agriculture Minister for pet food standards

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has received an open letter signed by 22,338 Australians calling for safer pet food. The letter follows calls from the veterinarians, pet food producers and animal welfare groups for the introduction of mandatory standards after a recent spate of animal deaths and illnesses due to toxic pet food. “These responses clearly show that Australians are demanding mandatory safety standards for the foods we feed our pets – in line with those in countries including New Zealand, the US and jurisdictions such as the EU. But policymakers continue to drag their feet,” said consumer advocacy organisation CHOICE in a statement. Read more