75 episodes

Hosted by Duncan Strauss, Talking Animals is a weekly radio show about animals and animal issues. It currently airs Wednesdays, from 10-11am ET, on WMNF (88.5 FM), a 70,000-watt NPR affiliate in Tampa.

The core of Talking Animals is a long-form interview with prominent figures in the animal world or notable folks in other fields who have ties to animal welfare.

Past guests include Jane Goodall, Alec Baldwin, Temple Grandin, Dr. Neal Barnard, Lily Tomlin, Bob Barker, Neko Case, Nathan Runkle, Dr. Lori Marino, Jackson Galaxy, Paula Poundstone, Brian May, and Sy Montgomery.

Alongside the interview, Talking Animals is rounded out by animal news and announcements, animal songs, animal comedy, and a quick quiz feature, Name That Animal Tune. https://talkinganimals.net

Talking Animals Duncan Strauss

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.0 • 20 Ratings

Hosted by Duncan Strauss, Talking Animals is a weekly radio show about animals and animal issues. It currently airs Wednesdays, from 10-11am ET, on WMNF (88.5 FM), a 70,000-watt NPR affiliate in Tampa.

The core of Talking Animals is a long-form interview with prominent figures in the animal world or notable folks in other fields who have ties to animal welfare.

Past guests include Jane Goodall, Alec Baldwin, Temple Grandin, Dr. Neal Barnard, Lily Tomlin, Bob Barker, Neko Case, Nathan Runkle, Dr. Lori Marino, Jackson Galaxy, Paula Poundstone, Brian May, and Sy Montgomery.

Alongside the interview, Talking Animals is rounded out by animal news and announcements, animal songs, animal comedy, and a quick quiz feature, Name That Animal Tune. https://talkinganimals.net

    Susan Kurowski, executive director, Pets for the Elderly Foundation

    Susan Kurowski, executive director, Pets for the Elderly Foundation

    Susan Kurowski—executive director of the Pets for the Elderly Foundation (PFE), which covers a portion of the adoption fee for seniors, 60-years-old or older, adopting a shelter dog or cat from one of PFE’s participating shelters—outlines the history of the organization, founded in Cleveland in 1992 by entrepreneur Avrum Katz, going national in 2002. Kurowski explains that two impulses propelled Katz in this direction: Being distressed by the huge number of animals that languished in shelters (and, in many instances, were euthanized), and recognizing—as an older single man himself—that living with one or more animals helps stave off loneliness and isolation in the elderly. Still, Kurowski notes, a philosophical underpinning of PFE is that they’ve consistently paid a portion of the adoption fee (typically, these days, $50), rather than absorbing the whole cost. She addresses studies and other research that indicate the health benefits for older adults through the companionship and other virtues provided through pet ownership. Noting that PFE currently works with 57 shelters across 35 states, I ask about what seems to be a thin state-to-shelter ratio and, 20 years after going national, appears to be a small number of shelters overall—and how these baffling statistics square with PFE’s latest campaign to expand the program to all 50 states. Kurowski lays out the criteria for becoming a PFE shelter, noting that, within the last year or so, the organization broadened the initiative to allow adopters to choose between a subsidized adoption or helping cover the cost of veterinary care or pet food for their newly-adopted animal.  (https://petsfortheelderly.org, https://www.facebook.com/PetsForTheElderly/, https://www.instagram.com/petsfortheelderly/)
    COMEDY CORNER: K. Trevor Wilson’s “Deer” (https://www.ktrevorwilson.com)
    MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” The Sun Society’s version of The Beatles’ “Octopus’s Garden,” instrumentals
    NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”
    AUDIO ARCHIVE:
    Listen Online Now: https://talkinganimals.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/TANov24Final.mp3 | Open Player in New Window

    Dr. Jennifer Conrad, founder of The Paw Project, advocate for banning feline declawing

    Dr. Jennifer Conrad, founder of The Paw Project, advocate for banning feline declawing

    Dr. Jennifer Conrad—a veterinarian and founder of The Paw Project, and a tireless crusader against declawing cats for many years; I first interviewed her about it on “Talking Animals” in 2005, and she’d already been working on the issue for some time—recounts the initial impetus for taking on the cause, spurred by performing reparative surgery on declawed big cats at a wildlife sanctuary. This experience, Conrad recalls, led to her first legislative triumph, in 2003, helping impose a declaw ban in West Hollywood, CA. We review that one of the most insidious facets of the declaw procedure is that it sounds like an innocuous manicure, but it actually involves amputation: the cat’s toes are amputated at the first knuckle. Conrad says that the procedure is still performed as widely as it because most cat owners do not understand what happens, and the veterinarian in question is unlikely to say “I’d like to de-knuckle your cat.” She notes fewer and fewer veterinarians perform declaw surgery (as more and more human clients are seeking truly humane vets; The Paw Project website provides a directory of North American vets who do not perform the surgery), and sprawling veterinary hospital chains like Banfield and VCA now refuse, as a matter of policy, to conduct declawing procedures.  Conrad outlines some of the recent legislative victories and inroads, including Pittsburgh banned declawing, Massachusetts has an anti-declaw bill approved by committee, an anti-declaw bill passed committee in Nevada, an anti-declaw bill was introduced in Pennsylvania. She points out that while animal welfare organizations–among them: such major, national entities as the Humane Society of the United States—are typically quite supportive of these legislative developments, the ASPCA is an outlier in that they don’t back this sort of anti-declaw lawmaking; as an example, Conrad cites ASPCA’s resistance when the state of New York was developing its declaw ban in 2019. She fields a wonderful call from a listener who “inherited” a declawed cat that she figures is 5-6 years old, had clearly grown quite attached to the animal, and asked Conrad what she should be on the lookout for—in terms of paws, behavior, and so on—as the cat ages. (https://pawproject.org, https://www.facebook.com/pawproject, https://www.instagram.com/pawproject/)

    ALSO: I also spoke briefly with Helene Greenberg, of Florida Voices for Animals (FVA), who first provided an overview of FVA and its mission. Greenberg then addressed the matter at hand: The special screening that FVA is presenting this Saturday, Nov. 20,  featuring “Gunda,” a distinctive documentary —notable for, among other traits, its absence of music, dialogue, heck, there’s even no humans in this movie. Instead, the film  focuses on a female pig (Gunda), who has just given birth to a litter of piglets.  And “Gunda” screens outdoors, at 6:30pm, at HOB Brewing in Dunedin, where vegan pizza and “libations” will be served. A fundraiser for FVA, the suggested donation is $15 in advance, $20 on the day of the screening. (https://www.facebook.com/events/396559765276490?acontext=%7B%22event_action_history%22%3A[%7B%22mechanism%22%3A%22search_results%22%2C%22surface%22%3A%22search%22%7D]%2C%22ref_notif_type%22%3Anull%7D)
    COMEDY CORNER: Kyle Kinane “Cat Sneeze” (https://kylekinane.com)
    MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals
    NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: The Beatles’ “Octopus’s Garden”
    AUDIO ARCHIVE:
    Listen Online Now: https://talkinganimals.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/TANov17Final.mp3 | Open Player in New Window

    Jose Sanchez, marine biologist, ecotourism guide, expert on the “friendly whales”

    Jose Sanchez, marine biologist, ecotourism guide, expert on the “friendly whales”

    Jose Sanchez—a naturalist trained in marine biology, and an expert on the so-called “friendly whales” of San Ignacio Lagoon in the Baja California region of Mexico, having led ecotourism trips there for 25 years—recalls growing up in a family that prized nature and wildlife, regularly taking outdoor outings to explore and enjoy those things. Sanchez relates how he turned this early passion into a professional path, studying marine biology at what’s considered Latin America’s top school, going on to join a marine mammal program, but before long, ecotourism lured him away from academia. Specifically, he says, he became enchanted with the California gray whales–the ones that migrate from the Arctic (some, from Russia, Sanchez notes) to the Lagoon for mating and birthing. Then, after giving birth, the mother whales not only allow humans near their
    babies, but in some cases, bring the calves over to folks sitting in the pangas, or small boats, allowing the calves to be touched or petted. The Friendly Whales. Remarkable as this phenomenon is, Sanchez explains how it’s striking in another regard: there was whaling taking place in the Lagoon as recently as 80 years ago, so it’s thought that older whales in this area might be survivors of the end of that last whaling period. Which means one has to reconcile the friendly whales permitting humans in pangas getting very close—the way counterparts in similar boats did so mere decades ago, but wielding harpoons. Sanchez discusses the notion of the whales in San Ignacio Lagoon having forgiven the humans—one of the instances in the conversation where he was careful to note the possible anthropomorphism of his observations—and the related pivotal moment where a fisherman in the Lagoon, named Francisco “Pachico” Mayoral had the first genial encounter with a whale, a powerful moment thought to have occurred in 1972. After nearly a quarter century leading trips in San Ignacio Lagoon, Sanchez and his family recently launched a company, Pure Baja Travels, which specializes in expeditions to the Lagoon, to commune with the friendly whales. (https://www.purebajatravels.com, https://www.facebook.com/PureBajaTravels/, https://www.instagram.com/purebajatravels/)
     
     
    ALSO: I also spoke briefly with Matt Shelley, the organizer of Punks for Paws 2, an all-day extravaganza of punk music—featuring 14 bands—happening Saturday Nov. 13 at Pinellas Ale Works in St. Petersburg, with the proceeds going to Friends of Strays Animal Shelter. Shelley explains that he assembled the first Punks for Paws in 2019 spurred by two passions: punk rock (he’s a musician, playing in Arcane Arcade, one of the bands on the Nov. 13 line-up), and animal welfare, noting he’s a big fan of Friends of Strays, the shelter located in St. Petersburg. Punk for Paws 2 details: Doors open at noon at Pinellas Ale Works, 1962 1st Avenue South, St. Petersburg, and the show is expected to run thru midnight. Tickets are $10.  (https://www.facebook.com/events/386533036458170/, https://www.pawbeer.com, https://www.friendsofstrays.org)
    COMEDY CORNER: Brian Regan’s “Whale Noises” (https://brianregan.com)
    MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals
    NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.
    AUDIO ARCHIVE:
    Listen Online Now: https://talkinganimals.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/TANov10Final.mp3 | Open Player in New Window

    Kitty Block, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States

    Kitty Block, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States

    Kitty Block—President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), as well as CEO of Humane Society International, HSUS’ global division—discusses getting a precocious start working in animal welfare, in that her Mom was an animal activist.
    Block recalls how, as a second grader, she went on a school field trip to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus and, whereas her classmates were enchanted by the performing elephants, Block was disturbed by the spectacle, told the teacher she wasn’t feeling well, and wanted to go home. The teacher ignored the request, so Block called her Mom, who immediately picked her up; she understood. Block explains that she wanted to follow in her mother’s foot steps, pursuing animal activism, deciding to attend law school to fortify her efforts. She went to work for PETA, as a  lawyer, then moved to the office of PETA’s outside counsel, Phil Hirschkop, an accomplished, high-profile attorney who’s argued multiple cases before the Supreme Court. From there, she launched her career at HSUS, where she’s now worked for nearly 30 years. Presumably because of her long tenure and attendant institutional knowledge, her HSUS achievements, and being an attorney, Block was named acting CEO in 2018, when the organization was rocked by a sexual harassment scandal focused on then-CEO Wayne Pacelle. Block addresses the challenges, large and small, she faced in helping HSUS navigate through the immensely turbulent waters of that scandal, dealing with the profound fallout, the extensive media coverage, and ensuring the culture there became completely safe for all HSUS denizens. From that now-secure base, Block imparts what she sees when she looks five years ahead, at both HSUS and the broader animal welfare landscape. We touch on a number of other subjects, including her very visible support for Amendment 13, the successful 2018 initiative proposing a ban on dog racing in Florida, and a very recent case of HSUS helping intervene at a home in Muncie, Indiana, where about 30 cats were living amidst alleged severe neglect. [Photos: Courtesy of HSUS] (https://www.humanesociety.org, https://www.hsi.org, https://blog.humanesociety.org/about-kitty-block)
    ALSO: I also spoke briefly with Alicia Duval, President of DARE (Dachshund Adoption Rescue and Education), a Tampa-based organization holding the 15th edition of Doxapalooza, its biggest fundraiser and multifaceted day, happening Nov. 6 at the Sun-n-Fun Event Pavilion in Lakeland, Florida. She outlined the activities slated for Doxapalooza, including the Parade of Fosters, Costume Contest (both store-bought and homemade costumes), and the grand finale: Weiner Races. Duval also provides a brief overview of DARE and its mission, noting how important they feel it is to carefully match a prospective adopter with a given dog. She also touts the virtues of living with Dachshunds; she has five! (https://daretorescue.org, https://www.facebook.com/events/sun-n-fun/doxapalooza/240683644573127/)
    COMEDY CORNER: Rocky Dale Davis’s “Killer Dachshunds” (https://rockydaledavis.com/)
    MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals
    NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.
    AUDIO ARCHIVE:
    Listen Online Now: https://talkinganimals.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/TANov3Final.mp3 | Open Player in New Window

    Coleen Ellis, expert on pet loss and grief

    Coleen Ellis, expert on pet loss and grief

    Coleen Ellis—an expert on pet loss and dealing with the kind of grief that results from losing an animal companion—recalls how the loss 18 years ago of her beloved dog, Mico, coupled with then working in the human funeral profession, inspired her to start the first pet funeral home, launching her on the path to becoming a sought-after speaker and consultant in the pet bereavement realm. As a way to invite Ellis to provide general guidance to those who’ve lost an animal (or soon will), I read part of an email from a longtime listener, who had just two days earlier said goodbye to her beloved dog, with whom she’d “had 14 wonderful years together.” Later in the conversation, we circle back to that longtime listener, and her loss, addressing how insidious grief can be, affecting someone more sharply after a hunk of time has passed than what they experienced in the initial period. Ellis explains how pet loss is considered a “disenfranchised death,” noting that in a country where approximately 30% of the population are not pet owners—and even some in that other 70% are not necessarily passionate, empathetic animal lovers—a huge number of people do not understand the human-animal bond, and therefore, cannot comprehend the grief over losing an animal companion. Some of the listener calls and emails underscore and elaborate on these ideas, including our first caller, who lost his pet the day after Christmas, and says he and his wife do not plan to bring another animal into their lives, conducts extensive research on grief, which he seems to be deeply in the throes of—Ellis observes that he is squarely in “the year of firsts,” the year after losing a loved one, when certain shared activities, occasions, holidays and so on tend to resonate more profoundly. Themes that emerge from her suggestions for someone who has experienced a loss include being kind to yourself and moving slowly—versus hastily or abruptly–in actions and decisions. (https://twoheartspetlosscenter.com, https://www.facebook.com/TwoHeartsPetLoss, https://www.instagram.com/twoheartspetloss/, https://coleen.rocks)
    ALSO: I also spoke briefly with Mark James, who runs Bear Creek Custom Timber, a Saint Petersburg custom woodworking company, and who recently created a wonderful way to honor his late dog, Hank. In the spirit of those Little Free Libraries that people place in front of their homes (you know: “leave a book, take a book”), James constructed a similar cabinet for pet food, called “Hank’s Bark Box.” James talks a bit about Hank, recalling adopting him from a shelter, when he was a shy and quiet dog, evolving into a highly protective guardian of James’ house, known to bark at the wind. In the two weeks or so since he put up “Hank’s Bark Box” in front of his Saint Petersburg home, he’s had appreciative visitors avail themselves of the food—including a family who knocked on his door one night, and a college student and her King Charles Spaniel, who left him a thank you note—and a number of folks who’ve donated food.
    COMEDY CORNER: Tom Papa’s “Pet People” (https://tompapa.com)
    MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals
    NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.
    AUDIO ARCHIVE:
    PART 1:
    Listen Online Now: https://talkinganimals.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/TAOct27Part1.mp3 | Open Player in New Window
    PART 2:
    Listen Online Now: https://talkinganimals.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/TAOct27Part2.mp3 | Open Player in New Window

    Carol Buckley, longtime expert in the care of captive elephants

    Carol Buckley, longtime expert in the care of captive elephants

    Carol Buckley—a longtime expert in the care of captive elephants, who co-founded The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, moving on to found Elephant Aid International, a nonprofit organization “that creates innovative approaches to the care and management of captive elephants”—seeks to address, 47 years into working with these animals, what exactly it is about elephants that stole her heart, and keep stealing it. Some of that profound connection she attributes to something akin to divine intervention, like when she was enrolled in an exotic animal training course, at 19, and while doing her homework one day in her rental house, a baby elephant walked by. There’s a lot more to this story—indeed, that elephant is Tarra, a key figure in a lifelong Buckley saga, with no shortage of twists and turns and cliffhangers, like: when a lengthy custody dispute between Buckley and the Elephant Sanctuary leadership over Tarra’s status (she’d been at the Sanctuary since Buckley co-founded it in 1995, and has remained there after Buckley was ousted by the board of directors in 2010) was recently decided in Buckley’s favor. She makes clear in this conversation that she plans to relocate Tarra to Elephant Refuge North America, Buckley’s newish 850-acre sanctuary located in Attapulgus, Georgia (not far from Tallahassee), which recently welcomed its first elephant resident: Bo, a retired circus performer, who had been a star attraction for the better part of three decades at the Carden Circus. While on the topic of circuses, Buckley offered the surprising assertion that zoo elephants tend to experience more difficult, emotionally damaging lives than circus elephants do. We touched on other topics, including the considerable time she has spent in Asia in recent years, mostly under the Elephant Aid International umbrella, undertaking such projects as creating chain-free night corrals for elephants in Nepal. (https://elephantaidinternational.org, https://elephantaidinternational.org/projects/elephant-refuge-north-america/, https://www.facebook.com/elephantaidinternational)
    ALSO: I also spoke briefly with Julie Inman, a facility manager at the Rigsby Recreation Center, in Safety Harbor, providing an overview of “Barktoberfest,” described online as “a festival for dogs and their people.” She explains that the event—Saturday, Oct. 23, 10am-noon, at Safety Harbor City Park Dog Park—will feature vendors, a costume contest, and more. And because “Barktoberfest” will be held outside, Inman said, they will not impose any COVID protocols. (http://safetyharborrecreation.com)
    COMEDY CORNER: John Mulaney’s “There’s a Horse Loose in the Hospital.” (portion) (http://johnmulaney.com)
    MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals
    NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.
    AUDIO ARCHIVE:
    Listen Online Now: https://talkinganimals.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/TAOct20Final.mp3 | Open Player in New Window

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5
20 Ratings

20 Ratings

FlamingAsh ,

Calling all Animal Luvers!

This podcast is for any and every animal lover out there!

Nuurdheere ,

Mr

Good app. It's nice

snipeyhead ,

Upbeat and informative

What I love about this podcast is the broad range of all-star guests and topics discussed. I'm no vegan or animal rights activist - just an animal lover and pet parent who likes to stay informed on current topics - but I always learn something when I listen to this show. And no matter how serious the topic might be, Duncan keeps it upbeat with music and comedy sketches that always bring me back to my younger days when things were more simple. Duncan's passion for animals and for reaching out to people really comes through in every episode. I'm so glad I found this one!

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