A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

May 23, 2019

What do you think? An eternal bond? Is it right?

Courtesy Google Images
There is no question that the human animal bond is serious, real, and really serious. A bond that crosses species lines so much so that people risk their lives for their pets and vice versa. A bond that is the subject of custody disputes during divorce, pre-nuptials and one that has created the need for pet trusts in estate plans. It is a bond for the ages and one that survives death.

After much litigation, whereby a former police officer wanted to be buried with his dogs, so that they could be together in the afterlife, New York now allows cremated humans to be buried with their pets in pet cemeteries.  In this case, the dogs predeceased the officer who was to join them when he passed on.

But - how far do we take this. Many are horrified that a woman, in her estate plan, ordered the euthanasia and cremation of her healthy dog and directed that the dog be buried with her in the cemetery.

Notwithstanding that animals are legally considered property, (and may be euthanized at an owners' request), and that the law, (which varies from state to state) may allow pet remains to be buried with humans, should this be OK?

Is this right to love pets so much that you would kill them in order to spend the afterlife with them? Is that love? Is it loneliness, fear, or fear of loneliness? Is it a misguided need for comfort or real comfort? Is there an afterlife?

What do you think? 

Apr 17, 2019

Compassion Saves model made possible by a Village!

Left-Phil Pitchford, BettyWhite,me Right-Clear the Shelter 2017 event
with Telemundo
I commend the City of Long Beach for formally introducing a "CompassionSaves" approach to animal control to their City Council. This was truly made possible by our "it takes a village" ethic! 

At a study session meeting of Long Beach City Council on April 16, 2019, new Long Beach Animal Care Services (LBACS) Bureau Manager, Staycee Dains, made a presentation about the past, present, and future of LBACS.

Long Beach has always been a compassionate and innovative community.  It took real vision more than twenty years ago to look at the old Willow street shelter and imagine the first public-private partnership in animal welfare. But, that’s exactly what Long Beach city leaders, spcaLA, and our community had when we created and built the P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village and Education Center in El Dorado Park. Since spcaLA and the City of Long Beach opened the Village in 2001, LBACS has transferred over 40,000 animals into the care of spcaLA. The Village set a replicable benchmark in cost-effective, life-preserving care for abandoned and abused animals.

During her presentation, Dains emphasized the significant increase in positive outcomes for animals entering LBACS at the Village since 2010, including a 49% decrease in dog and cat admissions and an 82% decrease in euthanasia for the same. Further, Dains reported an 84% live release rate for LBACS cats and a 94% live release rate for LBACS dogs, in the 2010-2019 reporting period.

spcaLA facilitates the adoptions for animals at the Village, and also prepares them for a healthy life by spaying and neutering them before they go to their forever home. spcaLA thereby allows LBACS the luxury of space and time to work with responsible and vetted community helpers to manage animals that would not thrive in a shelter environment and give the pets a chance at a home.

I am proud spcaLA could help LBACS -- an open admission, municipal shelter -- realize these momentous achievements in animal care. In addition to caring and finding new homes for homeless and abused Long Beach animals, for decades, spcaLA has provided the Long Beach community violence-prevention initiatives and other education programs; dog training and specialty classes; and the fundraising for, and, the providing of buildings, flea treatment, food, litter, and other supplies for animals in the care of LBACS. 

We knew this would work 20 years ago!

Dains further discussed broad strokes for the Compassion Saves model of animal care which would continue positive trends through intervention programs meant to keep animals out of the shelter (high-volume spay/neuter, pet retention programs) and programs aimed at improving the lives and outcomes of pets in the care of LBACS (foster care, behavior and training programs), as well as the creation of standard operating procedures, staff training, and professional development.

When we work together, we can make great strides in the welfare of animals and our community, We look forward to the continued partnership between the city of Long Beach and spcaLA.

Apr 10, 2019

Pre-nuptial agreements for pets!

Courtesy of Google images
This year California became one, of a handful of states, to consider the best interests of a pet in divorce cases. Judges, as is the case with other property, can consider who bought, the pet, was he/she a gift, who cares for the pet, will children be negatively affected, and, other typical factors weighed when fighting over the custody of property. This is an example of the unique status of pets, who are legally property, but have some rights more akin to those of sentient beings. 

In California, judges now must take the best interests of a pet in determining sole or joint custody during a divorce or legal separation. This standard is much more significant and specific, as rather than determining custody on the bases of initial purchase, the California standard allows judges to say regardless of the above, what will be most beneficial to the pet. By the way, the judge can also determine who will care for the pet during the proceedings.

Fights over pet custody during divorce is quite common and not just an American oddity. In London, there is now an increase in resolving this issue via a pre-nuptial document - which they term a "pet-nup" in order to settle the matter before even getting into a relationship! 

And why not? Pets are people too!!

Mar 10, 2019

Stop Horse Racing Now

the day my son will never forget
UPDATE-rules tightened again - but racing continues - are we not evolved enough to stop this? They claim they love horses - what is love?

UPDATE-racing board votes to restrict use of whips-at Santa Anita - so drugging, whipping and more - STOP already

UPDATE- a 22nd horse died. Now Santa Anita banning race day medication - ya think?

One warm day in June of 2018, my son and a group of his friends decided to go to Santa Anita Racetrack. My son had never been to any kind of animal race before. After all, look who he lives with. He told me he wanted to go and see for himself what it was like.

Not 4 hours later he sent me this photo and said "something was wrong with a horse". My heart broke twice. Once for the horse, as I new from the photo that the horse would be euthanized, and once for my son, because he had to witness the death of a beautiful animal. He still is upset by the memory.

Why should he have to have this memory? In the last few months 21 horses have died on the track and the track officials don't know why. They have suspended racing indefinitely until the mystery is solved.

Lets definitely suspend racing. We have evolved to reject the exploitation of animals in circuses, fighting matches, apparel, films and some greyhound racing. Why not horse racing.

Are we not better than this as a people? Do we need to gratuitously abuse animals for our own entertainment? How do we explain why this "sport" exists? In fact, how is this even a sport??

Do we want our children, or anyone to be haunted by these images? How many were, the last 21 times a horse died?

Let's end horse racing now. We can do this.

Mar 7, 2019


Why does Viceland feel a billboard suggesting that blending a live goldfish is something to advertise and be proud of?

I understand, and will defend to my death Viceland’s first amendment right to publish the billboard.  However, I must ask, is this the best your advertising company can do? Maybe “let’s not do it” is the better message for young people who will see this. Rather than being edgy or clever, the sign is advocating bad behavior just for shock value.

“f*** it, we’ll do it live” , in the context of blending a live creature, seems more the rallying call to sociopaths rather than to a television show.

Maybe, standing up for good against pressure rather than acquiescing to committing a crime is a better message.

Next time, rather than clutching your pearls and censoring the word “fuck”,  consider, instead, not suggesting a gross and violent act, and -
hiring a new advertising company.

Feb 15, 2019

Turn New Tax Cut Law Lemons into Lemonade

The newly enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act smacked down the annual deductions allowed for state and local taxes paid. 

DOT/IRS Notice 2018-54 states the following:

Section 11042 of “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” Pub. L. No. 115-97, limits an individual’s deduction under § 164 for the aggregate amount of state and local taxes (i.e., income, real property, DMV fees) paid during the calendar year to $10,000 ($5,000 in the ca
e of a married individual filing a separate return).  State and local tax payments in excess of those amounts are not deductible.  The new limitation applies to tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026.

For example, if you paid $17,000 in combined state and local taxes during the tax year, you are now only allowed to deduct $10,000 of the amount paid, thereby losing the remaining $7,000 as a deduction.

Would it not be great to take the deduction amount no longer allowed for the above taxes, and use it instead to preserve a deduction through a donation to your spcaLA

Truly, it can be a win-win situation for you, for our animals and the people we serve, whether they be victims of animal cruelty, domestic violence, disasters, or children re-learning empathy. 

We are a private charity, we are not connected to any other spca in the world, and we have been caring for animals and those that love them since 1877. Imagine what we can do together!

How about it? 

Feb 7, 2019

The "Rats" at Los Angeles City Hall

Los Angeles City Hall is infested with rats. The four-legged furry ones to be clear. 

Rats, opossums, and cats carry the fleas that spread typhus, which is a zoonotic illness. Typhus has manifested itself all over Los Angeles County   and has been ignored for years. Pleas by vector control, health officials and even your  spcaLA were ignored. 

When a city attorney contracted typhus, City Hall officials began scurrying around to find blame in carpets, the homeless population, cats, opossums, and anything that could be blamed besides City Hall itself.  

It is interesting that cats are often blamed for the spread of typhus. Because, we also have a homeless cat problem. . . exacerbated by City Hall.  

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, chair of the Personnel and Animal Welfare council committee, and some of his cronies, for years, have been systematically loosening restrictions that have contributed to the problem, including, increasing the number of cats permitted as pets, zoning restrictions where animals can be "stored" en masse, turning a blind eye on animal hoarders, and accepting the fairy tale that cats are better off on the street-all for the sake of pretending that the shelter population has decreased and L.A. is no-kill. These neglected cats, unsupervised colonies, and hoarding populations are often infested with fleas, rodents, and other predatory bugs and animal opportunists. Basic treatments for flea control, ear mites, skin conditions, and other diseases are lacking, and unavailable to such cats. Despite his rhetoric as an animal welfare champion, I have yet to see Koretz do something that was in the best interests of animals.

Now that the rats have found the big cheese, so to speak, let me say this:

I see a correlation between homeless cats and homeless people in Los Angeles, and it’s not typhus. Both groups are vulnerable, in need of real solutions, and, as yet, have been failed.  Neither cats nor people can be cared for in convenient soundbites.

The problem of the Downtown Los Angeles Typhus outbreak must be dealt with at its roots. Specifically, by providing real aid to our homeless neighbors and not treating cats like wildlife.

What is the mayor doing to help the homeless population? They are susceptible to disease and are at risk because the rodent, feces, trash or flea problem on the streets has not been addressed. Where are the funds to help them and, if funds exists, why are they not being spent for their designated purpose? If trash is a problem, what can be done about that?

When our government not only condones but also contributes to companion animals and people living in the streets, something is wrong. People must fight to stay alive while enduring weather, disease, hunger, heartbreak and other indignities. Animals are suffering. Blaming them, does not address the original sin of this problem, which is - we are careless about caring for our vulnerable populations.

While they change their carpets at City Hall, they should take the opportunity to see what was swept under the rugs and fix it.

“If the solution to a problem creates another problem, then it is better to call it a ‘Circular Problem’! Say, the pied piper of Hamelin has freed the city from the rats, but he has caused serious water pollution by leaving the rats into the river where they have died, rotten and mixed up with the water! Apparently, the problem of the city is solved but water gets polluted and another problem arises. So, it is a ‘Circular Problem’!” 
Md. Ziaul Haque