Teacher’s pet, teacher’s pet!

Diploma mills have cats becoming experts in all sorts of fieldsIn times of economic distress, some families will do anything to gain a little extra income. Some households may cancel magazine subscriptions or spring into a coupon-clipping frenzy. The truly enterprising family, however, may sign their pets up for an MBA degree in hopes of getting some free investment advice. The news blog boingboing.com has reported that a new page of the online reference guide Wikipedia keeps track of dogs and cats who were awarded fraudulent degrees from diploma mills, en route to exposing the company’s scam.

According to his application to the online college, Trinity Southern University, Colby Nolan is a part-time babysitter who has worked at a fast-food restaurant, maintained a paper route and completed several courses at community college. In reality, Colby is the housecat of a Pennsylvania deputy attorney general.

In 2004, Colby was awarded an MBA degree by the Texas-based diploma mill in exchange for $299. The cat, according to a Trinity transcript, had achieved an amazing 3.5 grade point average! A year later the fraudulent company was ordered to cease operations and was assessed hefty fines.

Other pets who received similar degrees include high-school graduates Kitty O’Malley and Oreo Collins and the expert in neuro-linguistic hypnotherapy known as George the cat.

Fire departments help pets breathe easy

Fire departments help pets breathe easyLosing one’s home to a fire can be a devastating experience for a family to endure. Most Americans buy insurance plans for their houses and family members to guarantee a measure of safety, should bad luck raise its ugly head. Since – according to the Human-Animal Bond Survey by The Hartz Mountain Corp – about 75 percent of pet owners consider their animals a member of the family, new steps are being taken to protect the safety of our four-legged friends as well.

This week, fire departments in Chicago and south suburban Matteson, Illinois, secured new ways to help save the lives of pets threatened by house fires, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Oxygen masks developed specifically for pets will be distributed to the departments, and firefighters will be trained in their proper use. The masks are cone-shaped, and designed to fit over the snouts of pets, including dogs, cats and some birds.

Prior to use by these fire departments, the masks had been used by veterinarians for assistance in pet care.

According to the Tribune, about 150,000 pets die in fires each year, mostly due to smoke inhalation.

Defraying the costs of sick puppies

Customers who buy sick animals from pet stores have legal recourseLemon laws have long been in place to protect consumers who may be duped into purchasing a product with a polished appearance that belies its functional drawbacks. When the product is an everyday commodity like a used car, consumers can leverage the law to cover refunds and additional expenses; but what happens when the "lemon" is a new pet?

According to some animal welfare advocates, animals bought in pet stores are more likely to have health problems than those purchased from shelters and independent breeders.

Several options have emerged for pet owners trying to foot the bill for vet services required by their store-bought sick puppies. Many states have adopted pet owner protection laws, like New Jersey’s Pet Protection Act of 2000, which stipulates that if a veterinarian certifies a sick animal was unfit for sale with two weeks of the purchase, the owner may be reimbursed for the pet, or for expenses associated with veterinary pet care, the Atlantic City Press reports.

Pet warranties, issued by companies like Household Pet Protection in Colorado, and veterinary pet insurance plans have also become common in defraying pet health costs.

The U.S. Human Society estimates that up to 4 million puppies were bought in pet stores or over the internet last year.

Health officials confirm H1N1 in cat

Health officials confirm H1N1 in catLast month, a cat in Ames, Iowa, influenced how animal owners across the country think about pet health when it returned from a visit to the vet with a H1N1 flu diagnosis.

The 13-year-old tabby cat was the first documented case of the swine flu being passed from a human to a pet, after its owners came down with the virus in late October, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Kimberly May, a veterinary doctor and assistant director of professional services at the American Veterinary Medical Association told the news source, "In general, cats are not considered susceptible to human flu viruses, but this cat got H1N1 flu from its owners…It seems to be the first time a cat caught flu from a human."

While no dogs are known to have caught H1N1, May is not ruling out the possibility. In addition to cats, animals known to be susceptible to the infection include ferrets, domestic turkeys and pigs.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have emphasized that there is currently no evidence that suggests swine flu can be passed from pets to people.

FDA issues salmonella warning for pet foods

FDA issues a warning to pet ownersThe majority of pet owners today consider their animals to be part of the family. Though cats have nine lives, some families celebrate their every birthday; though dogs are not supposed to eat from the table, some family dinners aren’t complete until the favored canine licks the plates clean. It comes as no surprise then, that pet health and safety have become primary concerns for households across America.

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a health warning to alert pet owners that Pig Ears and Beef Hooves pet treats manufactured by Pet Carousel may be contaminated with salmonella. The products were distributed to pet food and retail chain stores nationwide.

While to date, no illnesses associated with the treats have been reported, the FDA notes that the products were manufactured under conditions that facilitate cross-contamination with other batches.

Pets with salmonella may become sluggish and experience fever, vomiting, or abdominal pain. The FDA recommends contacting a veterinarian if these symptoms become apparent, as pets with salmonella can infect other animals or humans.

According to CNN reports, pet insurance plans can cost about $5 to $30 a month for the average healthy pet.

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