A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jun 18, 2019

We Are ALL No Kill

I call on every animal welfare individual, organization, group and association to stand together and simply say, post and remind everyone - we are all "no kill" - who isn't? Of course!

I saw an interview of one of the actors in The Handmaid's Tale, who was discussing new Georgia anti-abortion laws, as this show films in Georgia. She looked into the camera and said - "we are ALL pro-life. Who isn't?" (Serial killers excepted)  She went on to discuss that we have to care for all life, i.e. the mother, the rape victim, the doctors, and, of course starving children and vulnerable populations everywhere so as not to be hypocritical. Is letting a mother die or killing a doctor pro-life? Of course not.

The question is not are we pro-life, (pro-choice people are pro-life too), but rather how are we treating life? What choices do we make so we ensure all a good quality of life and prevent suffering?

 This is also a truth for those of us in the animal welfare business.

We are all "no kill". Whether one calls it Getting to Zero, Compassion Saves or Save Them All. The point is to rehabilitate and place all who can be into homes, and eliminate pain and suffering from those who can't be safely placed. To do so requires community trust, volunteers, legitimate rescue/help, and increased outlets for our pets to be seen. These terms have no rational opposite. It is ridiculous to think that we, an empathetic and compassionate people, who rally to help a stranded puppy, a homeless person, or a disaster victim on the other side of the world is anything but that.

Yet the ideologues, whether political, religious, or one-issue wonders, are rabid, disruptive, sometimes violent and never helpful. For example, telling children not to adopt a pet from an overcrowded pound, a place with the greatest need, because the shelter does not adhere to their definition of "no kill", leaves more pets not adopted as visitors are scared away. As ideologues never actually help, but rather holler nationally issued talking points and rehearsed propaganda, they leave those who work in the shelters and rescue groups, who really have dedicated their lives to tending to these pets, to do it all against a cacophony of insults. The ideologues are neither "no kill" nor are they advancing an animal welfare platform, but rather, they disrupt and demonize those who are. They divert people and treasure from doing their jobs. They actually cause the killing by this behavior.

They are the opposite of no kill.

Haruki Murakami, author of Kafka on the Shore, defined ideologues as "hollow people". People who fill up on talking points, lies, and anger with no independent thoughts or moral center. They fraternize in a gang like atmosphere with other hollow people who mirror each other's positions. Sadly, when they pair up with hollow politicians they can make some think that they are of people of substance. They are not. They are parrots rather than serious thinkers. They never do. They just yell at the people who do. They obey their cult leaders.

The good news is that we, actually, everyone else in the world are not hollow people. We brim with facts, empathy, science and a solid ethical core that leaves no room for toxic sputum. As we soothe and heal those who suffer, ideologues, the hollow people, criticize this help. It is not just shameful behavior, it is grifting, as their aim is to divert help from the needy to themselves, and deliver nothing in return. Think about it, by scaring people away from the shelters they perpetuate themselves. Fundraising is often a factor as well. In other words, they sustain the problem and their fundraising platform! This diverts funds from those need them most. Our homeless pets and those who tend them.

We are all pro-life and "no kill".  We strive so that all may live a quality life. We must not invite or suffer the hollow people to fill spaces in which they can metastasize and ruin our good works.

Every animal shelter, public or private, and rescue organizations, is "no kill". Who Isn't? - Of Course!

Jun 6, 2019

Puppy Peddler charged with 52 criminal counts. Are you a victim?

A 26-year-old man has been charged with 52 criminal counts for selling puppies that became very ill soon after they were sold to more than two dozen victims, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today. The charges are the result of an investigation by Society for the Prevention of Cruelty toAnimals Los Angeles (spcaLA).

Gustavo Gonzalez (dob 4/1/93) of Downey faces 28 felony counts of cruelty to an animal, one felony count each of first-degree residential burglary and grand theft as well as 22 misdemeanor counts of petty theft.

The case is being tried by Deputy District Attorneys Kimberly Abourezk, Animal Cruelty Coordinator, and Duke Chau of the Consumer Protection Division.

Arraignment is scheduled on June 10 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Case BA478369 was filed for warrant on June 5.

The criminal complaint charges Gonzalez with selling 28 sick puppies to 25 families throughout Southern California from February 2018 to April 2019. Most of the puppies died after the victims brought them to their homes.

Bail is set at $740,000. If convicted as charged, the defendant faces a possible maximum sentence of 36 years in custody.

Anyone who believes they may have been a victim is encouraged to call the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs at (800) 593-8222.

spcaLA is the only private animal welfare organization in Los Angeles that is also Law Enforcement. spcaLA Humane Officers hold the same powers of Peace Officers in the state of California when investigating animal cruelty. spcaLA is a non-profit agency that relies on donations for its programs and services, including animal cruelty investigations. 

The case remains under investigation by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, DCBA, the District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation and the Downey Police Department.

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-Santa Anita Track won't suspend racing but agrees to more veterinary oversight b4 a horse races. How conflicted will these vets be? To owners? The track? Who will hire an equine vet who keeps DQing horses? This won't work -we must look out for the horses without these competing interests. https://abc7.com/pets-animals/santa-anita-park-agrees-to-new-measures-to-protect-horses/5343851/

UPDATE - 2 More die- now 29

UPDATE-27th horse dies - a 2 year old - this is a disgrace https://abc7.com/sports/27th-horse-dies-after-suffering-injury-at-santa-anita-park/5336695/

UPDATE - Gov. Newsom to take on Horse Racing Industry https://spcala.com/press-release/spcala-commends-governor-newsom-and-introduction-of-sb-469-to-protect-horses-in-racing/

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.