A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Oct 24, 2010

Veterinarians Must be Included in Cycle of Violence Network

I speak often about the link between animal cruelty and violence against people, in that, it is the same act aimed at different victims. It is now known that serial killers commence their criminal careers practicing their craft upon animals. I often advocate that all of us, in related disciplines, talk to each other, cross report and network to stop the damage at the earliest possible points in the cycle. To that end, major advances have occurred to tighten the noose around the perpetrators. In many states adult and child protection workers cross report with animal protection workers. In other words, a humane officer would report evidence of child or elder abuse while social workers would report animal abuse. The reporting requirements are either mandatory or permissive depending upon the state statutes. This is excellent, as violence is violence and we must intervene wherever we enter the cycle. 
However, I discovered something. While preparing for a presentation on laws mandating and/or prohibiting veterinarians to report animal abuse, I discovered that veterinarians are excluded from participation in the human animal cycle of violence! This is particularly troubling as it is likely that a veterinarian could see an injured pet, child or adult simultaneously! How often do we see a family where a spouse beats his/her partner, and the child's pet to assert dominance and to manipulate behavior. (It was such a scenario that inspired our domestic violence program -Animal Safety Net- over a decade ago.) The injured spouse then takes the child and pet to the veterinarian. The well being of the pet is usually critical to the emotional survival of the child or elder victim and/or witness. Currently, the veterinarian is under no obligation to report the people abuse in any state and only in some states can the veterinarian report the animal abuse! Clearly this must change as the veterinary profession should be a valued asset in our concerted efforts to move towards a more civil and humane world. With your help we will remedy this oversight post haste.

Oct 14, 2010

Domestic Violence and the Animal Cruelty Link

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. It must also be understood that animals are intrinsically and intricately involved in this problem. Aside from being victims of violence themselves, pets are often used by the abuser to torment and control their victims.  Conversely the victims often cite the pets as an excuse not to leave a dangerous home. Both scenarios always end badly. Additionally, when children are involved and the pet is left behind - the children often think they will be abandoned next time.

Ancillary to this is the meteoric rise of incidents of elder abuse and the tragic outcomes involving seniors and their pets. Often, caring for a pet stimulates a confined senior citizen to be communicative and active. In other cases, the dependence of the pet on the senior strengthens the person's will to live. Threatening to harm the pet often "persuades" such a vulnerable person to accede to demands by their abuser that they ordinarily would not and certainly should not do. This is a vicious cycle of violence.

Incidents of domestic violence rise significantly during times of economic stress. Unemployment, substance abuse, fear, boredom, frustration and feelings of worthlessness often manifest themselves as anger against one’s family and/or self, specifically, as suicidal or homicidal acts.  As holiday season approaches these feelings become particularly acute as pressures mount to buy presents and to feel happy.

Over a decade ago, spcaLA (not a chapter or part of any other SPCA) developed the Animal Safety Net program (ASN) which offers shelter and care to the pets of domestic violence victims at no cost, so they may flee a dangerous situation without fear for the safety of their animals. http://spcala.com/resources/asn.php This program has provided refuge to dogs, cat, rabbits, rats, horses and a fish.    Additionally, ASN regularly helps victims of under reporting groups such as male victims of domestic violence, victims of same sex relationships, and members of certain cultural communities who use the existing cruelty towards, or fear of future cruelty to the pet  as cover for getting help.  In other words, those who would not report harm to themselves will report harm to their pets and seek to protect them. As a result – spcaLA’s program frequently aids these vulnerable but invisible victims. Indeed, spcaLA was instrumental in allowing pets to be added to restraining orders (only permitted in a few states) to further aid and secure our victims.

 It is up to all of us to be vigilant and mindful of those more vulnerable and of those who can’t speak for themselves. If you know of someone in trouble who is afraid to leave his/her pet behind – encourage them to get help and share this ASN hot-line number 323 733 0219 or 888 527 7722. You could be saving the life of the humans and the pets. Carl Rowan said “It is often easier to be outraged by injustice half a world away than by oppression and discrimination half a block from home.”  You could be saving the life of the humans and the pets. 

Oct 3, 2010

The Real Danger of the Lobster Zone Crab Claw Game

There is such a thing in some restaurants, (I won't mention names because the publicity is helping their business) as a "lobster zone crab claw "game. Like the classic claw game for plush prizes-this one allows the customer to catch a live lobster.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o6tlsLyji4  While legally insufficient to sustain animal cruelty charges absent additional aggravating factors, it is sufficient to cause concern and outrage. The reason is pure and simple. What are we teaching our kids?

Mentoring humane behavior is the most efficient and successful way to teach it. Conversely, tolerating and participating in "casual cruelty" and behavior that desensitizes children to the plight of other living things is the fastest way to kill their sense of compassion and empathy. What better imprimatur than the participation of parents and peers? Why be surprised when children move on to torment other animals? Bob Talbert said “teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best”.

Parents - tell your children that tormenting food animals before they are eaten is not okay. Lawmakers - ban the practice. Consumers everywhere - boycott every business that treats animals in a less than humane way.