Players can now use animals in Mafia Wars! They are now finally active and in game for players to use in combat. You will find that animals have boosted many player attack scores over 80,000 with ease and over 90,000 with top gear.
One great thing about this is that all old accounts that are no longer played will be "cleaned up". New players won't have to worry about someone who played for a year but is no longer active in the game as you will have to get animals to remain competitive.
Additionally, to get a jump start, you can actually buy animals now in all 4 cities. Here is what is for sale:
Red Tailed Hawk - 25 attack, 22 defense: $300,000
Killer Bee Swarm - 29 attack, 20 defense: C$50,000
Musk Ox - 23 attack, 28 defense: R$24,000,000
Inland Taipan - 21 attack, 30 defense - B$250,000
I was able to walk right in and purchase 500 Killer Bee Swarms and 500 Musk Ox. This put my offensive score right around 84,000 points and my defensive score also over 80,000.
Quite an easy way to pick up a ton of offensive strength! Even if you don't have much money in other cities, you should have plenty of New York money which will let you buy the Red Tailed Hawk.
Don't bother with the Inland Taipan - way too much money for a 2 defense upgrade over the Musk Ox. It'd be a much better use of money to pick up the animals (or other items) in the Faction Store in Bangkok.
Thanks to Carl for tipping me off on this.
Now that animals are in game, here are the best animals you can get:
The Chain Viper (46 attack, 33 defense) is the best animal that drops from jobs (drops in Bangkok Chapter 7). It has a pretty high offensive power and better defense than any animal you can buy in New York, Cuba, or Moscow.
The Forest Scorpion (25 attack, 37 defense; drops in an earlier chapter in Bangkok) is the best defensive animal that drops from jobs. With that said I do not consider this item very valuable. It is only a 4 defense upgrade over the Chain Viper, so make sure you max out on Chain Vipers (and every other piece of High End Loot) before farming these. The Faction Store items are much, much better than this piece.
The Banded Krait (51 attack, 28 defense) can be bought in the faction store for B$540,000. Quite expensive, though it is a 5 attack upgrade over the Chain Viper.
The Xiamen Tiger (26 attack, 52 defense) is the best defensive animal that can be collected with [relative] ease. It can be bought in the faction store for B$550,000. It is a big upgrade over the Forest Scorpion.
With that said, I'm not really too into defense these days. I don't bother riding the hitlist as I am way too high of a level for it to be even remotely time effective. The only thing I use stamina for is robbing, so who cares about it? I'd prefer to buy the Banded Krait with my $B and keep on stacking up my attack.