News Bites: Comfort Dogs Helping Boston, World’s First Dog, Deadly Cats, NZ vs Cats


Five K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs are in Boston helping survivors of the bombings.  Two of the dogs were brought in from Newtown, Conn., where they were helping students and parents at Sandy Hook Elementary.  The dogs also help medical staff cope with the stress of treating so many casualties.  The K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs are part of Lutheran Church Charities.  You can keep up with them on Facebook.



DNA from 33,000 year old skull found in 1975 shows the animal was more closely rated to modern dogs than to wolves as was previously thought.  This, the Altai dog, is the 2nd oldest example of primitive dogs—the oldest is the Goyet dog.

Check out this post on primitive dogs in the Americas.


coralcatCats kill way more animals than we thought.  Instead of killing 500 birds a year in the U.S., they’re killing 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion bird and 6.9 billion to 20.7 billion mammals.  Non-pet outdoor cats do most of the killing, but pet cats are responsible for 1/3 of the deaths.  All the more reason to keep your cats inside unless they’re supervised.



Gareth Morgan, a New Zealand businessman & philanthropist, wants to ban cats from New Zealand because of their threat to the unique wildlife found there.  The facts are pretty stunning:

  • Cats have contributed to the extinction of 9 native bird species [3].
  • Cats impact on 33 endangered native bird species [4].
  • One feral cat killed 102 endangered native short tail bats in a week [5].
  • Cats kill native birds. In our cities domestic cats kill native birds faster than they can possibly breed [6].
  • Around 40% of New Zealand’s native land-birds are already extinct, and of the ones remaining 37% are endangered. [7]

A complete ban seems extreme, but a complete ban on any outdoor cats might be a good thing.  This would have serious implications for any trap & release programs dealing with feral cats.

Dogs From Middle East Not East Asia

Evolutionary Tree of Dog Breeds & Grey Wolves

(click to enlarge)

A comprehensive new study shows that dogs are more closely related to wolves in the Middle East and therefore originated there.  (It was previously believed dogs were more closely related to wolves in East Asia and originated there.)  These new findings better match archaeological evidence of dogs in the Middle East.  It’s not all that surprising that dogs originated in the Middle East—this is also where cats were domesticated and many of our livestock animals were domesticated.

The study also showed that dog classifications based on behavioral traits (herding, retrieving, vermin hunting, etc.) match the branches in the dog evolutionary tree.  Herding breeds descend from other herding breeds, retrievers from retrievers, sight hounds from sight hounds, terriers from terriers.  This seems like common sense, but scientists didn’t have genetic proof before this study.  On the flip side, toy dogs, bred for size and not behavioral traits, descend from many branches of the dog evolutionary tree.

Be sure to click on the the dog evolutionary tree above—very interesting.