A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

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!





Mar 30, 2020

"Safe at Home" not so safe for Victims of Domestic Violence


Incidents of domestic violence rise significantly during times of stress. Unemployment, substance abuse, fear, boredom, frustration and feelings of worthlessness often manifest themselves as anger against one’s family and/or self, specifically, as suicidal or homicidal acts.  Being cooped up indefinitely exacerbates the situation. Significant others, children, elder citizens, and pets can find themselves in dire straits during the Covid-19 pandemic. Add, home schooling, layoffs, past due bills, a surge in gun purchases, and general angst to the mix, and you have a perfect storm for violent and abusive behavior.

In the late nineties, spcaLA, (not a chapter or part of any other SPCA), developed the Animal Safety Net program (ASN) which offers shelter and care to the pets of domestic violence victims at no cost, so they may flee a dangerous situation without fear for the safety of their animals. This program has provided refuge to dogs, cat, rabbits, rats, horses and a fish. Sadly, the domestic violence shelters that we deal with are reporting to us that they are already full. 

Both, the New York Times and CNN  are writing about this issue in the context of the pandemic. It is also important to state that anyone, men, women, children, elders, and pets can be a victim of this rage.

Please take care of yourselves and each other.



I have included below a resource list provided by CNN:


National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522

Available 24/7. Can connect callers with local resources and immediate support. Also available through online chat tool.
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
Provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Available 24/7. Also available through online chat tool.
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
Available 24/7 in 170 different languages.
Office on Women's Health Helpline 1-800-994-9662
    A resource provided by the US Department of Health & Human Services.





    Mar 27, 2020

    PETS and COVID-19


    In light of recent reports that a dog in Hong Kong was found to have developed an immune response to the COVID-19 virus - antibodies were found in the blood – I want to reassure you and provide you with some tools to keep us all safe. 

    Your spcaLA has been working around-the-clock with veterinary and public health officials nationwide to develop protocols to protect pets, animal care staff, and the public during this crisis.

    Despite this result, Hong Kong officials stressed that these cases of infection in dogs appear to be infrequent. As of March 25, 2020, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has conducted tests on 17 dogs and eight cats from households with confirmed COVID-19 cases or persons in close contact with confirmed patients, and only two dogs had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. These findings indicate that dogs and cats are not infected easily with this virus, and there is no evidence that they play a role in the spread of the virus.
    Veterinarians stress that it’s important to note that an infection, as was the case in these Hong Kong animals, does not mean the animal is infectious, and the best practices are focused on hygiene and social distancing.

    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. Animal care facilities can email info@spcaLA.com to obtain a sample copy of spcaLA’s protocol.
    We will continue to monitor the situation, and will update protocols with any new information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Furthermore, you are encouraged to stay informed by following these organizations’ websites: World Health OrganizationAmerican Veterinary Medical Association, and World Organization for Animal Health.

    It’s our job to protect animals and that is what we intend to do. Right now, it’s important to keep a level head. Take care of your pets, and each other.





    Mar 23, 2020

    Convicted Glascow drug dealer sells designer dogs from Dubai

    Since today is National Puppy Day, I would like to remind you to adopt a shelter dog rather than to buy a designer dog puppy from a puppy mill half way around the world. Like the drug trade, the designer dog trade is worldwide, lucrative, often criminal in nature, (notwithstanding animal cruelty,) deceptive, (a lot of bait and switch), appeals to those who lack empathy for the dogs and their customers, and subscribe to a business model that invests nothing in the "product" while gauging the highest prices from their buyers. Sometimes the dogs offered for sale are actually stolen.

    I have been ranting about this for a while, and even wrote a book about it, as the trend to have a designer dog exploded exponentially, leaving customers brokenhearted and puppies broken bodied.  Here is an example that just came across my desk courtesy of the Scottish Sun: a convicted cocaine dealer was released from prison in Scotland, fled to Dubai, and uses his old drug network to sell and transport English and French Bulldogs!

    The only way to stop puppy mills, Craig's list peddlers, and Instagram fakers, is to just not buy them. Don't create a demand for this "supply". This "supply" has feelings and feels pain.

    So please, adopt a shelter dog.