A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Sep 9, 2020

What do Gender Reveal parties, Labradoodles, and Cubicles have in Common?

We have now come to learn that some type of smoke bomb launched at a gender reveal party ignited a wildfire in Southern California - the second time a wildfire started this way. (There was a similar gender reveal fire in 2017 in Arizona.) The person credited with inventing the gender reveal occasion, Jenna Karvunidis, reportedly went on Facebook to denounce her creation as these events can get out of control and become very destructive,

I discussed in my book, Designer Dogs, how Wally Conron, the founder of the Labradoodle wished he never created that mixed breed as his "invention" sparked the very cruel and inhumane designer dog craze which continues to leave a trail of sick, broken, misshapen and discarded dogs all around the world.

An article in Business Insider  reports numerous other "creators" also regretting their creations. This group of "Frankensteins" includes Robert Propst, inventor of the office cubicle, an idea to stimulate collaboration, left workers in teeny tiny spaces with no privacy, the scientists that participated in the Manhattan Project, which developed the atom bomb, and Anna Jarvis, who created Mother's Day, who hated the commercialization of the holiday and was even arrested for protesting it!  Others include the single use K cup, (fills up landfills), pepper spray, (misused constantly, the double slash in URLs, pop-up ads and more!

What do we make of this? Here we are, in our cubicles, in the midst of a pandemic, surrounded by designer dogs, fires, hurricanes, and plague, wondering- how many good ideas, movements, or concepts gone wrong are we dealing with? Many ideas start as fun, a solution to a problem, a social cause, a thing that makes you laugh, but then mutates into something horrible or just simply clashes with another newly invented good idea.

Still, we would be nowhere without creativity, altruism and sparks of genius. Perhaps, someone can invent super-duper long term vision or get to work on a time machine....

             "Exhilaration is that feeling you get just after a great idea hits you, and just before you realize what's wrong with it." - Unknown










Aug 21, 2020

Germany Proposes Law Mandating Dog Walking

unknown source
A new law proposed in Germany would mandate that dogs be "permitted to exercise outside of a kennel at least twice a day for a total of at least one hour," This can be accomplished by actually walking the dog or allowing him/her to run outside. Of course, this proposal, though well meaning, has been met with objections from "no nanny state", to it's up to the unique characteristics of the dog, to "right on".

It is interesting, though not clear who it actually applies to, private or commercial kennels, and how it could ever be enforced. 

As we exist in a COVID19 world, I have it on good authority that dogs are being walked - a lot!!!

Jul 17, 2020

Dogs May Be Good for Children's Psychological Development


First, I want to thank everyone for responding to the call to adopt and foster, as shelters all across the country were bracing for the COVID 19 pandemic. Your response allowed shelter personnel to function in a safer, socially distant mode that permitted the reducing, rotating, staggering of shifts while adding remote and virtual contact free services and programs. Your cooperation means everything to us and is certainly a double good deed!

Now that many of you have dogs, I thought you should see this New York Times Article  "Dogs May Be Good for Children’s Psychological Development" which posits that "Compared to young children without dogs, those who had them were less likely to have conduct problems or problems relating to peers."

Data was collected by Australian scientists from parents of 3-5 year old boys and girls from a variety of demographics, as well as details on dog walking and playing to reach the above conclusion. 

Of course, there is a lot more studying of this issue to do before establishing rock solid cause and effect evidence - but it is something to think about as you work as a family, to make the dog feel at home and build the human animal bond.

Please stay well.




May 8, 2020

covid-19 "Must Have" survival kit - a Dog and a Llama!

Courtesy of Wikimedia commons
It is possible that some day the COVID-19 "must have" survival kit will include one dog and one llama!

The dog will diagnose the disease, i.e. inform you if you have the virus, and the llama will provide the antibodies that can stop the virus.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School are working to train dogs to recognize the scent of the infection and to alert you, just as dogs can do with seizures, cancer, and a multitude of assorted odors.

Scientists are also working with a llama named Winter, in Belgium, to see if her special llama antibodies (recovered via blood draw) can immediately and temporarily block the corona virus cell from infecting people. Past uses of llama antibodies showed effectiveness in stopping both SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV viruses for a short period of time.

Problem solved!






May 6, 2020

No Swabs Necessary -Just Dogs

Texas dog no one wanted honored by spcaLA
as hero
We know dogs can be trained to detect seizures, glue, bombs, heart attacks, cancer and other interesting things due to their exceptional smell capabilities. In fact, in his book, Dr. Sleep, Stephen King wrote in a cat that could predict death the night before it happened.

Therefore, if a COVID-19 infection emits an odor, you can bet that a dog will be able to smell it and tell you about it. University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is putting researchers on the case to do just that.

What you may not know is that many of these extraordinary dogs are found at shelters all across the country and trained for these "nose jobs". What we have found at spcaLA is that sometimes your untrained family pet has such a skill and displays it at the exact right time.

spcaLA has honored such dogs over the years.

You can do the same by adopting a shelter dog.





Apr 14, 2020

Help CLOSE Live Animal Markets in California


UPDATE:  Your spcaLA joined 37 other national and international animal and humane welfare organizations to urge California Governor Gavin Newsom and State Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris to ban the sale and importation of wildlife and non-native species for human consumption in the state.


Last week, spcaLA joined 68 members of the United States Congress in calling on the Director Generals of the World Health Organization and other global organizations to take aggressive actions for a global shut down of live wildlife markets.  In California, industries exploiting and trafficking wildlife as commodities for live food markets pose just as much a threat to public health and safety as do other wildlife farms and markets around the world.

As a member of PawPAC, a statewide committee that advocates for all nonhumans and their environment, to encourage transparency in the California State Legislature, spcaLA has engaged with California policy makers since 1993 on live food market issues in the state regarding the humane treatment of animals and the basis of health. Among other things, selling wild animals for consumption, creates higher potential for zoonotic disease transmission. It is believed that the 2003 SARS outbreak originated in this manner and may be the source of COVID-19.

Members of the public are urged to contact their U.S. Representatives and Senators and demand that action be taken. These practices are not only inhumane but are a threat to the safety and well-being of the community.





It seems that behind every pandemic there is a live animal market origin story. I bet many of you didn't know these markets, popular in Asia and in the news now, are alive and well in California, and, yes, in New York.

These markets are places where animals, including but not limited to, poultry, livestock, bats, pangolins, turtles and frogs, are held alive, often in crowded conditions, slaughtered and sold to customers all in the same spaces. These spaces are virtual petri dishes of viruses which travel from species to species, (including humans), all around the world thereby exposing unsuspecting populations to new germs and diseases. So one theory of the origin of the corona virus was that it was pangolins that passed the virus from bats to humans. But, specifically, what is the origin story behind COVID-19, a kind of corona virus.

This short and to the point video on CNN, entitled "Virus Hunters", (about 7 minutes long) discusses this problem.

Your spcaLA is working with experts, legislators and others to try and shut these markets down in California and New York for the health of humankind. Of course there are animal cruelty issues involved, (your spcaLA was instrumental in securing legislation dealing with that a decade ago), and basic public health issues around slaughter and food chain concerns, but, today, as we are in the throes of a global pandemic, these markets need to finally close for the benefit of all of us.

The U.S. Congress is also working on a bipartisan bill to close these markets. But, there are also bills being introduced in California and New York which will probably resolve faster and spark a national trend.

Stay tuned for ways you can help.






Apr 7, 2020

Tiger in Bronx Zoo Tests Positive for Covid-19

courtesy wikimedia commons
A tiger at the Bronx zoo tested positive for Covid-19. It is believed that one of the zookeepers transmitted the disease to the tiger. It is also being reported that the zookeeper was an asymptomatic carrier. Do not freak out. It is not a secret that animals can become infected with some human diseases. The issue is that there is no indication that a cat or dog can infect humans with Covid-19. The dog or cat, even if becoming infected appears to be a dead-end host.

Zoos all over are putting protocols in place, most of which echo those that your spcaLA has been sharing with you all along to keep yourselves and our pets safe. Additionally, spcaLA has been collaborating with veterinarians, infectious disease experts and representatives from around the world to share vital information and current best practices with our constituents and other shelter professionals.



It bears repeating here:

Guidance for Pet Owners
Pets are members of the family, and just like human family members, spcaLA urges pet owners to protect pets. If dog parks are still open in your area, spcaLA urges pet parents to avoid them.
  • Maintain good hygiene practices by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching pets, in keeping with CDC guidelines.
  • Do not allow your dogs to play with other dogs or meet people during daily walks. Keep a six-foot distance between your dog and others, just as you would with other people.
  • Curb your dog’s interest in sniffing excrement of other animals, or picking up refuse on the ground.
  • Before you come inside from a walk, wipe your dog’s paws with a sudsy solution of pet shampoo and water. When finished, discard the wipe and thoroughly rinse your pet’s paws with water to remove soap residue. If you have them available, you may consider having your dog wear shoes, socks, or booties outdoors.
  • Keep your cats and other pets safely indoors. If you are unable to confine your cat, follow the wipe down procedures indicated above.
  • Do not use Lysol wipes, bleach, or other harsh chemicals on your pets. Ask your veterinarian for additional safe options to clean your pet’s paws.

Guidance for Animal Care Facilities
  • Protect your staff and volunteers. Determine and implement your shelter’s intake procedures, which should apply to returning fosters and other clients, as well as stray and surrendered pets.
  • Protect the community. Determine and implement your shelter’s procedures prior to placing animals in adoption, foster, or returning them to their owners.
  • Pet boarding and daycare facilities, many of whom are open and caring for the pets of medical, grocery, sanitation, food delivery, and other essential workers, should take care to develop and implement intake and return procedures.
  • Protocols for incoming and outgoing animals may include bathing (paying special attention to the areas most frequently petted by people), a period of isolation, and other actions. Further consideration should be made as to PPE for staff and procedures to accept or return animals to the public while maintaining safe social distance.


We will continue to monitor the science and refer you to reputable sites for information . Please see the Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health OrganizationAmerican Veterinary Medical Association, and World Organization for Animal Health.


Please stay safe!