A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Sep 9, 2016

When Dogs Bark - Listen

Courtesy Google Images
Both Los Angeles County and Los Angeles City are revising their barking dog ordinances to promote relief and resolution of this "nuisance" and to flesh out factors that animal control can use to analyze the situation.

Why do dogs bark incessantly? Some have separation anxiety which means the dog doesn't bark when you are home, and you don't hear the barking when you are out. It can be fixed once you believe your neighbors who tell you the noise is constant. Some dogs are just tied up outside and bark at everything to relieve the stress of being left alone and/or restrained. This also needs investigating and also can be fixed. Some dogs bark at everyone and everything that passes by. This is not continuous but can be annoying to neighbors and can also be fixed.

The commitment to work with and invest in abating these issues is part of being a responsible pet parent. This helps all dogs as property owners won't insist on "no pet" clauses which allows more people to have pets which reduces the euthanasia rate in your community. Additionally, investigating why a dog is barking can also reveal a cruelty situation and allow the dog to be rescued.

It is absurd to immediately assume these ordinance revisions are a conspiracy to take dogs away and kill them or to allow the dogs to be pawns in neighbor versus neighbor disputes. First, ask yourself why would that be? Second, there have to be factual findings presented to a hearing officer not gibberish and paranoid theories.

Please, if we care for, clean up after, and fulfill our promise to treat our dogs as family members for the rest of their lives, we make it okay to have a dog and we help other homeless dogs find families in the process.

Dogs bark for a reason - let's listen.....







Aug 31, 2016

California Veterinarian Loses License for This ....

I apologize for the photo – but – this what your spcaLA does …. Know that the veterinarian’s license was revoked by the California Veterinary Medical Board after they concluded that he (Ryan James Whitney) subjected a “feline patient to unnecessary surgeries, and therefore needless pain and suffering.”

In 2015, spcaLA Humane Officers began investigating Furrever Grateful Rescue (FGR) and Whitney based on an animal cruelty tip. FGR was fundraising for Sandy on social media, a practice not uncommon, and meant to pull at the heart and purse strings of donors. They were, however, taking Sandy to Whitney for treatment,

spcaLA discovered that Whitney was providing inadequate medical care to Sandy, who was suffering from an erosive tumor that eventually ate away at the left side of his face, including the left eye, part of the nose and mouth. Medical records from September 2014 show that tissue was removed from the eye area three times, and the eye drained multiple times. No diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment plan were ever provided by Whitney.  The investigation by the medical board also showed that “Dr. Whitney committed other acts of negligence and incompetence, and also maintained extremely inadequate medical records.”

Sandy continued to suffer as the tumor consumed his entire face and he wasted away to less than 6 lbs. Still his picture remained posted on the rescue’s Facebook page with a request for funds.

Finally, FGR took Sandy to a different vet hospital where the veterinarian noted that Sandy had a large necrotic tumor and was diagnosed with end stage squamous cell carcinoma.  Based on his poor condition and abominable quality of life, his refusal to eat and weight loss, the vet recommended euthanasia as there was no effective treatment for his condition and his pain.  FGR, instead, opted to take Sandy home and continued to solicit funds. Profoundly disturbed by this, the doctor contacted spcaLA and the veterinary board. 

No living being should ever suffer like that if such suffering can be alleviated. In a perfect world no one should have to make the decision to pull the plug on a loved one or exercise the right to commit suicide in a right to die state. But euthanasia, when properly invoked is the ultimate humane action and the last bastion of dignity to any living thing that is self-aware and in constant agony. Sure, no one wants the deaths of healthy animals to be the solution for finite space and resource issues. Sure, no one who loves wants to see their loved ones die. But this? This, my friends, is often the reality justified by the words “no kill”.

How do you call yourself a saver, a healer, a lover of animals and allow this?






Note: Because the rescue is within the letter of the law and “provided medical care,” there are no animal cruelty charges pending against FGR at this time, however the Attorney General is looking into whether they are compliant with annual nonprofit regulations.



Aug 26, 2016

More Than Footballs Fly During The Game

Courtesy google images
Many of you know that in the mid-90's spcaLA created and still operates Animal Safety Net™ (ASN), a domestic violence program designed to shelter pets while a battered victim can flee to an emergency shelter. All abusers use the pet as leverage to control and retain their victims, and many victims won't leave their pet behind. Frequently, the pets are also abused.

There are many excuses tendered by batterers as to why they are agitated and must strike out. Alcohol, unemployment, extreme heat, and all of the above are the common ones. But did you know that watching a football game is even more dangerous?

Every year, when preseason football begins, incidents of domestic violence spike exponentially and remain high through the super bowl. This year is no different. spcaLA just received 17 pets, it seems, right after the first coin toss! One cat came in with a fractured skull after having a chair thrown at him. (This, of course, will incur the charge of animal cruelty in addition to any other applicable charges.) This pattern has not abated for as long as I have been in a law enforcement career.

While there are reports of the correlation between the game itself and family violence, and some emulating of football players involved in domestic violence, there are no formal studies that prove this, just anecdotal evidence via the victims.

So-what can I say? Please be aware of this phenomena and if you see something - say something. The excuse that "I got excited during the game" must not now nor ever stand.



More Than Footballs Fly During The Game

Courtesy google images
Many of you know that in the mid-90's spcaLA created and still operates Animal Safety Net™ (ASN), a domestic violence program designed to shelter pets while a battered victim can flee to an emergency shelter. All abusers use the pet as leverage to control and retain their victims, and many victims won't leave their pet behind. Frequently, the pets are also abused.

There are many excuses tendered by batterers as to why they are agitated and must strike out. Alcohol, unemployment, extreme heat, and all of the above are the common ones. But did you know that watching a football game is even more dangerous?

Every year, when preseason football begins, incidents of domestic violence spike exponentially and remain high through the super bowl. This year is no different. spcaLA just received 17 pets, it seems, right after the first coin toss! One cat came in with a fractured skull after having a chair thrown at him. (This, of course, will incur the charge of animal cruelty in addition to any other applicable charges.) This pattern has not abated for as long as I have been in a law enforcement career.

While there are reports of the correlation between the game itself and family violence, and some emulating of football players involved in domestic violence, there are no formal studies that prove this, just anecdotal evidence via the victims.

So-what can I say? Please be aware of this phenomena and if you see something - say something. The excuse that "I got excited during the game" must not now nor ever stand.



Jul 21, 2016

Pokémon Go - AWAY

courtesy Google Images
When my kids were younger I spent a good deal of time assisting them in their frenetic need to have complete first edition sets of Pokémon cards. A graduate of the previous "have to have the original green power ranger" school of mom, I knew the ins and outs of where to score these items. To my horror, they are now into Pokémon Go, where they walk transfixed, staring into a phone screen looking for these mythical characters loitering in our world. 

Also interesting in this "Go" round, is the assertion by some that this game supports animal research (when you send a Pokémon back to the professor), animal fighting (when they engage in combat) poaching, (capturing the characters from the wild) and other animal cruelty conduct. While absolutely understanding the importance of messaging and the fears of desensitization, I also recognize the difference between real and imaginary harm. 

I have received complaints in the past that Ariel (the Little Mermaid) is a hoarder, and Gaston (Beauty and the Beast) is an animal abuser. Again, their actions definitely provide food for discussion, but no actual injury has occurred, and I lack the jurisdiction to prosecute cartoons. (Notwithstanding websites devoted to diagnosing psychotic Disney characters, it frankly bothers me more when Disney films kill off a parent within the first 5 minutes of almost every film!)

What is real about Pokémon Go is the danger that, completely distracted by the game, a child or adult  can walk into the street while walking a dog, drive into another car while searching for Pokémon, and/or simply become so oblivious to their surroundings that they are no longer safe. We should talk, teach and learn about the animal welfare issues lurking in the game, but we must take steps to prevent real harm.

If you want to help animals for real and organize safe pretend Pokémon searches, start a ResQWalk in support of spcaLA. You can download the App (free) from the App Store or Google Play and choose spcaLA as your “ResQ”.

Then promise me to PLAY RESPONSIBLY!






Jun 28, 2016

Let's Leave the "Life" in "Wildlife"

courtesy google images
An Amazon jaguar was shot and killed at an Olympic torch ceremony in Brazil when he/she attempted to escape from the organized photo shoot. I fail to see any credible, logical or humane reason to have a live jaguar at such an event and their justification that the Brazilian teams' mascot is a cartoon jaguar should both be rejected and shock the conscience of the universe.

The co-mingling of wildlife with people often results in great tragedy. Planting Walt Disney World in the natural habitat of Florida's alligator and crocodile populations resulted in the most horrific situation imaginable - the death of a toddler by alligator. Yet, the truth is that both the alligator and the child were behaving naturally. The child's family will never be the same again and Walt Disney World is busy killing alligators to ascertain the actual culprit. Was that the best place for a family theme park?

Transplanting wild animals to zoos and circuses results in all kinds of hurt. Neither the people nor the animals can behave naturally in those environments and the result is, again, harm to both. A gorilla was killed because a child entered the exhibit, and people have been hurt because animals have exited their exhibits, notwithstanding the already enormous stressors inherent to being a wild animal in captivity.

Add to the mix those like the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, who travel around the world just to invade the sanctuary spaces of our wildlife to kill them for trophies, and those who would bring a jaguar to a heavily populated press ceremony and you have one hot mess.

You should also know that under the United States Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife services can issue permits to zoos, circuses, amusement parks and researchers to possess endangered wildlife if the importer or exporter can show that doing so will enhance the survival of the species. It has been recently reported that a charitable contribution to a conservation agency mysteriously seems to grease the wheels in successfully obtaining such a permit. This is so disturbing that U.S. Representative Brendan Boyle has asked the agency to halt this practice. It is also a practice that is clearly not helping the survival of the species.

Look- this is not ok. Whether we destroy animal habitats and displace them for our convenience, hunt them in the habitats we left for them, or force them into people spaces where they can't behave naturally, we cause them physical and emotional harm. To do this is not living up to our potential nor commensurate with a humane and empathetic society. We must rethink this for the future of our planet and for any chance at raising compassionate and empathetic children.

Otherwise, there will be no more "life" in "wildlife".



Jun 23, 2016

The Rage Against The Majority

courtesy google images
I was positively transfixed watching the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives stage a
sit-in and then actually teared up when they burst into "We Shall Overcome". Why? I am no stranger to activism and civil disobedience. What made this different is that the protestors and the "protestees" are on the same team i.e. not us versus them but rather them versus them - a body rising up against itself. Also, the method of protest was old school despite the aid of Periscope and Facebook. What is going on?

It is what happens when a majority pushes a minority too far, leaving no dignified method of recourse, and becoming, in effect, the ultimate bully.

Our constitution, drafted in response to a revolution against a British king, imposes and defends minority rights, freedom of religions, and the right to equal protection under the law. In essence, a system designed to protect the vulnerable, and ensure fairness without having to wait for the majority to voluntary relinquish some of their power. (After all, why would they?) It is an anti-bullying document designed to protect the minority against abuse by the reigning clique by allowing a civil road to redress and justice. It, and the system of laws derived from this are crafted to act as an equalizer between the oppressed and the bully so there is no need to devolve into blind rage and violence.

In this case, both sides, the Democrats and the Republicans, are the ones responsible for making sure laws are enacted commensurate with the constitution and that in doing so they behave with the recognition that their status changes from majority to the minority frequently enough. Currently, the Democrats are at a disadvantage as the minority party in both the Senate and the House. They have been unable to introduce bills, call for votes or even confirm presidential nominees. In the House, there is not even the possibility of a filibuster - the relief valve for the minority party. In adult discourse, these advantages are played fairly and graciously so that when positions reverse and the advantage changes, they still can get along and accomplish their work.

In this instance, the minority party acted and appeared to feel that this majority, like a bully, kept pressing the advantage and ceding nothing, until there was no recourse but to rise up.

The second interesting thing that happened here is the form of the protest was old school. In a world where we click, tweet, like, snap, and electronically sign petitions to express ourselves and effectuate change, our lawmakers resorted to civil disobedience. The House Democrats occupied the room, obstructed the business of the House, and broke rules by using social media to ensure that they were seen and heard. This behavior does not come without risk and requires a higher temperature and commitment than sitting safely in a lounge chair and retweeting something using a pseudonym.

In October of 2010, Malcolm Gladwell published an article for The New Yorker entitled “Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted”. Comparing the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and other social  revolutions. Gladwell describes the scene where 4 black college students sat down at a “whites only” lunch counter in Greensboro North Carolina and stayed in their seats when they were refused service. More protesters gathered on their behalf, sit-ins began and eventually 70,000 students were actively involved in the protest. He argues that this type of   “high risk strong-tie” commitment is not created through social media platforms which are built upon “weak-tie connections” and don't involve sacrifice.

It is therefore interesting that a veteran of said civil rights movement, John Lewis, the choreographer of the House sit-in, and his colleagues, felt strongly enough to replicate this type of "high risk strong-tie" action against this majority's oppression with its attendant risks. Normally they would issue press releases, send letters and tweet. It was truly amazing to watch.

It's a tale as old as time. A story of abuse of power in one form or another. People will only stand for so much, even against their own "families". The choice is to either lay there and take it, or fight back.

Here, they sat up and sang.