A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jul 25, 2012

Judge, Extremely Critical of LA Zoo Imposes Conditions to Keep Elephant Exhibit Open

The 42 million dollar elephant exhibit at the LA Zoo can remain open provided that certain conditions are met. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John L. Segal, in his 56-page opinion issued Tuesday, ordered the Los Angeles Zoo to improve the welfare of the elephants in its “Elephants of Asia” by doing the following:
courtesy google images
  "cease using bull hooks and electric shock in the management, care, and discipline of the elephants, exercise the elephants at least 2 hours a day, and rototill the soil and substrate of the elephant exhibit" consistent with specific  recommendations of named outside experts.

The judge further found that "this exhibit is not a happy place for elephants" and that the belief to the contrary by high ranking zoo officials is "delusional". It was further determined at trial that representations of the size and its state of the art design by  zoo officials to city council to obtain approval for the exhibit were sorely lacking in accuracy. First, half of the acreage is really for spectators and not the elephants, and second the surface upon which the elephants stand is actually detrimental to their health and well-being as it creates a "risk of injury to the elephants' joints, feet, and nails". He was further horrified by the lack of knowledge and "gaps in education" of the keeper in charge of the elephants.

spcaLA, along with other animal welfare advocates, have opposed this exhibit, pressured the zoo for years to close any elephant exhibit and requested USDA intervention on behalf of the elephants, as their treatment, though awful, and as Judge Segal confirmed, did not, legally, rise to the level of criminal animal cruelty or abuse. 

This verdict is a game changer. All eyes must be on the zoo to ensure that the orders of the court are followed as failing to so do could be seen as intentionally harming the elephants, which might be viewed as criminal. 

Better still - would be for the zoo to return the two female elephants, Tina and Jewel, to San Diego from where they are on loan, send Billy, the bull to sanctuary, and apologize to all of us for this fiasco.
Maybe this verdict will wake up other zoos still keeping elephants.

Congratulations to David Casselman, the attorney who sued the zoo on behalf of us taxpayers. 


Jul 20, 2012

Mother Pig Dies Hours After Giving Birth at Orange County Fair

Courtesy Google Images

Daisy a 3 year old sow died of a seizure Wednesday morning, one day after she gave birth to 11 pink and black piglets at the Orange County Fair. This reminds me of the gunning down of a pregnant dairy cow last year at the California State Fair who was shot and killed, as she, terrified, escaped from the nursery. These birthing exhibits are designed to allow cows, goats and pigs to entertain the fair going audience by giving birth on display. 

Despite the pleas of concerned animal welfare advocates, and a wealth of scientific/industry literature decrying the antiquated concept of birthing exhibits that involve stressful travel and confinement of these near term pregnant animals, the tradition of these exhibits continues. Modern technology notwithstanding, the need to actually watch a mother give birth seems to trump appeals to logic, science and basic notions of humanity.

Sources report that the piglets are being bottle fed by hand and their fate as to whether they will remain on a farm or be auctioned off is as yet undetermined. They further cite the authorities as saying the seizure was "unrelated". Unrelated to what? The pregnancy? The display stress? The Fair?  I would like to know what it IS related to!

I again submit to you that we are not teaching anyone anything with such displays except that it is okay to exploit other living beings. 

Where is the compassion and empathy in that?

Jul 9, 2012

NEW Update on Gunned Down Santa Monica Mountain Lion

Santa Monica lion courtesy Google images
UPDATE:  They heard us -Fish&Game 2 review policies to include non-lethal alternatives in dealing with mountain lions - http://ow.ly/j0c6d

Many of us expressed concern following the recent gunning down of a baby mountain lion whose quest for something to eat led him into downtown Santa Monica. In response, the Police Chief of Santa Monica, Jacqueline Seabrooks, convened a focus group comprised of representatives from the Santa Monica Police Department,  Department of Fish and Game, Animal Welfare Representatives, (including me, your spcaLA), National Park Service, veterinarians and others to review, discuss and suggest ways to avoid something like this from recurring in the future.

To her credit, Chief Seabrooks committed to providing specific training to her officers, purchasing additional resources, and creating a "phone tree" of experts in the community who can respond, assist and act should there be future wildlife encounters in the city.

However, this is not enough. Due to the protected status of the mountain lion in California, only the Department of Fish and Game or its delegate can tranquilize or take a mountain lion. Therein lies the problem. It was clear from the discussion that there are tranquilizers and delivery systems available to quickly and safely drug and control a mountain lion so that lethal force would remain a last resort. In other words, a drug that worked quickly and a "gun" that delivered the drug in a less painful and provocative method may have saved this lion's life.

The Department of Fish and Game uses Telazol and a dart gun, neither of which the experts in the room considered to be the best tools for the job. (To that end, the necropsy report was silent on how much of the Telazol was actually found in the lion.) It is therefore unknown whether the lion reacted to the pain of being stabbed by a dart, the number of people surrounding him, the Telazol itself which may have agitated before sedating, or because no drug was in his system at all and he was simply acting like a lion.

Your spcaLA specifically asked the Department of Fish and Game representatives to review the possibility of converting their drug and delivery protocols to something more effective. It seems to me that while anything can happen, the heart of the problem was the failure to sedate the lion and to have a proper plan in place for human personnel while waiting for a drug to take effect. It is this failure that could potentially also endanger the public. All I ask is that best practices be employed so that we maximize our chances of protecting both our people and our wildlife. If you agree, please email Charlton H. Bonham, the Director of Fish and Game at Director@dfg.ca.gov and echo my request for a thorough review of their capture protocols.

Finally, there is a proposal to create a wildlife corridor at Liberty Canyon under the 101 Freeway. This would connect two areas of natural habitat on either side of the freeway thus increasing the lions' roaming area while keeping them and motorists safe from a chance encounter. Caltrans applied to the federal government for a grant to do this last year which was denied but I am told that they will apply again. At that time I will ask for your assistance in persuading the government to award the grant. Clearly, preventing the lions from coming into the city in the first place will help prevent future killings.
courtesy Google images

As we continually develop cities and encroach into areas inhabited by wildlife, it is incumbent upon us to commit to doing our best in the face of a chance encounter. With your help - let's make it so.