A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jun 30, 2017

Declare independence from FRAUD this 4th!

The July 4th holidays often result in an increase of pets, disoriented and scared by fireworks, becoming lost on the streets and hopefully ending up safely in a shelter. It is also an opportunity for FAKE RESCUES to pick up these pets and deprive both the pets and their humans of a happy reunion. I am already seeing Facebook posts of found pets, some with unregistered microchips begging for funds - for what - to help them with these pets - to do what?

Don't enable this crime by donating, thereby making you a crime victim of fraud as well.

If you find a loose pet it is the law to turn that pet into a shelter unless you have an arrangement of notifying and sending photos to your shelter in lieu of actually relinquishing the pet. This is so the pets' family, who could one day be you, can find him or her.

The existence of an unregistered microchip or lack of a tag does not mean the pet has no family who is frantically searching but rather could mean that the dog got out of his home where he does not wear his collar or is a new pet whose chip has not been registered, or a new owner does not know there is a chip, or someone did not fully understand the way the chips work. The bottom line is that these nefarious "rescuers" might be holding your dog, in substandard conditions, and by violating the law deprives you of an ability to find him. They are not well meaning people but rather con artists who use your pet to raise funds for themselves.

The problem is so bad that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office issued a FRAUD ALERT about these scammers. They raise funds ostensibly to help care for a pet or to help a shelter care for the pet. Neither is true. The funds are their income!

The best thing that you can do is to safeguard your pets as best as you can, report those you discover on social media to local law enforcement, the IRS and your state Attorney General, and spread the word about this situation that can condemn a pet to cruel treatment, deprive both pet and family of each other, and steal precious funds that are much needed to protect animals. Also - check with your local authorities before donating to determine the legitimacy of the group. Don't enable these criminals.

Finally, in the internet world in which we live, impulse donations to a Facebook post creates many victims - a pet who truly needs help, a shelter whose survival depends on donations, a family who will never see their pet again, and YOU. 




Jun 9, 2017

FRAUD ALERT issued by LA County District Attorney re animal rescues

Courtesy LA County DA
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office issued a FRAUD ALERT warning people of predators trying to scam well-meaning consumers of funds to the detriment of animals in real need and legitimate charities who need those funds to help animal victims. These predators and fake rescues exploit benevolent citizens by stealing funds, lying about a need and, in some cases pretending to be a legitimate charity. We saw an example recently when a KCBS investigative report exposed a rescue who advertised as but was not a legally compliant charity.

The District Attorney's FRAUD ALERT says in part: (Click on the words FRAUD ALERT above for the entire alert and video.)


"The image of a sad puppy in a cage at a shelter will inspire many animal lovers to donate money to rescue organizations but scammers may be preying on their compassion.
In the animal shelter scam, crooks will post pictures of the animals with false information about “high kill” shelters and imminent death unless they immediately receive money to rescue the pets.
Consumers may be contacted on social media, email, phone or U.S. mail seeking donations to rescue an animal.  In one common scam, fraudsters post old pictures of animals or that are not in our region or local shelters and indicate they are legitimate charities when they are not. 
The money raised by scammers doesn’t go to the care of the animal, sheltering agencies or to the adopting party or organization." 

It is always a wise idea to check before you donate as even legitimate charities can mislead or not actually provide the services that you want to fund. Or, as you know, many donate to the New York aspca thinking that they are an umbrella organization that is connected to your local spca which is not at all the case. Finally, in the internet world in which we live, impulse donations to a Facebook post might create at least 3 victims - a pet who truly needs help, a shelter whose survival depends on donations, and YOU. 



May 17, 2017

Largest Cockfighting Bust in U.S. History

Over 7000 fighting birds, paraphernalia and other related items were seized in what is purported to be the largest cockfighting bust in U.S. history.

Spearheaded by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Blood Sports Unit, spcaLA elite Humane Officers, Los Angeles County Animal Control officers and helping hands from hsus volunteers entered a property in Val Verde which hosted the birds, mobile fighting arenas and other combat accessories. There was an excess of 100 deputies on the scene along with support personnel, such as crime lab experts, veterinary support, and over 100 other people provided by the involved organizations to assist in this massive raid.

It is spectacular to see this level of commitment from law enforcement here in Los Angeles as there is a recognition that these crimes never exist in a vacuum, often involve minor children as spectators, and is an absolute painful, cruel and often fatal experience for the birds. Additionally, the sheriff's department took extra steps and planned to make sure that numerous loose dogs on the property, used to guard the birds would be handled gently and without the need of lethal force. To that end, spcaLA officers entered in the lead with the first team to ensure that neither humans nor dogs would be harmed as a result of this criminal operation. The plan worked beautifully, and all officers could then turn their attention to collecting evidence and processing the crime scene.


I would just ask you to believe me when I say that this type of enlightenment and commitment to crimes against animals is special and not typical either in California or in other states.

Congratulations to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Blood Sports Unit!






May 1, 2017

Fakers, Frauds and "Fonies" Oh my ...

KCBS news investigative reporter David Goldstein did an expose on a "fake animal rescue charity". In the piece, we learn that the "rescue" Saving Spot is advertising as a charity, soliciting donations and advising people that the 450 dollar price tag for a dog was deductible. Upon further investigation it is revealed that it is not true, and that their charitable status was actually suspended due to noncompliance. More alarming was the fact that in Los Angeles, 29 out of 66 "rescues" were also not proper nonprofit charities who were likewise soliciting funds.

Fake charities, fake net-workers and fake internet fund raising pleas have sprung up in epidemic proportions and capitalize on the kindness of human beings who want to help. Some may even be in cahoots with backyard breeders or puppy mills.

Make no mistake. It is a crime to take funds under false pretenses. Worse, it takes funds away from legitimate shelters, and those, both private and nonprofit entities that are in compliance with the law.

It is bad enough that there are real charities that don't act very charitable or, as in the case of the aspca (New York's spca) a real charity that refuses to correct the misimpression that they are a national umbrella organization thereby receiving funds from those who believe that it will be distributed locally, we now have to deal with outright frauds, all of whom are taking food out of the mouths of animals residing in shelters who need financial support. Some of these "rescue net-workers" simply use a public picture of a shelter dog and raise funds on line to care for him or her. In other words, your 5 or 20 dollar donation on Facebook is supporting a person who doesn't even have an animal.

Please, don't just give funds without checking, don't just buy a dog believing that you are helping a rescue when you might be purchasing a dog from a breeder, and please, donate locally so you can see your donor dollars at work.

This is just the beginning of this story. Stay tuned and stay smart!



Apr 24, 2017

Call to Action: Los Angeles City Council Vote to Ban Exotics in Entertainment and House Parties

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


On April 25 Los Angeles City Council will vote on a proposal File No. 16-1357 to prohibit the exhibition of wild or exotic animals for entertainment or amusement, including circuses, other wild or exotic animal shows, and rentals for house parties


Animals don't magically appear at theaters, festivals, and fairs. They spend most of their time cooped up, sometimes chained, traveling in trains, trucks and the like. When they are not performing or rehearsing, they are also confined, often in minimal spaces for efficiency, ease of transport and cost concerns. When they are "on", they are contorting themselves and performing unnatural acts for our amusement. These animals are stressed, ill-used, and, as such develop health and behavioral issues often resulting in more confining and training "corrections". This is no life for these exotics and should be an unacceptable form of entertainment for a civilized society.


Can our children grow to be fine adults without witnessing this? I surely hope so. Make no mistake. It is not magic. These animals aren't born wanting to perform those tricks. They are forced, hurt, bullied and can't call for help. They have no choice.

To do this is not living up to our potential nor commensurate with a humane and empathetic society. We must rethink this for the future of our planet and for any chance at raising compassionate and empathetic children. We do have a choice and should mentor, and teach a more compassionate life style.

I urge you to respectfully contact your councilperson and urge them to vote "aye".

Thank you - see the contact information for your councilperson below:

Gilbert Cedillo – District 1 (Northeast Los Angeles including Highland Park, Echo Park and Chinatown)
Email: councilmember.cedillo@lacity.org
Phone: 213-473-7001
Paul Krekorian – District 2 (SF Valley including North Hollywood, Studio City and Van Nuys)
Email: Paul councilmember.Krekorian@lacity.org
Phone: 213-473-7002
Bob Blumenfield – District 3 (SF Valley including Woodland Hills, Tarzana and Canoga Park)
Email: councilmember.blumenfield@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7003
David E. Ryu – District 4 (ordinance sponsor) (Central Los Angeles including Hollywood, Koreatown and Los Feliz)
Email: david.ryu@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7004
Paul Koretz – District 5 (Westside including Westwood, Palms and Bel Air)
Email: paul.koretz@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7005
Nury Martinez – District 6 (SF Valley including Sun Valley, Van Nuys & Lake Balboa)
Email: councilmember.martinez@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7006
District 7 – Vacant
Marqueece Harris-Dawson – District 8 (Western-South Los Angeles including Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw and West Adams)
Email: councilmember.harris-dawson@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7008
Curren D. Price, Jr. – District 9 (DTLA & South Los Angeles)
Email: councilmember.price@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7009
Herb J. Wesson, Jr. – District 10 (Central Los Angeles including Mid-City, Koreatown, and Wilshire Center)
Email: councilmember.wesson@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7010
Mike Bonin – District 11 (Westside including Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, and West Los Angeles)
Email: councilmember.bonin@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7011
Mitchell Englander – District 12 (Northwest SF Valley including Northridge, Granada Hills and West Hills)
Email: councilmember.englander@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7012
Mitch O’Farrell – District 13 (Central Los Angeles including Silverlake, Atwater Village and Westlake)
Email: councilmember.ofarrell@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7013
Jose Huizer – District 14 (Northeast Los Angeles including Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock and Glassell Park)
Email: councilmember.huizar@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7014
Joe Buscaino – District 15 (Port of LA, San Pedro and Harbor City)
Email: councilmember.buscaino@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7015


Apr 19, 2017

Face reality instead of facing off against Facebook

courtesy google images

Use extreme caution before taxing Facebook with a moral responsibility to censor its content, be it offensive or otherwise. 

Facebook content is frequently the only evidence that a crime has been committed, is the window for now millions of eye witnesses, and is a treasure trove of forensic evidence. In fact, the worst thing you can do when you see a crime on Facebook is to report it to Facebook, because they take it down and it's gone. The best thing to do is to report it to law enforcement which allows the page to be preserved before it's taken down thus saving the evidence of the crime and its attendant forensics. spcaLA frequently is involved in this arena as animal cruelty is often live streamed or posted on that site.

Blaming Facebook for the content is like blaming Major League Baseball for giving out bats on Bat Day. It's not the bat or the event that is problematic, but rather the idiot that hits someone with said bat that needs dealing with. Crimes, by choice, are typically committed in secret unless the criminal is narcissistic, bragging, or feels invisible on the internet. Many "he said she said" crimes streamed by a victim or third party would never be prosecuted were it not for Facebook evidence. What is the difference between watching the crime on Facebook or a gruesome cell phone video played on the news in an endless loop. The answer is, again, censorship responsibility. The editors in a newsroom decide what we should see and how often rather than us. We should not be choosing our censors, we should be using the information to right a wrong.

I don't want any misguided puritanical ideologue, self-righteous editor, or a questionably virtuous CEO telling me what I can and cannot see and deciding when to protect my sensibilities from unpleasant things. 

Don't be fooled by the "oh my god the children" argument either.  They see everything now whether it's on the internet, television or in video games. It is up to us to mentor and actively instill in them a moral core and help them develop critical thinking skills from day one. Whether they just saw a crazed murder or a police officer shoot someone through a car window, they will have questions and deserve the respect of answers and respectful dialogue so they can become discerning individuals.

Picking on Facebook is the proverbial slippery slope problem. Would you prefer seeing only rainbows and unicorns while permitting bad actors to remain at large, and the hiding of unpleasant images, or using our technology to face the truth and deal with it?

Finally, asking Facebook to immediately preserve and forward such posts to the authorities would be useful. Asking them to destroy the evidence would be the real crime here. 





Apr 5, 2017

Family pet gunned down by Garden Grove Police - Call for Video

Inaugural Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement Class
in Hawthorne 2015-Google Images/Daily Breeze
Once again a family pet was gunned down.   

Yesterday, March 29th a Garden Grove police officer shot and killed Jax, a 2-year-old Pit Bull Terrier, the family pet of Steve Pudiquet, while they were at his residence executing a search warrant for illegal drugs.

They knew in advance that there would be a dog, Jax, on the scene and brought a fire extinguisher and catch pole with them to handle him. 

First, despite the fact that some self-proclaimed experts suggest a fire extinguisher in this instance, most real experts disagree. Spraying the dog often enrages him and could cause him to race, blinded by the chemicals, in all directions, out of control, and endanger all in the vicinity including passersby. Frequently, the officers spray and blind each other instead. More important, this could set up a need to use lethal force not present at the outset.

Second, a catch pole requires a lot of training and constant practice to use effectively. 

Third, just as you would not send officers to a drug raid with only one or two guns to share, sending a group with one tool does not help the other officers at the scene should they need to defend themselves. Training ALL officers in appropriate canine threat assessment and adapting a command presence that is more appropriate for dogs is essential for them to minimize the need for lethal force. 

There is a POST certified course, offered by spcaLA that does just that.  “Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement.” was developed specifically with law enforcement in mind, and offers real-life scenarios to meet the needs of officers. “Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement” is certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) which gives participants continuing education credits for course completion. The course is reinforced with the most current and credible information available from an array of recognized, respected leaders in animal science fields.

The Garden Grove police department needs to enroll.

There are questions here that need answering.  

Why did they not ask our humane officers or animal control officers to accompany them for the sole purpose of expertly handling the dog? They had the luxury of time to plan as this was a warrant execution unlike a surprise encounter. A bad plan doesn't count.

Did one officer shoot five times or did five officers shoot once? Approximately five bullets were shot into the dog. Shooting that many shots is a threat to the public and each other as they can miss or the bullets can ricochet and wound an innocent bystander of another officer. A bullet might also injure the dog but not stop him from becoming angry and more dangerous. When they retrieve the bullets during the necropsy we will know the answer to this question.

There are times that an officer must use lethal force to protect him or herself. Nobody is quarreling with that. Where the officers find themselves criminally and civilly liable is when the justification for lethal force is not present. When this happens an otherwise righteous law enforcement action becomes a payday for a criminal and everyone suffers. Hence my last question - why don't they help themselves?

If anyone out there has video of the actual shooting event please send it to us at info@spcaLA.com. We would love to analyze it and incorporated into the training class.


 Pet lives matter.