All posts tagged: animals

20 adoptable senior dogs who are seasoned pros at friendship

Image: petfinder/bob al greene/mashable

Forget Shark Week, it’s Bark Week on Mashable. Join us as we celebrate all the good dogs, which we humans do not deserve.

“Ask not what you can do for a senior dog, but what a senior dog can do for you,” JFK (not really, but the sentiment is true).

Senior dogs are adopted at a rate lower rate than dogs of all other ages combined, according to a study from the ASPCA. But older dogs make for loyal and calm companions for anyone who wants to skip the energetic, messy puppy stage.   

Shirley Braha, the human who adopted Instagram-famous Marnie the Dog as a senior pup explains why you should consider older dogs when looking to adopt: “Senior dogs are usually pretty chill and just grateful to have a safe place to call home and a human to give them lots of love,” Braha says in an email. 

“When you save a senior dog from a shelter, you’re rescuing them from what is often a very traumatic experience, and sometimes, sadly, with an even darker fate. You get to swoop in and be a superhero while benefiting in completely selfish ways too because now you have an awesome animal friend.” 

So if you’re ready to add a graying fuzzy face to your home, we worked with Petfinder to find 20 senior dogs from all over the U.S. who need homes. (Even if you’re not looking to adopt, scroll through for an instant warming of your feels.) 

From the toothless to the devastatingly handsome, these furry charmers just want we all want — love, treats, and a good place to nap.

1. Kitty 

Image: petfinder

Location: Vintage Dog Rescue, Colorado

This little lady is a nearly toothless, 12-year-old shih tzu who would make the perfect companion for weekends on the couch watching Netflix.

Kitty might sound like the name of a wealthy divorcee who sips champagne with every meal, but this senior pup is quiet and down to Earth. She came to the Vintage Dog Rescue after her human died a few years ago. 

2. Erma

Image: petfinder

Location: Old Dogs New Digs, Portland, Maine

Gaze into the thoughtful eyes of Erma and just try not to be captivated. 

The cattle dog and chow chow mix was found as a stray in Georgia and has since relocated to the coast of Maine to a foster home where she enjoys walks and charming humans with her expressive face.

Just look at this smile:

Image: petfinder

3. Espresso 

Image: petfinder

Location: Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, San Francisco, California

A scruffy look with a sweet demeanor, Espresso is a shot of joy.

Espresso’s underbite means her teeth stick out from the patch of grey hair, giving her a grizzled look not unlike that of a life-long fisherman. But all Espresso wants is to curl up on your lap or soak up the sunshine in the park. 

4. Buddy

Image: petfinder

Location: Muddy Paws Second Chance Rescue, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Need a positive influence on your life? Consider Buddy, who loves Brussel sprouts and dancing. 2018 is the year of self-care after all. 

Buddy himself is a self-improvement inspiration after coming into a rescue overweight at 15 pounds. He’s working toward a healthy goal weight, but never brags about it because he’s not much of a barker. He likes chilling out in his pet stroller or in a doggy carseat, and taking long naps (relatable).  

5. Boone

Location: Gateway Pet Guardians, St. Louis, Missouri

Boone has swagger. And he knows it.

Boone is a suave terrier mix with a slight limp that doesn’t stop him from strutting around the neighborhood. 

6. Henry

Image: petfinder

Location: Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society, Santa Fe, California

Handsome Henry calls Santa Fe home, but he’d love to be a part of your home. 

Henry was surrendered after his human could no longer care for him. At 11-years-old and with a salt-and-pepper coat, he’s a senior gentleman who still knows how to have fun. 

7. Wheezer

Image: petfinder

Location: Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon, Philomath, Oregon

“Woo-ee-ooh, I look just like a pug mix” – Wheezer, probably.

This “pug-something” likes to start his day with a little massage to loosen up his arthritic hips, then he’s ready to tackle the day by doing something fun like wandering around the yard or snoozing in his doggy bed.

So adopt Wheezer and say, “Woo-hoo, but you know I’m yours, Woo-hoo, and I know you’re mine.”

8. Fletcher

Image: petfinder

Location: Powell Animal Welfare Society, Powell, Ohio

A smile that could charm even the coldest of souls (read: cats). And the fiercest ear floof on the block. That’s 10-year-old Fletcher. 

This chow chow mix gets along with kids, dogs, and yes, even cats and is both house and crate trained. 

9. Checca

Image: petfinder

Location: Liberty Humane Society, Jersey City, New Jersey

If you already have a dog who is in need of a BFF, Checca could be ya boy. 

Checca is 60-pounds of friendly doggo who has made many human and dog friends since coming into the Liberty Humane Society as a stray. Even though he’s considered a senior pup at age 10, he still loves playing with toys like an exuberant puppy. 

10. Tommy the Tank

Image: petfinder

Location: Professional Animal Worlds H.A.L.O. Rescue, Sebastian, Florida

Don’t let Tommy’s wheelchair worry you — he zips around just fine with his wheels. 

A tumble off a sofa nearly killed Tommy, but a veterinarian was able to save him and now he just wants to roll into your heart and your home. He loves cuddles and shows his affection with wet doggie kisses. 

11. Lala

Image: petfinder

Location: Atlanta Humane Society, Atlanta, Georgia

Lala came from a big family of dogs that got to be too much to handle for her humans. She’s looking to settle into a smaller family that can help her come out of her shell. She’d do well with other dog friends because who doesn’t need someone around who really understands you? 

12. Potter (and Olive!)

Image: petfinder

Location: Senior Dog Sanctuary of Maryland, Severn, Maryland

A mother-son duo who would love to top your cuddle pile. 

It’s actually quite incredible that this Yorkie pair can squeeze such big, loving hearts into such tiny little bodies.

13. HoneyBear

Image: petfinder

Location: Lily’s Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary, Petaluma, California

HoneyBear would love to be your devoted honey.

She’s currently working to gain some weight after entering the Lily’s Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary underweight after her human experienced health problems. She’d love nothing more than to become a devoted doggo companion in a forever home with or without other dogs. 

14. Cosmo

Image: petfinder

Location: Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter East Bank, Harahan, Louisiana 

Oh, Cosmo. Sweet, sweet Cosmo. 

Cosmo was surrendered by his owner but is now reaching his paw out to you (really, he’ll shake your hand), if you’re looking for a sweet boy. Cosmo has some vision and skin problems, but he’s 75 pounds of sweetness. 

15. Bear

Image: petfinder

Location: Williamson County Animal Center, Franklin, Tennessee

Bear is a photogenic stunner, but it’s not just skin deep beauty for this good boy. The 10-year-old shepherd mix is an inquisitive pup, who loves to explore and curl up for cuddles. 

He does well on leash walks (which, of course he wants to show off that face) but will also take a spin around the backyard on his own. 

16. Roxie

Image: petfinder

Location: Bedford Humane Society, Bedford, Virginia 

No, Roxie is not wearing eyeliner, she’s just naturally smoldering. 

Roxie spent most of her life working as a therapy dog at an assisted living center for the elderly, but now this elderly lady would like to find her own retirement home. She’d make a calm and loving companion for an older human, but also does well with other dogs and kids.

17. Pixie Willow 

Image: petfinder

Location: St. Louis Senior Dog Project, Saint Louis, Missouri

Pixie Willow knows she’s cute. And she is.

The Chinese hairless and long hair chihuahua mix weighs only 5-pounds but she has a big, feisty personality. She’ll be your little shadow and only asks for love and playtime in return. You might even get a big smile in return.

Image: petfinder

18. Semperr

Image: petfinder

Location: Cheshire Abbey, Jackson, Mississippi

Semperr is a three-legged Akita mix looking for the right human to give him the devoted attention he needs. Semperr loves to give hugs with his remaining front leg, but would need a home without children or other alpha dogs.

19. Ducky

Image: petfinder

Location: Gray Mutts Rescue and Sanctuary, Clifton, Texas

Who’s a fuzzy-faced good boy? WHO? Ducky is, for sure.

In that bowtie, Ducky obviously wants to up your style game. And you should listen to this 5-pound,  wire-haired, apple-head chihuahua.

20. Deuce

Image: petfinder

Location: Forever Loved Pet Sanctuary, Scottsdale, Arizona

Deuce is 11-years-old, but runs around his temporary home with the excitement of a much younger dog. Despite the high energy he shows when taking a lap in the doggie run, he’s also a maintenance, smart fellow who was found as a stray. 

He came to the dog sanctuary as a stray and has since charmed all the volunteers who work with him. If you’re looking for a furry friend who loves back scratches and rolling around in the great outdoors, Deuce is for you. 

If you’re still looking for a senior dog to add to your family, there are plenty of graying and wise dogs who would love your love. 

WATCH: Marnie the Dog recreates memes

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Watch this orangutan play with a fidget spinner

Koko and Miss Patterson, a Stanford student, practicing sign language.
Image: Bettmann Archive/ getty images

Koko, the beloved gorilla best known for mastering sign language, died in her sleep at age 46 on Wednesday.

The Gorilla Foundation announced Koko’s death via social media on Thursday, saying she “touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy.”

Koko, whose full name was Hanabi-ko (meaning “Fireworks Child” in Japanese,) was born on July 4, 1971. Over the years the western lowland gorilla learned more than 1,000 different signs, developed a love of cats, worked alongside many humans including sign language instructor Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson, and inspired several documentaries and the popular children’s book, Koko’s Kitten.

Her willingness to interact with people and her eagerness to learn allowed the world to observe a great deal about her species, and throughout the course of her life Koko made many celebrity friends, including Mister Rogers and Robin Williams.

After news of Koko’s death reached social media, fans showed an outpouring of love for the gorilla, thanking her for all her contributions.

The Gorilla Foundation noted in a press release that it will continue to honor “Koko’s legacy” and work with wildlife.

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Red list research finds 26,000 global species under extinction threat

IUCN fears planet is entering sixth wave of extinctions with research from Australia revealing more risks to reptiles

More than 26,000 of the worlds species are now threatened, according to the latest red list assessment of the natural world, adding to fears the planet is entering a sixth wave of extinctions.

New research, particularly in Australia, has widened the scope of the annual stocktake, which is compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and revealed the growing range of risks to flora and fauna.

Nineteen of the species previously on the list have moved to a higher level of concern. They include the precious stream toad Ansonia smeagol (named after Gollum in Lord of the Rings), which is being decimated by tourist pollution in Malaysia; two types of Japanese earthworm that are threatened by habitat loss, agrochemicals, and radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster; and the Bartle Frere cool-skink, a slinky Australian reptile whose habitat has shrunk as a result of global warming to a 200-metre band at the peak of the tallest mountain in Queensland.

The threats are not limited to faraway creatures with exotic names. Scientists have warned the loss of biodiversity is more of a threat than climate change because it erodes the earths capacity to provide clean air, fresh water, food and a stable weather system.

Compilers of the red list said the latest toll showed the onslaught on biodiversity.

This reinforces the theory that we are moving into a period when extinctions are taking place at a much higher pace than the natural background rate. We are endangering the life support systems of our planet and putting the future of our own species in jeopardy, said Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN red list unit in Cambridge. This is our window of opportunity to act we have the knowledge and tools on what needs to be done, but now need everyone, governments, private sector and civil society, to escalate actions to prevent the decline and loss of species.

Part of the rise is due to the steady expansion of the IUCN red list which is compiled with the collaboration of thousands of experts around the world. It now includes 93,577 species, of which 26,197 are classified as vulnerable, critical or endangered.

The grassland earless dragon from Australia is under threat. Photograph: Will Osborne

Since last year, six species have been declared extinct, taking the total to 872. Another 1,700 species are listed as critically endangered, possibly extinct.

Among the most avoidable declines was that of the Greater Mascarene flying fox, which moved from vulnerable to endangered after the government of Mauritius carried out a cull at the request of fruit farmers who argued the bats were eating their crops. The IUCN is now working with both sides to find a compromise that will allow the species to recover without hurting livelihoods.

In the Caribbean, the tiny population of Jamaican hutia a rodent has been fragmented by expanding settlements. This makes it harder for the small mammal to mate and raises the risk of predation by dogs and cats. This highlights how humanity and a handful of domesticated animals are decimating other species. A recent research revealed the worlds 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things, yet have caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, while pets and livestock abound.

New studies are constantly widening the range of the red list. A focus of this years report was Australian reptiles, 7% of which are threatened with extinction. This is mainly due to climate change and invasive species, particularly the poisonous cane toad and feral cats, which are estimated to kill about 600 million reptiles each year. Among those suffering alarming declines are the grassland earless dragon and Mitchells water monitor.

On a more positive note, the Quito stubfoot toad was among four amphibian species rediscovered in South America after fears they had gone extinct. Overall, however, frogs and toads have shown some of the sharpest declines along with coral and orchids.

The Greater Mascarene flying fox is endangered after the government of Mauritius carried out a cull when fruit farmers said the bats were eating their crops. Photograph: Martin D Parr

To counter such trends, Cristiana Paca Palmer, the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, says the world needs a global biodiversity pact equivalent in scale and stature to the Paris climate agreement. She wants nature reserves, ocean protected areas, restoration projects and sustainable land use regions to be steadily expanded by 10% every decade so that half the world is nature friendly by 2050.

But most nations are off course to meet even the Aichi targets for 2020. At a meeting of conservation policymakers in Montreal, Jane Smart, the global director of IUCNs biodiversity conservation group, urged countries to fast track action. Todays update of the IUCN red list of threatened species shows that urgent action is needed to conserve threatened species.

This and other proposals will be discussed at global biodiversity talks in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt this November and then in 2020 in Beijing.

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Cat sniffs salt and vinegar chip, regrets decision instantly

If you’ve ever found yourself confused by the expression “curiosity killed the cat”, just watch the video below.

It’s almost like a modern-day — although thankfully much less severe — retelling.

“I told my cat she wasn’t gonna like this salt and vinegar chip but she didn’t listen to me”, tweeted Julianna Madison from Philadelphia, US earlier this week.

Behold the result (and make sure you have your sound on):

Oh dear.

Well, Missy may have had an unpleasant chip-related experience, but at least she’s now a viral superstar. That video has had well over 200,000 retweets at the time of writing.

Missy, you have now entered the internet hall of cat fame.

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More tigers live in US back yards than in the wild. Is this a catastrophe?

It is easier to buy a tiger in some states than to adopt a rescue dog and only 6% of the animals are housed in approved facilities. This is bad for the big cats and for humans

According to estimates, the population of tigers in peoples back gardens in the US outnumbers those in the wild. Seven thousand of the big cats live in US captivity, whereas, despite increases, there are as few as 3,890 wild tigers worldwide. Most of the captive animals are kept in unregulated conditions, as the BBC reported last week. Only 6% are housed in zoos or facilities approved by the US Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The rest live in private breeding facilities, back yards, even urban apartments. In some states, it is easier to buy a tiger than to adopt a rescue dog.

Leigh Henry, a species policy expert at the World Wildlife Fund, says the situation threatens the work that has been done to conserve wild populations in Asia. A patchwork of regulations governs these tigers, meaning no agency can say how many there are, when they are born, when they die and what happens to their valuable parts when they do. Illegal trade in tiger parts remains the primary threat to tigers in the wild, and the last thing we want is parts from captive tigers helping sustain or even fuel this black market.

This is bad for humans, too. In 2011, an owner of exotic pets in Zanesville, Ohio, released his menagerie into the community; 18 tigers and other animals were shot to protect people. In 2001, Texas was forced to pass a law demanding owners register their animals after a pet tiger ripped off a young boys arm. Since 1990, there have been hundreds of dangerous incidents involving big cats in the US. Four children lost their lives and dozens of others lost limbs or suffered other often traumatic injuries. Nineteen adults have been killed and scores have been mauled, says Debbie Leahy, the manager for captive wildlife protection at the Humane Society of the United States. Many captive big cats are kept in inhumane conditions, pose a threat to the community, create a burden for law enforcement agencies and sanctuaries, and compromise conservation efforts.

The keeping of charismatic megafaunae as status symbols sits worryingly close to the mentality of killing wild animals for sport. The distinction between the wild and the tamed has been blurred. Most of us see wild animals only in TV documentaries, so they become commodities or experiences.

A tiger in your back garden is far removed from William Blakes unknowable and majestic creature burning bright. But even Blake wrote at a time when the Exeter Exchange on the Strand in London displayed tigers, lions and elephants in a first-floor department store, visited by Lord Byron and Jane Austen.

As we reduce and affect their natural habitats, will we be left with big cats as flea-bitten, oversized but potentially deadly kittens?

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Homeless people on their pets: ‘She saved me as much as I saved her’

Four people share stories of animal companions as experts say they take better care of pets than those with housing

Heather, 22, Seattle

Before we found Poppy, I didnt feel like I had anything to wake up for. I was going through a rough time in my life and didnt care about myself. Id been homeless since my parents told me to leave our family house in June 2016 and was so miserable in my situation. Everywhere I go people shun me and tell me to leave.

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Then, last March, I was walking around downtown Seattle with my boyfriend when we saw a group of guys with two dogs. They were yelling at one of them and she was shivering and obviously scared. I went into a store and when I came out my boyfriend had the dog. I was confused. He said to me: I made a life choice without you; were keeping the dog. Hed paid the guys $5 for her.

It was an eye-opening moment for me to look at her properly. She raised her head with a look that said: Please dont hurt me. She had protruding ribs, fleas, missing patches of fur and couldnt walk properly. I wrapped her in my jacket like a little baby and promised Id never let anybody hurt her again. And thats my promise to her for the rest of her life. We named her Poppy after a poppy seed muffin she was trying to eat off the sidewalk.

Heather on Poppy: Seeing her like that reminds me to stay happy for simple things too. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

We moved from sleeping in a doorway to a tent. I stopped stealing food from stores when we were desperate; I didnt want to go to jail for something dumb and risk losing her. Ive applied for food stamps and now have a case manager helping me get on a housing list and get Poppy registered as a service animal so that were protected from being split up [by the Federal Housing Act].

People comment about how I shouldnt be on the street with a dog. But they probably have a misconception that shes not being taken care of. Twice a month the Union Gospel Mission does free pet care. I feed her at specific times with foods that the vet has told me will keep her healthy. I get money for her food from panhandling. Shes literally with me 247. She wakes up so excited every morning and gets so happy about the littlest thing, like rolling around in the grass or even just the weather being nice. Seeing her like that reminds me to stay happy for simple things too. In my mind shes a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.

Kate Fraser Daley, 39, Portland, Oregon

Kate Fraser Daley with her dog, Tenny, and her daughter in Portland, Oregon. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

When my family became homeless last June, some of the time we had Tenny, our four-year old chihuahua-terrier mix, with us, and some of the time he was with friends of the family. But he was so sad when we were apart. There were times when he wouldnt eat and just wanted to sleep. His happy-go-lucky self wasnt there.

Wed been in the same apartment for 10 years so the change was really hard on everyone. We decided to send our two cats, Snowflake and Mittens, to another friends house. Within the first week, Snowflake got out and ran away. My husband was absolutely heartbroken. A year on and just mentioning her name is still very emotional for him. Mittens passed away when our friends moved.

Kate Fraser Daley: I said to my husband: We dont give up on our family. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

When we moved into a shelter, Tenny became extremely protective of all of us. Being part of a mobile family unit is difficult for a dog, because everywhere becomes their territory to protect and theres no actual home. Were in a 25-family shelter at the moment. All the families sleep on bunks in one large room and we can only be there from 6pm to 8am. But Tenny is never satisfied with our surroundings. His barking has become incessant and hes being snippety. I dont think hes going to calm down until we get back into an apartment. Then he wont have to be running all over town trying to freakishly protect his family from the world, which is not the job of a dog.

I know its unfair on him. We try to give him all the love we can and help him work through it. My husband and I actually talked about whether we are going to have to take him back to the pound. We cant afford a lawsuit and we dont want to risk him being put down if he bites somebody. But I said to my husband: We dont give up on our family. Were working on getting into an apartment and will see how he calms down when he has his own space to protect again.

Richard Dyer, 52, Seattle

Richard Dyer with his pet ferrets Ricky and Tiny in Seattle. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

My two ferrets are called Ricky and Tiny. Ive had Ricky for five years. I rescued him when I saw somebody walking him on the street and yanking him around on a chain. And Ive had Tiny for almost three years and rescued him after someone threw him out in the woods. They were both skittish at first because of the way they had been treated, but now theyre leash- and litter box-trained.

I had wanted ferrets as pets since I was a kid. I grew up in Fort Payne, Alabama, and we had them on our land, but they were so fast you could never catch them.

Ive been homeless a little over a year; its not the first time, but its the first time in a long time. My wife and I were living in an apartment and the rent went up by $150. We couldnt afford it and didnt have any place to go so we had no option. Right now were staying in a tent. I come downtown when the ferrets are out of food.

Richard Dyer: They come up to me every time I call and Tiny is always on my heels, he never lets me out of his sight. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

Most shelters dont allow animals. But I wouldnt subject my family to one anyway they are full of drugs and disease and lice. Were in a sanctioned camp thats supported by several agencies and we have electricity. We pay $60 a month to be there and our neighbors at the camp love the ferrets.

A while ago I was diagnosed with bipolar [disorder] and was suicidal. But since having these ferrets, I havent had any suicidal tendencies. They ease my stress. They come up to me every time I call and Tiny is always on my heels, he never lets me out of his sight. My favorite thing about them is how they play with each other. They cant be apart from each other; their bond is magnificent.

Ryan Mikesell, 37, Hillsboro, Oregon

Ryan Mikesell lives with his pets in an RV parked in Hillsboro, Oregon. Photograph: Annabel Clark for the Guardian

When Im feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, my mini Labradoodle, Josie, climbs on my chest to calm me down. She wont take no for an answer. Shell be like, Go ahead, tell me to get off. I dont care. I have PTSD and her doing that is a grounding mechanism for me. I feel things and she just senses it. Shes like my soulmate in dog form. My therapist loves her.

My animals are my family. The oldest is Jamie, a Jack Russell-chihuahua I got eleven years ago when I was living in a house with my ex-partner. Jamie has had two litters and Ive kept three of her puppies. In total, I have five dogs and my cat, Buddy, who I found abandoned in an alley nine years ago.

Ive been homeless for eight years. I grew up in Olympia, Washington, but my parents were very abusive and I didnt want to be anywhere near them, so I left for Oregon. I have agoraphobia and severe anxiety. I also have diabetes and need to have a refrigeratorso I can keep eating healthily. I live in a motorhome that I have nowhere to permanently park. It used to be that as long as you regularly moved your vehicle, you could park in lots of places. But since the new mayor of Portland came into office, you can get a ticket and be towed in 20 minutes. I put a call out on Facebook saying I needed somewhere to park for six months and a woman offered me her driveway, which is where I am now.

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Chicken decapitation and battered cats: Hollywoods history of animal cruelty

The sight of a duckling having its foot prised off in Lars von Triers new film sent Cannes audiences scurrying. But its nothing compared to these real-life horrors

If I am not looking forward to Lars von Triers The House That Jack Built when it eventually comes to UK screens, it is not because of the violence against women and children that helped earn the film an early round of disgusted reviews. No, what really fills me with dread is the prospect of seeing a duckling having its leg torn off with pliers.

Even after Peta weighed in to confirm that Von Trier didnt really torture a duckling (the effect was achieved using movie magic and silicone parts), the idea leaves me feeling queasy. (Regardless, the film itself sent guests scurrying for the exit during its international premiere at Cannes earlier this month). Half a century of watching horror movies may have accustomed me to misogynistic violence on screen (which is not to say I enjoy it), but it hasnt inured me to the mistreatment of animals.

Had Von Trier really tortured that duckling, he would have been following in a long and dishonourable tradition of auteurs treating animals even more badly than they treat actresses. Andrei Tarkovsky had a horse shot in the neck and pushed down a flight of stairs in Andrei Rublev (1966). Jean-Luc Godard filmed a pig having its throat cut for Weekend (1967). Chickens were decapitated in Sam Peckinpahs Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973). Bernardo Bertoluccis 1900 (1976) contains scenes of frogs being tortured and a terrified cat being strung up so that Donald Sutherland can crush it to death with his head. The director cuts away from the act (thank heaven) and I like to think Sutherland didnt really kill the cat, but the Italians do have previous form in this regard. The writer Curzio Malaparte, in a 1943 essay about Mussolini, describes a traditional Tuscan holiday entertainment in which working-class men, hands tied behind their backs, would batter cats to death with their shaven heads.

Bob Dylan (and doomed chicken) in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973). Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Francis Ford Coppola incorporated footage of a water buffalo being hacked to death in Apocalypse Now (1979). Bla Tarrs Stntang (1994) shows a cat being manhandled; Tarr insisted the cat wasnt harmed, but clearly he wasnt concerned about showing it being swung around by its forepaws. Between takes of Park Chan-Wooks revenge thriller Oldboy (2003), the actor Choi Min-Sik, a devout Buddhist, was caught on film apologising to the live octopuses he was eating which makes you think of Lewis Carrolls Walrus, weeping for the oysters he is devouring.

The Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act of 1937 prohibits the exhibition or supply of a film [in the UK] if animals have been cruelly mistreated for the purposes of making the film. The British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) still cuts non-faked animal abuse, although it is more lenient on arthouse than horror. Stntang and Oldboy were passed uncut, but the new Blu-Ray releases of Sergio Martinos The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) and Umberto Lenzis Cannibal Ferox (1981) have each been shorn of about two minutes footage of, among other delights, turtle-dismembering, iguana-splitting and cute furry creatures being attacked and eaten by huge snakes.

Pure carnage: at least 25 horses had to be put down during the filming of The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936). Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros

But then both films come trailing notoriety, having once been classed as video nasties. The extras on both re-releases include interviews in which the films respective directors awkwardly address the animal cruelty. Martino says: In a way, it was a constructed scene because we put the monkey and python together, but we didnt plan for that to be the ending So it was really unpleasant to watch.

It is here that many cinephiles, including me, find ourselves faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, we are vehemently opposed to censorship. We are also aware that animals die every day to feed us, and we wear leather shoes. On the other hand, I would rather not watch scenes of animal cruelty, and if this makes me a hypocrite, so be it. It is upsetting enough watching a deer being swallowed by a python on one of David Attenboroughs nature specials, but Attenborough himself drew the line at reality-show contestants killing crocodiles, pigs and turkeys just to get a shot.

The Adventures of Milo and Otis: there are rumours that at least 20 cats died during production. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

Humans have been abusing animals for entertainment since the dawn of time, and film-makers havent shown themselves any more principled than bear-baiters or bullfighters. The otherwise admirable stunt pioneer Yakima Canutt invented a device called The Running W, which brought down galloping horses, often injuring or killing them in the process. At least 25 horses were killed or had to be put down during filming of The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), so enraging Errol Flynn, the films star, that he attacked his director, Michael Curtiz. Such was the public outcry when a horse broke its spine after being ridden off a 70ft cliff during filming of Jesse James (1939) that American Humane (AH, the US equivalent of the RSPCA) was finally tasked with overseeing the treatment of animals on Hollywood sets.

Even then, it seems AHs trademarked seal of approval is no guarantee that No animals were harmed. While researching my book Cats on Film, I found claims that at least 20 cats died during the production of Koneko Monogatari (1986), a Japanese film about a ginger and white kitten and his pug pal, retitled by US distributors as The Adventures of Milo and Otis, with a voiceover by Dudley Moore. AH gave it a thumbs up, and the rumours have never been verified, but it is obvious when you watch the film that animals are frequently in distress. The BBFC cut 16 seconds from the film and gave it a U certificate, but outtakes of a cat falling off a cliff and desperately trying to scrabble out of the sea to safety are enough to make me never want to see it again.

And here I am being hypocritical again, because while I balk at cruelty to kittens or ducklings, I can just about tolerate non-cuddly scorpions and ants being set on fire in The Wild Bunch (1969) or horrible reptiles hacked to bits in Cannibal Ferox. But hooray for CGI, which now makes any sort of real animal torture redundant. Today, Id film those scenes in a different way, Lenzi admits in his interview on Cannibal Feroxs Blu-Ray release. Id probably re-do it now with more help from the special FX department.

Anne Billson is the author of Cats on Film

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The new Pizza Rat? New York squirrel filmed snacking on avocado

In viral video, rodent displays pricey hipster tastes on citys wealthy Upper West Side

A New York squirrel has been dubbed the new Pizza Rat after being filmed munching on an avocado in a flower planter on the Upper West Side. Henry Zhang spotted the squirrel on Thursday and uploaded the video to social media, where it is proceeding to go viral.

Zhang told the Guardian that it was actually his dog, Almond, who first noticed the squirrel and tugged on his leash to alert his owner to the excitement. The planter is next to a street vendor selling fruits and his van. I assume an avocado dropped from his van or stand, and the squirrel scavenged it.

While the squirrel is to be commended for eating heart-healthy fats rather than a slice of pizza, one does hope it knows that its choice of treat is extremely uneconomical. If only the squirrel had skipped the avocado, it might have saved enough money to buy a house instead of living in a tree.

The last few years have been a fruitful time for viral vermin aficionados; Avocado Squirrel joins an illustrious roster of city critters caught snacking.

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Creepy optical illusion of a lost cat poster turns its head as you walk by

A missing cat poster also became a creepy optical illusion. 

As you walk past the poster, the cat’s face appears to follow. When the viewer veers left, the cat’s head turns to watch. When you lean right, so does the missing cat. 

“Probably escaped from Azkaban or something,” the Redditor who posted the video said. 

But it’s not a dark magic power — it’s actually a pretty common optical illusion used in haunted houses. If you put concave cones behind the eyes of the illusion, it’ll look like the eyes will follow the viewer. Since the cat’s head is perfectly placed over a concave surface, it appears to turn its whole head as the viewer passes by. 

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Mountain bikers in fatal cougar attack did everything right, authorities say

Surviving cyclist in satisfactory condition in hospital as official says bikers tried to scare the mountain lion and then hit it

A mountain biker who was killed by a cougar near Seattle and his friend who escaped after the animal attacked him did everything right, authorities have said.

The two men were riding on a trail in the Cascade Mountain foothills on Saturday when the mountain lion began following them. Authorities said they did everything state guidelines advise: getting off their bikes, making noise and trying to scare the animal away. One even smacked it with his bike, after it charged.

The cougar ran off but returned and attacked when the men got back on their bikes. It bit one the survivor on the head and shook him. The second cyclist ran and the animal dropped the first victim and pounced, killing its victim and dragging him back to what appeared to be its den, Sgt Ryan Abbott of King county sheriffs department said.

They did everything they were supposed to do, Abbott said on Sunday. But something was wrong with this cougar.

The survivor was still in hospital on Sunday. A Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman, Susan Gregg, said the 31-year-old man was in satisfactory condition.

Authorities would not confirm the names of the cyclists until the man who died, a 32-year-old Seattle resident, was formally identified. That was expected on Monday.

The attack near North Bend, 30 miles east of Seattle, was the first fatal cougar attack in Washington state in 94 years. The first man managed to get on his bike and ride off, looking back to see his friend being dragged into the trees, Abbott said. The cyclist rode for two miles before he could get a cellphone signal to call 911.

When rescuers arrived, it took about half an hour to find the second victim, who was dead with the cougar on top of him in what appeared to be a den-like area. An officer shot at the animal, which ran off. Several hours later, state fish and wildlife agents used dogs to track the cougar to a nearby tree. They shot and killed it.

Authorities planned to match DNA taken from the animal with DNA from the victims to be certain they killed the right cougar. They also plan to examine the cougar to see what might have been wrong with it.

There are an estimated 2,000 cougars in Washington. Until the 1960s, the state paid hunters a bounty for killing them. Now it allows 250 to be hunted in 50 designated zones. While they are sometimes known to kill livestock or pets, and though one even found its way into a park in Seattle in 2009, encounters with people are rare.

Attacks have become more common, though, as people encroach on the animals territory. In North America, there have been about 25 deadly attacks and 95 non-fatal attacks reported in the past century, but more attacks have been reported in the US west and Canada over the past 20 years than in the previous 80.

Experts say people encountering the big cats in the wild should stop and pick up small children immediately. Because running and rapid movements can trigger the animals prey drive, people should not run. Instead they should face the cougar, speak firmly and slowly back away, appearing as large as possible by standing on a rock or stump or opening a sweatshirt or jacket.

People should also become more assertive if the cougar does not back off. If it does attack, people should fight back.

The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey but a potential danger, Washington state fish and wildlife advises on its website.

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