A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 6, 2016

A $5.00 Rolex Will Not Tell Time!

It is not uncommon for someone to approach you on a New York City street and offer you the deal of the century. Hung on the inside lining of a long coat are all sorts of shiny objects, including a $5.00 Rolex watch. If you spend your hard earned cash on this watch, two things will be true. It will not tell time and you have no one to complain to but yourself.

The same is true for dogs. A $3,000. purebred puppy, offered from the back of a truck in a parking lot for $500 in cash will often be ill, unable to survive, will have forged papers, and could cost you $10,000 in lifesaving medical bills. The seller is usually long gone leaving you only a burn phone number and heartache.

spcaLA recently convicted one such individual, Armando Viramontes, on 2 counts of the Penal Code - selling a puppy under 8 weeks of age and selling said puppy in a public place. He is currently awaiting sentencing.

Holiday season brings out more of these individuals than we have the resources to deal with. Please, don't create a demand for these puppies. You do not want your holiday puppy to die in someone's arms, nor do you want to be complicit in the suffering of these animals.

spcaLA suggests giving a gift certificate for a pet which allows the recipient to choose, adopting a shelter pet, and, as a last resort, researching a legal, humane and local provider of puppies.

The $5.00 Rolex will simply not tell time. The callous trafficking of these babies hurts all of us, all the time.

Dec 1, 2016

Fish and Game (Wildlife) Outsourcing Killing of Mountain Lion -P-45

Courtesy Google Images
By issuing the depredation permit to a private citizen to “take” i.e. kill the mountain lion known as P-45, the Department of Fish and Game, (trying to change their image by renaming themselves Fish and Wildlife) has circumvented the law and permitted a citizen to do that which the Department itself cannot do.

After the massacre of the lion cub that wandered into Santa Monica, against the landscape of a genetic dearth of diverse male lions, and because mountain lions are legally protected, the law was changed.

Fish and Game Code 4801.5 entitled “Removal or Taking of Mountain Lion Not Designated as Threat to Public Health or Safety” was enacted to mandate that nonlethal procedures shall be used to take a mountain lion unless there is an imminent threat to a person and not specifically the responders. The law also allows the Department to authorize qualified individuals to use these nonlethal measures on their behalf. Unfortunately, the law still allows anyone who suffered livestock or property damage by a mountain lion to request a permit to take a mountain lion.

If the Department itself can’t use lethal force to remove a mountain lion that is not threatening people, why would they grant a request to any person trained or untrained to use lethal force when there is no such threat? Are they not circumventing the point of the law which is that mountain lions are legally protected and the Department must so protect them, specifically, keep them alive?

I mourn the loss of the alpacas as well. But those keeping animals must take steps to protect them from reasonably foreseeable dangers including known predators. Killing the lion doesn’t make the rest of the alpacas safer, it just kills the lion.

As for the Department, they need to start protecting the wildlife under their purview rather than treating them like hunting game and assist people in protecting their livestock rather than automatically granting depredation permits. Then their name change will mean something.

P.S. - After a great deal of protest the owner of the alpacas has decided not to pursue killing the lion. It does not, however change the fact that Fish and Game needs to rethink its actions.

Oct 21, 2016

Cats on Leashes - Seriously

courtesy google images
Taking your cat out on a leash is far from a crazy idea. This is exactly what is happening in Alaska.

We have succeeded, nationally, in drastically reducing the number of impounds of lost dogs. Spay/neuter efforts, leash laws, identification systems, and more committed pet owners have helped reduce unwanted dogs, reunite lost dogs with their people, and achieve buy in to the idea that families keep a dog for the duration of the dog's life.

Not so with cats. Not at all.

Many continue to let their cats outside to roam, intact and without identification, all to the detriment of the cats and other wildlife. First, people don't realize their cat is lost until it's too late. Second, authorities can't discern between a lost cat, a community cat and cat transitioning to feral status. Third, the cats on the street are breeding, ailing and serving as food for predatory animals.

Consequently, we are using resources to find a cat who already has a home, a new one, perhaps at the expense of a cat who never had one.  Instead of giving every animal an opportunity for a family, we are giving some multiple tries, and others, no chance at all.

Imagine if all pets were required by law to be contained on their property, or if out strutting, be required to be on a leash. Then imagine if all the funds, food, medicine and cage space were freed up for those pets who truly needed a home rather than for those just needing a different home with more committed human companions. 

This effort alone would result in a substantial decrease in the number of animals in shelters, the amount of euthanasia performed, and would propel us forward in our resolve to end the pet overpopulation crisis. As an ancillary benefit, we would learn to value the pets we have, thereby reducing the market for unscrupulous breeders. Only then would we begin to live an ethic that treats companion animals like family members rather than like disposable commodities or Doritos.
It would certainly help hoist me out of my existential pit. Isn't that worth something?

Oct 5, 2016

Please Don't Kill Me Because I look Like A Pit Bull

Many of us are disturbed by the fact that Montreal issued a ban of all pit bulls and pit bull type dogs (whatever they are) and further planned to euthanize all such dogs by October 3rd. However, a judge has temporarily suspended this plan while he is reviewing the matter. This is not just a Canadian issue as there have been similar bans in the United States.

Breed specific legislation is unenforceable, ineffective, absurd, and more about lazy legislators, enforcement agents, and insurance companies than public safety. The fact that pit bulls are not a breed at all seems irrelevant. The fact that many dogs are mutts and therefore cannot be identified as a specific breed at all seems extraneous. The fact that Chihuahuas and Cocker
Spaniels are at the top of the most likely to bite list, while pit bulls are often not even on the list, seems like unnecessary information. And, the fact that it is human criminals that train many breeds of dogs to be their accomplices is a fact that is completely ignored. The result - persecution of the pit bull, prosecution of responsible human companions, and preposterous consequences - all foreseeable when facts are ignored!  These pronouncements also inspire nervous nellies and "not in my backyarders" to become consumed with fear if they learn that a neighbor has a pit bull. Ignorant insurance companies, suddenly concerned for the safety of its customers pile on and refuse to provide homeowners insurance policies for those with these dogs. The list goes on.

Lawmakers and enforcement personnel look for the easiest way to cope which means the use of a number, a label, a color or a one size fits all mandate in order to reduce the need for critical thinking, fact finding and imagination. It is essentially stereotyping and profiling in the worst way. As expected they spend most of their time in court defending the indefensible - the fact - it is not a pit bull, and the principle - too broad to be constitutional.

Instead of discriminating be discerning. All dogs can bite. All dogs can be gentle. Any breed can be a genetic lemon, and any breed can be the best dog ever. Mean people who try to make their dogs vicious (all breeds) are the ones who should be prosecuted. And, legislators, enforcement personnel and insurance companies should be better than this.

How does one explain to a child that his or her pet must be killed because the pet looks like another dog that was vicious? Anybody?

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.