A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jan 30, 2011

Why Animal Transports Work

There has been a recent assertion that transporting animals from one place to another simply reassigns the task of euthanasia to the receiving entity. That is not the case with our program or any reliable program that I am familiar with for the following reasons.

The receiving entity must be legitimate and actually want the pets. We send small dogs to locations that have none, but, do have a demand for them. The result is that there is usually a line at the shelter waiting to adopt them before the plane reaches the gate, and, that they are in homes very quickly.

The arrival of these dogs has not been found to accelerate the euthanasia of existing large dogs at those locations. The new arrivals are placed too quickly to affect space challenges and/or the organization has planned the request for the dogs to coincide with the availability of extra space. Those shoppers seeking the smaller dogs have come specifically for those dogs and may never even have been to a shelter before this event! Those partial to larger dogs will continue to visit those dogs at the shelter and rarely convert to "small dog people". A few of each will cross over which helps all the dogs! Some will become new fans and supporters of that organization.

We, as is the case with legitimate supply shelters, are sending very adoptable dogs that are simply not in demand by our demographics, which affords our remaining dogs more time and resources to be rehabilitated and placed.

Finally, many of those who adopted small breed dogs from the airlifts did not have to go to a breeder, puppy mill or an internet retailer to get a dog that could not be found at a local shelter. What could be better than that?

The caveat, as always, is to work with credible and ethical partners so that the end result is not relocation but reduction in pet overpopulation and euthanasia with an increase in permanent adoptions.

To see my original transport business idea see http://bit.ly/gZMy1B   Since the plan was written, we have sent more dogs to Colorado, Houston and Florida with several more flights in the queue!

Jan 21, 2011

T'is the Legislative Season - Again

The California legislative season is back, along with its attendant agita. In my capacity as both your spcaLA President and as chair of the State Humane Association legislative committee, it has been my responsibility to draft, study, support, oppose, testify, and ponder new or amended legislation affecting the welfare of animals.

Despite popular sentiment, there ought not to be a law about every little thing. Many statutes, like our animal cruelty statute are intentionally written to be elastic and broad so as to permit diverse application and to subsume novel scenarios. Emphasis on the minutia, unnecessary,  redundant, and trivial, accomplishes nothing other than creating a vanity based set of laws which don't help and can actually hurt our constituency by not actually protecting their interests. Bad legislation is not better than none. Let us resolve to be judicious in our choices for new laws.

It is also time to stop voting on the titles and begin to understand the actual content of proposed bills. Exogenous parties, out of state organizations, lobbyists, and public relations operatives often place bills with attractive and important captions before the legislators and the public, which, if read carefully, say something else or accomplish nothing. They give awards, form little clubs and flatter the elected officials, which, is fine if Californians and our animals benefit from these efforts. Appearances should mirror reality. We must not play the role of pawn in their game or election campaign strategy. Let us resolve not to support bills where the title promises protections that the text does not deliver or that are motivated by intentions contrary to the best interests of California and its residents.

With the current sentiment to dump incumbents, it is incumbent upon our elected officials to drill down and regulate meaningfully. They must understand what is relevant and necessary for us and not be fooled by those who would misuse the legislative process to promote an agenda that is not commensurate with those interests. Let us resolve to let these legislators know that we will read the drafts, speak our minds, and expect them to be mindful that their written words match their verbal assurances.

Finally, we, the people, must commit to the above and insist that our elected officials legislate responsibly and on our behalf.

I will keep you posted as to our progress!

   “Laws, like the spider’s web, can catch the fly and let the hawk go free.”      Spanish Proverb

Jan 17, 2011

Top Models and Crush Videos-Really?

Why would the advertisers for New Zealand's Next Top Model show think it wise to conjure up crush video images to appeal to a youth market? Among other things, the ad features a model in a sexy red high heeled shoe stepping on a white bleating lamb. Notwithstanding that the lamb is a toy and that I would defend to the death the protections of the right of free speech, I have to wonder what it means, and why hurting an animal is the new image of choice to suggest beauty and power.

Why do advertisers think that this is sexy, that young people will like it, and that women will respond to it? Is the allure of modeling commensurate with animal cruelty and obscenity? Does that make more women want to be models? Are the images of the woman whose scantily clad leg, at the end of which is a gorgeous stiletto squeezing the life out of a small creature, and the one that is dressed in combat fatigues sporting an assault rifle (as is the garb on my Sarah Palin bobble head (a gift)) two sides of the same psyche?  Does the recent parade of gun toting, mean talking high profile political females suggest that the conflation of sexy and cute with violence and weaponry define a new ideal for young women?  If men find it so - will women make it so?

Is this new notion of "strong" woman replacing the one who is tireless, wise and able to balance the challenges of job, mom and wife?

If this is what the "ad-men" think we respond to - what does it say about us?

See link for your perusal:

Jan 13, 2011

A Segue Between Weekends of Violence and Peace

As we approach Martin Luther King Day shaken by the massacre  in Arizona, I ask that we, the spcaLA family,  remind ourselves of the work we are doing together to combat violence, and, to recommit to model compassionate behavior and perform an act of kindness towards a living being at least once a day.

Though we daily face unspeakable acts of cruelty against both animals and humans in our work at spcaLA – we take pride in the fact that we continually see progress through our efforts in education, enforcement, legislation and mentoring.  We instill empathy (the cure for violence) in at risk teens while also teaching them the art of civil discourse and peaceful conflict resolution. We provide a safety net for pets of victims of domestic violence who are willing to be physically battered rather than leave a pet behind. We criminally prosecute those who cannot be taught, and teach our youth so there will be no one to prosecute. We legislate where there are gaps and do our best to model best practices. We speak for the vulnerable and to those who would offend.

Our success depends upon advocacy to ensure the humane treatment and respect of all living beings through articulate rhetoric, peaceful methods and ethical means. You and I build consensus and affect change not by talking to those who agree with us – but to those who do not. Since 1877 we have been doing just that. Help us continue the conversation: volunteer, adopt, donate and educate those around you. 
"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal."           Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jan 10, 2011

A Word About Assasinations

As one of the national figures in the Animal Welfare arena I feel that something must be said and some leadership shown in the wake of the Arizona massacre. Many of us feel passionate about our mission and believe that our cause is a righteous one. All of us work with factions with whom we disagree and of whose tactics we disapprove. Those of us who study history and the arcs of civil movements and revolutions would concede that there have been successful uses of civil disobedience and strong rhetoric. Without the committed, the articulate and the brave who fought before us, who knows if we would be respecting the civil rights of others and if we would be living in a slave free country where abortion, gay marriage, animal protection, freedom of religion, and first amendment rights could be discussed, protested, tweeted, and above all, taken for granted.

It is ironic that recent protests for or against gay marriage, the circus or the war in Iraq have been conducted rather peacefully, while it is our elected officials, the keepers of our constitution, and political wannabees that have jacked up the violent rhetoric to feverish and toxic levels that are sure to kill. Since crazy shrill people are good for ratings there is no incentive to tone it down.

Though a huge fan of the first amendment and not one who believes that an act by a criminal should chill communication for the rest of us, i do believe that leaders have a responsibility to watch the words. President Clinton said - "both the serious and the delirious hear them". As leaders we have to take responsibility for our actions. Some have called for unity and corrective steps following the Arizona shootings, while Palin has spent all weekend abdicating all responsibility for her web site.  Why not just be willing to examine whether gun cross hair imagery is an idea worth repeating. As leaders we have to persuade, cajole and argue rationally for our points rather than demonize the opposition. As leaders we must model ethical behavior rather than slink under the mantle of anything goes because the ends justify the means. Unless we are hiding something, we should want our audiences to hear the signal rather than the static.

There may not be a cure for crazy, but it there is a cure against illiterate, ignorant, people, politicians and  entertainers who think snarky and bullying equal clever and strong. The cure is to take away their air and votes and simply ignore them by each and every means. That way, the rest of us who believe in fighting for a cause will be able to continue as civilized members of society. I worry that this bad behavior does not augur well for the rest of us who play by the rules and the members of the vulnerable classes who rely on us. We can't let the delirious on either end win.

Jan 7, 2011

What Do We Shoot When We Are Out Of Animals

MSNBC did a news feature about feral pigs and boars in the mid west bothering residents and destroying property. They are large, feral, smart, plentiful and definitely winning the battle of wits. The proposed solution, and one that appears to be embraced by the government, is to hunt and kill them, or "manage the population".  These pigs were originally brought here for the convenience of wealthy land owners who wanted the ability to hunt near home rather than traveling to where the pigs were indigenous.

So - humans are lazy - shoot the pigs.

I had experience dealing with an area overrun by red foxes. The problem started when shooting coyotes for sport was tolerated. The coyotes were naturally managing the fox population as they are natural predators. The absence of coyotes allowed the foxes to take over which then also threatened protected birds like the Least Tern. The solution requested was to mass kill the foxes. (One suggestion offered was to reintroduce coyotes to the area. This was nixed as fear of inserting new diseases and other ills to the ecosystem,)

So- humans kill too many coyotes - shoot the foxes.

The California Department of Fish and Game allows the importation of millions of turtles and frogs into California for live markets and the pet trade. This is despite the fact that they are mandated to protect indigenous species which have been decimated by this invasion. We secured a partial ban - yet- the department seeks to overturn this, and ignore its own policies and body of knowledge dealing with these issues as well as continuing to betray the trust of the people and species that rely on them.

So-government agency is lazy an inept- eradicate marine life.

There is no learning from the past, no will to protect the future and no plan as to who gets shot when we run out of animals.