A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Feb 8, 2017

Kakistocrats Scrub Animal Welfare Inspections and Reports

courtesy google images
A kakistocracy is defined as "government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens".  We are experiencing a systematic scrubbing, deleting, and shredding of all sorts of data from climate science, law enforcement training to homeland security documents. Now, USDA animal welfare inspection records and reports have also been removed from the relevant websites. According to the government, this serial hiding of information was necessary to create transparency!

The government maintains that all this information can be obtained easily through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Any member of the public or consumer who has requested information this way knows that the process could take forever, the material, if produced, may be heavily redacted, or the information is simply not found. The latter is certainly likely if the records are deleted and destroyed!

Anyone interested in animal welfare, in eating food, or in attending an exhibit involving animals could check these sites to see inspection reports. Those of us in law enforcement use that information to inform state violations, assess patterns of mistreatment and to propose legislation. Conversely, those bodies regulated by USDA could use the same information to rebut unsubstantiated claims of cruelty and malfeasance by unscrupulous entities.

This is not a move towards transparency, but it is rather the building of a wall that we will pay for dearly. This includes those special interest groups that like this now, but will not later, when the worm turns. 

The kakistocracy are public servants who are employed by us and who must show us their work product. We must demand this and make it so.


spcaLA urges all those who would see animals provided basic care to contact their elected officials and insist that the USDA reports be restored.






 

Jan 30, 2017

Alaska is First State to Consider Well Being of Pets in Divorce Proceedings

Animals are legally considered property despite the fact that said designation often feels weird. It feels weird because both the humans and the animals can feel love, can hurt, can grieve and can suffer. No matter how much you love your car, your car can neither love you back nor suffer if you don't gas it up.

The courts and legislators struggle with this all the time as there is a universal recognition that animals are a unique form of property. Hence, animal welfare laws prohibit humans from treating their pets poorly and can actually prohibit some offenders from having pets at all. California was an early adopter of a set of statutes that permitted pets to be listed on restraining orders in cases of domestic violence. This was revolutionary at the time as doing so was akin to ordering someone to remain 100 yards from a stereo!

Alaska is the first state to go even further and now requires that in divorce proceedings judges may decide the issue of custody of the pets based upon "the well-being of the animal" rather than merely looking at who purchased the pet as one might look at a house or furniture. In other words, courts may analyze pet custody issues in an analogous manner to child custody disputes in that single or joint custody will be awarded based on the pet's needs rather than those of the humans.

Like infants, pets can't testify as to their preferences. I bet there will be some interesting witnesses and other evidentiary offerings to help the judge determine the issue and make a just and righteous call.

Stay tuned ....


Jan 17, 2017

The Final Curtain to Fall on Ringling Brothers After 146 years

courtesy Google Images
Ringling Brothers is finally closing the circus  after 146 years.

Henry Bergh, the founder of spcaLA (1877) was reputed to be seen frequently fighting with P.T.Barnum on the streets of New York City in order to persuade him that such a use of animals was shameful and immoral. If you do the math you can see that the use of animals in entertainment has been a core issue for as long as we have opened our doors.

For me, it's also personal. The first day of my first animal welfare job ever, required me to go to Madison Square Garden to check on a unicorn that was premiering in the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily circus. I was horrified to see that the unicorn was a goat with a horn surgically implanted in her skull. Of course, we were outraged that it wasn't enough that circus animals already had to endure travel hardships, harsh training practices, abnormal environments and extreme stress, but it appeared that surgically transforming animals to look like something else was not off the table. It made me very sad as it pulled the curtain back and forever altered my very positive childhood memories of my father, in a suit, taking my brothers and me, all dressed up, to see the animals and swing our little red circus flashlights as elephants marched and trapeze artists flew. 

Ringling cited poor attendance, bullhook bans, elephant bans and animal activists as the reasons for their decision. I say, that we all evolved, community standards changed and that we collectively agreed that magic and illusions are fun as long as the man behind the curtain is not actually beating an animal or any living being to create the effect.

I would like to thank my colleagues for their persistence in this matter and, yes, also Ringling Brothers for finally doing the right and humane thing.




  


Dec 19, 2016

"Healthy Communities" - Why Thomas Friedman is Correct



I was watching an interview with Thomas Friedman who was advocating the concept of "healthy communities". Essentially he articulated the fact that life was moving too fast for single families to anchor themselves securely against the winds of change, and that governments are too slow to turn on a dime and help. The solution, he posits, is to focus on the local level, where there is more nimbleness to adapt to changes, and develop "healthy communities".  Additionally, it is your fellow neighbors that know who needs the help from jobs to services. It is the local nonprofits that know where those who fell between the cracks of the government and for-profit sectors lie suffering, and can respond. As local communities respond and become healthy, the nation benefits

I agree. It starts with the power of one. If I am strong and solvent I can care for another. Then we two can help a third and so on. We can then hire one who needs a job, shop in a local store and build up our neighborhood so that it is strong and able to thrive. Strong neighborhoods are the foundations of strong cities and so on and so forth.


Let us add local charities to the mix.  The resources, new jobs, services and aid to our vulnerable constituents, including animals, will boost the local economy and quality of life, thus strengthening the community’s ability to prosper. As an auxiliary benefit one can actually visit the charity, participate in the effort, and confirm that the funds are actually benefiting the area rather than merely assuming so. For example, the aspca, the New York City spca, is not an umbrella organization which funnels funds to other spcas by zip code. spcas throughout the country are individual legal entities and not chapters of the aspca. Yet aspca spends tens of millions of dollars annually on television and other fundraising outlets which omit that significant fact. Donating to your local charities keeps the funds local and helps build "healthy communities" for all.

Finally, many local charities are now shuttered having fallen victim to the slow growing economy, foreclosures, unemployment, and increased operating costs. Yet, the need for our services is greater because of those same reasons. Ironically, we have to figure out how to serve more with less. What if we're not there? Neither, the government nor those behemoth fundraising organizations have the agility or ability to identify, locate, adjust and provide aid with the alacrity needed to help those in need, when they need it.

Let us heed Thomas Friedman - vote, shop locally, care, volunteer, donate locally, and let's build "healthy communities" for the good of us all. His theory is by doing so, everyone will be connected, protected and respected. Imagine that. Imagine the hope for our planet should that come to pass.






Dec 6, 2016

A $5.00 Rolex Will Not Tell Time!

It is not uncommon for someone to approach you on a New York City street and offer you the deal of the century. Hung on the inside lining of a long coat are all sorts of shiny objects, including a $5.00 Rolex watch. If you spend your hard earned cash on this watch, two things will be true. It will not tell time and you have no one to complain to but yourself.

The same is true for dogs. A $3,000. purebred puppy, offered from the back of a truck in a parking lot for $500 in cash will often be ill, unable to survive, will have forged papers, and could cost you $10,000 in lifesaving medical bills. The seller is usually long gone leaving you only a burn phone number and heartache.

spcaLA recently convicted one such individual, Armando Viramontes, on 2 counts of the Penal Code - selling a puppy under 8 weeks of age and selling said puppy in a public place. He is currently awaiting sentencing.

Holiday season brings out more of these individuals than we have the resources to deal with. Please, don't create a demand for these puppies. You do not want your holiday puppy to die in someone's arms, nor do you want to be complicit in the suffering of these animals.

spcaLA suggests giving a gift certificate for a pet which allows the recipient to choose, adopting a shelter pet, and, as a last resort, researching a legal, humane and local provider of puppies.

The $5.00 Rolex will simply not tell time. The callous trafficking of these babies hurts all of us, all the time.










Dec 1, 2016

Fish and Game (Wildlife) Outsourcing Killing of Mountain Lion -P-45

Courtesy Google Images
By issuing the depredation permit to a private citizen to “take” i.e. kill the mountain lion known as P-45, the Department of Fish and Game, (trying to change their image by renaming themselves Fish and Wildlife) has circumvented the law and permitted a citizen to do that which the Department itself cannot do.

After the massacre of the lion cub that wandered into Santa Monica, against the landscape of a genetic dearth of diverse male lions, and because mountain lions are legally protected, the law was changed.

Fish and Game Code 4801.5 entitled “Removal or Taking of Mountain Lion Not Designated as Threat to Public Health or Safety” was enacted to mandate that nonlethal procedures shall be used to take a mountain lion unless there is an imminent threat to a person and not specifically the responders. The law also allows the Department to authorize qualified individuals to use these nonlethal measures on their behalf. Unfortunately, the law still allows anyone who suffered livestock or property damage by a mountain lion to request a permit to take a mountain lion.

If the Department itself can’t use lethal force to remove a mountain lion that is not threatening people, why would they grant a request to any person trained or untrained to use lethal force when there is no such threat? Are they not circumventing the point of the law which is that mountain lions are legally protected and the Department must so protect them, specifically, keep them alive?

I mourn the loss of the alpacas as well. But those keeping animals must take steps to protect them from reasonably foreseeable dangers including known predators. Killing the lion doesn’t make the rest of the alpacas safer, it just kills the lion.

As for the Department, they need to start protecting the wildlife under their purview rather than treating them like hunting game and assist people in protecting their livestock rather than automatically granting depredation permits. Then their name change will mean something.


P.S. - After a great deal of protest the owner of the alpacas has decided not to pursue killing the lion. It does not, however change the fact that Fish and Game needs to rethink its actions.


Oct 21, 2016

Cats on Leashes - Seriously

courtesy google images
Taking your cat out on a leash is far from a crazy idea. This is exactly what is happening in Alaska.

We have succeeded, nationally, in drastically reducing the number of impounds of lost dogs. Spay/neuter efforts, leash laws, identification systems, and more committed pet owners have helped reduce unwanted dogs, reunite lost dogs with their people, and achieve buy in to the idea that families keep a dog for the duration of the dog's life.

Not so with cats. Not at all.

Many continue to let their cats outside to roam, intact and without identification, all to the detriment of the cats and other wildlife. First, people don't realize their cat is lost until it's too late. Second, authorities can't discern between a lost cat, a community cat and cat transitioning to feral status. Third, the cats on the street are breeding, ailing and serving as food for predatory animals.

Consequently, we are using resources to find a cat who already has a home, a new one, perhaps at the expense of a cat who never had one.  Instead of giving every animal an opportunity for a family, we are giving some multiple tries, and others, no chance at all.

Imagine if all pets were required by law to be contained on their property, or if out strutting, be required to be on a leash. Then imagine if all the funds, food, medicine and cage space were freed up for those pets who truly needed a home rather than for those just needing a different home with more committed human companions. 

This effort alone would result in a substantial decrease in the number of animals in shelters, the amount of euthanasia performed, and would propel us forward in our resolve to end the pet overpopulation crisis. As an ancillary benefit, we would learn to value the pets we have, thereby reducing the market for unscrupulous breeders. Only then would we begin to live an ethic that treats companion animals like family members rather than like disposable commodities or Doritos.
  
It would certainly help hoist me out of my existential pit. Isn't that worth something?