By Marc Morrone
Tribune Content Agency
Q: When I was a child it seems that we were able to feed our dogs any food my mother bought at the supermarket that week and they all lived long lives. Now both my dogs - a poodle mix and a yellow lab - have food allergies. Other friends of mine that have dogs seem to have many of these same issues and I wondered why things have changed so much with dogs in the last 40 years? Has dog food changed so much since then? - Pat Flynn, Las Vegas, NV
A: I do not think the dogs have changed that much, I just think we are more aware of their husbandry now than we were 40 years ago. Each dog is a unique individual with its own idiosyncratic responses to the foods it eats.
Some individuals tolerate almost any food while other dogs develop a variety of food intolerances. Nutrient-sensitive issues occur not when there is a defect in the diet but rather when there is a defect in the dog.
Dog foods themselves have improved drastically in the last 40 years. I clearly remember feeding my dogs back then a type of food that was basically cornstarch and red food dye that was ground up to look like hamburger meat though they sure seemed to like it. There was also a dry food that when water was added to it produced a "rich and meaty gravy" that must have been anything but real beef broth.
Dog food manufacturers today have a much better understanding of what dogs need to eat to stay healthy. Plus we pet keepers are much more sensitive and aware of our pet's health than we were decades ago. A dog with a food allergy 40 years ago may have had that allergy all of its life. And the owner may have attributed the scratching and biting to fleas or hotspots rather than sensitivity with the nutrients in the dog food we were feeding it.
Back then there was really no alternative to those foods we fed the dogs anyway unless you made your own food. There were none of the premium pet foods to choose from as there are today. Plus people take their dogs to the vet a lot more these days than they did when I was a kid. So many other medical issues that dogs suffered from back then were never discovered or diagnosed.
So your question is really a bit of a grey area and these are just my thoughts on the subject.
Q: As a young boy I remember a neighbor who rescued two orphaned crows. He raised them up and released them, however they refused to leave and they stayed on his property. Since then I've always wanted one as a pet. As an adult I researched crows or ravens as pets and found it was illegal to own one. They are classified as a protected species. My question is why? They are not endangered, in fact, they are in abundance in New York. I know it's legal to own an African crow as a pet, but what is the reasoning behind prohibiting owning a black crow or raven? - Richard Davis, Atlanta, GA
A: Well the answer to your question really comes down to the proper management of our natural resources.
Historically when humans have unregulated access to any natural resource we have done a pretty horrible job controlling our use of it; thus many species of birds and other life forms are now extinct.
So biologists and scientists, hired by our government, have begun to keep track of their populations and decide if the numbers are correct for the habitat that they are living in. At this time there are no species of birds that are native to North America that we are allowed to keep as pets.
The only birds that you see in your backyard that you could keep are English sparrows, starlings, Quaker parrots and pigeons. Those species are not native to North America, but were introduced here and are now considered an invasive species.
When a native species is abundant and is something people like to hunt, such as quail or duck, then the government will allow the harvest of a certain amount of those birds each year. The money that people pay for the permits to hunt those birds allows the government to pay for the protection of those species that do need it.
The keeping of a native species as a pet is not allowed even through regulation as quite there are plenty of other birds that you can keep as a pet, so there is no need to make things more complicated than they are.
As you pointed out you can keep an African Pied Crow as a pet since they are native to Africa; they are perfectly legal to buy and sell here in America, and they make just as nice a pet as a North American Crow. While you may not see one for sale in your average pet store there are quite a few breeders in America who do breed babies each year and sell them as pets.
Marc Morrone has kept almost every kind of animal as a pet for the last half-century and he is happy to share his knowledge with others. Although he cannot answer every question, he will publish many of those that have a general interest. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; please include your name, city and state.
Printed in the November 27 - December 10, 2016 edition.