Franky’s Law: A New Bill in Maine Could Give Abused Animals a Voice in Court

iStock.com/Sunlion2000
iStock.com/Sunlion2000

An animal welfare bill that was just introduced in Maine would better protect animals by giving them a voice in court, according to advocates of the measure. As CBS 13 News in Portland reports, the bill would let law students or volunteer lawyers work on animal abuse cases at no cost to the state.

It’s officially titled “An Act to Provide for Court Appointed Advocates for Justice in Animal Cruelty Cases,” but it's nicknamed “Franky’s Law” after a pug mix that was abducted, tortured, and killed last summer. Two men have been charged with that crime.

A public hearing on the bill took place this morning at the State House, and from there it will move to a committee work session. Jessica Rubin, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, wrote in public testimony that the bill is modeled after a similar law in Connecticut. Desmond’s Law was passed in 2016, making Connecticut the first state to let court-appointed lawyers and law students intervene in animal cruelty cases.

Rubin said the law has not only provided justice to animals, but has also served as a positive learning experience for law students. “Students have enjoyed serving as advocates for two reasons—the work is gratifying and it provides them with in-court experience and training,” Rubin wrote in a letter supporting Franky’s Law. “Advocates typically collect information about a case by interviewing veterinarians and law enforcement personnel, conduct legal research, and then present recommendations to the courts regarding appropriate handling of the case.”

Desmond’s Law gets its namesake from a dog that was beaten and strangled by its owner, who entered a rehabilitation program instead of serving jail time. Advocates say the law ushered in stiffer penalties for those who commit such crimes, according to the New Haven Register.

“Since Desmond’s Law, we have seen a significant increase in jail time or probation with suspended sentences,” said Robin Cannamela, president of a volunteer animal welfare organization called Desmond’s Army.

Officials in New Jersey and New York are reportedly interested in similar legislation.

[h/t CBS 13 News]

Mississippi Hotel That Lets Guests Foster a Dog During Their Stay Has Found Forever Homes for 60 Pups

WebSubstance, iStock via Getty Images
WebSubstance, iStock via Getty Images

At the Home2 Suites by Hilton Biloxi in D'Iberville, Mississippi, it's not unusual for guests to leave with much more than they arrived with. The hotel is home to one foster dog at any given time, and visitors are free to walk them, play with them, and even take the dogs home, Insider reports.

The Home2 Suites in D'Iberville started its "Fostering Hope" program as a way to offer guests some of the warmth and comfort they were missing from home. The hotel partners with the Humane Society of South Mississippi to open its doors to one rescue dog at a time. All the hotel's guests are invited to act as the animal's foster owner. Whether they're missing their own pet back home or just looking for something to do, they can take the dog for a walk and feed them during their stay. They're even allowed to bring the pet into their hotel room overnight.

By creating bonding opportunities between guests and the foster dogs, the hotel aims to send pets home with forever families. So far, more than 60 dogs have been adopted since Home2 Suites began fostering them in October 2018. The new pet parents include hotel guests as well as several members of the staff.

The program has been so successful that the goal now is to spread it to other Home2 Suites locations in the country. If you can't make it to D'Iberville, you can check out some of the hotel's canine visitors below.


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[h/t Insider]

It’s Easy Being Green: Most Amphibians Are Biofluorescent, Study Finds

An alpine newt glows green after being exposed to blue light.
An alpine newt glows green after being exposed to blue light.
Jennifer Y. Lamb and Matthew P. Davis

If you walk through a forest at night, you see only darkness and shadows, and perhaps the smudgy outline of trees against the sky. But if you were a salamander snuggled in the leaf litter, under the right light conditions, you might see something completely different: foliage glimmering in shades of red, and your fellow amphibians glowing in brilliant greens.

Biofluorescence—in which animals emit a fluorescent glow after absorbing high-energy wavelengths of light—is likely widespread among most, if not all, amphibians, according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports. Previously, only one species of salamander and three frog species were known to biofluoresce.

Alpine newt under white light
The same view of an alpine newt under white light
Jennifer Y. Lamb and Matthew P. Davis

“I do field work, so I’m out there capturing species of amphibians, and I think, ‘huh, I wonder if this fluoresces,’” says Jennifer Y. Lamb, an assistant professor of biology at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. She and co-author Matthew P. Davis, an assistant professor at the university, collected representatives from eight of the 10 salamander families, five families of frogs, and one family of caecelians, a type of limbless amphibian. They exposed each critter to high-energy blue light and then viewed them through a yellow filter to see if and how they glowed.

“One of the first salamanders we tested was the Eastern tiger salamander. We saw that it fluoresced really brightly, and that kind of got us hooked,” Lamb tells Mental Floss. “We started [to look] across salamander diversity, [and asked ourselves], ‘OK, how many species do we see within salamanders that biofluoresce?’ When we started to notice, ‘hey, it’s actually a lot of them!’, the question became, ‘can frogs do it?’ Then we looked at a relative of frogs, the caecelians—‘do they do it?’ And it seemed like biofluorescence in some form or fashion is present in all of these lineages.”

Biofluorescent salamander
A biofluorescent Eastern tiger salamander
Jennifer Y. Lamb and Matthew P. Davis

The various amphibians fluoresced in unique patterns depending on their skin’s coloration and markings as seen under normal white light. Some gleamed in blotches, others in stripes. A few animals' bones glowed. Lamb was surprised to see that salamanders’ bellies, which were usually red or orange under white light, glowed brighter than their backs after exposure to blue light.

“A lot of these newts have evolved what we call aposematic coloration, or warning colors. When they’re threatened by a predator, they’ll basically contort their bodies to show off their bellies as a warning,” Lamb says. “So it begs the question, if these bellies are also biofluorescent, then maybe some of their predators can visualize biofluorescence.”

The researchers intend their study to be a roadmap for further study into the fascinating ability. “Now that we know that this phenomenon exists across amphibians, there’s all kinds of interesting applications that future researchers may head towards,” Davis tells Mental Floss. For example, no one yet knows what kind of mechanisms allow amphibians to biofluoresce: In some groups it might be a color-based molecule or compound; in others, maybe something in their mucus.

Biofluorescent frog
A Cranwell's frog glows under blue light.
Jennifer Y. Lamb and Matthew P. Davis

Scientists also don’t know exactly how different amphibians might visualize their own biofluorescence. Salamanders, frogs, and caecelians have rod cells in their eyes that are sensitive to green light, suggesting that they may have evolved green biofluorescence and the ability to see it at the same time, though further research is needed on that front.

“We have to be careful about not falling into the trap of only perceiving the world through our own eyes,” Lamb says. “Human vision is set to a particular set of wavelengths, and that’s not the case across all animal diversity. And that may not be the case in terms of these amphibians.”

Biofluorescent salamander
A biofluorescent three-lined salamander
Jennifer Y. Lamb and Matthew P. Davis

Finally, researchers are debating what purpose biofluorescence serves. In other animals, scientists have suggested it could play a role in communication, camouflage, or choosing a mate. Amphibians might use biofluorescence to locate each other in dense leaf litter.

“We’re hoping this study stimulates researchers to start looking at biofluorescence more broadly across the various different kinds of amphibian lineages that they may work on, so we can fill in the gaps in knowledge,” Davis says.

“There’s still a lot to learn about animal groups that we think we know,” he adds. “There’s still lots of interesting things out there to find that can help us rethink their life history and biology, and that may point us in new exploratory directions.”

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