A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jan 26, 2016

Fostering animals saves lives and is now tax deductible!

In a recent opinion, the IRS has ruled that volunteers who foster animals for a duly registered charity may deduct expenses for food, medicine, veterinary bills, and supplies,  ( Van Dusen v. Commissioner) It is also possible to deduct a percentage of utilities in your home if that area of the home is used soley for fostering.

Make sure you keep all receipts and obtain a letter from the charity that verifies your volunteer or foster status with the organization.

This ruling also applies to other volunteer expenses for charitable work for an approved organization.

Finally, if you are working for an organization that purports to be a charity and is not - this won't work. So if the tax issue is important to you - trust but verify - and report scammers to the IRS.

Dec 23, 2015

The bigger the fish tank the worse the service ...

Courtesy Google Images
It is quite common for places of business to showcase fish tanks for the benefit of their waiting customers. Though a believer that fish should be left in their natural habitats, as a diver, I love watching fish and am drawn to the tanks immediately.

What I have noticed, as a frequenter of many business establishments, is that the bigger and more elaborate the tank, the worse the service and the more aggravated the clients in the waiting rooms are! It is so common that upon entering a business, I immediately brace for a battle when confronted with a happy plastic diver blowing bubbles on a beautiful artificially sunlit reef!

What I have also noticed, is that when the tank is placed primarily for the benefit of staff viewing, the service is great suggesting that the staff is under pressure to perform properly rather than trying to hypnotize those in the waiting area into believing that they are being treated efficiently and with respect.

How about leaving the fish where they live and just doing whatever job it is well and without guile!

Dec 15, 2015

When father does not know best ...

UPDATE:   Although found guilty of animal cruelty, the klansman's son was fined $100.00 despite the fact that the veterinarian testified that the dog would have died in 48 hours if untreated. Worse - the judge would not allow the veterinarian to testify that the dog suffered because she, the veterinarian,  is not a mind reader and that there is really no proof that animals suffer. The judge bemoaned the fact that there are not different standards for city and country kids as he really hated to convict the kid. 

What an outrage. Anybody smell something rotten here??

What should a parent not do when told that their child has been arrested for animal cruelty?

A prosecutor colleague of mine filed a case against a young man for animal cruelty. Rather than recognizing that animal cruelty is often a precursor to violence against people, seeking to identify the underlying reason for this aberrant behavior and interceding on behalf of the psychological wellbeing of his son - this father responded by threatening the life of the prosecutor. What if I told you that this father was a prominent and high ranking Klan member?

Raised in an environment where both the rhetoric and perhaps deeds condone bigotry and gratuitous violence, it is possible that children of these "wizards" will be praised for their sociopathic behavior. In fact, animal cruelty may be the accepted laboratory to destroy empathy in those children. When caught, the youth is taught to threaten the prosecutor with violence to solve the problem! This is particularly awful as mentoring humane behavior is the most efficient and successful way to teach it. What better imprimatur than the participation of parents, teachers, and peers to foster humane treatment of all living things? What chance do these kids have?

Shall we predict the future?

The prosecutor will get protection. The animal will receive care. The father and son will face charges.

But who will protect us all from these future sociopaths?

Nov 20, 2015

Judge fumbles verdict in ex-Raven Terrence Cody's animal cruelty case

Former Baltimore Raven Terrence Cody was acquitted of felony animal cruelty charges but was found guilty of lesser counts in Baltimore County Circuit Court. The judge, after a bench trial, bought the argument that his conduct was neglectful but that he didn't mean to hurt the dog. 

How is this "neglectful" and evidence that he didn't really mean to hurt Taz? 

Forgetting to feed a dog once in a while is neglectful. Locking a dog in a cage in the garage and never feeding him is evidence of a decision not to feed him - hence intentional cruelty. It is important to understand that this is a slow, cruel, painful and horrific death during which the dog is suffering the entire time - sometimes months. Trust me- he hurt the dog. This is why animal cruelty is a crime where omissions as well as commissions are prosecutable "conduct". Would you rather be hit by one blow and receive treatment immediately or have an ice pick in your eye for a month? Neither is good but the latter is excruciating. The fact that Cody paid a lot for the dog is not evidence that he cared, particularly when looked at against the landscapes of NFL salaries. This verdict is a disgrace and one that I hope was not colored by the celebrity football status of the defendant and a desire not to saddle him with a felony conviction.

When do you think Terrence Cody last missed a meal? 

Facial recognition works for MI6 - why not dogs and cats!

Your spcaLA in conjunction with Finding Rover and VCA Animal Hospitals unveiled a new partnership that has the ability to help reunite more lost dogs with their family by using CSI techniques usually reserved for humans. Finding Rover’s innovative facial recognition for pets can be used on a smartphone through the app or on the web and is 98 per cent accurate in matching lost and found dog reports.

spcaLA has always been on the forefront of new technologies for animal welfare.  This venture strives to reunite lost pets using 21st century advanced technology and human compassion. You don't need a pet to participate. You can snap a picture of a dog on the street and it can be matched in minutes with a photo of a dog that is lost. Imagine how beneficial it would be if animals were reunited with their people before or soon after arriving at a shelter. It's less stressful for pets and their families, less costly redemption fees and more resources available to shelters to rehabilitate and find homes for the truly homeless pets rather than for pets with homes who are simply lost.

We are now fully integrated with this technology. Every dog that enters the spcaLA facility becomes automatically registered with facial recognition on Finding Rover. Users can view and favorite adoptable dogs, as well. VCA is doing the same which increases the data base significantly. The more photos are uploaded the better the system will work!

By 2016 the app will work with cats as well which can have interesting applications with feral colonies as well as indoor cats who accidentally got out!

Imagine how well this will work once the world joins in!

Oct 28, 2015

Who ya gonna call -UBER KITTEN!!

Uber - now a noun - "order an Uber". A verb - "let's Uber". An adjective - "it's an "Uber like" system and probably more. On October 29th, one can Uber Kitten. Yes - click on the kitten option on your app and an Uber will arrive with kittens for 15 minutes of love, stress relief and some adorable in your day. A portion of the proceeds will benefit your spcaLA!

Fun notwithstanding, it is an opportunity to spread the message of adoption, the significance of your local shelters and, the critical importance of corporate philanthropy.

Uber - a good corporate citizen and spcaLA Friend for Life!

Oct 20, 2015

Please help spcaLA fund our much needed domestic violence program

Abusers use everything at their disposal to terrorize and control those they batter - including the family pet, often threatening to harm or kill an animal if the domestic violence survivor dares leave. We are now in the worst of it as incidents of domestic violence increase exponentially with the start of footbal season and extreme heat - both occuring right now!
puppy with ball

Since the mid 1990s spcaLA’s Animal Safety Net (ASN)™ provides a safe refuge for the domestic violence survivors’ pets, free-of-charge, so that they may leave a dangerous situation without fear for their animals’ lives. Unfortunately, there is great demand for this help and we must expand these services. 

There are 3 ways to help us help these human and animal victims, one of which is to help us win a contest!
1. Vote. Help spcaLA earn $100,000 to help expand ASN in the LA2050 Challenge - with enough votes between now and November 3, 2015, we can make LA a safer place to live.
2. Donate. Help survivors of domestic violence and their pets right now. Make a special, one-time donation.
3. Shout. Tell your friends about ASN. Ask them to vote. Ask them to donate.
Where domestic violence is present, child, elder and animal abuse usually are too. If animal abuse is suspected, spcaLA investigates, gathers forensic evidence, and builds a case against the abuser. While under our care, animals receive veterinary treatment, vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery. Families remain in contact with their pets through photos and updates until they are safely out of the shelter and reunited.
At its core, ASN gives domestic violence survivors peace of mind. The comfort in knowing their adored pet is protected and cared for helps survivors escape, persevere, and begin building safer, healthier lives.
Please, help us help them. Vote, and if you’re able, donate today.

*If you don’t already have one, you will need to create a Good account using your email or Facebook in order to vote. Just one vote per account between now and November 3, 2015 at 12pm. More info.