A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jun 26, 2015

Stop Playing Three Card Monte With Our Pets

this is what no-kill should look like
The term "no-kill" was abandoned years ago by enlightened and legitimate organizations as it became synonymous with horrific and sometimes hoarding conditions, as well as touted  by ignorant politicians, less than savory “rescue” groups and fundraisers to assuage a concerned public that all was well with the animals. After all, it's a catchy, quick concept phrase that achieved its original purpose of sparking an aspirational dialogue which advocated that all animals able to be physically and mentally rehabilitated should be placed into homes. (Even San Francisco, the birthplace of the term ceased its’ use a decade ago.) 

this is often what no-kill looks like
Unfortunately, mayors using the term to set goals, "rescues" promising life to a heartbroken pet owner who can no longer keep a pet, or city pound struggling to reach said no kill goal, are perpetuating a major fraud on the humane, well-meaning public. (Nothing here is intended to criticize those legitimate rescue groups without whose help we would be lost.)

 A major "adoption" festival in Los Angeles, where most of the pets were simply moved to "rescues" and could well be condemned to live out their lives in agony in an airline carrier is disgraceful. These are not adoptions into loving homes but rather a Three Card Monte game with our pets. Un-vetted "rescues", often just hoarders, some who may have already been convicted of animal cruelty, may be holding your former pet in miserable cesspools of anguish while advertising and soliciting funds for their “sanctuaries”. Other "sanctuaries" are simply warehousing our pets in crates in places where they will never be seen by potential adopters and will never find a home. 

The shell game of moving pets from location to location solves nothing - except maybe soothing the collective consciences of the perpetrators and the uninformed public. I don't expect that the public be knowledgeable in the nuances and ins and outs of this business. I do expect that they be told the truth. I am also not talking about legitimate transports such as our Air Chihuahua™   program where our excess of little dogs is sent to a state with no little dogs and is greeted by a line of adopters awaiting their arrival. I am speaking of removing animals from the shelters and stashing them in the dark corners and recesses of our city.
or this - from a no-kill location

Finally, those vestigial clingers to this sham suggest they are the righteous and the rest of us are - what - pro-kill? 

It is time that we expose this for what it is and commit to treating our animals humanely, to finding them forever homes, to educate those who know not what they are saying, and to prosecute those that deceive us and harm our pets.

May 18, 2015

A Small Thank You To Our Veterans

This Memorial Day, May 23rd and 24th,  spcaLA will again partner with Animals for Armed Forces® to give pets to members of the military and their families at no charge.

Photo courtesy of spcaLA
Many veterans can benefit from a bona fide service dog to assist with head injury issues, and all can be helped by the therapeutic healing powers of a family pet. Unfortunately, the difficulties encountered by veterans in getting treatment for, or even recognition of their injuries, such as PTSD, have become insurmountable as we learn more each day about the ineptness of the Veterans Administration.

As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I grew up hearing of the indignities and injustices delivered to our troops instead of  the support they deserve. My father served in the Air Force on a bomber crew. His plane was shot down and they landed behind enemy lines. They miraculously reached the allied forces wounded, hungry, scared and happy to be alive. While waiting for medical attention, they were greeted by the Red Cross who offered the boys coffee and doughnuts for a charge. Yes - for money. Of course, they refused the refreshments and continue to hold a grudge against the Red Cross to this day. Upon his return stateside, my father was hailed as a hero and labeled a member of the great generation but immediately encountered the difficulties and dangers of being "helped" by the VA. One could survive getting shot out of a plane but die waiting for a doctor. Suffice it to say that whenever my father needs medical care -he says - "if I am unconscious, don't take me to the VA."

Why is this important today? spcaLA opened 137 years ago protecting the vulnerable in our society. Women, children and pets - were all considered property, and were all bullied by those in power. Our veterans, some who are as young as 18, are over-driven  (3 tours of duty), exploited and discarded and are returning home injured, traumatized, suicidal and vulnerable. They are not treated as employable or useful but rather left to be homeless, exploited by lending companies and ignored at epidemic proportions.

This must not stand. I have spoken against military dogs being treated like equipment, being denied veterinary care and being left behind when their service is over. Today, I am imploring those with the doughnuts and the power to not do the same with our veterans. It is cruel and inhumane.

spcaLA will continue to do what we can to provide solace and comfort to our veterans with our dogs. We will continue our work with other military groups to pair veterans in need with service dogs. And we will continue to speak out on behalf of the vulnerable.

May 15, 2015

Step Away From the Tortoise

Spring is a time that desert tortoises awake from hibernation and search for food and mating partners. As such, they can be seen walking around, basking in the sun, grazing, drinking, and, yes, crossing the road to get to the other side. They need to replenish their water and food reserves so they can go about their business and store up food and water for next winters' slumber. Attracted to colors, they will race to flowers, plants, litter, and toes with bright pedicures expecting a fabulous treat.
Photo credit - Dustin Alpern
If you see or are approached by a hungry tortoise, do not touch, and most importantly, do not pick them up to move them. Doing so will scare them and often cause them to pee which can dehydrate them and possibly kill them if they can't find enough fluids to safely hibernate. 

Taking them home with you is especially dangerous for the tortoises as they require special care, diets, climate conditions and expert veterinarians. They can also pick up parasites, worms and other diseases detrimental to their health while also spreading diseases to others in their new environment. I can tell you from personal experience that it is awful treating a tortoise with pneumonia and other medical conditions caused by a change of address. A tortoise left alone in his or her natural habitat can live over 100 years. Unfortunately, thanks to people, their main predator, the tortoise population has been decimated to such an extent that they are legally a protected species. 

If that doesn't convince you - they bite!

Finally, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly, Fish and Game) has issued a similar warning about Western Pond Turtles -"if you care, leave them there". Though water turtles, they will come on land to bask or lay eggs and do not need rescuing.

Please-don't take anything from the wild except a picture! 

Apr 21, 2015

The Art of the Scam

Courtesy Google Images
A few days ago I did a segment for NBC4 about adoption scams. Essentially, people saw an animal on line, sent money, then more money, only to discover there was never a pet at all. As the criminals frequently insisted on the use of debit cards only, the ability to reclaim the funds through credit card intervention was impossible.

But that's not all.  The animal business is big business, and as such, is attractive to all types of human predators. Additionally, criminals are fully aware of the depth and strength of the human animal bond and will capitalize on that accordingly.

Some examples of common scams are: a person posts a Facebook entry that they need financial help in order to rescue a pet from a local shelter when their IP address is not in this country at all. Or, someone posts requesting funds for a non-existent veterinary bill for an imaginary pet, Sometimes, a fake website, designed to help an animal, or victims of a disaster, materializes, raises mega funds, and then vanishes into cyber air before people catch on.

A rescue group posts heart wrenching photos of a gravely ill pet in pain, which is kept in that condition to raise funds. Unfortunately, those funds are not used to treat or to relieve the pets' suffering. Or, a group requests needed items which rather than being used for the pets are then sold at swap meets.

Criminals, take photos of lost pet posters, contact the owner, demand a reward up front, and, of course never found your pet in the first place. A related crime is to actually take your pet and then demand ransom for his or her return.

Finally, organizations, like the aspca, though not criminals, advertise in a way that allows people to think that they are national/umbrella organizations, when in fact they are not. Donors all over the country who made that mistake often feel "taken" as well when they realize their funds do not help their local organizations.

We need to protect ourselves from our own good intentions. Adopt in person. Feel the magic of discovering a friend for life. Donate to legitimate organizations and restrain from giving to random on line posts unless you are familiar with the people involved. Run away as fast as you can when a seller will only accept debit cards. Finally, donate locally and support your community nonprofits.

Apr 8, 2015

Where Have All The Geniuses Gone?

courtesy Google images

One of the reasons life exists on this planet is water. Humans, animals, vegetables all require water to thrive. Whether one is a conscientious omnivore or vegan, one will starve without water.

Unlike some regions of the world, the United States is not water poor. So where are the geniuses?

Why can't there be a national pipeline infrastructure system, essentially a giant irrigation network, that can transport water from areas where there is flooding to areas of drought?

Where are the advances and creative uses of cloud seeding technology?

We are surrounded by oceans. Are there no desalinization plants and creative uses for brine?

Where are the ideas that I can't think of?

Penalizing people for violating mandated water use restrictions won't work. It doesn't create more water. It does require expensive law enforcement efforts and a system to adjudicate offenders. It will also fail as there is no capability to monitor how many loads of laundry one does nor how long one is in the shower. Why not use those funds to figure out how to solve the problem? 

The time for science is now. Even those who don't believe in science, or who abdicate all responsibility for climate change will get thirsty.


Mar 27, 2015

Beware of Idea Segregation

Courtesy Google images
The article describing proposed California legislation, "The Sodomite Suppression Act", submitted by an attorney which mandates that all gay people be shot in the head, was sent to me by someone who demanded that I say something and would not stop yelling until I agreed to do so. Why me? Because your spcaLA has been protecting vulnerable classes - children, women and animals since 1877, and my personal and professional paths have frequently placed me between a bully and a victim.

What can I say about this proposed law?  We are devolving into a society of ideologues, religious and secular, where idea segregation is being imposed on us all. "If you are not with us-you are against us" is shrieked from blogs, pulpits, news echo chambers and fundraising mailers. We no longer "agree to disagree" so much as plot the elimination of the enemy. I can't voice my opinion on the implementation of clowders without receiving a few threats and a notice that I am unwelcome at a particular conference. I can't address a flaw in a piece of legislation without being accused of being anti-animal protection.  Those of us who know better and can fight back successfully can simply lament over a drink the days when we talked it out or compromised. Conversely, those with no voice or means to fight back can be severely harmed and disenfranchised. The latter are often our more vulnerable members of society.

The thing is - it shouldn't matter which member of society we are. What matters is that it must be safe to disagree, safe to live a different lifestyle, and safe to practice or not practice a religion. To that end this country's promise to separate church and state must be unfailing and eternal. You may believe that your faith prohibits same sex unions. My state may neither execute you for believing that nor for practicing the opposite.

We can do something about the legislation. What do we do about the vitriol behind it? We stop taking everything personally. Just because I disagree with you doesn't mean I want you dead. We may need each other the next go 'round.

Mar 5, 2015

Ringling Bros. Failed to Train the Public to Come to the Show

Courtesy Google Images
Ringling Bros. announced that they are phasing out elephant acts by 2018, Their parent company Feld Entertainment cited public concern for the welfare of elephants and this;

"...  certain cities and counties have passed "anti-circus" and "anti-elephant" ordinances. The company's three shows visit 115 cities throughout the year, and Feld said it's expensive to fight legislation in each jurisdiction. It's also difficult to plan tours amid constantly changing regulations.." (President Kenneth Feld)

We should take note that constant vigilance, intelligent opposition and local legislation can yield powerful results. We must keep this up for the benefit of the tigers, dogs and camels and other animals still asked to perform extreme acts for our entertainment. I would also urge close monitoring of their Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida where their elephants are housed.

Until all the animals are unshackled and released from the forced travel, training and dystopian existence we must watch, speak and legislate their freedom.

The public won't be “bull hooked” into buying tickets.