A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Apr 27, 2011

Cows Don't Need To Give Birth At The Fair-Please Help Stop This

So many of you were horrified at the gunning down of a pregnant dairy cow last year, at the California State Fair. The cow was part of a livestock nursery exhibit in which very pregnant cows, goats and pigs are transported to the fair and are expected to give birth in front of an audience. As you will recall, she was shot several times after she escaped from the nursery. Both she and her unborn calf were killed.

Despite the public outcry, and a wealth of relevant scientific/industry literature decrying the antiquated concept of birthing exhibits that involve stressful travel and confinement of these near term pregnant animals, the Fair's staff is recommending the continuation of the exhibit.

The Cal Expo Board of Directors is meeting this Friday at 12:45 PM (PST) in the Cal Expo Administration Building. It is urgent that we send an email to the Board, calexpoboard@calexpo.com and ask them to consider alternative ways, like web cam links, videos, virtual simulations and models to demonstrate a birth rather than actually transporting, crating and stressing a frightened, hormonal pregnant animal to perform this feat for an audience. After all- we are the public that attends the fair! What if we didn't?

What are we really teaching our youth with such a display? I can tell you that it is not respect, empathy, or compassion for living things, but rather, that it is okay to bully and exploit those that can't defend themselves.

UPDATE:  In response to the testimony, the Cal Expo Board of Directors stunned the crowd by saying that they were not considering whether or not to continue the live birth exhibit, but rather, whether modifications were made to it to protect the crowd from escaping animals, and that the exhibit would continue for now.

Apr 25, 2011

Ask Google to Remove Dog Fighting App

Google has launched The Dog Wars app for the Android smart phone operating system, which allows users to train, feed, fight virtual dogs, and raise your dog to be a winning fighter. One navigates the game building "street cred", earning cash (to buy steroids), warding off police heat  and entering dog fights. The idea is to play well enough to create a champion dog!

I know it is not a real fight and that the first amendment protects such speech, but, I believe we should demand that Google remove the app.

This app actually takes the player through a "how to" course in entering the world of dog fighting. Aside from the concern that young players, especially those who live in communities where this type of activity occurs are more likely to emulate the game and "try it at home".  Since it is a free phone app rather than an expensive store bought video game, children as young as first grade, many who now have smart phones, can have access to the game without any adult supervision or discussion of the issues. This app also allows chats with other players which could allow real dog fighters and children to converse with each other, as it is likely that those involved in the real thing could also communicate about real fights through this game.

Finally, this game features the nastiest looking pit bulls (which can be made even meaner) further adding to their already sullied reputation, and a dog fighting star quarterback notwithstanding, glorifies the fighter.

The Android Marketplace acknowledges that there will be controversy and says, among other things, on the download page  "Just because something is illegal in real life in certain countries, does not mean it is illegal to make a song, movie, or video game about it."

Just because you legally can do something, doesn't mean you should.

Please join me in asking that this app be removed by clicking here http://www.google.com/support/androidmarket/bin/request.py?contact_type=takedown or by emailing

Thank you.

UPDATE:  Our voices were heard!  As of April 27, Google REMOVED the dog-fighting app from it's game page.   However - keep an eye on the app DOG BUCKS which appears to be an add on to Dog Wars. We need to make sure the dog fighting app doesn't get hidden there.

Apr 22, 2011

Like Kids, Pets, Africa? There’s a Charity for That!

I hate to sound like a broken record - but - everybody isn't qualified to run a charity. It is not necessary to start your own corporation to accomplish something or to steer funding to a specific need. At least once a day I receive a call from someone who wants to start a charity to fulfill some personal need or to accomplish a specific project. Others feel they need to do so to appear philanthropic or to use celebrity power to create awareness and large sums for a righteous cause. However, many a well-intentioned philanthropist lacks the skills and resources to actually execute the charitable mission and properly oversee the workings of the enterprise. The result is that vast expenditures are made for startup needs, advisers, managers and the like. Since often the necessary expertise and the time to monitor the hired expert is lacking, things often go wrong and the funds don't make it to the target recipients.

As there can be a lot of profit in the not-for-profit sector, there is great opportunity for the unscrupulous and the greedy. We are a predominantly generous and empathetic people who are exposed to a zillion pieces of information daily with very little time to research everything we see and hear. Consequently, we are easily ripped off and misled while trying to help others.

In the last two weeks it was reported that Madonna's charity had "issues” and her promised new school would not be built, Kanye West's foundation funds were not making it to the needy, the Dodgers had to repay their foundation funds that were spent improperly, and that Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson might be a fraud. (In fact 60 Minutes reported that even President Obama donated a hundred thousand dollars of his Nobel Peace Prize award to one of Mortenson's projects.)  
The consequences are the same whether the donations are stolen or mismanaged. Those who need the help don't get it.

The solution is simple. Research reputable existing charities and locate those that serve the constituency that you wish to help. Determine if that charity provides the specific service that you wish to fund. Then donate specifically to that program. The funds saved on startup costs, overhead expenses, and consultants can be used to create or enhance a program within an existing charity. You can even name your favorite program for a significant contribution.

The point is that more of each dollar will make it to the needy.  Isn't that better?

Apr 20, 2011

ADA Guidelines Limit Service Animals to Dogs and Miniature Horses

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as "animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets".  As such, any animal, whether dog, horse, monkey, bird or rat, trained to assist or alert was qualified to serve. A particular animal would be selected based upon need, size, allergies and level of skills.  So a monkey might be perfect when hands are needed, miniature horses are excellent for the visually impaired, while ducks, ferrets and parrots assist in controlling anxiety disorders. Furthermore, different animals can sense and/or smell seizures, spasms and physical changes before their onset thereby affording their person time to protect themselves, take medication or call for help. For example, a woman uses a service rat who can detect the start of spasms that she can't feel and warns her (by licking her neck) to take her medication. In other words, service animals are not just the traditional guide dogs.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice issued new guidelines for the ADA which recommend limiting service animals to dogs and housebroken miniature horses. (Miniature horses are often preferred as guide animals as they have excellent vision and live three times as long as dogs.) Their decision was based on comments from business establishments not comfortable dealing with the assortment of visiting wildlife as well as the enormous amount of fraud committed by people who just want to bring their pets with them wherever they go. "Knock off" service vests, purchased doctors' notes and expensive on line certificates can all be acquired to assert that an animal is essential to the well-being of the person. In fact, the ADA requires that the animals be allowed access with challenges made after the fact. 

These guidelines need not be followed by states, cities or even other federal agencies, but they certainly do not augur well for those legitimate sufferers who depend upon non dogs and miniature horses for their health as they could well be adopted and start a trend.

Perhaps if those fortunate enough not to require a service animal would behave, the new guidelines might not be enacted locally, and those needing to bring a snake out to dinner could do so and thrive. For now, those relying on excluded animals must keep an eye on local developments.

Article first published as ADA Guidelines Limit Service Animals to Dogs and Miniature Horses on Technorati.

Apr 6, 2011

Live Animal Key Chains-New Trend in China

There is a new trend in China. Live fish and turtles are being sealed into airtight containers which are then sold, very cheaply, as key rings and trinkets. Vendors are appearing in markets, subway stations, elementary schools and the like to peddle these novelties. The Global Times has reported that these live-animal key chains are growing in popularity as they are being purchased as good luck charms and for decorative purposes.

The vendors assert that the colored water is filled with nutrients that would sustain the animals for months. This is far from comforting as both fish, and particularly turtles, can live for years, if not decades. Mary Peng, co-founder of the International Center for Veterinary Services, fears they won't survive very long as "they would run out of oxygen".

In addition to the absence of air, they would be living in and eating their own waste, and, turtles need to get out of the water, bask and let their shells dry to avoid rot. One also wonders what concussive experiences these animals would feel in someone’s backpack, briefcase or pocket.

As horrific as this may sound to some - it is legal in China - as there is no general law preventing cruelty to animals. Qin Xiaona, director of the NGO Capital Animal Welfare Association laments that "China only has a Wild Animal Protection Law. If the animals are not wild animals they fall outside the law's scope". Animal activists in China are voicing strong opposition, and, in the absence of a law, are encouraging people not to buy these trinkets so that the vendors will have no financial incentive to sell them. This controversy so soon after the magic fish spectacle is fueling a movement to enact needed anti cruelty legislation.

Torturing and killing these animals is bad, but made worse by the message sent to those child shoppers that this is okay. They are also being taught to feel no empathy for these pets. Sadly, this is a far greater price to pay than the cost of the key chain.

Article first published as Live Animal Key Chains-New Trend in China on Technorati.

Apr 2, 2011

CEO Go-Daddy Bob Parsons Kills Elephant for Vacation Sport

Bob Parsons, CEO of GoDaddy.com, a domain-name hosting company, proudly posted a vacation video of himself killing an elephant in Zimbabwe. In the video he characterized the mission as hunting for a "problem elephant" and said that "of everything I do, this is the most rewarding".  The piece further depicted the local residents butchering the elephant while sporting GoDaddy.com hats and boasted about how many people this elephant will feed. 

The video went viral as animal activists and concerned citizens were horrified and urged a boycott of the GoDaddy.com site. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals immediately closed its account. In fact, the Washington Post Blog is reporting that other domain-name providers are seizing this opportunity to encourage people to leave GoDaddy.com using coupon names and donations to Save the Elephants for each switch.

Parsons insists that he is simultaneously assisting farmers who can lose their crops at the feet of a stomping elephant and providing much needed food to hungry villagers.

Man's conflict with wildlife is not a new problem. As property is developed and malls, golf courses, and homes encroach upon wildlife habitats, confrontations occur. Be it coyotes, mountain lions, and bears in California, or elephants in, Zimbabwe - the story is the same. Animals want to eat, drink and mate.  People want lawns, crops and upright garbage pails. And each is willing to defend their space.

However, there are rational, scientific and humane alternatives to these problems that foster peaceful co-existence between humans and wildlife. It is also the case regarding elephants. For example the World Wildlife Fund suggests chili and tobacco-based deterrents as one idea of many to keep the elephants out of the fields.

Simply perpetuating the battle without humane change will not address the problem at its root, preserve our wildlife, endangered or otherwise, or teach our children anything but violence. It will, however, leave many carcasses in our path. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in opposing violence as a solution to anything - "That old law about an "eye for an eye" leaves everybody blind."

Article first published as CEO Go-Daddy Bob Parsons Kills Elephant for Vacation Sport on Technorati.