A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Apr 17, 2014

Convicted! You Can't Just Beat an Opossum to Death Because She is an Opossum

Courtesy Google Images

It doesn't matter if you think an animal is a nuisance or a pet, gratuitously injuring or killing her is a crime in California.

Jose Chavez, took a wooden stick to a fence outside his apartment where a mother opossum and her babies lay.   Chavez then struck the mom in the head, knocking her from the fence.  She attempted to escape, but Chavez took her, with babies attached to her, to and beat her until he killed her. Then, Chavez placed the dead mom and her live babies in a plastic bag and put them into a dumpster.

Your spcaLA Humane Officers investigated after which Chavez was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty where he ultimately struck a plea bargain.

It doesn't matter that some animals may be characterized as nuisances, used for food, displayed in circuses or scare you for no reason. It does matter that they be treated humanely. It is simply shameful, particularly, as in this case the opossum was scared, protective of her litter, and tried to escape that this beating occurred. 

Were I able to wave my wand and outlaw all abuses and exploitation of our animals - i would. Until then - show a little respect or expect to be prosecuted.

Apr 3, 2014

Need Action: Help Ban Whales at SeaWorld

Assembly Bill 2140 entitled the "Orca Welfare and Safety Act",  introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom, would ban holding whales captive in California for entertainment purposes, would create an orca retirement program and ban captive breeding programs among other things. 

It is absolutely unacceptable that we, enlightened denizens of the 21st century should tolerate exploiting animals for entertainment purposes. Sticking a whale in a tank for his or her lifetime away from his or her social group, and sentenced to swim in circles and perform tricks is simply awful and certainly not the lesson we want to teach children. Are we mentoring respect for our animals and environment or are we teaching children how to be cruel and exploitative of our planet.

SeaWorld is, of course, fighting to defeat this bill.

Please locate and contact your representatives , urge them to support AB 2140 and spread the word!

Mar 19, 2014

You Can Guess What I Have To Say About This

A golden hair Tibetan Mastiff puppy, allegedly with some lion's blood is reported to have sold for 2 million dollars in China. According to NBC News - this is the most expensive dog in the world.

Courtesy Google Images - not photo of dog in story

Where did the lion blood come from? What is the procedure? Is it even true?  The dog is cute-but- frankly-  I am crying here. 


Feb 25, 2014

New Farm Bill Has Surprise For Dogfighters and Cockfighters!

Google Images
Deep within the new farm bill is an amendment to the federal animal fighting prohibition law (7 United States Code 2156) which is effective immediately. 

It is now a federal felony to bring a minor (under the age of 16) to a dogfight or cockfight. So often these fights are treated as family affairs which expose and desensitize young children to acts of bloody violence and animal cruelty.  Such exposure can impair a child from developing the ability to empathize with other living things - a characteristic typical of both adult and juvenile violent felony offenders. It is also not uncommon for perpetrators to stash contraband in children's diapers for safekeeping. This change does not preclude law enforcement from still charging the adults with local relevant child endangerment laws.

The revision also makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly attend a cockfight or dogfight!

So cockfighters and dogfighters - SURPRISE!

Feb 10, 2014

Healthy Giraffe Killed, Chopped and Fed to Big Cats in Front of Children

Courtesy washingtonpost.com/google images
Zoos are no place for animals.

Copenhagen Zoo killed, dissected and fed a giraffe, Marius, to their big cats while children watched. The zoo asserted that this giraffe, though healthy, possessed genes too common with the other giraffes in the zoo to be used in their breeding program. This was done despite both the posting of online petitions opposing this course of action and the offers of other facilities to take Marius.

The zoo argued that such "culling" occurs in the wild and that they have similarly done this many times with goats, antelope and boar. They further argued that seeing a giraffe this way was educational for youngsters.

I understand that we are always confronted with the constant conflicts of choosing between saving the predator or the prey. Do you let a snake starve because you won't kill a mouse? Such contradictions exist everywhere in our lives. Criminals can behave kindly, pit bull fighters can cherish the family pet dog, and people can kill to protect others. Not every decision is a "Sophie's Choice" but they must all be recognized as the products of a complex world with competing priorities. The mouse and the snake each want to live and will fight to do so.
courtesy abc.com/google images

That said, zoos have educational mandates and responsibilities to treat their animals and visitors humanely. They should not exist to replicate the wars in the wild but rather, if they must exist, to demonstrate compassion, conserve endangered species and teach respect for those with whom we share this planet.

I don't think wild animals should be held captive for our entertainment. I surely don't think they should be massacred for it either.

Originally printed in the Washington Times:  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/17/letter-to-the-editor-zoos-should-exhibit-compassio/

Jan 9, 2014

New York City Pets Fall Between the C**P

Courtesy Google Images
With almost 200 million dollars in the bank the aspca has terminated their animal cruelty law enforcement department lamenting that it is too small to handle the demand. Now it will be up to the New York Police Department (NYPD) to worry about cruelty to animals and respond accordingly.

I have never been silent regarding my disgust at the aspca amassing such funds by advertising outside New York and capitalizing from the widespread misimpression that they are a national umbrella organization that distributes resources to spcas in every state. Despite requests from spcas across the country to duly inform the public of this fact, they have steadfastly refused and so donors believing they are helping animals in their respective communities are often horrified to learn their gifts went to New York instead. This is particularly unfortunate in the estate arena where it is too late to correct the error.

But this is a stunning development. Can they not afford to expand their department and collaborate with local enforcement agencies? If they choose not to - what is their actual mission besides fundraising?

The New York Post recently reported that, in fact, NYPD is NOT responding to animal cruelty complaints and "may never do so". Meanwhile during this brutal winter on the east coast the animals must fend for themselves in the sub-freezing temperatures and snow.

So what is their new mission? Is it initiating lawsuits to protect animals? Last I looked they had to pay Feld Entertainment (Ringling Brothers) 9.2 million dollars to settle a lawsuit where it came out that the aspca improperly paid the plaintiff in the case.

Is it sheltering animals? Not so much after they stopped providing animal control services and now without their law enforcement department they may see fewer seized and rescued animals.

Is it merely acting as a corporate sponsor of rock and roll marathons or awarding a de minimus amount of out of state grants so they feed the national umbrella myth by appearing to be present in other states?

Is it, to paraphrase their television commercial, searching for hurt and abused animals in every dark corner? I invite them to look outside their doors.

So what is their new mission?

Just wondering....

Dec 18, 2013

Is Your Undercover Expose video Cruel to Animals? Big Business Thinks So

courtesy Google images

Those who seek to break the law, study the behavior of the activists in order to block, parry and continue their activities in peace. To that end the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, targeted against activists who interfere with certain animal related enterprises and Ag-Gag laws designed to stop a person from applying for certain jobs with the intent of filming cruel practices have been enacted. Recently, the situation has become worse. 

A person working for Compassion Over Killing, an animal rights group, secured a job at a cattle company in Colorado and filmed abusive treatment of newborn calves. There is no Ag-Gag law in Colorado so on its face this plan seemed promising. Though filmed over the summer, the video was not released by the organization until November 13th after which criminal charges were quickly filed against 3 men shown in the footage abusing the animals. Then the local sheriff filed animal cruelty charges against the activist for not reporting the abuse in a timely manner, a misdemeanor consistent with Colorado state law. The group did not say why they waited so long to turn over the footage.

In Tennessee, 8 counts of animal cruelty charges against a businessman were tossed after a search warrant was quashed thus rendering the evidence gathered pursuant to that warrant inadmissible. The warrant was declared invalid because a Humane Society of the United States employee, not a bona fide officer, signed the warrant papers in contravention of state law. 

There are many forms of activism used in social movements to affect positive change and remedy injustices. These range from lobbying for legislative protections to acts of civil disobedience. This is also true in the animal welfare arena with one important wrinkle.

Cruelty to animals is a crime in all 50 states, the investigation of which overlaps legitimate law enforcement efforts and protocols. As criminal acts are typically committed sub rosa, and can result in incarceration, they must be exposed legally and with sufficient evidence to sustain a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The use of undercover operatives and other such police methodology are excellent at flushing out criminal activity. As most activists are not sworn law enforcement officers and can therefore not avail themselves of protections and tools afforded to real officers who act in an undercover capacity or who use confidential informants, they need to beware. A self-proclaimed investigator is not a peace officer and is vulnerable as a civilian. Partnering with real law enforcement organizations rather than going it alone should be seriously considered in these situations.

Though we probably have not heard the end of these stories and others like them they serve as an important cautionary tale. It is incumbent upon activists to study the landscape in which they plan to operate. Knowledge of relevant local laws is key to eliminating these setbacks. Exposing criminals and certainly those who would harm animals is a desirable and righteous goal. Minimizing risks if intentionally engaging in an act of civil disobedience or simply acting in good faith is critical to attaining a positive outcome and avoiding loss. Animal activists must be smart, unpredictable, able to anticipate the abusers' next moves and familiar with the rules surrounding their actions in order to have the best chance of success.

We can't let those who would be cruel to animals turn the tables on those who seek to protect them. It helps neither the specific animals in question nor future animals suffering from the crimes as well as the bad legal precedents.