A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jul 29, 2011

Ask Obama to Save the Whales - Decision Due in 60 Days

UPDATE: Iceland to resume fin whaling in June 2013. Obama considered sanctions but did not, in the end, impose any.

Iceland and Norway are the only two countries in the world that continue to permit commercial whaling. Much of the meat is either sent to Japan for human consumption or fed to tourists as a novelty. (Japan is still permitted to hunt whales for "scientific purposes", though the meat is sold for food.) There is no humane way to kill whales at sea and since 2006 (when Iceland resumed commercial whaling) hundreds of endangered fin whales and minke whales have been killed.

Icelandic Whale - Google Images
A few days ago, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and the U.S. Department of Commerce formally declared that Iceland is undermining the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) by hunting whales in defiance of the IWC’s global ban on commercial whaling. As a result of this declaration, President Obama now has 60 days to decide whether to impose economic penalties and/or trade sanctions against Iceland pursuant to legislation known as the ‘Pelly Amendment’. Diplomatic negotiations and disapproval of other countries have so far failed to stop this practice.

Additionally, conservationists and animal welfare supporters are urging tourists to boycott Iceland and its whale watching excursions. Tourism is one of the countries primary revenue generators as visitors go whale watching and, in some instances, back to town to sample whale meat!  Arni Gunnarsson, the chairperson of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, who is of the position that whale hunting is not profitable and taints Iceland's' global reputation, further stated in support of stopping the cruel behavior, stated: "It's simple: you get more revenues out of watching the whales than out of hunting them." 

Doing the right thing is in itself its just reward, and, in this case, it pays better.

President Obama has 60 days to make a decision. Please contact him  and urge him to protect whales and sanction Iceland.

Jul 22, 2011

While Dining With My Family I Received A Text ....

While dining with my family I received a text containing a photo of this dog, brought in by spcaLA Humane Officers. Upon their insistence I showed them the picture. Each gasped audibly enough to attract the attention of other diners, neither had seen anything like it before and both looked at me puzzled. I asked them what they thought I did every day to which they replied "attend cockfights, inspect elephants, and rescue animals during disasters". While all true - it is not all right.

courtesy spcaLA
Dogs like this are everywhere. They are the bulk of cases handled by legitimate spcas and humane societies. They are common and routine residents of shelters. They are the silent majority.

They are not the cases that attract attention, as media has "done" them before. They do not represent the big sexy issues, such as puppy mills and dog-fighting, used by "national" groups to fund raise millions of dollars. They are a dime a dozen and boring.

As such, legislators more interested in publicity, hype and reelection, gravitate toward more high profile topics. For example, laws are constantly enacted to address dog-fighting while there are actually very few dog fighting cases prosecuted. Conversely, we have been struggling (for years) in California to strengthen the animal cruelty statute to address a dog like this of which cases abound! These dogs are everywhere. They are the silent majority.

These silent sufferers are caught in the cycle of the mundane. Not interesting, not known, not good for ratings, and not heard. That is why my own family remembers my involvement with a Ringling Brothers unicorn, (a goat with a horn surgically implanted in his forehead) and not with the starving "dog next door".

Well, your spcaLA hears these animals and will keep rescuing them as we have been since 1877. If you would like to speak for them please contact the governor and ask him to sign SB 917 which will increase the penalties for neglect and put them on par with intentional cruelty.

I submit to you that allowing a dog to become this, is intentional.

Article first published as Let's Outlaw Unicorn Fighting-Then I Can Retire on Technorati

Jul 19, 2011

Michael Vick to Testify Before Congress and Denounce Dog-Fighting

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, and luckiest felon in America, was convicted of state and federal laws related to dog fighting. Upon his release from prison, while still on probation and playing football, Vick has been declaring himself rehabilitated, decrying dog fighting and touting the importance of being kind to animals. To that end, Vick is appearing on Capitol Hill to voice his support for H.R. 2492, a bill that would "prohibit knowing attendance at organized animal fights" and penalize those who cause minors to attend as well.

dog fight victim-Google images
Animal fighting is a gruesome blood sport where typically dogs or cocks are trained to fight each other to the death. It is also financially lucrative as admission fees, gambling winnings, breeding fees and sales of game and training paraphernalia are a big business. There is a huge amount of collateral animal abuse ancillary to the training and treatment of the animals leading up to and including the actual fights. Youngsters are frequently present at fights if not actually staging them.

Dog-fighting and cockfighting are crimes in virtually every state in the country as are animal cruelty, endangering the welfare of a child, and gambling. Some states (like New York and California) also make it a crime to be a knowing spectator at such an event. There is also a federal prohibition against animal fighting as well under the Animal Welfare Act which does not cover spectators. Spectators are considered accomplices and enablers in and of the illegal activity as an audience is necessary for the fights to be profitable.

Vick is appearing with representatives from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), an organization neither related to nor an umbrella entity for any other humane society, to espouse his new disapproval of the "sport" and to urge passage of the bill. The unholy symbiotic alliance between Vick and HSUS, has generated controversy in and of itself as to the optics, and motives of such a partnership, and one would hope that it would not detract from the importance of passing H.R. 2492.

Article first published as Michael Vick to Testify Before Congress and Denounce Dog-Fighting on Technorati.

Jul 18, 2011

Study Suggests No Such Thing as a Hypoallergenic Dog

There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Yet millions of allergy sufferers search for this magical fix.  Even President Obama claimed has could not adopt a shelter dog because his daughter needed a hypoallergenic puppy.  Animal experts have been asserting, forever, that while some dogs shed less than others, all dogs have dander and saliva which will impact the susceptible sufferer.

Bo Obama - Google Images
A new study published by the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy suggests that there may be no difference between allergens present in a hypoallergenic dog or non-hypoallergenic dog.  "Homes with a hypoallergenic dog were no less likely to have detectable levels of dog allergen or to have lower average levels of allergen than homes with a non-hypoallergenic breed", according to Charlotte Nicholas, MPH, of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, and colleagues. Researchers collected dust samples from the floors of nurseries and analyzed them for the presence of dog allergens. They found no significant difference based on whether the dog was considered to be a hypoallergenic breed or not. Furthermore, "in homes where the dog was allowed in the baby's bedroom, allergen levels tended to be lower with hypoallergenic dogs and in homes where the dog was not allowed in the bedroom, levels tended to be higher with hypoallergenic dogs, although none of the differences reached statistical significance".

This calls to mind another study published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy which suggested that actually exposing infants to pets may actually reduce allergies to pets.

Clinicians were advised to warn patients that they "cannot rely on breeds deemed to be 'hypoallergenic,'" and that "Additional scientific investigation into dog-specific factors and whether hypoallergenic breeds truly exist is warranted."

Additionally, washing the pet often, eliminating carpets, using HEPA air filters, and vacuuming frequently, will also help the allergy sufferer.

So - there is no need to pay huge prices for such "miracle" dogs, patronize puppy mills that breed such dogs, or to believe in baseless representations. There is a need to make sure the allergy sufferer can tolerate a pet and then an enormous need to adopt one from a shelter.

Jul 14, 2011

Friends WIth Benefits -Science Says Pets are Good for You

A recent study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, concluded that pets are an important source of social support and provide many psychological and physical advantages for their human companions. Specifically, the study, "Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership", found that "pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners."
Google Images

Three experiments were conducted to examine the potential benefits of pet ownership on "everyday people" or those not already suffering from physical or psychological disorders. The first studied 217 people, to compare "well-being" factors such as self-esteem, depression, loneliness and physical illness, between pet owners and non-pet owners. The second involved 56 dog owners to see if "social needs fulfillment" from their dogs predicted owner well-being. In other words, do the social needs filled by ones pet complement and enhance those filled by friends and family. And the third involved 96 people to determine whether a pet could actually "stave off the sting of social isolation and rejection". Specifically, can pets make one feel better about themselves after experiencing some kind of hurt.

The results indicated that there is real proof that pets benefit the lives of their human companions both physically and mentally, and serve as a real source of social support. The researchers wrote "Whereas past work has focused primarily on pet owners facing significant health challenges (e.g., Friedmann & Thomas, 1995; Siegel et al., 1999), the present study establishes that there are many positive consequences for everyday people who own pets".

Of course, pet owners have always known and believed this to be so! Now that there is hard evidence that pets are good for you, there is no excuse not to adopt a pet immediately.

Don't believe me - its science!

Article first published as Friends With Benefits - Pets are Good For You on Technorati.