Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to

Q: My son is allergic to cats and dogs, but he still wants a pet. We were thinking of a hedgehog. Since they do not have fur, we think our son would not be allergic to them. My son has researched them on the Internet, and they seem cute and easy to care for. We wanted your opinion. --Gail Richards, Garden City

A: The best way for you to determine what species of pet your son can have would be to take him to an allergist and explore the options based on testing results obtained by a medical professional.

Know that 99 percent of all pet-related allergy information that is not presented by a medical professional must be taken as urban legend.

Hedgehogs are delightful pets, but they actually do have fur. They have a very fine layer on their face and underside, and the protective spines that cover their heads and backs are just stiff, modified fur. Plus, hedgehogs do lick themselves all over and are covered with dander and allergens, just like other mammals.

Q: I am writing in response to a solution you provided for the reader who asked about what to do with rats from a nearby stream feeding under her bird feeder. The response to remove the feeder was apt under the circumstances.

However, I ask that you advise your readers to reconsider using poison to control rats outdoors, even though it is legal when applied by a licensed exterminator.

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Rat poison (strong anticoagulants that cause fatal internal hemorrhaging) does not affect rats exclusively. The fact is, the poison kills other animals on the food chain as well. Rodents fill a significant niche in the ecosystem. The use of this pesticide will assuredly affect predatory animals such as owls and hawks, both of which play a significant ecological role in consuming mice, rats, voles and shrews. In fact, there also is concern that the poison may affect herbivores that may graze on the poison bait, and children who may play in the area.

A non-species-specific blood-coagulant chemical should never be applied when alternatives are possible. In my case, I removed the source of the food supply (bird feeders on my deck), and the rats disappeared. Now when I feed birds, I do so from a distance, at the edge of my backyard near the woods. --Elaine Maas, Stony Brook

A: Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions. They mirror mine exactly. However, even though I would never think of using any harmful chemicals in our environment, I am a lot more tolerant of things in life that bother other people.

A few dandelions on my lawn will not prompt me to use harmful -- though legal -- herbicides on my lawn. I know there are no more toads in my neighborhood because of herbicides, and every summer people bring me dying songbirds that have mistakenly eaten poison applied to lawns.

Birds cannot read the little signs the landscapers put on the grass to stay off the lawn for 24 hours. The same issue applies with rodent poisons. Every wildlife rehabilitator I know has to deal with dying birds of prey brought to them that have eaten rodents killed by poisons.

Yet, whenever people ask me why there are no more toads in the neighborhood or why they keep finding dead songbirds on the lawn and I tell them, they say, "What a shame." Still, they continue to pay to have the same herbicides and insecticides put down on their property.

The world is a messy place sometimes, and I will never judge anybody for doing something that is perfectly legal.

However, we can let people know the facts.

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Q: How old does a puppy need to be before you no longer need to keep it in a training crate? Our goldendoodle is 12 months old. We tried to allow him to sleep through the night outside his crate, but we still find "gifts" on the floor in the morning.

If we keep him in the crate, he can hold it in through the night with no problem. Before we had this dog, we raised a yellow Lab, and we were able to do without the crate when the dog was 6 months old.

Why it is taking our current dog so long to mature? --Sam Leonard, New Hyde Park

A: Every dog is different. I have raised puppies for a half century now, and each one matured at a different pace. Just like children, they all have issues in their development, and some are ahead of others in one respect and behind in a different area of training and maturity.

One point I've learned about training any animal is this: If the pet is more proficient in an area of training now than it was a month ago, continue to do what you are doing and trust that a month from now the pet will be even better.

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Soon the day will come when the dog can sleep through the night out of the crate and your floor will be clean in the morning.

When will that be? Only your dog knows for sure.