A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 23, 2010

Give the Sharks an XMAS Gift-.Ask Obama to Sign Shark Conservation Act

The Shark Conservation Act of 2010 will ban the practice of shark finning, which involves catching sharks, cutting off their fins, and releasing them alive into the water to suffer a slow painful drowning death. All for shark fin soup and other "delicacies". This act would close a loophole that banned the practice in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico in earlier 2000 legislation, but omitted the Pacific Ocean. It also will require that boats in  United States waters keep the entire shark carcass intact.

Besides the cruelty issue, shark populations are dangerously dwindling which is itself bad enough, but worse, when you consider that as scavenger fish, they are responsible for and essential to maintaining a thriving and clean ocean. As goes the shark, so goes other marine life.

For more information see http://www.stopsharkfinning.net/index.htm and please - take a moment to ask President Obama to sign the Act. http://www.emailthepresident.com/  It is a little effort for us to email - but it means the world to the sharks. Thank you.

Dec 22, 2010

Cat and Dog Fur Apparel Must Be Labeled

About 10 years ago, we discovered that some ski boots were lined with dog fur and sold by a chain of sporting good stores. Although legal across the United States, selling those boots in California violated a section of the Penal Code which makes it a misdemeanor to sell, buy, possess, give away or import a dog or cat pelt. Additionally, there was no label disclosing the type of fur used in the boot.  We successfully prosecuted the stores. A few years ago, we seized imported toys trimmed with dog and cat fur that were being sold at swap meets, also unlabeled, and again we prosecuted under the same section. Unfortunately, these vendors were allowed to sell these products in other states as there was no pelt law, and, because of the small amount of trim, they were not required to disclose on the labels that they were made of dog or cat fur.

President Obama just signed The Truth in Fur Labeling Act  which now requires a label to disclose what the fur is - even if the value is minor.

Therefore-it is now federal law to disclose -but still illegal to deal in dog and cat fur in California, even if properly labeled.

We asked - now they have to tell.

Dec 17, 2010

Michael Vick, The Luckiest Felon in America, Wants a Dog for Christmas

Michael Vick is the luckiest felon in America. After being convicted of dog fighting and serving time in jail, he still keeps his job, earns millions, is fought over by media organizations and media hungry charities, and continues to live the American Dream as star NFL quarterback and possible MVP. What kid in jail for stealing an iPod gets the same mercy?

But he wants something he cannot now buy - a dog! (He is prohibited by virtue of his sentencing agreements to do so.) What is interesting to me about this is the universal schizophrenia displayed by dog fighters and cock fighters alike, which is simply - the way they treat their pets is different than the way they view what is going on in the ring.  I have been in the animal welfare enforcement business forever and have been present at numerous dog and bird fights. Without exception, the fighters tell me - "Animal cruelty? I would never be cruel to my dog - these dogs are business, like to fight, are not real dogs." In fact, many animal fighters have family pets they would not think of raising their voices at. They usually assert that I simply don't understand.

This, however, is not a distinction manifested by juvenile fighters, especially those who look up to Vick. They lack compassion for pets as well, and actually fight their pets believing that they are emulating a hero. This makes life a lot worse for a lot of dogs.

Vick wants a pet dog - proving that he still doesn't understand the extent and nuances of the crime and why the ban is imposed. He asserts he is cured and that the proof of that is his assertion. No doubt the luckiest felon in America feels like a victim.

If this is his Hail Mary sympathy Christmas play i.e. the dog is for my family - not just me. Forget about it. My dad always says - "If you're looking for sympathy, it's between sh-t and syphilis in the dictionary."

Dec 10, 2010

Squirrels Never Forget: Eat Peanut Butter & Just Shoot a Picture.

An spcaLA employee came upon a newborn squirrel in distress. She cared for and bottle fed him around the clock. When Mr. Squirrel, as he was so named, was ready, she released him on our village grounds so he could live his life.  Each day since, Mr. Squirrel has joined our employee for lunch where they share apple slices and peanut butter.It was recently reported that Mr. Squirrel has begun taking spcaLA evening dog obedience and agility classes. He reports to class and performs the exercises behind or alongside our canine students. He is doing very well in school.

 Against the landscape of the endless coverage of Sarah Palin clubbing, shooting, and killing animals we must take time to reject that and treat all living things with kindness - they can feel it and will thrive because of it..

As the author Alfred A. Montapert says:  "Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to" 

P.S. Don't try this at home as squirrels are wild, can bite and carry disease. 

Dec 8, 2010

Abstinence Didn’t Work For Her – It Won’t For Your Pet Either

Already a single parent, Kitty came to us moody, feeling fat, and ready to pop out quintuplets. She and her children joined the hundreds of others coming to spcaLA with thousands more on the way. It upsets me when a dog, cat or bunny fret to me that they are surprised by the discovery of an unwanted pregnancy. The only thing left to do was to ask the pets to please sign an abstinence agreement in order to be part of the solution. Alas, they are no more successful than the rest of us in sticking to it.  Please - help me help them.

As long as the number of unwanted pets entering a shelter is more frequent and greater than the number leaving via adoption or reunion with their people -  there will be a pet overpopulation problem. In fact, millions of healthy wonderful pets are euthanized in this country for lack of time and space. It can take a while to find the right family. A while, is a luxury many animals don't have.

Spaying and neutering is neither the panacea nor the ultimate solution to the problem, but it is a necessary component. (Responsible owners, effective animal control services, identification tags and chips, and most important, the will of the communities to work together are needed to address the issue.) Despite mandatory sterilization laws of one sort or another this crucial step toward saving lives is still not happening.

Please spay and neuter, or sponsor the spay/neuter of an animal, because abstinence doesn’t work for your pet either.

Dec 7, 2010

I Won't Pick Up a Guitar if You Don't Run a Charity

As we again come upon the busiest fund-raising season of the year I, again urge you to know your charity and donate locally. We are a generous and empathetic people who react with our hearts when seeing the ravages of an earthquake on the news, or expensive television ads of forlorn children and injured animals. We respond with our purses when celebrities beg for donations and plead with viewers to join them in giving. I do too - but I worry about how often we can be disappointed and develop charity fatigue. I fear for those who still need the help after the compassionate tire of giving.

It has been reported in the New York Post that Bono, of the rock band U2 has channeled only one percent of his charity's fifteen million dollars to actual causes, It is constantly discussed that the billions of dollars in aid raised for Haiti has yet to find its way to those who are still suffering almost one year after an earthquake. Linda Polman in a book entitled "The Crises Caravan: What's Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?" laments that needed aid may not reach its intended destination, and, if it does, may land in the wrong hands, embezzled and/or and make matters worse! And finally, in our business, there are those who still believe that donating to aspca and hsus helps your spcaLA or any other spca or human society. They are neither umbrella organizations, nor connected legally to any other similarly named organization. My issue is not that people shouldn't donate to these organizations but that they should intend to do so rather than doing so in error and assuming that they are something that they are not.(Both aspca and hsus have been asked to put meaningful disclosures on their commercials and other advertising materials. Both have refused.)

The combination of generosity, disaster, and fame can add up to a veritable "candy store" for the unprincipled, greedy and the opportunistic as non existent charities put up web sites to solicit funds, as the well intended start their own charities but run them poorly, and as existing charities spend their fund on public relations, television spots and the appearance of helping rather than actually serving the needy. I am truly terrified that those who can give, will stop, believing that they are not making a difference or that they have been bamboozled. What will happen to your spcaLA and to those vulnerable populations that desperately need a helping hand and a voice!

Rather than souring on giving, research the situation, ask questions and make sure your gift is going to whom and where you so intend. Consider donating to an existing legitimate local organization that you can visit, talk to, and just see in action. Frequently, your local charity may be providing international relief as well or is affiliated with one who is.  Giving locally also helps to strengthen the community in which you live. It is especially true in these horrid economic times where the philanthropic entities are filling gaps left by the government and the for-profit sector. If the reputable local nonprofits fail - there will be no relief. Additionally, bolstering the local charities boosts the local economy, provides jobs, resources and allows the community to thrive. Stronger communities result in stronger cities, states and countries. Our ability to help others improves with our own increased strength and solvency.

Charity begins at home. It is only when we stand strong that we can lift another.