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Sept. 24, 2015: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.
Pope Francis’ busy first day in Washington, D.C., started with an extraordinary welcome at the White House Wednesday morning. After the head of the Catholic Church spoke on the White House lawn, he retired inside with President Obama and the first lady. In the Blue Room, he met two more VIPs: the first family’s Portuguese Water Dogs, Bo and Sunny. Francis, who is named for the patron saint of animals, seemed delighted to greet the first dogs. White House photographer Pete Souza shared the photo of their encounter on Twitter and Instagram Wednesday afternoon, with the caption, “Yes, this happened.” It immediately went viral. The pope continues his visit today, when he’ll address Congress at the U.S. Capitol before heading to New York. — Read it at NBC Washington
The Obama administration denied Endangered Species Act protections to the greater sage grouse Tuesday, saying threats have been significantly reduced by the collaboration of state and local governments, scientists, ranchers and private interests. The bird, known for its elaborate mating rituals, once numbered in the millions across the western U.S. It is considered a key indicator species for the disappearing sagebrush ecosystem of the American prairie. The administration said it would try to protect the grouse without listing it as endangered. Some environmental groups said the decision didn’t offer enough protection. — Read it at the Washington Post
The endangered spiny anteater, also known as the long-beaked echidna, has gotten a boost from a collaboration between the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Australia. Together, they’ve managed to produce 14 short-beaked echidna babies within the last five years — far more than any zoo has managed to produce. "Up to a few years ago it was thought almost impossible to breed echidnas in captivity, and most births were somewhat accidental and unplanned," said UQ Associate Professor Stephen Johnston. While the short-beaked echidna is quite common in the wild, the scientists are hoping to apply what they’ve learned to the dwindling long-beaked variety. — Read it at Discovery News
A male sea otter pup was found in July, entangled in a fishing net in Ninilchik, Alaska. He was rescued and has been cared for by the Alaska SeaLife Center. The little guy can’t be released, so the ASLC is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find a permanent home for him. In the meantime, since it’s Sea Otter Awareness week, the center has decided it’s time to give him a name reflecting his Alaskan birthplace. They’re asking the public to choose from these three possibilities: Atka (Aleut for "Guardian Spirit"), Pukiq (Inuit for "Smart"), and Kesuk (Inuit for "Water"). — See photos on Facebook and cast your vote
A 2-year-old mother cat and her two 8-week-old kittens are alive thanks to an unusual rescuer — a dog. The pooch found a cardboard Doritos box taped shut in the bushes at a park in Middlesbrough, England, Tuesday. “The woman said she wouldn't have noticed the boxbut her dog kept pulling her towards it and was sniffing at it,” said RSPCA inspector Emma Stainthorpe in a statement. “It was sealed with strong electrical tape and when she opened it she found the cat and kittens inside.” The shelter is now working to determine who did this to the cat family. The mom and her kittens were examined by a veterinarian and are being cared for by the RSPCA. — Read it at People Pets
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