A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jun 29, 2012

Finally -Stronger California Regulations Governing Captive Wildlife

courtesy google images
Stronger state regulations dealing with the inspection of places that house wild animals have finally been approved by the California Department of Fish and Game Commission. As a member of the state-appointed Department of Fish and Game Captive Animal Advisory Committee that developed these new regulations I am happy to report that some progress has been made and cautiously optimistic that there will be more to come.

For example: despite state laws mandating that facilities handling these animals, such as private collections, sanctuaries, zoos, and circuses be inspected by the Department of Fish and Game to ensure the well-being of the animals and the safety of the public, the Department was allowing compliance through self-inspection. In other words, a facility’s own veterinarian was signing the forms that all was well! New regulations will mandate that the Department conduct these inspections and not personnel hired by the compound.

The goal of these new regulations is to make sure that captive wildlife is treated humanely, contained securely, and handled by qualified entities so as to reduce the danger to the public and the heartbreak of an animal’s untimely killing should he or she escape an insufficient enclosure. We all remember the chaos when
loose wild animals were gunned down in Ohio, the fatal attack of a teen after a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo escaped, the group of tigers that escaped in Moorpark or the mauling of two people by a chimp.

Maybe someday we will reach a place where wild animals are not held for sport, exhibition, entertainment or whim.

Jun 27, 2012

Baby Chimp Killed at Zoo While Visitors Watched

The first chimpanzee baby born at the Los Angeles Zoo in 13 years was killed by an adult male chimp while visitors watched. It is alleged that the male took the baby from the mother Tuesday afternoon, and after a skirmish the infant was dead and the mother despondent.courtesy google images

Despite the fact that zoo officials asserted that the attack "came out of the blue" there are other reports of fights that occurred in the exhibit days before the fatal attack that could have served as a portend of things to come. Craig Stanford, a USC professor who studies chimps, defended the zoo with his assertion that aggressive behavior in chimps occurs both in the wild and in captivity and that, in fact, "chimps can be very nasty animals. They abuse females, and they attack babies”. This actually suggests that no violent behavior between chimps could ever be "out of the blue" or a surprise to zoo personnel particularly when the introduction of a new baby stresses and further complicates the population dynamics in a confined space.

It seems easy to achieve and reasonable to expect, that in captivity, where the exhibit is constantly monitored and controlled by zoo keepers familiar with chimp behavior, that hyper vigilance is warranted and extra care mandated upon the birth of a baby. Erring on the side of caution may have yielded a different result. After all - they are not in the wild. We can and must intervene.

spcaLA, has called for a full investigation by city officials, the Department of Fish and Game and the USDA into the matter to determine if this tragedy could have been avoided, and to put remedial protocols in place to prevent or reduce the likelihood of future incidents involving chimps or any other animal held in captivity.

Sure, in the wild animals resolve their own issues and have ways to retreat from confrontation.  Once we trap them in a cage we have a duty to protect them.

Article first published as Infant Chimp Killed At Zoo While Visitors Watched on Technorati.

Jun 15, 2012

Woman Tossed Box of Live Kittens and Dog from Moving Car

Courtesy Google Images
Animal Control workers in Clarksville, Tennessee watched as a woman drove into the parking lot of the animal shelter and, first, tossed a box of live kittens out of her moving car, then, while continuing to drive, opened the car door and threw out a little Yorkie Terrier. The little dog chased after the car to no avail. Earlier in the same week, Clarksville shelter workers found two dogs packed in a cardboard box with only a note that read “Ate my chickens”. The box had no food, water or air vents.

Whether motivated by a stressful economy, rage at pooping indoors, vengeful feelings toward a spouse, whimsy or ennui, it is not uncommon for people to trash their pets. This author has come to work many a morning to discover a trash bag full of kittens or a dog tied to the doors of the building. It is however more common for people to simply leave their front doors ajar so pets could walk crawl or fly away on their own, or to dump them in parks, beaches, or highway rest stops. spcaLA officers were once called to retrieve two monkeys abandoned in a fast food restaurant jungle gym!

In most states abandoning a pet is in itself against the law, often a misdemeanor, or as a subsection of the state’s animal cruelty statute. In Tennessee – it is the latter. Either way, it is considered a crime. It is not only cruel to take a pet accustomed to living in a home, break his heart and place him in peril from traffic, disease,  hunger, street fights and other acts of cruelty by pranksters, but it also contributes to street breeding, pet overpopulation and higher than desired euthanasia rates at animal shelters.

In cases like this one, where the pet was dumped at a shelter, an argument will be made that not only was it not abandonment because the animals were “deposited” at an animal shelter, but that she should be congratulated for taking the time to do so, and that the leaving in a hurry was to avoid filling out forms or paying a relinquishment fee. Therefore, once she is located a prosecution must also focus on the dangerous and reckless way the animals were handled.

Of course, a lot will depend upon whether or not a prosecutor wants to put in the effort to try the case, whether a jury thinks it is worth their while to hear the case and whether a judge will consider a meaningful sentence upon conviction. After all, an imposed fine could cost less than a shelter processing fee and the cost of gas to get there.

Finally, animals reside in that interstitial place where they are legally categorized as property but are also legally mandated to be treated humanely.

As such - some are considered treasures, and others – trash.

Article first published as Woman Tossed Box of Live Kittens From Moving Car on Technorati.

Jun 13, 2012

Bon Soir Foie Gras

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE:  United States Supreme Court backs California's foie gras ban! http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/14/

Courtesy Google Images

Effective July 1st 2012, foie gras made from force feeding ducks, geese or any bird will be banned in California. In other words, the actual force feeding in California is prohibited as well as merely selling the pate if made elsewhere using the force feeding technique.

The law was passed in 2004 but it's effective date was delayed almost 8 years to give producers a chance to convert to a humane method of feeding the birds. The only producer in California, Artisan Foie Gras, in Sonoma, has declined to make those changes.

Recently, a group of chefs was unsuccessful in urging the legislature to repeal or extend the effective date of the ban. Though drowning their sorrows with their customers in secret foie gras parties (to avoid protesters), the chefs are really concerned that this ban will spread to other states. It is already banned in other countries such as Argentina, Israel, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Italy and lawsuits against the USDA as well as public pressure could soon create more momentum to stop this form of pate.

                  There once was a goose named Dakota,
                    who lived on a farm in Sonoma.
                  With a tube down her throat and a chef at the moat, 
                    she called on the people to help her.

                  The votes were amassed.
                  A foie gras ban passed.
                  And Dakota's liver is much slimmer.

Bon soir foie gras....