What Animals Do for Our Mental Health

In my book, “Know Thyself: A Kid’s Guide to the Archetypes,” I recommend that children watch or play with animals in order to become more aware of the Innocent Archetype — the naturally curious part of our identity. Research into how animals affect our mental health is just in its infancy, but so far there are some compelling studies to suggest that animals can contribute to mental health on a number of levels and across a wide span of ages and mental health problems.

I have done some searching and reading, and here are some good resources on the growing body of evidence that pet ownership and spending time around animals has a positive correlation to physical and mental health.

From Australia, this paper talks about research showing animal-assisted therapy improving mental health for elderly people in nursing homes as well as children diagnosed with ADHD. It also points out that because of financial hardship, pet ownership for some people has become more difficult. It reports that pet ownership was on the decline in Australia due to increased renting and decreasing owning of homes.

The American Humane Association has a good page that talks about animal-assisted work being done with military families and children with cancer. Their hope is that with more clinical trials, animal-assisted therapies will become more mainstream and available for different treatment and caregiving environments.

On this page, Dr. Andrew Weil talks about how animal-assisted therapy and/or pet ownership can alleviate anxiety, depression and social isolation, while improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

My discussion of animals in “Know Thyself” is focused primarily on expressing your Innocent, but there are several archetypes that are expressed when animals are a part of our lives. Animals also call forth our Caregiver as we feed and nurture them, and most of us also know people who express a sense of deeper connection with animals — a sense of animals as Soul Mates. Essentially, animals give us the opportunity to express love, which is the basis for so much of what makes life pleasurable and fulfilling.

Ted Nugent Makes Bambi Cry

Conservative celebrity and hunting enthusiast Ted Nugent had himself filmed shooting a fawn that had been lured to with bait…

California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foy says game wardens saw Nugent kill an immature buck on a February episode of his Outdoor Channel TV show “Spirit of the Wild.”

Investigators found that the deer had been eating bait called “C’mere Deer.” Baiting wildlife is illegal in California.

Nugent originally faced 11 charges, including killing a deer too young to be hunted.

It’s a manly thing to shoot critters in the woods, but the stalking part involves a lot of walking, which is tough on the knees as we all get older. Better to open up a lawn chair and let the deer come to you.

I seem to recall allegations that Dick (Richard) Cheney was strolling in a manicured park with attendents shooing birds toward him when he went on his infamous lobbyist quail shooting excursion.

But you can’t expect important men to sweat like some redneck hunting dinner.

Seriously, I heard that feral pigs are a real nuisance in some places, (in America, I’m not talking about the radioactive kind). Why doesn’t Nugent face off against an aggressive, non-cute, invasive animal instead of a harmless little fawn that thought it found the deer candy store?

UPDATE: Sources have informed me that Nugent did not shoot a cute fawn, but a juvenile buck. This particular juvenile buck was making bad choices and was a known juvenile delinquent. It was a threat to America, and the Constitution and all that we hold dear. Bad deer. Thank you for keeping us safe, Ted Nugent.

Not Worried about 2012

Driving into Boston, up Rt. 93, you will see a huge billboard with no message except four numbers–2012!!!. Start screaming now! I love this stuff.

Anyone remember the prediction that Comet Kohoutek would be ten times brighter than the sun? Probably you don’t, because the comet was a dud. But that doesn’t deter the End Times cheerleaders. They want the cataclysm. In their own lifetime. But have they considered the practical needs of their furry friends?

Some people have given consideration to those who will be Left Behind when the world finally ends for real. In addition to those people you hate, who deserve it, there are the mute victims. What about Fluffy? Who will make sure she gets her pills, crushed up and rolled into a clump of liverwurst so she won’t spit them out? You might almost think it’s a part of God’s plan that there are animal-loving atheists. Earthbound Pets will ensure that Fluffy is provided for, for a very reasonable fee. Wish I’d thought of that.

But Earthbound only contracts for ten years. What if the world remains in 2019. You still have work to do and bills to pay. How boring. Better make a contingency plan just in case you are still around. Here’s Yahoo News top 10 of failed Armageddons.

Would You Watch This?

All you have to do to get your own TV show is to be rich and disgraceful…

NEW YORK – Michael Vick will be giving the public an inside look at his life during an eight-part television series scheduled to debut on BET next year.

Tentatively titled “The Michael Vick Project,” the cable show will follow the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback as he tries to redeem himself after going to prison for 18 months for his role in operating a dogfighting ring. DuBose Entertainment, which is co-producing the series, and BET officially announced the show Friday.

He says he had a difficult childhood, which he probably spent pulling the wings off flies and drowning kittens. Michael Vick might be worth watching on the football field, but why anybody would give a dog’s lunch for his personal story I can’t figure out.

On the other hand, if you want to know how the pit bulls are doing, check out Animal Planet.

Save the Vultures

I have a lot of respect for vegetarianism. Factory farming is bad for humans as well as animals. Cruelty to animals is wrong and should be punished. But I never cared for PETA. This is just one reason…

CHICAGO (AFP) – An animal rights group said Thursday it wants to transform a Kansas abortion clinic that was shuttered after its owner was murdered into an animal cruelty education center.

“We want to take a building that has been a flashpoint for conflict on one moral issue and turn it into a place of dialogue on another one,” said Bruce Friedrich, vice president for policy at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA has a bad pattern of misogyny and exploitative publicity seeking. Good cause — bad organization.

Imperiled by Shrinking Ice and Trophy Hunters

A disturbing report, with a malevolent twist, on the plight of polar bears in the Arctic—from The Independent:

The appalling fate of the polar bear, symbol of the Arctic

Polar bears – the very symbol of the Arctic’s looming environmental disaster – are crashing towards extinction as a result of global warming, the US government has found. The admission, the result of a massive investigation by the Bush administration, could force the President finally to take action against climate change.

The development comes at the end of the most momentous week in the human history of the Arctic, which is warming faster than anywhere else in the world. Satellite observations have revealed that its ice has shrunk to much its lowest ever level, raising fears that it had reached a “tipping point” where it would melt irreversibly, disappearing altogether in summer in less than 25 years, with incalculable global consequences.

And a separate Independent on Sunday investigation has found that polar bears are being shot in alarming numbers by rich trophy hunters from the US, Europe and Japan, even as their increasingly fragile habitat melts beneath them. Campaigners know that climate change and pollution are the biggest threats to polar bear survival, but believe that stopping sports hunting is symbolically important. Former US presidential candidate Senator John Kerry is leading the fight.

“It’s time to put the polar bear on the endangered species list, and give them a fighting chance at survival,” he said. “Not only must these bears contend with their home melting away, but they are also being hunted in the limited habitat they have left. It’s time to take responsibility for their survival.”….

American hunters exploit a loophole in the Marine Mammal Protection Act that allows them to get licences to import polar bear trophies from Canada. Some 953 have been granted or applied for since 1994. Senator Kerry is now co-sponsoring with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe a proposed Polar Bear Protection Act in the US Senate that would stop the skins being imported.

At the same time comes the polar bear investigation – conducted by the US Geological Survey – which concluded that the world population would be cut by two-thirds by the middle of the century as the result of the melting of the ice. This is likely to be over-optimistic because, as the survey itself admits, it is based on estimates of the rate of the ice’s disappearance that fall far short of what is actually taking place. New evidence also suggests that chemical pollution, wafted up to the Arctic, is interfering with the bears’ abilities to reproduce. [full text]

The Humane Society of the United States has an electronic petition on its website where you may encourage your elected representatives to support the Polar Bear Protection Act. Please consider signing the petition.

Reed Amendment Passes, Protects Endangered Polar Bears

This didn’t get much media attention, but it is a worthy act: to close the loophole in the Marine Mammal Protection Act that still allows hunters to import and sell the heads and hides of polar bears. From MediaNewswire.com:

Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approved an amendment to the FY 2008 Interior Appropriations bill to protect polar bears in the Arctic by blocking American trophy hunters from importing their heads and hides. The Committee approved the amendment, offered by Senator Jack Reed ( D-R.I. ), by voice vote.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act, passed in 1972, generally prohibits the import of products from marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins, seals, and polar bears. But in 1994, a loophole was created to allow American trophy hunters to bring home polar bear heads and hides from Canada. Over the last decade, American trophy hunters received more than 800 permits to import polar bear trophies.

“The polar bear has become the iconic species for the devastating effects of global warming,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “It just makes no sense to allow Americans to shoot and import polar bears when these animals are facing so many tangible threats to their very existence.”

The Safari Club International gives out a “Bears of the World” hunting achievement award to individuals who shoot four of the eight species of bears in the world, and that awards program drives competitive killing of polar bears in the Arctic.

The HSUS expressed its thanks to Senator Jack Reed for leading this important effort, and to Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd ( D-W.V. ) and Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein ( D-Calif. ) for their strong support.

“Polar bears are rapidly becoming an endangered species. It is illegal to hunt these bears for sport in the United States. Trophy hunters shouldn’t be able to skirt the spirit of U.S. law by killing polar bears abroad and bringing their heads back across the border to America,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment. “This amendment will ensure that the United States shuts down this practice and prevents the killing of these animals for their heads.”

The Reed Amendment accomplishes a similar goal as the Polar Bear Protection Act � S. 1406 by Senators John Kerry ( D-Mass. ) and Olympia Snowe ( R-Maine ), and H.R. 2327 by Representatives Jay Inslee ( D-Wash. ) and Frank LoBiondo ( R-N.J. ) � which would permanently close the polar bear trophy hunting loophole in the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The HSUS, Defenders of Wildlife, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and other humane and conservation groups back the legislation and are grateful to these legislative leaders.

“With polar bears facing clear threats presented by climate change, the U.S. should not be funding unnecessary trophy hunting of this charismatic species,” said Cindy Milburn, acting director of IFAW, DC. “IFAW applauds the committee and Senator Reed for taking steps to provide polar bears with much needed protection.”

Facts:

Scientists estimate there are 21,500-25,000 polar bears in the Arctic � more than half are in Canada and most of these are in the territory of Nunavut. Throughout their range, polar bears currently face unprecedented threats from global climate change, environmental degradation, and hunting for subsistence and sport.

In 2005, the IUCN ( World Conservation Union ) uplisted the polar bear on its Red List from a species of “least concern” to “vulnerable” for the first time. The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group has announced that polar bear populations could drop 30 percent in the coming 35�50 years and that polar bears may disappear from most of their range within 100 years.

Today trophy hunting of polar bears in the U.S. is banned, and only Alaskan natives are allowed to hunt small numbers of bears for subsistence. Once sport hunting was prohibited in the U.S., some populations began to recover.