Follow-up: Austin Police issue apology for shooting family dog and release more details

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Before I get into this story more, I want to say that I’m not one to routinely or callously criticize law enforcement officers. I have a high degree of respect for anyone who puts their life on the line to protect innocent people – from law enforcement to firefighters to the brave men and women who serve the nation in our military.

But that being said, this level of service and bravery should not serve as a shield from being exposed for any wrongdoing.

The case in Austin, Texas where the police officer shot a family dog should serve as a call to better train officers across the country in dog behavior. Cases such as the one in Austin have happened enough now – as reported today by the Huffington Post – that it should spark some better training.

The Huff Post piece linked to a Daily Beast article from 2009 that reported dog attacks on US Postal workers have become rare. Why? – Because mail carriers are offered training on how to distract dogs and are “shown a two-hour video and given instruction on how to recognize and read a dog’s body language, how to differentiate between aggressive charging and playful bounding, and how to tell a truly dangerous dog from a merely territorial one.”

The Beast also noted that between 2000 and 2002, the Indianapolis police shot 44 dogs, as reported by the Indianapolis Star.

ABC News filed this video report, which includes interviews with the dog’s guardian in Austin and dash-cam video and audio from the incident in Austin. From the audio, it seems clear to me that the officer is one who should be trained the way postal workers are trained.

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I’ve been approached on numerous occasions by aggressive dogs and in none of these instances, barring one occurrence I recall when I was a small child, did the dogs bite me. And never did I have anything I could use to protect myself, other than my wits.



Important study concludes animals dream

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This is another item to file in the “Science Now Confirms What Animal Lovers Know” folder. We’ve all seen our pets moving their legs, feet or tails or even twitching their lips and eyelids during long naps. It was never a vast leap to suggest they were dreaming.

Now, we can state logged scientific research to support the theory. An article posted on reports a key study was conducted by Matthew A. Wilson of MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Researchers monitored the brain wave patterns of mice as they roamed mazes and they recorded matching brainwave patterns during sleep. This led the researchers to conclude the mice were indeed dreaming about their experiences.

And I will take it step beyond this by stating this is another important bit of evidence of self-awareness and state of consciousness. Dreaming means the animal (or human) is experiencing some event in the movie studio in their mind. This is – without a doubt – a key aspect of state of consciousness.

New Study: Dogs can read us

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New research out of Hungary is offering more evidence that dogs can read what we’re thinking, as reported today on

This sort of research is so incredibly important. Dogs seem to be able to read our thoughts, whether it is through eye contact or our emotions or some other hidden trait. The Hungarian researched focused somewhat on eye contact.

The canines in the study were shown a video of woman at times staring at them. The dogs reacted to her eye contact and physical movements. It is suggested the response from the dogs was similar to those of a 6-month-old human baby.

Body language, our emotions and through eye contact – it all seems to be part of our special connection with our pets. And the article touches on the importance of our long connection with dogs, as we have evolved together for thousands of years.

And this study offer further evidence that dogs possess self-awareness and a state of consciousness.

I’ll bet you have some stories to tell about your pets reading your mind.

Study: Rats are social animals who show empathy for others

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Credit goes to my brother Gary for providing the link to this article concerning a study on rat behavior at the University of Chicago. The details were reported in the December 9 issue of Science, as highlighted in a Science News article.

(NOTE – You often see that I take great pains to make sure I label links and sources to credit these sources. It has always been important to me to make sure I do this.)

In the study, one rat is placed in small, clear enclosure with latched door. Another rat is placed outside of the smaller cage and eventually, after several days of hour-long sessions, discovers a way to free his buddy. Once the one rat is free, there is a “frenzy of excited running.”

When the cages where empty or when a stuffed toy was used, the rats showed no interest in opening the door. Researches introduced pieces of chocolate to the experiments and in more than half of the trails, the “hero” rats left chocolate for their freed buddies.

This sort of study and its findings are becoming more commonplace and more in the mainstream of science. We are slowly removing the curtain from the worn out and false claims that animals do not have feelings or are not able to empathize for others.

I believe that as we move forward in time, new findings such as this will raise awareness about animal cognition, self-awareness and their thought processes. And those tired, old statements about anthropomorphism will fade into history.

Saturday Commentary: Human Behavior – The Real Mystery

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I recently began work on a local story about a family that rescued a puppy from a highway median. The little dog was injured, but after surgery is on the way to a full recovery.

I had a discussion with one of the rescuers about how some people can have such a lack of compassion for others. There was this puppy who in all likelihood was tossed out on an Interstate highway. If this was the case (and it does happen of course) then how could someone do something like that? – or worse – like dog fighting or running a puppy mill, etc.

Later in the day, do they think back and feel bad about it? Do puppy mill operators or dog fighters at some point during a day think, ‘I gotta get out of this. This isn’t right.’? Or do these people merely lack a moral compass? Do they not have the capacity for empathy or caring for others?

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News Pack for Aug. 31: Topics – puppy mills, dolphins using tools and oil protests

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A lot going on of late in the way of animal-welfare and environmental news –

ONE – Actress Daryl Hannah was arrested Tuesday in front of the White House – during a protest of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

This oil pipeline would run from the oil sands of Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Hannah is well-known for her speaking out on topics involving protection for the environment.

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New study shows chimps share with others in need

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New research into the cooperative behavior of chimpanzees at Emory University indicates they can have empathy for others and share goodies with others.

The New York Times quoted a Duke anthropologist on the results of the study – “These new results suggest chimpanzees may help others proactively simply because they understand they need help,” said Brian Hare, an anthropologist at Duke University.

This is one area where mainstream scientific research is finally playing catch-up with reality.

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