A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Aug 31, 2018

Just released: WE ARE ONE - the film

As  we approach a holiday weekend, allow me to suggest the documentary film We Are One directed by Kevin Mukherji and narrated by Forest Whitaker.

Yes, I am in it, but so is Harold Ramis, Jimmy Carter, Maneka Gandhi, and many more. This film has already won honors in the Calcutta film festival and developing a buzz.

It is about the interconnections between animal cruelty, the environment, war and abuses of power. In my humble opinion, it is also about the dangers of damning science and lauding ignorance.

The film is about 90 minutes long and available now on Amazon Prime Video.

Let me know what you think.

Jul 16, 2018

Rescuing that which needs no rescue is what??

Your spcaLA had 2 French Bulldogs in fine condition that were available for adoption. There was no doubt that these dogs would be instantly adopted, both because the breed is popular and because the shelter price is thousands below their commercial market price. A bunch of questionable adopters flooded the shelter, who in fact, proved to be rescues, pretending to be "civilians" who wanted to flip the dogs for a high profit. They were, of course, busted and denied. First, your spcaLA is one of the preeminent rescue organizations in the country, among other things, second, these dogs didn't need help getting adopted or extra care, and third, why should we be complicit in their plan to cheat an adopter? When asked by our staff if they would, instead, like to help us by rescuing some of our long timers or dogs needing extra help and medical care out of the shelter - not a one offered. They only wanted to help where no help was needed to further their own greedy agendas.

There is a lot of buzz out there about fake animal rescue groups, corrupt rescue groups and the ideologues behind them. These all need to be exposed for what they are, and if possible stopped.

You, as consumers, potential adopters and stand up citizens need also be warned about legitimate groups who are interested in monetizing shelter animals, or flipping them for high profit as one would a house, a practice as remote from the original purposes of a rescue as possible. The result, is that you can pay an exorbitant markup for dog that was in the shelter with no attendant benefit to the dog or the shelter should you deal with the wrong group. To put it bluntly, offering to rescue one that needs no rescuing at all, or offering the wrong thing, like a sandwich to a drowning victim, is not only not a rescue but a boldface attempt to rip off a consumer who either donates to them or adopts from them.

To those rescue organizations that we do work with and who truly help, please accept my thanks and apologies that you have to see this. These genuine entities help with animals that need long term veterinary care and extra socialization, often beyond the capabilities of a shelter. These heroes also understand that the priority is always to place the pet with a family first rather than another holding situation.

We need to shun the impostors, posers, crooks and grifters and expose them from under any rock from which they surface.

If I am drowning, please throw me a line, not a sandwich. If I am peacefully floating, let me be.

Jul 12, 2018

Lorenzo's Oil Moments ...

The 1992 film Lorenzo's Oil is about a boy, Lorenzo, who was diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a neurological disease, which is usually fatal within 2 years. Dissatisfied with medical experts who saw no hope or relief, Lorenzo's parents tirelessly researched, scoured the world and developed a homemade oil that provided relief to the child and prolonged his life until age 30. 
I am seeing the same spirit in pet owners determined to make their pets happy and comfortable by inventing for their pets, that which is unavailable in the established public marketplace. It is truly amazing! Here are just 2 examples.
Two of our adopters fell in love with an "underdog" at our shelter. "Underdogs", are dogs who are over 6 years old or who have been our guests for over 3 months and who we specially promote to stimulate interest in them. Once home, the adopters felt the dog was not eating enough of any food to thrive properly. They were determined to help their new family member and created treats from original recipes with all natural ingredients and USDA certified meats.  Miraculously, the dog loved them! Of course, they then created a company, The Urban Sidekick, so they could share this product with the world. Additionally, these adopters, who want to help other dogs find good homes, promote adoptions and sponsor the adoption fees of one spcaLA "underdog" a month! 
I met another pet owner who loves Collies. Collies, like many dogs can suffer from digestive upsets. Not happy with existing fiber supplements on the market, he looked at what helped people with similar discomforts and developed a homemade recipe for his dog. This concoction resulted in much relief and success for his dog. This pet lover also created a company, Fiber for Dogs to share this solution with dogs everywhere who were having similar issues. 
 This is particularly impressive as these are not products propelled by celebrity fame, branding and funding, but rather, like Lorenzo's parents, these were created out of necessity, love and a determination to make their own pets feel better when there was nothing else that could or would.
In my humble opinion, this is entrepreneurship at its finest!

Jul 3, 2018

The "Pick Your Price" Adoption Episode.

Paris and new mom
Your spcaLA just concluded a five day "Pick your Price" adoption event, where adopters chose their pet and paid what they thought was reasonable, be it one, or one million dollars. Though many thought I had lost my mind, and I did not actually disagree, the results were positive, and downright astounding. Over ninety animals were adopted during this few day period and, remarkably, most adopters paid close to or over our regular adoption fees. Also interesting, was that people did this at a time when the government shelters and a few private ones were giving away their pets for free during the same period!

Pepsi,Sprite,Fanta and new mom
I chose a few highlights to illustrate the mindfulness that went into these decisions. Sapphire, a dog diagnosed with cancer, and a more difficult path to a home, was adopted for one dollar by someone wanting to care for her and give her the opportunity to live out the remainder of her life in a loving home. Paris, was with us for several months. She had medical issues which made her difficult to adopt. She was adopted for virtually twice our  fees as her new family wanted to thank us for all the care and efforts expended locating a suitable home for her. Finally, someone adopted a set of triplet kittens, Pepsi, Sprite and Fanta, that the new family did not want to separate and offered our customary special price for two!

The fees proffered were deliberative, caring, tailored to each animal and fair which, in my book, is a testament to the greatness of human nature in general, and, specifically to the kindness of our constituents. Speaking, of the "kindness of strangers", Chadwick, a dog who was with us for over a year, and Frank, a dog who was with us a few months but was deaf and had medical issues, benefited from random acts of compassion, "paying it forward", as their adoption fees were already paid in advance by others who just wanted to help.

Allow me to be the first to say "thank you".

Jun 21, 2018

School fails test for care of class pet

At the close of this school year, a Hawthorne High School teacher surrendered a classroom rabbit, into our shelter as there was no one available to provide him a home for the summer. The rabbit was suffering from very obvious conjunctivitis in both eyes, ocular discharge that was stuck to his hair, dental disease, and other medical problems. His cage was quite filthy and we don’t know if the proper diet, (important for teeth and overall health) and appropriate medical care was provided to this rabbit while in custody of the school.

Notwithstanding the fact that the California Penal Code considers it a misdemeanor or felony to act, omit to act, or permit an action or omission to occur in the care of an animal, what lesson is being taught to the students? I can answer that question – a bad one.  A lesson that sanctions irresponsible behavior, that demonstrates a lack of empathy for another sentient being, that permits the infliction of suffering and pain on one dependent on the school for care and protection, and overlooks actions that are against the law. The lesson further teaches students that it is okay to use a pet and then discard him when he becomes inconvenient rather than teaching responsibility and the honoring of commitments. 

To make matters worse, this poor conduct is being mentored and tolerated by school officials, the very people who should be mentoring the opposite. There should be no pets in classrooms absent a plan for the proper care, medical checkups, stress relief protocols, husbandry and diet. This plan must be documented and enforced.

Without this, the students will learn the opposite of what they should learn from the experience of having a pet. This is far worse than learning nothing at all.

        "The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values." William S. Burroughs

P.S. We are, of course, in touch with the school district. If you would like to offer your opinion, respectfully and civilly, on this -  the Principal can be reached at LandesfeindV@centinela.k12.ca.us and the District Superintendent can be reached at OBrienG@centinela.k12.ca.us

Jun 5, 2018

The kindness of strangers ...

We recently had a successful pet adoption festival. Lots of booths, food, activities and new homes for pets. That said, an amazing thing happened. People were coming in and "paying it forward". In other words, paying an adoption fee, anonymously, for a stranger. For example, one who recently adopted one of our cruelty victims came to the festival and paid the fees for someone else, (this made our humane officer, who saved the abused pet tear up), a volunteer working the event did the same, and numerous unrelated others did so as well. I was astonished and joined our officer in a cry fest. My shelter staff told me that this has been happening a lot recently.

Those of you who know me, and my career choices, can vouch for the fact that I often have low expectations of human nature. I have never been so happy to be proven wrong!

Me of little faith stands humbled.

Thank you spcaLA staff, volunteers and supporters. You're the best!

Jun 4, 2018

Come on MLB - no tormenting wildlife in baseball.

During a rain delay at Comerica Stadium in Detroit a goose flew into the scoreboard. The crew, in an attempt to motivate the goose to fly away, set off fire crackers at him, chased him and ultimately caused him to crash into an LED board and fall 2 levels. Fortunately, there was a veterinarian in the stands who helped the goose and arranged for his safe transport to a wildlife sanctuary.

Major League Baseball should institute, mandate and demand humane practices and protocols to handle a wildlife visit on the field. Birds, squirrels, geese and others have long been guests at stadiums and are even showcased on the video screen between innings for fan entertainment.

Throwing firecrackers and otherwise tormenting wildlife is not the message we want to convey to our children, is surely not family entertainment, and a statement to that effect should be issued and reinforced by MLB post haste. 

As stated by Bob Talbert "Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best".