Washington University in St. Louis said that it has stopped using sedated cats to train medical students how to insert breathing tubes down babies’ throats, effectively ending the practice in the U.S.
The university’s School of Medicine said in a statement that after a “significant investment” in its simulation center, it will now provide neonatal intubation training using only mannequins and advanced simulators, effective immediately.
The school said improvements in simulators made the change possible. Cats currently at the university are being adopted by employees of the medical center.
“In the 25-plus years the university has relied on cats in teaching this procedure, none was harmed during training,” the statement read.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a medical ethics nonprofit, applauded the decision, saying the practice was cruel to animals and unnecessary for students. The group said it was the last of the 198 U.S. pediatrics programs still using cats.
“The best way to teach emergency airway intervention is on human-relevant training methods. I commend Washington University for switching to modern methods,” said Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee.
Washington University’s use of cats has drawn criticism in recent years, with critics contending that the animals suffer pain and injuries ranging from cracked teeth to punctured lungs. Protests broke out in 2013 after an undercover video of the university’s training in pediatric advanced life support was released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The video shows a trainee putting tubes down the throat of a sedated cat, sometimes struggling to get it right. However, the medical school continued using sedated cats in other training programs prior to Monday’ announcement.
But university officials have said the lab consistently met federal Animal Welfare Act standards, including passing an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture soon after the PETA video.
Other teaching labs have used simulators for years, but Washington University previously cited research indicating that pediatric doctors in training only succeed in 20 percent to 35 percent of their initial attempts to intubate infants, justifying the need for animals in training.
The program previously used ferrets, too, but university spokeswoman Judy Martin said ferrets have not been used for many years.
Two wildlife issues have collided in Hawaii, pitting one group of animal defenders against another in an impassioned debate. The point of contention? Deadly cat poop and the feral felines that produce it.
Federal researchers believe feces from the legions of feral cats roaming Hawaii is spreading a disease that is killing Hawaiian monk seals, some of the world’s most endangered marine mammals. Some conservationists advocate euthanizing those cats that no one wants, and that’s got cat lovers up in arms.
“It’s a very difficult, emotional issue,” said state Sen. Mike Gabbard, chairman of a committee that earlier this year heard and then abandoned a proposal to ban the feeding of feral cats on state land after an outcry. “It struck a nerve in our community.”
The problem stems from a parasite common in cats that can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that killed at least five female Hawaiian monk seals and three males since 2001, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“While eight seals may not sound like a lot of animals, it actually has pretty large ramifications for an endangered population where there’s only about 1,300 seals in existence at this point in time,” said Michelle Barbieri, veterinary medical officer for NOAA’s Hawaiian monk seal research program.
Scientists believe monk seals become exposed to toxoplasmosis by ingesting contaminated water or prey.
Felines are the only animals that can shed Toxoplasma gondii eggs, or oocysts. The parasites enter their digestive tract through infected prey then multiply in the small intestine and produce the eggs. Outdoor cats excrete the eggs in their feces, which researchers say washes into the ocean.
The eggs accumulate in invertebrates that live along the sea floor, where monk seals often feed. They can survive in fresh water, saltwater and soil for up to two years.
Any warm-blooded animal can become infected. California sea otters have died from toxoplasmosis, and it’s one of the major reasons the Hawaiian crow, alala, is extinct in the wild. Toxoplasmosis is rarely problematic for people with healthy immune systems, but it’s why doctors advise pregnant women not to handle kitty litter.
Many cities struggle with feral cats, but the problem is particularly acute in Hawaii because of its sensitive ecosystem and at-risk native species, experts say. Only two mammals are native to Hawaii: the hoary bat and the Hawaiian monk seal.
“Everything else here_ deer, sheep, goats, cats, mongoose _ they’re all invasive, they’re all introduced,” said Angela Amlin, NOAA’s acting Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator, adding cats have no predators in Hawaii to control their population.
Marketing research commissioned by the Hawaiian Humane Society in 2015 estimated some 300,000 feral cats roam Oahu alone.
Marine debris, climate change, predation and human interaction all threaten the survival of Hawaiian monk seals. But feral cats present their greatest disease concern, Amlin said.
“As conservationists, what we really have to look at is this is what Hawaii’s native ecosystem includes, and cats are unfortunately not part of that,” Amlin said. “When it comes to the feral cat population, there should be a program in place to bring in these animals, adopt the ones that are adoptable and humanely euthanize those that are not.”
Others take offense to that notion.
Classifying animals with labels such as native and invasive creates a “hierarchy in which the protection of certain animals comes at the suffering of others,” Hawaiian Humane Society President and CEO Pamela Burns wrote in a letter opposing the state Senate bill that would have banned cat-feeding on state land. She contended the 300,000 figure overstates the problem because the study looked at how many cats people were feeding and might have missed instances where multiple people fed the same outdoor cat.
Those who care for stray cats advocate trapping, neutering and spaying to help control their population.
The University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus, in Honolulu, started a feral cat management program _ with authorized feeders trained in tasks like trapping and feces disposal _ after the stench and mess from hundreds of cats prompted complaints, especially when children at a campus daycare center got flea bites, said Roxanne Adams, director of buildings and grounds.
The program started in 2011 and appears to have reduced the number of felines, she said.
Euthanizing cats is unacceptable unless they’re extremely sick, said Alicia Maluafiti, board president of animal welfare group Poi Dogs and Popoki.
“I totally disagree with the … generalization that cat people love cats more than these endangered species,” Maluafiti said. “What we just don’t advocate is the wholesale killing, the extermination, of one species … for one.”
American audiences will get the rare chance to catch a sneak peek of the new Miss Saigon before it opens on Broadway next spring. They just have to go to a movie theater.
A filmed version of the musical’s live 25th-anniversary celebration in London will make its world premiere on some 175 U.S. movie theaters on Sept. 22, some six months before the same production with the same leading actors lands on Broadway.
The show captured the performance at the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End in September 2014 and was augmented by close-ups recorded a few months after the show closed there earlier this year.
The same stars — Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer and Eva Noblezada as Kim — are slated to appear when the show opens at the Broadway Theatre in March, but mega-producer Cameron Mackintosh isn’t worried the broadcast will cannibalize fans.
“It encourages business,” he said. “This is the greatest cinematic trailer for a theatrical production that’s ever been produced. I could be wrong, but I defy anybody who loves the show and isn’t bowled over by the film not to want to go.”
Miss Saigon, a tragic Vietnam War love story inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, has songs by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, who also wrote Les Miserables.
Mackintosh said he didn’t initially plan for a broadcast version of Miss Saigon, but was persuaded to capture the 25th anniversary of its West End arrival with a dozen cameras. A special finale was added that featured the original stars Jonathan Pryce, Lea Salonga and Simon Bowman — as well as Mackintosh making a surprise appearance.
He considered it one of the top three performances of Miss Saigon in its history. “Beyond just it being a wonderful performance, there was a sense of magic in the air,” he said. (As for Mackintosh himself, “I bounce around like an irrepressible ball.”)
He and his team decided to add documentary footage and fold in close-ups shot later. They reminded viewers it was a live event by not digitally removing the performers’ microphones and layering in shots of the audience going into the theater and their reactions at some scenes.
“What producer in his lifetime gets the chance to do a great show twice with two brilliant companies in two different productions? Not many people have ever had that opportunity,” said Mackintosh.
The final result is presented by Fathom Events, Universal Pictures and Picturehouse Entertainment. American audiences will see the same production from London directed by Laurence Connor and with its two stars. “They’re seeing what they’re going to get,” Mackintosh said.
When the revival finally arrives on Broadway, it will join other Mackintosh-produced works like The Phantom of the Opera and Cats, which returned this summer. (It will have missed his latest revival of Les Miserables, which closes next month after 21/2 years.)
“Thirty years on, to have my four great musicals of that era still firing on all cylinders is amazing,” he said. “I’m as enthusiastic about these great shows now as I was when I helped create them all those decades ago because, to me, they smell as if they’re absolutely freshly minted.”
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Authorities have removed dozens of dead cats from the freezer of a home in southern Wisconsin.
Police confiscated 50 live cats from the residence in Monroe. Authorities say when they executed a search warrant, 35 kittens and six adult cats were found in a freezer.
They also found a dead cat in the garage.
WKOW-TV reports firefighters wore gas masks and oxygen tanks to enter the residence because of the smell.
Police Chief Fred Kelley says one of the 50 cats taken had to be euthanized because of its poor condition.
New York is requiring universities using cats and dogs for research to offer them for adoption through animal shelters, humane societies or private placements.
The law applies to higher education research facilities that are tax-exempt or receive public money or else collaborate with institutions getting either public benefit.
It first requires a veterinarian at the facility to determine whether an animal is healthy and suitable for adoption once the research is completed.
Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat and lead sponsor, says animals used in scientific, medical and product research across the state are usually euthanized, though some institutions voluntarily maintain adoption programs.
She says beagles are commonly bred for research and used because of their docility.
The Humane Society of the United States says Connecticut, California, Minnesota and Nevada have similar laws.
As the director of Austin Pets Alive!, Ellen Jefferson gets a lot of urgent phone calls. Agency heads from municipal animal shelters across the country want to know how her nonprofit group, which adopts the sickest, least-loved dogs and cats, helped to make Austin the largest city in America with “no kill” shelters.
In 2011, one of those calls came from San Antonio, Texas.
“I walked into a city that was only saving about 30 percent of their animals,” said Jefferson, who agreed to open a San Antonio chapter of Pets Alive! the next year.
But things were changing. After decades of official neglect and public indifference, the Alamo City had begun to turn around its poor record of saving unwanted pets. In 2004, the old city shelter at Brackenridge Park euthanized more than 50,000 dogs and cats, the highest per-capita rate in the country.
Two years later, then-Mayor Phil Hardberger issued a challenge to significantly reduce the problem with strays. The City Council approved a plan to make San Antonio a “no-kill” city, which commonly means saving at least 90 percent of the unwanted animals.
A new city shelter with space for 22,000 animals opened in 2007 on the South Side. By November 2011, the city was saving more pets than it was killing. And by 2012, the kill total had declined to 13,559.
Since then, in big and small ways, multiple changes brought San Antonio to its first “no kill” status in December.
Money was key. The ACS budget nearly tripled in a decade, from $4.8 million in 2006 to $12.5 million this fiscal year. National animal groups like the Humane Society, the Petco Foundation, PetSmart Charities and ASPCA found money for San Antonio ACS projects.
The ACS embraced animal adoption groups, hired new staff, blanketed area schools and walked door-to-door in the city’s toughest neighborhoods to promote responsible pet ownership. Education became as important as enforcement.
There are critics. Some animal-rights activists say the no-kill threshold should not have taken 10 years after the problems were identified. They still find it unacceptable that 10 percent of cats and dogs — primarily the sickest, oldest, most-injured and ill-behaved — are put to death.
“It is commendable that we are saving more animals,” said John Bachman, co-director of VOICE For Animals, in an email to the San Antonio Express-News. “However, the city’s preoccupation with the 90 percent live-release rate and No Kill distracted from what should be the overall objective — no more homeless pets. That means no more strays on the streets menacing people and getting killed by cars.”
Animal Care Services has estimated that more than 150,000 stray dogs and cats roam the city.
Despite their efforts, ACS officials acknowledge that every month, dozens of healthy dogs also are put to death because other available options have been exhausted. Last year the ACS euthanized 4,448 animals, and something called the “5 p.m. list” — those animals who will be killed _ must still be compiled each day by a staff member.
“What makes that manager’s job so difficult is the awareness that this isn’t the animal’s fault,” said ACS outreach director Lisa Norwood. “This is a people problem.”
Animal shelter experts and city management publications have praised the San Antonio turnaround. Several cities _ Houston, Dallas, Corpus Christi, Baton Rouge and Las Vegas, among them _ have sent people to study the San Antonio experience.
“They’re no longer just animal catchers in San Antonio,” said Katie Jarl, the Texas state director of The Humane Society of the United States. “This is now a sophisticated operation dedicated to keeping more animals out of the shelters to begin with.”
City Manager Sheryl Sculley said she counts the “heartening” change in ACS as one of the five most important accomplishments of her 11-year tenure here.
It was not a quick transformation, said City Councilman Rey Saldana, who had his animal welfare epiphany in 2011, shortly after being elected.
“I was raised on the South Side and just thought that dangerous dogs running in packs was a fact of life. I actually owe it all to my wife,” he said. “She changed me 180 degrees on this. I told the city manager we needed to go door-to-door and talk to people about dogs. We had a terrible problem.”
“We had to change our image,” said Kathy Davis, who became the ACS director in 2012 and recently retired. “Before you ask the city to trust you, you have to clean up your own house first. We all knew the goal, but you don’t become a no-kill city overnight.”
Some ACS staff cautioned the public not to fixate on the “no-kill” number, itself a misleading term. With warmer months and the breeding season, the percentage dipped slightly below 90 percent for the total live-release in April and May, a figure that includes all healthy and unhealthy animals. If current adoption levels remain constant, as more animals come to ACS, more will fail to find a home and will be euthanized.
“We will not simply keep animals in the shelter, in a cage, for months, so that we can say we didn’t euthanize them,” Norwood said. “That’s not humane treatment.”
Davis and others track the start of the reform efforts to a San Antonio Express-News investigative report, “Death By The Pound,” in November 2004, by then-Staff Writer Lisa Sandberg, who documented the slaughter at its height. On her first day as director in August 2012, Davis said, an ACS board member handed her a copy of the story.
“It was eye-opening,” she said.
Among the grim facts: Almost nine of every 10 cats and dogs that entered the pound were put to death, many within an hour. Critiques of ACS by outside consulting agencies were ignored. Some staffers reported being traumatized from killing thousands of animals in a gas chamber and hearing their wails.
The city stopped using gas and switched to injections in the wake of the story. One year later, in November 2005, Sculley became city manager.
“I’m a runner,” recalled Sculley. “And I was amazed back then at the number of stray animals throughout the city. I used to always carry pepper spray for the dogs. . Ten years ago, our ACS people were taking one ton of animal carcasses to the landfill each day, in plastic garbage bags.”
In 2006, after hearing stories about children and the elderly being mauled in San Antonio by loose dogs, Sculley convened an ACS advisory board that put together a five-year plan. The goal was to be a no kill city by 2012.
“We had to change a culture about dogs,” Sculley said. “Many people just viewed their dogs as security for their property. Nothing more. I remember that there used to be people who before Spring Break would just bring their dog and turn it in to the pound. . They’d say, ‘We’ll just get another one when we come back.’ And that dog would be put to death.”
Progress was slow. But the numbers did improve.
From 2006 to 2011, ACS increased annual citations from 550 to 5,000, spay-neuter surgeries rose from 8,000 to 52,000 and the department tripled its live-release rate to 31 percent.
Animal advocates such as Bachman say the city must treat its dog population problem like an epidemic and boost spay-neutering to about 100,000 animals per year for several years to achieve zero growth.
The city studied what worked at other animal shelters and identified three areas: strong enforcement, an aggressive spay-neuter program and active partnerships with major animal groups to increase adoptions.
That’s where Ellen Jefferson and San Antonio Pets Alive!, plus groups like the Animal Defense League and Humane Society, have become indispensable. From 2012 through 2015, SAPA took in 26,310 of the toughest-to-adopt cats and dogs _ animals with amputations, behavior problems, the elderly _ and found homes for them.
“The Pets Alive! model is only focused on the city shelter and the animals who are left behind in the normal adoption process,” Jefferson said. “So, if the city is doing a great job at adoptions, then Pets Alive! will really have a small pet population.”
But SAPA needs money, too. It has a staff of 45 yet handles a similar number of animals as its Austin chapter, which has a staff of 100. If SAPA and similar groups do not fully function in San Antonio, then ACS says its no kill status will not be sustainable.
“My goal is to raise about a half million to one million dollars for three years running,” Jefferson said. “There is simply too much work for us to do in San Antonio with the people we have. That leads to a poor adoption process, a poor fostering experience.”
Like many who have dealt with ACS over the years, Jefferson agrees that the institutional change in a few short years has saved tens of thousands of animals.
At the 42,000-square-foot ACS shelter, the buildings are clean and airy, the workers appear busy and motivated. (Dozens of ACS staff have adopted or fostered pets.) Last week, veterinarians were doing more than 70 spay-neuter surgeries a day, yet the clinic was hardly chaotic. Enforcement officers quietly monitored calls throughout the city on big TV screens, yet only one flashed red, meaning a dog bite had been reported.
A herd of happy “community cats” _ they don’t say “feral” much at ACS _ relaxed in the sun on benches. The adoption area was teeming with kids nuzzling puppies.
On a recent Saturday morning, several ACS staffers, volunteers and enforcement officers walked through one of the city’s highest-need neighborhoods, handing out information about free spay-neuter programs and reminding residents that their dogs must be behind fences or leashed, must have their rabies shots and, as of 2015, all dogs and cats must be micro-chipped.
In the 400 block of Peabody, ACS health program specialist Jesse Enriquez, a tall engaging guy who has been doing this more than 20 years, bounded from one side of the street to the other to shake hands with residents.
“Loose dogs are still a problem here,” said Maria Godina, a bit timid at first, in Spanish. “They bother people going to the senior citizens center. I go there, too. They should teach people about their dogs.”
At the corner of Peabody and Creighton, two small kids ran out from a nearby church yard sale and waved happily at Enriquez, who they recognized from talks he has given at nearby Elm Creek Elementary. They flashed the peace sign and he handed them spay-neuter flyers for the church crowd.
At one point, Enriquez stopped in the intersection and held out his arms wide.
“I want you to look all the way down Creighton,” he said, eyeing the modest neighborhood. Some yards had rowdy pit bulls, but they were fenced.
“Now look all down this other side. Not a single loose dog anywhere! We were in this exact spot in 2012 and there were packs of stray dogs,” Enriquez said. “This makes you think that what you’re doing is working.”
An ACS outreach team member, Lyssa MacMillan, herself the daughter of a veterinarian, saw change in the making.
“Overwhelmingly, people are glad to see us out here,” she said. “Some people still think of us as being ‘The Man’ _ dog catchers, cops _ but all of us like this, talking to people, so much more than just rounding up dogs.
“Education is a very difficult thing to measure,” MacMillan added. “It’s not like rabies shots. But San Antonio is now seeing the dog problem as a public health issue. San Antonio is changing.”
The inhabitants of the desolate, man-made island off the coast of Abu Dhabi can’t be immediately seen among the breakwater rocks.
But as you draw close, their meows give them away.
A colony of stray cats has swelled on Lulu Island among its barren sandy hills and abandoned buildings that have fallen into disrepair, with the gleaming modern skyline of the United Arab Emirates as a background. The island has lain fallow and largely undeveloped since an ambitious plan by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer to turn it into a “leisure park” fell apart in the 1980s.
A volunteer group is trying to spay and neuter the island’s cats while caring for them in an abandoned modernist’s dream that seems to suit the Arabian Maus living there.
“The flora and the fauna all live in harmony with each other,” said Susan Aylott, who leads the aid group Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi. “Everything lives in harmony with the cats here.”
Lulu, which means “pearl” in Arabic, is a narrow island around 3 miles long running along the coast in front of Abu Dhabi’s downtown, protecting its shores from the sometimes choppy waters of the Persian Gulf. Niemeyer’s planned attractions, including an aquarium; conference center and marina were never built. A few other beach structures were built but lie unused and more recent plans to develop it never got off the ground.
In 2009, Abu Dhabi stopped ferries to the island amid an economic slowdown, and in theory it’s closed to the public, though sometimes people drop by on their own boats just to see it.
But sometime over the decades, cats made it across the narrow channel _ about a half-mile wide _ separating it from Abu Dhabi Theatre and the rest of the capital. Four years ago, they numbered 27, Aylott said. Now there’s over 165, mostly Arabian Maus, she said.
“You can’t just remove them,” she said on a recent visit to the 469-hectare (1.8-mile) island. “This is their home.”
So Aylott and others are working to neuter and spay the cats. On a recent day, a bunch of cats dashed out for the food set out by Aylott and her volunteers _ and some had docked ears, a sign they had undergone the procedure. But a short distance away, a kitten hid behind a water tank, meaning others remain fertile.
“We all want to help to make the vision of Abu Dhabi a better place — for the cats anyway,” Aylott said.
Yet there is always more work to do. Aylott’s brow at one point furrowed with a call to her mobile phone. Her group had plans to resettle a giant African tortoise at a local Abu Dhabi hotel because its owner, who kept it at home, is leaving the country.
“The tortoise is running late,” she said. “She’s dug a hole and is refusing to come out.”