U.S. FDA Bans Antibiotic Baytril In Poultry

In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a report announcing that the antibiotic Baytril would be banned from use in poultry effective September 12, 2005. The drug will remain on the market and approved for use in treating infections in dogs, cats and cows.

The FDA took the extraordinary move out of concern that use of Baytril in poultry could lead to antibiotic-resistant form of the campylobacter bacteria. Campylobacter is common in the intestines of turkey and chickens, but it doesn’t usually cause the animals disease. When Baytril is administered to poultry, it tends to lead to the emergence of antibiotic resistant forms of the bacteria.

The FDA fears that, while not causing illness to poultry, these antibiotic resistant forms of campylobacter could find their way to human beings, impairing the ability of existing antibiotics to treat these human infections.

The Associated Press reported that,

Resistant bacteria my be present in poultry sold at retail outlets. [FDA commissioner Lester] Crawford noted that since the drug was introduced for poultry in the 1990s, the proportion of resistant campylobacter infections in humans has risen significantly.

That can prolong the length of infections in people and increase the risk of complications, Crawford said. Complications can include reactive arthritis and blood stream infections.

Bayer, the manufacturer of Baytril, has 60 days to appeal the FDA’s decision.

The full FDA report on Baytril can be read here (2 mb PDF file).

Source:

FDA bans use of Baytril in poultry. Randolph Schmid, Associated Press, July 29, 2995.

British Court Rejects Latest Fox Hunting Appeal

In July, the UK’s High Court rejected a second appeal by fox hunting supporters to overturn the 2004 Hunting Act. That act banned fox hunting with dogs.

In their appeal, the Countryside Alliance argued that the Hunting Act violated the European Convention on Human Rights because it was a “sectarian measure.” Essentially, they argued that the hunting ban was an irrational, ideologically-motivated law akin to, say, a ban on a specific religious practice just because it was practiced by a minority of citizens.

Countryside Alliance’s lawyer, Richard Gordon, had argued that,

What emerges strongly, however the argument is put, is, we suggest, the very divisive nature of the legislation.

Many members of the House of Commons voting on the issue obviously objected strongly to hunting on doctrinal grounds – that is clear.

But we say strong feelings cannot be, and are not in law, a substitute for the exercise that has to be undertaken before Convention rights can be legitimately interfered with.

. . .

We say, if one takes away the strength of feeling from the furor over hunting, very little is left in terms of law, and a total ban of this kind is not justified.

The High Court soundly rejected that line of reasoning. Justices May and Moses said that there was varying opinion about whether or not foxes suffer more when hunted by dogs vs. when they are shot, but that the legislature had a legitimate reason to address this issue. They said,

We consider that there was sufficient material available to the House of Commons for them to conclude that hunting with dogs is cruel.

. . .

[It was] reasonably open to the majority of the democratically-elected House of Commons to conclude that this measure was necessary in the democratic society which had elected them.

The Countryside Alliance bemoaned the verdict, with its chairman John Jackson telling the BBC,

The judges have accepted that there is interference with some of the claimants’ rights, and that the Hunting Act will have a substantial general adverse effect on the lives of many in the rural community.

However, the court, ignoring events in the Commons and the Lords, appears to have proceeded on the assumption that Parliament had a legitimate aim and has itself then speculated on what that may have been.

Whether the court is right to have proceeded in this way is plainly a controversial question./p>

Animal rights advocates, on the other hand, were very pleased. John Cooper, chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports, told The Guardian,

We welcome this recognition that there is no human right to be cruel. The Hunting Act is a popular act, the ban is being enforced and, most importantly, animals are no longer able to be abused in the name of this barbaric bloodsport. This is a resounding defeat for the hunters, who need to move forward and accept the democratic will of parliament and the majority of the general public, and learn to take non for an answer.

The Countryside Alliance is still waiting for the Law Lords in the House of Lords to rule on its appeal of the High Court’s February rejection of its argument that the Hunting Act is in violation of Great Britain’s Parliament Act.

There are likely to be further appeals, but at the moment, the odds of the fox hunting advocates actually prevailing seems pretty slim.

Source:

High court rejects hunting ban challenge. Press Association, July 29, 2005.

Hunt campaign loses court battle. The BBC, July 29, 2005.

Hunting ban ‘a sectarian measure’. Liverpool Daily Post, July 5, 2005.

U.S. Sen. James Jeffords Introduces Captive Primate Safety Act

U.S. Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) recently introduced the Captive Primate Safety Act in the U.S. Senate.

The bill, which parallels a similar House of Representatives bill introduced last year, would add primates to a federal list of wildlife species that private individuals are prohibited from owning.

The bill is clearly motivated by recent, highly publicized attacks by captive primates, such as that at Animal Haven Ranch where two chimpanzees were shot and killed in March after they mauled a visitor to the ranch.

In announcing his bill, for example, Jeffords said,

The Captive Primate Safety Act is a common sense solution to a potentially very serious problem. Monkeys, chimpanzees, and other nonhuman primates can be dangerous if not cared for properly and can pose an even greater risk to our public health as carriers of dangerous diseases. Our legislations is need to help federal agencies control and monitor these species within our borders.

But this argument, if you’ll pardon the pun, appears to be specious. In a press release lauding the bill, for example, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that are 15,000 primates currently in private hands. But the best estimate of injuries caused by those animals is 100 over the last 10 years.

Compare that to estimates of the number of injuries from dog bites. A 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that dog bites accounted for more than 300,000 visits to the emergency room annually. That’s more than 900 visits every single day to the emergency room nationwide due to dog bites.

And since Jeffords is so concerned about children, it should be noted that the bulk of victims of dog bites are minors. The median age of dog bite victims in the 1998 study was just 15 years.

Perhaps if the HSUS and Jeffords really want to get rid of a dangerous animal that targets children, they’ll first push a Captive Canine Safety Act first and then turn their attention to the extremely small safety problem posed by captive primates.

The full text of the proposed Captive Primate Safety Act can be read here.

Sources:
Senate Bill Introduced to Restrict Pet Trade in Monkeys, Chimpanzees. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, July 27, 2005.

Incidence of Dog Bite Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments. Harold B. Weiss, MS, MPH; Deborah I. Friedman; Jeffrey H. Cohen, MD. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998, V.279, No.1, pp.51-3.

Man Sentenced to 37 Months for Selling Dogfighting Videos

In April, Robert Stevens, 64, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for selling videotapes of dog fights through the mail.

Stevens is the first person prosecuted under a 1999 law that makes it illegal to sell videotapes depicting animal cruelty. That law was passed to stop “crush” videos in which women were videotaped crushing small animals and insects.

The Humane Society of the United States was one of the groups that pushed for the 1999 law, and HSUS’s Ann Chynoweth told the Associated Press,

We’re thrilled with the sentence because Stevens deserved prison time for profiting from dogfighting. Without such a meaningful sentence, his conviction would have just been the cost of doing business.

Stevens’s attorney says he plans to appeal the conviction and argue that the law is unconstitutionally vague and violated Stevens’s rights under the First Amendment.

Source:

Va. man sentenced to 37 months for dogfighting video. Joe Mandak, Associated Press, April 21, 2005.

California Considers Ban on Ear Cropping

A bill is currently in the California State Assembly that, if it becomes law, would make cropping the ears of dogs illegal in that state.

Ear cropping is essentially cosmetic surgery for dogs. The dog is anesthetized and then its ears are surgically altered to make them stand up erect instead of flopping to the side.

Animal rights activists oppose the surgery as unnecessary, painful and placing the dogs at risk of complications. Dog breeders defend the procedure as reducing the risk of ear infection in some cases and producing more aesthetically pleasing dogs.

The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights supports the bill, with Pam Runquist saying in a press release,

When this issue came before the Legislature last year, there were dozens of dog breeders wearing buttons with the slogan, “It’s Our Choice.” We need to let the Legislature know that it’s not the dog’s choice to have a portion of their ears amputated simply for aesthetic preference of the caregiver. (Note: In response to concerns from dog breeders, this year’s bill clarifies that it is still legal for dogs with cropped ears to be shown, sold, adopted or reside within the state. Only the procedure of cropping a dog’s ears will be illegal).

Of course, much the same argument could be made about neutering dogs, which is certainly not the dog’s choice and which can cause pain and have potential side effects.

Frankly, I find ear cropping and tail docking to be a bit stupid, but cruel? No more so than other surgical alterations of dogs such as neutering.

The full text of AB 481 can be read here.

Source:

Help ban ear cropping in California. Press Release, Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, March 31, 2005.

Dog Genome Expected to Enhance Cancer Research

In December, the BBC published an interesting article on the role that the decoded dog genome may play in helping to understand and treat cancers in human beings.

Initial work on sequencing the dog genome was finished in the summer of 2004. Human beings and dogs share many of the same cancers, including bone cancer, skin cancer and lymphoma.

Ironically, thousands of years of human-influenced breeding of dogs means it will be relatively easy to discover which genes contribute to cancer in dogs. Because of the way dogs have been breed, there is little genetic variation within purebred dogs and many breeds of dogs began with a very small number of dogs, so they had little genetic variation to begin with.

As geneticist Matthew Breen told the BBC, this means that cancers in dogs are likely “being switched on by very few genes — maybe even just one — which exert a very large effect.”

This provides an excellent example of why animal models are often superior to using human models of a disease. As the BBC notes,

In order to figure out where a cancer-causing gene is located in an animal’s genome, scientists use genetic “markers,” which are sequences that differ slightly between different dogs and have a known location on a chromosome.

When disease-affected animals consistently have a certain marker, and healthy animals do not have it, then there is a good chance that a disease gene is located very close to that marker.

These analyses are difficult to do in humans, because geneticists need to look at DNA samples from many people in an affected family in order to pin down the gene’s location.

Most human families are too small – and have too few generations alive at the same time – for a sufficient number of samples. Dog families, on the other hand, have short generations and many offspring.

Such a technique was used to locate a gene in German shepherds that is responsible for kidney cancer, which also turned out to be a recently identified suspect in kidney cancers in human beings.

Source:

Dog genome boosts cancer research. BBC, December 29, 2004.