April 8, 2014
by dave
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Citizen Canine Publishes Today!

CitizenCanine_13Dear Friends,

After four years of hard work, I’m proud to announce the publication of my first book, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and DogsThe book is about how pets have become family, not only in our homes, but also in the eyes of society and the law. Reviews have begun coming in, and they’ve been great so far.

“Well researched and also very personable, this book will make readers think as they look into the eyes of those furry beings that share their lives.” Booklist

“This engrossing, enjoyable, and well-researched title contributes positively to the literature on companion animals and belongs in all libraries.” Library Journal (starred review)

“Grimm’s most valuable contribution… is his reasoned and well-researched discussion of the pet “personhood” movement, particularly its legal implications for veterinarians, scientific research, and agriculture.” — Publishers Weekly

“Eye opening” – National Geographic

“A well-balanced, inquisitive historical analysis that pivots smoothly into what the future might hold, noting the combustible feel between proponents and opponents of greater rights for man’s best friend. … ‘Canine Citizen’ serves up a familial, non-science approach that is bound to appeal to everyone. …  An arresting and valuable overview, it’s packed with inspiration and imagination for our future relationship with our four-legged friends.”  –Seattle Kennel Club

“A book of note” – The Toronto Star

I’ve also just had two very nice Q&As published, one in National Geographic and one in Wired.

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, IndieBound, and bookstores everywhere. Please help me spread the word!

March 30, 2014
by dave
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Book News!

Hi Everyone,

Just a brief note to let you know that CITIZEN CANINE: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs publishes on April 8th, just over a week from now. If you’ve been shy about pre-ordering, I’m being told that Amazon has already begun shipping the book, so if you order now, you should have it in a few days.

Also, for those of you in the Baltimore area, I’ll be having a reading and reception for the book at The Ivy Bookshop, “Baltimore’s Best Bookshop”, on April 29th from 7:00 to 8:30 PM. You can check out all of my upcoming events on my Events page.

Thank you for your support!

David

January 27, 2014
by dave
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A Brief History of Cats and Dogs

My four-year journey is nearly at an end: My book, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogshas just gone to press! The book will release on April 8, though you can pre-order it now on Amazon and Barnes&Noble. To commemorate this milestone, I’ve constructed a timeline of the major events in cat and dog history–a brief synopsis of the social evolution of pets from wild animals to quasi citizens.

A Brief History of Cats and Dogs

30,000 BC The earliest potential evidence for dog domestication, based on archaeological finds. Other evidence suggests dogs may have been domesticated thousands of years later.

10,000 BC An elderly human in Ain Mallaha in northern Israel is buried cradling a four-month-old puppy. The find is the first suggesting a close relationship between humans and dogs.

A human cradles a puppy in this 10,000 BC find in northern Israel. (Credit: Davis et al., Nature, 276, 608-610)

A human cradles a puppy in this 10,000 BC find in northern Israel. (Credit: Davis et al., Nature, 276, 608-610)

7500 BC A cat is buried with a human in a Neolithic village known as Shillourokambos on the southern coast of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The find represents the earliest evidence for cat domestication.

1950 BC Cats begin to appear in the art of ancient Egypt. Their proficiency at killing rodents and protecting Egyptian homes from death and disease would soon lead them to be revered as gods.

A statue of the cat goddess Bastet from ancient Egypt. (Credit: Guillaume Blanchard / Wikimedia Commons)

A statue of the cat goddess Bastet from ancient Egypt. (Credit: Guillaume Blanchard / Wikimedia Commons)

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December 18, 2013
by dave
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Were Cats Destined to Become Pets?

Wildcat. Felines like this leopard cat may have become domestic cats in ancient China. (Credit: Kuribo, Wikimedia Commons)

Wildcat. Felines like this leopard cat may have become domestic cats in ancient China. (Credit: Kuribo, Wikimedia Commons)

The rise of human civilization was destined to give rise to the housecat. That’s one startling implication of a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Eight feline bones found in an ancient Chinese village suggest that the advent of farming—the foundation of human civilization—was bound to attract wildcats, which would ultimately self-domesticate and become the world’s most popular pet.

The new study, which I covered for Science, concerns a 5,000-year-old village known as Quanhucun in central China. The people who lived there were early, but successful, millet farmers—and they had a pest problem. A team of archaeologists unearthed rodent burrows tunneled into grain storage pits and v-shaped ceramic vessels the size of giant flower vases, likely designed to keep stored grain out of the mouths of scavengers. To combat these invaders, the villagers appear to have turned to cats. The feline bones the researchers discovered at the site all contain specific signatures of carbon and nitrogen that suggest the cats ate grain-eating rodents.

In return, the villagers appear to have cared for the cats. A feline jawbone found at the site has significant wear on its teeth, indicating that it may have lived six or more years—quite elderly for the time. And that, in turn, suggests that someone was looking after it. The analysis of a bone belonging to a different cat indicates that the animal ate human food, another clue that these felines had become pets.

This isn’t the earliest example of cat-human cohabitation. That honor belongs to the 9,500-year-old remains of a cat found buried with a human on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The remains were discovered in the ruins of Shillourokambos, a very early farming village, and the feline was a descendant of the Near Eastern wildcat—the ancestor of today’s housecat. Based on this and other finds, researchers have long speculated that the following sequence of events led to the domestication of the cat: farming attracted rodents, rodents attracted wildcats, and wildcats became cats when villagers started caring for these pest-killing felines. The Quanhucun study provides the first hard evidence for this theory. I think the work hints at something even more remarkable, however: cats were destined to become our pets.

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December 8, 2013
by dave
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Live Video Chat: Should Animals Have Legal Rights?

Last week, an animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York counties in an attempt to get judges to declare that chimpanzees are “legal persons” and free them from captivity. The suits are the opening salvo in a coordinated effort to grant legal personhood to a variety of animals across the United States.

On Friday, I moderated a live video chat for Science with two experts on opposite sides of this very contentious issue. One, Steven Wise, is the president of the NonHuman Rights Project and a vocal proponent of animal rights. The other, Richard Cupp, is a law professor at Pepperdine University in California and an influential voice in the anti-personhood movement. Both care about animals, but they have very different ideas of the best way to improve their welfare. Our chat was wide ranging–covering everything from what rights for animals would look like to whether Neanderthals, computers, and space aliens should be granted human rights. It was a fascinating and passionate discussion. I hope you’ll check it out!


 

October 8, 2013
by dave
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Are Cats and Dogs People, or Toasters? A Primer on Pet Personhood

707px-Toaster“Dogs Are People, Too”. So ran the headline of a New York Times op-ed over the weekend. The piece, written by Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns, argued that because dogs experience some of the same emotions we do (as evinced by some preliminary MRI studies Burns and a friend carried out on canine brain activity), they should be granted rights and “a sort of limited personhood”. The National Review shot back with its own editorial, arguing that personhood for dogs is a threat to human exceptionalism and that it would effectively turn pets into slaves.

What exactly is pet personhood, and how could it impact the relationship between you and your cat or dog? I cover this topic in my new book, CITIZEN CANINE: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs, to be published this spring by PublicAffairs. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know:

What is the current legal status of pets?

We may view our cats and dogs as friends, family, and even virtual children, but that’s not how the law sees them. Ever since the early 1900s, American pets have had the legal status of property. That means that, in the eyes of the law, they are technically no different than a couch or a toaster. This status itself is an upgrade. Prior to the twentieth century, cats and dogs were considered valueless objects that didn’t even warrant the meager legal designation of property. They could be stolen and killed without repercussion.

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September 30, 2013
by dave
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Animals Among the Inmates: A Pet Shelter Inside a Prison

Outdoor shelter

Shelter in the storm. Dixon Correctional’s outdoor emergency shelter can house up to 250 dogs and 100 cats. (Credit: Dixon Correctional Institute)

This article first appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of The Bark

Drive a ways along a narrow country road thirty miles north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the late summer morning filtering through the leaves as you pass acres of cow pasture and a few small churches, and you’ll come across a white picket fence leading to the last thing you’d expect to find here: a medium-security prison. First comes the octagonal guard tower, peeking over the trees, then the block brick buildings and drab exercise yards, enclosed by chain-link fencing topped with curly razor wire, 15 feet high. You’ve reached the Dixon Correctional Institute, home to 1600 inmates whiling away everything from a few years to life. That’s where I found myself in early September 2012. I hadn’t come to visit the inmates. I’d come to see the cats and dogs inside.

Seven years ago, when Hurricane Katrina barreled down on the GulfCoast, hundreds of thousands of residents fled their homes, leaving their pets behind. Most weren’t being cruel—they left food and water, assuming they’d be back in a few days, as they had after previous storms. They didn’t realize that Katrina and the floods that followed would decimate the region, demolishing homes, killing hundreds, and drowning a city. Fortunately, animal rescuers poured in from around the country, saving thousands of dogs on roofs, cats in attics, and pets wandering homeless on the streets. They trucked them to emergency shelters throughout the area, including a massive triage operation that had been set up at the Lamar-DixonExpoCenter in Gonzales, Louisiana, sixty miles northwest of New Orleans. The facility—a venue for livestock shows, horse exhibitions, and rodeos—would become the epicenter of the largest animal rescue operation in U.S. history, staffed with hundreds of volunteers and veterinarians caring for more than 8,000 animals salvaged from the storm. But as the weeks wore on, Lamar-Dixon began to overflow. There was no space left to shelter the cats and dogs. They sat in cages in parking lots. Thousands were in danger of becoming lost or dying.

That’s when Jimmy LeBlanc got on the phone. Dixon Correctional’s warden, LeBlanc had recently lost his 17-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, and he wanted to do something good for pets. He offered the Humane Society of the United States, which was running Lamar-Dixon at the time, some of the prison’s real estate. HSUS happily accepted. In the middle of the night, trucks began arriving, carrying hundreds of dogs and cats, plus a few geese, ducks, and horses. The prison housed them in a former dairy barn just a mile from its main grounds. Volunteers from Lamar-Dixon set up kennels and a makeshift clinic, and the prison sent over twelve convicts to help feed, walk, and clean cages. Injured, starving pets were nursed back to health, and most were eventually reunited with their owners. The arrangement worked out so well, HSUS decided to make it permanent. In 2007, it gave the prison a $600,000 grant to build a real shelter. It would be used in future disasters like Katrina, but also as an adoption center for the local community. I’d come to check it out.

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July 1, 2013
by dave
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Keynote Address: Cats, Dogs, and the Road to Personhood

A few weeks ago, I gave the keynote address at the 5th International Symposium on Non-Surgical Contraceptive Methods of Pet Population Control in Portland, Oregon. For those of you who missed it and would like to see it, I have embedded it below. Unfortunately, it is just audio timed to a powerpoint presentation (no video). The first speaker you’ll hear is ASPCA science advisor Stephen Zawistowski, who introduced me. Enjoy!

(If the slideshow doesn’t display, you can view it here)


Uploaded on authorSTREAM by ACCandD

 

 

June 13, 2013
by dave
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Birth Control for Cats and Dogs

On the road. Scientists are looking for better ways to combat the world's homeless pet problem. (Credit: Victorgrigas, Wikimedia Commons)

Next week, I’ll be the keynote speaker at the 5th International Symposium on Non-Surgical Contraceptive Methods of Pet Population Control. The conference title is a bit of a mouthful, but the basic idea is this: Can scientists develop a drug that will permanently sterilize dogs and cats? Or, put even more simply, can we make “the pill” for pets?

Now a lot of you may be asking, “Don’t we already have birth control for our companion animals?” Well, yes. Spay/neuter has been around for decades. But it’s not a perfect solution. For one, it’s expensive. That means not everyone can afford to sterilize their pet, even at a low-cost clinic. For another, it’s time consuming. That’s been a huge problem for non-profits trying to tackle America’s feral cat problem. With tens of millions of these felines on the streets, volunteers can’t catch and sterilize them quickly enough to keep up with their numbers. And if you think things in the U.S. are bad, consider China and India, which are home to tens millions of stray dogs that bite and spread rabies, yet these countries lack the resources to implement even meager spay/neuter programs. As a result of all of these limitations, millions of cats and dogs are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year, and millions more are shot and poisoned around the globe. If scientists could develop an injection or pill that would work as well as spay/neuter surgery, we might have a shot at eliminating the world’s homeless pet problem.

Enter the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs (ACC&D). Founded in 2000, the Portland, Oregon-based non-profit has been working with scientists and animal welfare advocates to create a non-surgical sterilant for pets. In late 2009, the mission got a huge boost from a U.S. billionaire named Gary Michelson, who announced $75 million in grants and prize money for the development of such a product. The announcement spurred dozens of research teams to begin brainstorming a solution. Some have proposed drugs that would kill the cells that produce sperm and eggs, treating them, essentially, like cancer. Others hope to go after the brain, shutting down pathways involved in fertility and reproduction. I covered these efforts in my award-winning 2009 article in Science, A Cure for Euthanasia?

ACC&D is behind next week’s symposium. It will be giving an update on these efforts and describing some new approaches to the problem of pet overpopulation. I’ll be talking about the topic of my book and what feral cats teach us about the changing status of pets in society. I hope you’ll check out the important work this organization is doing!