A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jan 23, 2012

Democrat's Cat Killed with "Liberal" Painted on Body

A cat belonging to Jake Burris, the campaign manager for Democrat Ken Aden, was found dead with his head bashed in and the word "Liberal" spray-painted on his side. Ken Aden is running against Republican Steve Womack for Arkansas' 3rd Congressional District. The cat was left on the family house doorstep and found by Burris and his 4 children upon their return home. The Womack campaign denounced this violent and brutal act, and, the local police are investigating the matter.

I wish I could say this is unusual but violent acts against animals as a method to send a message is quite common. spcaLA's domestic violence program, Animal Safety Net, began over a decade ago to deal with the use of a  pet, by the abuser, to control the behaviors of a victim.  We have seen pets harmed to assert gang turf or to perform an initiation rite. We have seen pets beaten to assert power and to intimidate others into compliance. Now, we see the torture of a pet as an expression of political partisanship.

Clearly, these acts are the works of cowards who choose to bully those who can't fight back rather than to deal with their own problems. Most assuredly these animal offenders are also capable of violence against people and must be prosecuted for these offenses to stop the escalation of violence. Sadly, this is not the last of it.

This cat was an innocent - neither democrat nor republican- not conservative or liberal, neither pro nor con, not for or against. Just a cat on a walk one Sunday in Arkansas.

Jan 17, 2012

The Fear Factor Problem and Solution

courtesy of Google Images
In an episode of Fear Factor, "Snake Bite", contestants were asked to remove snakes from crawling on another contestant using only their (the contestant's) mouths. This exercise was designed to force those afraid of snakes to confront their fears. As biting the snakes seemed an inevitable consequence of the stunt, those concerned about the welfare of all animals vocalized their indignation. Upon further investigation, spcaLA learned that the requirement of a monitor to ensure that no animals are harmed during production, does not apply to reality shows. However, California Penal Code prohibiting cruelty to animals applies wherever it occurs. spcaLA has issued a statement and a call to action.

Now, I wish to say something more. The best thing every person can do is document, report and witness. I am asking you all, employees of the networks, show participants, audience members, animal wrangler staff, interns, volunteers, producers and anyone with knowledge to chronicle and report suspected acts of animal cruelty to the authorities in your state. Many, such as spcaLA, allow for anonymous complaints if necessary, and many, such as spcaLA provide the ease of on-line reporting.

Though it is still important to pressure the networks and the show sponsors, it is critical to provide concrete evidence with which law enforcement can use to investigate and prosecute those who would harm and allow harm to animals. It is important that all eyes are on duty!

Jan 8, 2012

Marlins Pitcher Can't Live In Miami Because Of His Dog

Pitcher Mark Buehrle, who recently signed with the Marlins, cannot actually live near the Miami stadium because, Slater, one of his 4 dogs is a pit bull.  Miami-Dade County has had a pit bull ban in place since 1989 and tolerates  no exceptions to the rule. courtesy google images

Buehrle, a known dog lover, who was quite outspoken against NFL Quarterback Michael Vick, the luckiest felon in America, for Vick's dog fighting activities, reportedly told the Miami Herald  that "It's kind of ridiculous that because of the way a dog looks, people will ban it.  Every kind of dog has good and bad, and that depends on the handlers. If you leave a dog outside all the time, it'll be crazy. Slater would never do anything harmful."

Accordingly, Buehrle and his family will have to live in Broward, a nearby county,  and Mark will have a longer commute to work.

I guess Slater will never be able to deliver the first pitch.

Is this not crazy?

 Article first published as Marlins Pitcher Mark Buehrle Can't Live in Miami Because of His Dog on Technorati.

Jan 6, 2012

When a Service Dog is a Pit Bull ...

UPDATE: In the case of Mikey, below, the United States attorney's office is suing the condo complex for not allowing an elderly disabled women to keep her service dog in violation of the Fair Housing Act, which requires reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. Unfortunately this action is too late for the woman who died weeks after being forced to give up her service dog, but is sure to save other lives, both canine and human in its wake. It still saddens me that law suits are required to force that which is right, humane and just.

There is a collective fear of pit bull dogs fueled by media accounts of horrific dog bites and gangland tales of high intrigue dog fighting rings. Viewing the dog as the criminal and treating the pit bull as contraband is often articulated as the solution. In other words, some cities simply outlaw the possession of pit bull dogs within their borders. Notwithstanding the wisdom of focusing on the dog rather than on the dog fighter or lax owner, the zeal to ban the breed has led to a conflict with the Federal American Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, what if the banned pit bull is a service dog?courtesy of Google Images

In Denver, a Vietnam veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder depended upon his pit bull dog, Precious, to cope with his disability. City officials seized his dog citing the city's pit bull ban. The city finally returned the dog to him but only if the dog was muzzled and complied with other conditions. There is a pending suit alleging violations of the ADA as it is asserted that the conditions preclude the dog from performing his duties properly.

Similarly in Iowa, a retired Chicago police officer, suffering from disabilities resulting from a stroke, who relied on his  part pit bull part labrador, service dog Snickers, was told by the city that he could not keep the dog due to the pit bull ban. The city asserted that the ADA was not violated as the officer could simply get a new dog that did not violate the ban! A federal judge has just ruled against the city and Snickers is now home. The judge stated "whatever the legal bark of the City’s Ordinance prohibiting pit bull dogs as a general matter of public health and safety, it is sufficiently likely that enforcement of that Ordinance against Snickers would take such an impermissible bite out of Title II of the ADA and the regulations and guidance promulgated to implement it that a preliminary injunction is warranted. (Sak v. City of Aurelia)

Unfortunately things did not turn out so well for a 74 year old woman who was forced to give away her service dog Mikey or face eviction and fines by the co-op board of her apartment complex for violating a "no pets" clause. She died a month after losing Mikey.

One wonders if an ADA challenge would have been successful there as well.

Article first published as What Happens When A Pit Bull is a Service Dog? on Technorati

Jan 3, 2012

New California Animal Welfare Laws Enacted For 2012

Here is to a happy 2012. Every New Year brings with it new laws and regulations. Here are the highlights of new animal protection laws fought for, co-sponsored, developed by and supported by you and your spcaLA.  With our combined efforts and determination, our animals do have a voice and are heard by our government.

Courtesy Google Images
Senate Bill 917  prohibits the sale of animals on/in roadsides, parking lots, and other public places. This also corrects a disparity in the penalty between intentional acts of animal cruelty and animal neglect by making the penalty the same for both.
Assembly Bill 376   prohibits the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins used routinely in shark fin soup. This ban should help alleviate the mutilation and annual killing of millions of sharks.
Assembly Bill 1117   allows the court to prohibit criminals convicted of specific animal cruelty crimes from owning animals for a specified period of time.
Assembly Bill 258   permits qualified ill dogs to be exempt from the otherwise mandatory anti-rabies vaccines. Licensing would be permitted without the requisite vaccine if a veterinarian asserts life threatening consequences should the vaccine be given. 

Senate Bills 425 and 426   increase certain fines which may be imposed for cockfighting activities such as bringing a minor child to a cockfight. 

And now, we begin all over again to fight the good fight in 2012!