A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Nov 10, 2017

Do More than Just Say Thank You This Veterans Day

I was dealing with a project today involving multiple players with diverse views and a fair amount of baggage, when it was suggested by one that further discussion should occur away from the group, privately, although the matter concerned the entire group. Usually, this happens when someone is disagreed with and doesn’t want everyone to see that, or worse, he or she senses dissent and is forming an “enemy camp”. I began thinking that this behavior has become common from the heights of government power, to the television networks and often when religious or social issues are involved. It helps not the world at large and surely not our animals and vulnerable classes as it is a form of discourse that accomplishes nothing but petty score setting with the stated goal becoming an excuse for a fight rather than an achievement.

Trying to force people to stop sharing opinions publicly, whether via a list serve, news program, schoolroom or Twitter should shock our collective conscience. We can all choose to agree or not, participate on a list serve or not, watch a program or not, donate, tweet, protest or not. We can participate in any project or not.  We cannot, ever, shut each other up.

On this Veterans Day I ask all of you to stop trying to hide comments that you disagree with, stop trying to silence the dissemination of information that you don’t want to hear, and honor the freedoms that we have that allow us to both brawl and hug in public. These are the freedoms for which our veterans fought, and continue to sacrifice their time, health and lives. Saying “thank you for your service” or “our prayers are with you” is a nice easy social conceit that honors them not at all if we squander our freedoms and their valiant efforts to protect them.

Nov 6, 2017

Time to Speak Truth to Power - Words Matter

The term "no-kill" has been abandoned and seriously debunked by legitimate animal welfare professionals. My prior article "No-Kill does not Mean No Death" discusses the inherent divisiveness, misdirection, dishonesty and cruelty suborned by this characterization, as well as the appropriation and pollution by irrational ideologues of the original and noble aspiration of the concept, which is that no adoptable pet should be put to sleep simply for lack of time and space. The further aim was to also

rehabilitate those pets that could be made adoptable as well. This is actually what reputable shelters and rescue associations do! The term continues to survive because it connotes something quickly and graphically to the public. By public, I refer to the reasonable citizen consumer and not to the politician who knows better but silently stares guiltily at his shoes while demanding the achievement of arbitrary no kill goal by a set time. Such a politician prefers to be lied to rather than demand the transparency and honesty to which the public is entitled.

It is interesting that when you talk to said consumer and ask her expectations of an animal shelter, she will tell you clean, humane, safe, honest, reliable and committed to social responsibility and public safety - not inconsistent with what we all already practice. She further will tell you that she does not expect the experts, (us) to ever give her, a non-expert, either an unsafe pet (animal or people aggressive), or a sick pet without full disclosure of these conditions. Finally, she thinks that both dogs and cats, in fact any animal lost or hurt, deserves the safe harbor promised by government animal control centers. She thinks that no animal that is adoptable or could be made so should be killed while understanding the heartbreaking realities of pet overpopulation.

What is crystal clear, is that the animal welfare professionals, members of the public, and the legitimate no-kill followers all concur that it is the moral, ethical, and socially responsible thing to treat the animals both inside and outside the shelter with care, and to be honest, transparent to, and mindful of the safety of the consumer. Additionally, behaving responsibly promotes and reinforces the belief that adopting from any of these sources is safe - a desire we all share.

Only the pathological ideologues and the politicians are outliers. To that end, these outliers will sanitize the records to hide prior bites or medical issues. Not only is this dangerous to the new adopter, but, if you allege to love animals what about the dog ripped apart on the street by this newly "sanitized" family pet? Do we not care about that dog? These outliers will even mask the breed name to trick an unsuspecting or perhaps first time dog adopter.  Of course, we can't be responsible for guessing with certainty the breeds of shelter dogs or represent that because they physically resemble a specific breed we can predict behavior and temperament consistent with that breed. But we can explain and educate that reality. What we cannot say is that a dog is a "brown male dog" to try to push a bully breed on someone who doesn't want one or doesn't know what he is looking at. Does this inspire confidence in the system?

These extreme ideologues will force an animal to suffer mercilessly, maintain them in hoarding conditions, and deprive them of any quality of life to feed their contorted statistics. They will even treat cats like squirrels i.e. another species of wildlife to reduce shelter intake.  All of this creative writing is intended to manipulate and produce illusory no kill statistics. The consumer neither expects, nor condones this once the truth is revealed. Do you think she would return to another animal shelter after learning this? How does this help us convince people to adopt rather than to purchase pets and actually achieve the desired goal of not leaving an adoptable animal behind?

It is time that the legitimate and responsible animal welfare professionals unite behind a better, honest and more realistic collective vision. Socially responsible and humane behavior towards animals and the public we serve rather than sustaining antiquated yet lingering no-kill dividing lines. Protecting animals from people and people from animals are both critical parts of our responsibility.

I am asking that we, as an industry shed this itchy, divisive and inflamed skin of the ideologues, and emerge with a new uniting, truthful characterization and message of "engaging in progressive and socially responsible animal management", something that most of us and our public already agree upon, expect and should have.

Let us turn this fiction into truth. What say you?


Sep 18, 2017

California's Foie Gras Ban Reinstated by US Ct. of Appeals!

Courtesy google images
In 2004 a law was passed in California that would ban foie gras if the pate was made from force feeding the birds or obtained by a company that treated the birds that way. The effective date of law was delayed almost 8 years to allow producers the time to convert to a humane method of feeding the birds.

On the eve of July 1st 2012, the day the ban would become law, the litigation began, unsuccessfully, to seek to overturn it. Foie gras was off the menu. In 2015 the ban was defeated on the theory that it was preempted by federal law which would prohibit states from imposing "ingredient requirements" that differed from or added to the federal regulations. Foie gras has been on the menu again since then.

The United States Court of Appeals, finding no violation of federal law, has just reversed the lower court and reinstated the ban finding that there is no ingredient issue regarding the liver, but rather, the issue is how the birds are treated while they are alive!

This ruling will not take effect in order to allow the exhaustion of the appellate process, but it is certainly directionally correct!

Foie gras is already banned in other countries such as Argentina, Israel, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Italy, and Prince Charles has banned it from all his events. Let's hope we can keep the momentum up....

Aug 23, 2017

Is roadkill cuisine on the menu?

If you have ever hosted a dinner party or planned an event, you know that food issues can make you crazy. Besides allergies, gluten, special diets as in Paleo, Mediterranean, and unique eccentricities, vegetarians, vegans, and flexitarians must not be permitted to leave hungry.

Now, there is a trend toward legalizing the procurement and the eating of road kill. Newsweek  is reporting that about 20 states allow this with Oregon joining that club this year. Arguments in favor of this practice tout the millions of animals left on the side of the road each year that could feed hungry people for free, or for a cost of a permit, point out that these animals are grass fed, free of antibiotics and hormones, and are not subject to the horrific conditions of factory farms.  

Arguably, if you don't eat food that is a product of a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) for humane reasons, roadkill is considered a good option. If you believe that people should not eat animals at all, this new source of meat won't affect you.

Before you run off to harvest a deer or a rattlesnake for dinner, you must check the laws in your state as they differ substantially. I would also check with a gastroenterologist near you!

Is it okay to ask your host if they are serving roadkill before accepting a dinner invitation? Etiquette experts?

Jul 24, 2017

"No-Kill" does not mean no death - It's often worse

A puppy is born with a swollen head and no chance of survival as so decreed by a veterinarian. Because the shelter alleges that it is "no-kill", a shelter employee, a "no-kill" ideologue, insists on fostering the puppy with hopes that he will be all right. This employee has no medical knowledge or ability to soothe this baby as there is no treatment for the condition and his system is too frail to survive pain killers. The puppy, however, is suffering horribly. He screams when touched and his breathing is labored. The zealot, bathed in self-righteous glory, watches the puppy die slowly, unable to touch him, for 15 tortuous hours, proud to worship at the "no-kill" ideology altar. The employee returns the little body to the shelter, where his death is classified as "died in care", or lack thereof, rather than "humanely euthanized".

"Died in care" has become the new statistical catch-all for permitting animals to suffer in agony and die while perpetuating the lie that the euthanasia rate is low or non-existent. In other words, if cages are overloaded and animals kill each other, if animals are allowed to die like this puppy, if animals are given to hoarders or incompetent/fake rescues in an endless game of three card monte where they live for years cramped into feces filled airline crates, the shelter administration can statistically present the shelter to the public as "no-kill", thus turning their back on the suffering thereby condemning these pets to a fate worse than death. It is shameful, cruel and conscience shocking.

Of course, the politicians want the lie and demand to be lied to, psychopathic fanatics monetize their no kill behavior to fund themselves and shame others, and the public begins to believe that all is well with the world while also withdrawing support from shelters who won't play this game, classifying them as pro-kill. Shelters themselves have become the hoarders and as such can neither prosecute a hoarder who they continue to supply with animals nor rescue animals from harm because of lack of space.

It is quite clear what the result of this diplo-feculence means. Our pets our being victimized both by animal abusers and those charged with protecting them. How would you feel if your pet ended up grieving and pain ridden in an environment like this? How can the same person claim to be an advocate for life while compliant in such misery and anguish?

I, for one, am sick of this. We need to expose this for what it is and stop the enabling.

Jun 30, 2017

Declare independence from FRAUD this 4th!

The July 4th holidays often result in an increase of pets, disoriented and scared by fireworks, becoming lost on the streets and hopefully ending up safely in a shelter. It is also an opportunity for FAKE RESCUES to pick up these pets and deprive both the pets and their humans of a happy reunion. I am already seeing Facebook posts of found pets, some with unregistered microchips begging for funds - for what - to help them with these pets - to do what?

Don't enable this crime by donating, thereby making you a crime victim of fraud as well.

If you find a loose pet it is the law to turn that pet into a shelter unless you have an arrangement of notifying and sending photos to your shelter in lieu of actually relinquishing the pet. This is so the pets' family, who could one day be you, can find him or her.

The existence of an unregistered microchip or lack of a tag does not mean the pet has no family who is frantically searching but rather could mean that the dog got out of his home where he does not wear his collar or is a new pet whose chip has not been registered, or a new owner does not know there is a chip, or someone did not fully understand the way the chips work. The bottom line is that these nefarious "rescuers" might be holding your dog, in substandard conditions, and by violating the law deprives you of an ability to find him. They are not well meaning people but rather con artists who use your pet to raise funds for themselves.

The problem is so bad that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office issued a FRAUD ALERT about these scammers. They raise funds ostensibly to help care for a pet or to help a shelter care for the pet. Neither is true. The funds are their income!

The best thing that you can do is to safeguard your pets as best as you can, report those you discover on social media to local law enforcement, the IRS and your state Attorney General, and spread the word about this situation that can condemn a pet to cruel treatment, deprive both pet and family of each other, and steal precious funds that are much needed to protect animals. Also - check with your local authorities before donating to determine the legitimacy of the group. Don't enable these criminals.

Finally, in the internet world in which we live, impulse donations to a Facebook post creates many victims - a pet who truly needs help, a shelter whose survival depends on donations, a family who will never see their pet again, and YOU. 

Jun 9, 2017

FRAUD ALERT issued by LA County District Attorney re animal rescues

Courtesy LA County DA
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office issued a FRAUD ALERT warning people of predators trying to scam well-meaning consumers of funds to the detriment of animals in real need and legitimate charities who need those funds to help animal victims. These predators and fake rescues exploit benevolent citizens by stealing funds, lying about a need and, in some cases pretending to be a legitimate charity. We saw an example recently when a KCBS investigative report exposed a rescue who advertised as but was not a legally compliant charity.

The District Attorney's FRAUD ALERT says in part: (Click on the words FRAUD ALERT above for the entire alert and video.)

"The image of a sad puppy in a cage at a shelter will inspire many animal lovers to donate money to rescue organizations but scammers may be preying on their compassion.
In the animal shelter scam, crooks will post pictures of the animals with false information about “high kill” shelters and imminent death unless they immediately receive money to rescue the pets.
Consumers may be contacted on social media, email, phone or U.S. mail seeking donations to rescue an animal.  In one common scam, fraudsters post old pictures of animals or that are not in our region or local shelters and indicate they are legitimate charities when they are not. 
The money raised by scammers doesn’t go to the care of the animal, sheltering agencies or to the adopting party or organization." 

It is always a wise idea to check before you donate as even legitimate charities can mislead or not actually provide the services that you want to fund. Or, as you know, many donate to the New York aspca thinking that they are an umbrella organization that is connected to your local spca which is not at all the case. Finally, in the internet world in which we live, impulse donations to a Facebook post might create at least 3 victims - a pet who truly needs help, a shelter whose survival depends on donations, and YOU.