A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Apr 21, 2016

The Painfully High Cost of Adorable

puppies from mill seized by spcaLA
I recently appeared on a radio show to discuss the harm caused by irresponsible breeding practices and the avarice of some breeders, specifically, bulldogs. These dogs should be the "poster children" for everything that is wrong with this system. They are extremely expensive, have extensive medical and skin issues, and are magically adorable. Despite the former and because of the latter they are in high demand. The other guest on the show billed herself as a bull dog breeder who loves these dogs, yet orders them from mills in the Ukraine forcing them to travel when only 7 weeks old to suffer all the perils of transit aggravated by the respiratory and other medical complications caused by inbreeding, nutritional deficits and the like. A caller to the show lamented that her french bulldog cost $10,000 and a lot more than that in medical upkeep and surgeries to ease all the congenital defects in the dog. A very common story that in many cases ends with the dog being turned into a shelter. The fact that everybody wants one plus the huge price tag of one, is all the breeders need to hear to create a supply of these dogs.

The same day, a shipment of 23 unresponsive puppies (pure breed and mixed) found in a hot car at the US-Mexico border were confiscated by officials. Again, people looking for a specific breed or in some cases a "reduced price" for an expensive breed create a demand for the puppy mill breeders on the Mexican side of the border. People pay cash only for these dogs, often via a street sale, for less than the going rate, only to find the dog dead within 48 hours and nothing but the number to a burn phone and fake paperwork left in his or her wake.

This has to stop. The dogs are sick, the families who care about them are heartbroken, the breed is decimated and these unscrupulous people laugh all the way to the bank.

If we stop creating the demand the suppliers will suffer. Isn't that better?

Apr 6, 2016

Secret Cat Adoption Tip Inside!

Some of you have expressed concern with a tweet from Hill's® touting the advantages of purebred cats. In fact, they have a similar statement regarding purebred dogs,

It is critical to know that purebred animals can come with their own set of "purebred problems", including major health and temperament defects. This is exacerbated if the source of your pet is a puppy or kitten mill where earnings and not responsible breeding is the driving business goal. It is also important to realize that breed is more predictive of appearance than anything else.

Shelters around the world are coping with an excess of animals who need loving homes. To that end we must adopt from the existing supply of homeless pets rather than to create a demand for unscrupulous breeders to fulfil. Additionally, about 25% of shelter populations are, in fact, purebreds. It is therefore possible, with patience, to get a specific type of dog or cat without contributing to our pet overpopulation problem.

I have reached out to Hill's and was assured that they would make some changes in their materials. They do spend a lot of corporate capital working with shelters and I am confident that we will be pleased with the results. When they do I will gladly share it with you.

Finally, here are some spcaLA faqs for adopting a pet.

PSSST: Here is my secret for success when adopting a cat: Sit in our cattery, wait for a cat to pick you- and voila - done!!

Mar 1, 2016

Hippo Selfies - That's a Thing!

Courtesy Google Images
No sooner did I express my outrage at those taking selfies with wildlife, to the demise of the wildlife, that it was brought to my attention that selfies with hippos at the Los Angeles Zoo is now a thing!

The "Hippo Encounter" tour allows customers to observe hippos as well as to touch them and take a photo with them. Notwithstanding a pending federal complaint that this exhibit violates the Animal Welfare Act, there is the question of what we are teaching our children, violation or not.

Hippos are wild animals and extremely dangerous. The fact that the zoo would allow people to stick their hands in and pet them seems quite risky to say the least. It also sends the message that it is ok to approach a wild animal, touch them and, yes, try for the selfie! This could end very badly for the child who simply assumes that this behavior is just fine in all instances.

When my children were young we took them to a lot of children's theatre performances. There, they were encouraged to interact with, shout at, and often join the cast on stage. A great time was had by all. However, the first time we took our kids to a Broadway play, they assumed the same rules applied, and that if Hamlet asked "to be or not to be" a loud response from them was expected. The worst case scenario was that we were mortified and/or required to run after them as they headed for the stage in response to a "come hither", but not faced with the tragic and life changing consequences of a wild animal attack while chasing a selfie.

The point, is that if the zoo wants to be considered seriously as an educational facility, it should educate responsibly and not recklessly.

Feb 24, 2016

Death by Selfie - Please Stop

coutesy google images
The obsession with selfies has become dangerous to living things.

In China, a peacock died of fright as he was passed around to tourists for selfies. An Argentina crowd did the same with a rare dolphin with the same result. A man dragged a shark out of the water on a Florida beach to take a selfie, also killing the shark. I have seen people, who should know better, attempt to grab a raccoon for a photo, or others in our deserts unable to resist a selfie with a tortoise.

In these instances there is certainly a risk to the photographers, but I must speak up for the risk to the animals. Whether they die on the spot, (how do you explain that to your children) or dehydrate and die slowly as is typical with tortoises, (you miss seeing that) it is an abominable thing to do and most certainly can be a crime. In one car commercial taking a selfie with your dog is used as proof of love and a reason to buy that car.

The craze has evolved from just posting photos of social encounters and meals, to staging weird and dangerous poses. This is not a new problem. Think back to shows about funniest videos or David Letterman's stupid pet tricks. They started out harmless and natural to choreographed daredevil stunts and a dog "trick" that was achieved by breaking the dog's back so he would walk funny.

Whether you are addicted to or apathetic towards selfies, you must agree that killing an animal by shooting a photo is the same as doing so with a gun. Let's think about our animals and not just about our "selfs".

Feb 11, 2016

The Animal Three Card Monte Game Continues With "Pet Shops"

Once again the Los Angeles City Council Personnel and Animal Welfare committee, chaired by Paul Koretz is doing something that will ultimately be detrimental to Los Angeles pets. 

Now, they want to change the definition of "kennel" in the zoning code to exclude pet shops thereby obviating the need for a kennel permit and allowing these "pet shops" to be in commercial zones. 

Though seemingly innocuous on its face, it is not, and here's why. A pet shop is subject to the California Health and Safety Code pet shop provisions among other things, even if they sell shelter pets. That would also be true of an animal rescue group that is not a 501(c)(3).  An animal rescue group that is a 501(c)(3) and operates a pet shop would be exempt from that statute, but typically, would have enough animals in said space to qualify as a kennel - thereby requiring a permit and be subject to inspection. The scary part under the proposed change, is that rescues can call their kennels "pet shops", warehouse animals all over town, and voila- no Health and Safety, no kennel permit required, and no inspections mandated! No scrutiny at all. There are already existing permitted places where you only need to walk nearby to smell the unsanitary conditions to then see depressed pets sitting in their own filth. Imagine no oversite.

Said another way, under this proposed change (to be heard in committee February 16th) those presenting the most danger to the health and welfare of our pets will lose the most routine oversight. I reiterate that I am not talking about the legitimate and wonderful rescue groups that we deal with routinely, and, of course, criminal charges will lie if applicable, but Councilman Koretz and his committee are offering a free pass to abuse and neglect animals on a large scale.

I can only theorize why he is selling this to us. In conjunction with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the commission that oversees the city's animal services department, they have figured out another way to move animals out of the shelters, off their books, and into the shadows to create an impression that they have a successful live release rate. Again, they are moving the queen around in their endless game of Three Card Monte. If they would only use their skills to figure out how to honestly place pets into loving homes instead of creating the illusion of placement, there would be far less suffering for our pets.

It is again the case where the emperor has no clothes, but this time, they are trying to sell us the clothes they don't have.

Let's say no to this.

The Committee:

Paul Koretz -- paul.koretz@lacity.org

David E. Ryu -- david.ryu@lacity.org

Marqueece Harris-Dawson -- councilmember.harris-dawson@lacity.org

Jan 26, 2016

Fostering animals saves lives and is now tax deductible!

In a recent opinion, the IRS has ruled that volunteers who foster animals for a duly registered charity may deduct expenses for food, medicine, veterinary bills, and supplies,  ( Van Dusen v. Commissioner) It is also possible to deduct a percentage of utilities in your home if that area of the home is used soley for fostering.

Make sure you keep all receipts and obtain a letter from the charity that verifies your volunteer or foster status with the organization.

This ruling also applies to other volunteer expenses for charitable work for an approved organization.

Finally, if you are working for an organization that purports to be a charity and is not - this won't work. So if the tax issue is important to you - trust but verify - and report scammers to the IRS.

Dec 23, 2015

The bigger the fish tank the worse the service ...

Courtesy Google Images
It is quite common for places of business to showcase fish tanks for the benefit of their waiting customers. Though a believer that fish should be left in their natural habitats, as a diver, I love watching fish and am drawn to the tanks immediately.

What I have noticed, as a frequenter of many business establishments, is that the bigger and more elaborate the tank, the worse the service and the more aggravated the clients in the waiting rooms are! It is so common that upon entering a business, I immediately brace for a battle when confronted with a happy plastic diver blowing bubbles on a beautiful artificially sunlit reef!

What I have also noticed, is that when the tank is placed primarily for the benefit of staff viewing, the service is great suggesting that the staff is under pressure to perform properly rather than trying to hypnotize those in the waiting area into believing that they are being treated efficiently and with respect.

How about leaving the fish where they live and just doing whatever job it is well and without guile!