July 2015 Newsletter

 July 2015

What's New

Select ABI Classes are now eligible to be used as Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for Certified and Associate members of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Visit the IAABC to learn more. 

Frozen Zoo

Employees at the San Diego Zoo just didn’t learn from watching Jurassic Park. If there’s one thing the trilogy wants us to learn, it’s not to mess with nature, especially not by trying to recreate life using animal DNA. However, that’s exactly what the San Diego Zoo is attempting to do with their Frozen Zoo. The Frozen Zoo freezes pieces of genetic material from endangered species (much like the DNA preserved in amber in Jurassic Park) to potentially resurrect the species later or to inseminate any remaining animals. These frozen pieces of DNA, embryo, sperm, egg and live tissue can be preserved indefinitely and are intended to save otherwise doomed species.

There are currently less than a dozen frozen zoos worldwide. The San Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo currently stores 8,400 samples from over 800 species and subspecies. Most samples are taken from sperm since this is abundant and easy to collect immediately following death. Many female animals are given hormones that make them create more eggs so that some can be harvested. On some occasions, eggs are fertilized and the resulting embryo is frozen. Additionally, some frozen zoos collect skin cells and are able to create sperm and egg cells from them.

Video on San Diego’s Frozen Zoo

These frozen materials can be used for artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, and cloning. This can create genetic improvement, prevent inbreeding, and allow otherwise infertile animals to reproduce. A similar program, the Frozen Ark, created jointly by the Zoological Society of London, the Natural History Museum and University of Nottingham, hopes to use cloning to resurrect extinct species. We’re just hoping they don’t make a theme park.

Despite many doubts, the benefits of the Frozen Zoo already exist. In 2013, the first endangered rhino was born via artificial insemination. The two adult rhinos at the Montgomery Zoo were too aggressive towards each other to mate naturally, but scientists knew reproduction was essential. After being frozen for eight years, the male’s semen was used to impregnate the female. Today, their baby is completely healthy and normal, demonstrating that the techniques of the Frozen Zoo may be able to prevent species from going extinct.

Rhino Born via Artificial Insemination

Some argue that the Zoo merely treats the symptoms but not the problems underlying endangered species. It will extend the life of a species but won’t stop the root causes of biodiversity loss, such as population growth and climate change, that still need to be addressed. If poaching continues, the creation of new rhinos won't help. They will still ultimately be hunted and killed. In addition, many animals may be resurrected by the Frozen Zoo but have no place to live in the wild if their habitats have been destroyed.

The Frozen Zoo will certainly help preserve many animal species, but it is simply distracting from the larger problem? Is it worth helping a species like the white rhino reproduce or should we be focusing on the direct causes of extinction? These are the questions scientists must confront to make decisions about the use of resources. Despite any criticism, however, it cannot be disputed that the Frozen Zoo is an amazing step forward in species preservation. 

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Enriching Their Lives - DIY Fun for Cats

(This article is the second in a series on DIY Enrichment Devices. Be sure to check out our first article on Enrichment Devices for Dogs.)

Does your cat seem bored or anxious? Put some spice in her life! Your cat might be bored because she stays inside all day. While keeping a cat indoors can ensure good health and welfare, it also deprives cats of many natural behaviors such as scratching, chewing and hunting. However, you can bring these natural desires back into your cat’s life with a few simple enrichment devices. These devices work to stimulate the cat’s mind and body, giving them the healthy environment they would have in the wild.

Hunting and foraging games can help cats exercise their natural tendencies. There are many ways to simulate foraging such as hiding food around the house rather than feeding it in a bowl or putting treats in a bottle with the lid off so that your cat has to figure out how to remove the treats. You can simplify your enrichment even more by rotating out activities. If a toy or activity is removed for a while and then is returned, it will regain much of its novelty for the cat (much like how rotating out toys in a child's toy box can add new novelty each time an old favorite returns!).

It is recommended that cats eat at least one meal per day through some sort of enrichment device rather than out of a bowl. The average household pet spends about 15 minutes per day eating their food, while in the wild they would spend hours hunting and foraging. This leaves them with nothing to do and often minimal stimuli in the home. This boredom can lead to destructive behaviors such as hyperactivity, destructive chewing, acral lick dermatitis, attention-seeking behavior, compulsive disorders and aggression. However, there are many ways you can simulate the variability of life in the wild for your cat.

Our recommended DIY cat enrichment toy is the Busy Box. This box is quick and easy to make, and will provide hours of entertainment for your cat. You will need a large cardboard box, several cat toys, cat treats, and a pair of scissors. Start by cutting different sized holes in the box. These will be windows into the maze of cat heaven below. Next, fill the box with treats and toys. Seal the box so that the only way in is through the windows. (Make sure the windows are small enough that the cat cannot enter the box through them, but stick in a nose or a paw.) Your cat will love the challenge of hunting for treats and toys and having to work to reach them.

Cats playing with the Busy Box

There are many other ways of enriching your cat’s life as well. You should have a few rotating enrichment devices through which you feed your cat his daily meals. Many toys are on the market such as the Buster Cube, Roll-A-Treat ball, and Kong toy. You can challenge your cat in a homemade way by putting his food in a container or wrapped in a towel so that he has to dissect it to get to the meal.
If your cat likes the busy box, try this easy tissue paper and toilet paper roll device. You can make it by cutting off the top of a tissue box, filling it with toilet paper rolls, and sticking treats or toys inside the rolls. Like the busy box, it will provide stimuli for your cat through the challenge of finding interesting objects.

Another DIY enrichment device you can make yourself is the sock scavenger hunt. Fill a bunch of old socks with different scents for your cat to explore. You can put spices inside, spray it with perfume, dab it with peanut butter, or anything else that creates an interesting smell for your cat. Hide the socks around your house – your cat will spend hours finding each new sock and exploring the new scents.

There are a variety of ways you can improve your cat’s life through easy and simple projects. Enrichment is an important part of any captive animal’s life. Look out for our next newsletter featuring DIY enrichment devices for pet hamsters!


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Green Chimneys Revolutionizes Animal Assisted Therapy

At ages 2 ½ and 3, siblings Alex and Anastasia were adopted from Russia and brought to the United States to live with their new mother. When they first arrived, the pair struggled in school. Anastasia dealt with issues in mood stability, relating to her peers, and obeying rules. Alex had poor impulse control and coping skills. Luckily, the siblings began attending school at Green Chimneys, an animal assisted therapy organization. Through this, they both began to show significant improvement. After a few months, Anastasia began looking forward to school, enjoying caring for the animals and tackling outdoor activities. Alex has seen incredible improvements socially and academically, and is now able to better manage his emotions. This year, Anastasia will be transferring to a public high school and Alex will become a day student rather than a full-time resident. They both made incredible progress with serious issues that were resolved through the unique programs at Green Chimneys’s special education school.

When you choose to specialize in animal assisted therapy, you may think your options are limited. However, many organizations today are expanding the options for animal assisted therapy programs and creating opportunities to help groups within a community. Green Chimneys, a non-profit organization providing animal assisted therapy to the community, is one prime example.

Green Chimneys is showing that Animal Assisted Therapy can benefit a community in ways well beyond the traditional approach. While many animals can provide comfort and confidence to their human companions, Green Chimneys is expanding the use of animals in the community to assist a wider variety of people in need. In fact, it has revolutionized the way that animals are used to help people. Its three hundred farm animals, horses and unreleasable wildlife take part in a multitude of programs that help special needs children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, the homeless, those at risk of entering the juvenile justice system, and more.

Green Chimneys


Green Chimneys aims to foster connections between the community and the natural world through their residential, educational, clinical and recreational services. Their services include an accredited special education school on two campuses, a residential treatment center, nature-based therapeutic programs, community-based support for youth and families, and public education and recreation opportunities for people of all ages. What can you do with animal assisted therapy? Read on to discover the many opportunities.

Special Education

Green Chimneys has two school campuses: the Brewster campus and the Clearpool campus in New York. The Brewster campus serves day and residential students in grades K–12 and the Clearpool campus in Carmel, NY provides smaller classes and a more intimate environment for day students in grades 4–8. Both take a nature-based approach to special education. They incorporate academic, behavioral and emotional support to help each child build new skills and confidence. The goal is to have each student return to their home school district with the best chance of success.

Video: Children and Animals Healing Each Other

Protecting the Environment

Green Chimneys collaborates with inner city and local schools to educate youth about the environment. It sponsors many school trips to the farm and wildlife center. Students can get hands-on experience working with and caring for over 300 rescued or donated animals. Additionally, the organic farm and gardens are a core component of both the school curriculum and therapeutic program. All of these programs teach children about the animals and promote responsible care of the environment.

Community Youth Support

Green Chimneys serves runaway, homeless and street youth and families in crisis within Putnam County and New York City. They have a series of programs including one dedicated to LGBTQ youth who are homeless. This includes residential services and career training to provide resources and develop vital skills to help them enter adulthood as healthy, responsible members of their communities. They also have prevention services for youth that are at risk of entering the juvenile justice system. When a Person in Need of Supervision (PINS) complaint is filed by a parent or school official, the child and family are referred to the Green Chimneys PINS Prevention program. There, Green Chimneys creates a plan for them and works with the child and family to address risks.

Green Chimneys’s innovative therapies have benefited a tremendous amount of people. They teach life skills and allow those in need to reclaim their lives. The animal programs help people discover their self worth and create a bright future for themselves; they are an inspiring example in the world of animal assisted therapy.

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Frank Inn: Making a Difference in Animal Training

Higgins had a humble start for a dog that would achieve great things in his lifetime. The fluffy brown mutt began life at the Burbank Animal Shelter in California. He was thought to be a mix between a miniature poodle, a cocker spaniel, and small terrier. Life for him was pretty similar to most other shelter dogs until Frank Inn, a well-known dog trainer, adopted him in 1960. Inn knew that Higgins was destined for greatness and began training him to be a movie star. A few years later, Higgins starred in the TV series Petticoat Junction. In 1971, he was featured in Mooch Goes to Hollywood among other films and TV appearances. He even won a Picture Animal Top Star of the Year (PATSY) Award and was featured on the cover of TV Guide magazine. Three years later, Higgins came out of retirement to star in the first Benji film at the age of 14. It was his role as Benji that made Higgins famous. In fact, his daughter, Benjean, was also trained by Frank Inn and went on to star in three more Benji films.

Higgins was one of the star animal actors in the career of Frank Inn, a legendary animal trainer. Inn trained countless animals in movies and TV shows, using the best techniques available to expertly train his actors. Higgins wasn’t Frank Inn’s only star by any means; Inn was already quite well known by the time he found Higgins. In fact, his animals won a total of 40 PATSY awards, the equivalent of an animal Oscar. One of Inn’s animals, Orangey the Cat, was the only feline to win multiple PATSY awards, winning his second award for his role as the star of Rhubarb. Inn even trained the dog star of Lassie Come Home and was honored as the first inductee into the International Dog Trainer Hall of Fame.

Much like Higgins, Frank Inn had a humble start to a long and successful career. He began as a maintenance man by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Culver City, California. Unfortunately, while he was working there, he was run over by a car and pronounced dead. His body was given to a mortician's school where students practiced embalming. Luckily, a student realized that Inn was still alive! After this incident, Inn was confined to a wheelchair and given a dog, which he named Jeep. Since Jeep was not housebroken, Inn began to train him, gaining his first experience in the world of dog training.

When he returned to his job at MGM, Inn began giving trainers tips on how to get their dogs to perform from what he had learned with Jeep. His way with animals was obvious. Soon, he was hired as a dog trainer with Jeep as his dog. He went on to train countless animals including Bernadette the Dog, who played "Cleopatra" on The People’s Choice, the pig who played “Arnold Ziffel” on Green Acres, several animals that were part of The Beverly Hillbillies, and the chimpanzees that starred in Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp. Both Bernadette (who appeared on the cover of "TV Guide") and Arnold Ziffel were PATSY Award winners, Arnold winning a total of three.

Frank Inn had an incredible natural talent with animals. According to Inn’s daughter, ''He had an almost telepathic communication with animals. He could tell them to do things just by talking to them like a human. It used to be kind of eerie to me.'' At his peak, he had more than 1,000 animals, including 100 dogs, 200 cats, farm animals and jungle animals. He had a mountain lion, bears, snakes, raccoons, and chimpanzees.

Touchingly, Inn kept the ashes of many of his beloved animals after they had died, and it was his wish to have these buried with him. He had a special coffin made to accommodate the animal urns, but by the time of his death, it was no longer possible to have the urns buried with him. Today, the animal urns remain with his daughters, Kathleen Hees and Lori Grajeda. Along with the memories of his animals, Inn has also left behind a wonderful legacy that will impact dog training for years to come. 

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