A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 18, 2013

Is Your Undercover Expose video Cruel to Animals? Big Business Thinks So

courtesy Google images

Those who seek to break the law, study the behavior of the activists in order to block, parry and continue their activities in peace. To that end the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, targeted against activists who interfere with certain animal related enterprises and Ag-Gag laws designed to stop a person from applying for certain jobs with the intent of filming cruel practices have been enacted. Recently, the situation has become worse. 

A person working for Compassion Over Killing, an animal rights group, secured a job at a cattle company in Colorado and filmed abusive treatment of newborn calves. There is no Ag-Gag law in Colorado so on its face this plan seemed promising. Though filmed over the summer, the video was not released by the organization until November 13th after which criminal charges were quickly filed against 3 men shown in the footage abusing the animals. Then the local sheriff filed animal cruelty charges against the activist for not reporting the abuse in a timely manner, a misdemeanor consistent with Colorado state law. The group did not say why they waited so long to turn over the footage.

In Tennessee, 8 counts of animal cruelty charges against a businessman were tossed after a search warrant was quashed thus rendering the evidence gathered pursuant to that warrant inadmissible. The warrant was declared invalid because a Humane Society of the United States employee, not a bona fide officer, signed the warrant papers in contravention of state law. 

There are many forms of activism used in social movements to affect positive change and remedy injustices. These range from lobbying for legislative protections to acts of civil disobedience. This is also true in the animal welfare arena with one important wrinkle.

Cruelty to animals is a crime in all 50 states, the investigation of which overlaps legitimate law enforcement efforts and protocols. As criminal acts are typically committed sub rosa, and can result in incarceration, they must be exposed legally and with sufficient evidence to sustain a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The use of undercover operatives and other such police methodology are excellent at flushing out criminal activity. As most activists are not sworn law enforcement officers and can therefore not avail themselves of protections and tools afforded to real officers who act in an undercover capacity or who use confidential informants, they need to beware. A self-proclaimed investigator is not a peace officer and is vulnerable as a civilian. Partnering with real law enforcement organizations rather than going it alone should be seriously considered in these situations.

Though we probably have not heard the end of these stories and others like them they serve as an important cautionary tale. It is incumbent upon activists to study the landscape in which they plan to operate. Knowledge of relevant local laws is key to eliminating these setbacks. Exposing criminals and certainly those who would harm animals is a desirable and righteous goal. Minimizing risks if intentionally engaging in an act of civil disobedience or simply acting in good faith is critical to attaining a positive outcome and avoiding loss. Animal activists must be smart, unpredictable, able to anticipate the abusers' next moves and familiar with the rules surrounding their actions in order to have the best chance of success.

We can't let those who would be cruel to animals turn the tables on those who seek to protect them. It helps neither the specific animals in question nor future animals suffering from the crimes as well as the bad legal precedents. 

Dec 16, 2013

The Devil is in the Details not the Shelter

courtesy spcaLA
The latest salvo to reduce euthanasia in animal shelters is to increase the number of pets legally allowed in households. The theory is to increase output thereby reducing the population inside and presto - problem solved. Though spcaLA neither tolerates even one pet per household who is not properly cared for nor worries about those with an excess number of pets who are, the issue is one of responsible pet ownership, the maximum number of which varies in conjunction with the available resources of the adopters. In other words - some can handle 10 while others should not be allowed even 1.

That said, it is critical to understand the source of the problem before crafting a solution. Unregulated breeding, lack of sterilization and irresponsible owners cause pet overpopulation and high euthanasia rates in this country - not the shelters. The question, therefore, is whether increasing the number of pets per household will help. In a perfect humane world the answer is yes. Not so much in ours. First, this fix does not address the need to reduce the number of animals coming into shelters. Therefore, there will always be more unwanted pets than homes for them. Second, lack of pre-adoption screening, record numbers of pets being turned in due to economic pressures, and those unable to adequately care for the animals they have, suggests potential quality of life worries. For example, one might take 5 cats out of the shelter to "save" them only to leave them outside to be hit by cars. Or one might take 5 dogs but cannot really afford the food and veterinary care for them so they suffer slowly until they die or are rescued by us and returned to the shelter.

Glib sounding solutions - have more pets, leave cats in the street like wildlife, and refuse to take owned pets, without studying whether they address the root of the problem are simply catch phrases to politicians and catnip to the uninformed who seek credit and comfort in presenting an illusory fix to a tragic problem. We must legitimately stop the influx of animals in the first place by eliminating puppy mills, reporting back yard breeders, adopting from shelters, sterilizing along with ensuring pets are safe at home, wearing identification and retained for his/her natural life.

If not – do we increase the limit to 10 next year?

Dec 11, 2013

Disgusted With Iowa Republican Steve Kings' Farm Bill Amendment

courtesy Google images
UPDATE: The nasty King amendment is finished for now!! http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-california-egg-farm-bill-20140127,0,3486002.story#axzz2rdoQPvmW      You were heard. 

The time for Congress to pass the farm bill has come and we must make sure that Republican Senator Steve Kings’ amendment, Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA), which would strip states of the right to regulate its own agricultural interests by requiring products coming into a state to comply with the standards of that state, is removed from the bill.

For example, the egg producers in Kings’ home state of Iowa would not have to comply with California’s law that egg farmers give egg-laying birds room to stand, spread their wings and move around, and that all eggs sold in California must come from farms that meet California standards.

King assertion that California is the only state that would be impacted either indicates his ignorance of the issue or his willingness to misstate the facts to assist his constituent egg producers. The language in the amendment could not only nullify agricultural protections enacted by individual states, but, could, according to the Washington Times  “have far-reaching implications, nullifying a large spectrum of state and local laws concerning everything from livestock welfare to GMO labeling, restrictions on pesticide and antibiotic use, horse slaughter, child labor, fire safe cigarettes, shark finning, Christmas trees, and even the sale of cat and dog meat.”   

14 law professors from around the country stated in a letter to the legislative conferees that "should the Amendment pass, there is a significant likelihood that many state agricultural laws across the country will be nullified, that public health and safety will be threatened, and that the Amendment could ultimately be deemed unconstitutional.”

That said, what happened to the republican platform of the sanctity of states’ rights? How odd that in the areas of assault weapons, health care, same sex marriage, abortion and marijuana there is a deafening clamor to defer to states and block the intrusive federal government from acting. But when Kings’ constituent egg producers might not be able to sell in California – the republican, King, is all about running roughshod over the states and the importance of federal control.

Kings’ position is disappointing and obviously self-serving as it appears to convey a platform that encourages the discarding of principles, factual statements and that acts adversely to the best interests of those in vulnerable positions whether human or animal. 

Which party is that?

Dec 6, 2013

Give With your Heart, but Consult your Brain

As we again come upon the busiest fund-raising season of the year I, again urge you to know your charity and to donate locally.

Donors often feel duped and upset to learn that their precious funds neither contributed to programs nor helped needy pets in the intended community. Often, a donor unintentionally exported funds to another state! It is essential for you, your lawyers and estate planners to research reputable existing charities and locate those that serve the constituency and community that you wish to help. Determine if that charity provides the specific service that you wish to fund in the place you wish to fund it. Only then should you donate. You can even name your favorite program for a significant contribution.
cute dog
Courtesy spcaLA

How many of you reading this did not know that the aspca and hsus are not national umbrella organizations that funnel contributions back to communities by zip code as actual national charities do? A good example of such an actual national umbrella entity would be the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  spcas throughout the country are individual legal entities and not chapters of any mother organization. Yet aspca spends tens of millions of dollars annually on television and other fundraising outlets which omit that significant fact and your funds may have unintentionally gone to New York. That is fine if you meant to do that – but – what if you didn't.

What could happen to your spcaLA and to our vulnerable populations here if a lot of generous people make that mistake?

The Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy produced a report that sounds the alarm on the implications of Los Angeles exporting charitable dollars out of the city and state. The document states:
Los Angeles foundations are committed to Los Angeles, but not exclusively focused on the region. 43 percent of these grant dollars went to local nonprofits, 19 percent went to nonprofits in other parts of California, and the remaining 38 percent went to nonprofits outside of California. At the same time, foundations from other parts of California and from other states made grants to Los Angeles nonprofits. However, the inflow of philanthropic dollars is less than the outflow, resulting in Los Angeles being a net exporter of philanthropic dollars based on the grant making of the foundations included in the grant sample
The answers to the questions raised by this analysis are not entirely obvious. Yet, they are important to consider. They highlight the opportunities that exist to strengthen the future of foundation philanthropy and nonprofit capacity in Los Angeles County and in so doing to
Improve the lives of Angelinos and their communities.”(An Analysis of the Scale, Scope and Reach of Foundation Philanthropy in Los Angeles County by James M. Ferris, Jeff Glenn, Lia Moore – May 2010)

I wonder what the numbers would look like if the question “did you give where you intended to give” was asked.

Giving locally also helps to strengthen the community in which you live. It is especially true in these horrid economic times where the philanthropic entities are filling gaps left by the government and the for-profit sector. If the reputable local nonprofits fail - there will be no relief. Additionally, bolstering the local charities boosts the local economy, provides jobs, resources and allows the community to thrive. Stronger neighborhoods result in stronger cities, states and countries. Our ability to help others improves with our own increased strength and solvency.

Please - give to your spcaLA and other local charities.  If you can afford to donate to multiple organizations - please do. If not - please choose your home charity first.

Oct 30, 2013


History in Los Angeles was made when our city council unanimously passed a ban on bullhooks. Years of work, tireless effort, and constant prodding by dedicated animal welfare advocates and the community, finally resulted in a victory for our elephants. We moved city hall! Then a horrible thing happened. Councilmember Cedillo offered a friendly amendment which supported the ban but would delay its effective date for 3 years. This was done to assuage the circus interests who cried for their business needs and inconveniences.
Courtesy Google  Images

I simply cannot let this go. The council members rightly characterized the use of the bullhooks as torture and animal cruelty. Council President Wesson while watching a heart wrenching video of  "trainers" using the bullhook while the elephants screamed and cried, said "I've seen enough - let's vote" and ordered the video stopped. Each member of council then reiterated how horrific this abuse is and that the use of the bullhook will not be tolerated in Los Angeles.

Then they accepted the amendment and the continuing torture by bullhook for 3 more years.

I do understand legitimate business reasons for delaying the effective date of new legislation. I have chaired the legislative committee of a statewide organization for over a decade. There are times that infrastructure needs to be put in place, forms created, personnel trained, or time allotted to draft local ordinances to effectuate compliance with a new state law.

This is not that. How can we permit conduct that our lawmakers deem to be torture, and, as such a felony under the California animal cruelty statue, to continue for 3 more years?  If I yanked the hair of any reader of  this article and said " the good news is that I will let go in 3 years"  I would not be congratulated for my benevolence.  This is not okay with me. I submit to you that it is not okay with the elephants either.

I would have liked to see the council members stand up to the circus and their powers that be. I would have liked to see them say that it is inhumane to permit such cruel acts for the sake of a silly parlor trick.  I would have liked to see them just say "no" to the amendment.

But they didn't.

I apologize if I seem ungrateful for the bullhook ban that will go into effect in 3 years. I apologize if I appear immature and unfamiliar with the world of business negotiations. I apologize to my colleagues if I am the wet blanket at the victory party.

How, oh how do we apologize to the elephants...

"We are not the only animal that mourns; apes do, and elephants, and dogs. Yet we are the only one that tortures." Geraldine Brooks

Oct 24, 2013


Failure to provide needed veterinary care to a pet is a crime in California.

Elsa Lopez and her husband, Alberto Chavarria, were each convicted of 1 misdemeanor animal cruelty charge yesterday, as the result of your spcaLA's investigation.

Lopez and Chavarria let their 10-year-old American Bulldog, Chubbs, suffer in pain for months from an untreated, open and oozing malignant skin tumor and a severe infestation of fleas and ticks and did not provide veterinary care. Unfortunately,Chubbs had to be humanely euthanized.

Everyone understands that beating a dog to death with a stick is animal abuse.  Frankly, permitting an animal to suffer for months with no relief often seems even crueler to me.

Lopez and Chavarria were both sentenced to 36 months summary probation, counseling, state-mandated fees and they may own no animals for the next three (3) years after pleading no contest to violations of penal code 597.1a.

Rest in peace sweet Chubbs.

To report animal cruelty, call the spcaLA Animal Cruelty Tip Line at 1-800-540-SPCA (7722) or report online at www.spcaLA.com.

Oct 21, 2013


Your spcaLA, with your help was heard by our legislators and governor!
courtesy Google images

Here is a quick synopsis of animal protection legislation passed and going into effect in 20014 or later:

Effective January 2016, sales of animals at swap meets will be regulated. Standards of care for those animals must be complied with at the swap meet and in transit to and from the venue.

Effective January 2014, rabies vaccinations can be given to dogs at 3 months of age.

As soon as possible but no later than July 2019, non-lead ammo must be used in the taking of all wildlife.

Effective January 2014, new rules affecting trapping will prohibit certain types of body hugging traps as well as making it unlawful to kill trapped animals by listed methods. 

Effective January 2014, the taking of mountain lions must be accomplished by non-lethal means unless there is a threat to public health and safety. 

October of every year will be designated as shelter awareness month.

Passage of the “Bobcat Protection Act of 2013” requires the Department of Fish and Wildlife to create a management plan by July 2015. If no plan is drafted then the trapping, exporting, selling bobcat fur or product will be prohibited.

Thank you for your tireless efforts.

Oct 18, 2013

CALL TO ACTION - Los Angeles City Council To Vote To Ban Bullhooks

UPDATE - The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to ban bullhooks in Los Angeles - but it will be phased in over 3 years.

On October 23rd, the Los Angeles City Council will consider banning the use of bullhooks when handling an elephant. Though it is my preference that all exotic animals be banned from circuses and other such exhibitions - I am happy to start here.

Courtesy Google Images

A bullhook is a heavy rod with a pointy sharp metal tip and a hook at the end, often referred to as a “guide”, which may be used to prod, hook, jab or hit an elephant in order to “train” him/her to perform circus tricks or other such things. These instruments are capable of causing lacerations, punctures, and great pain when used with force, particularly on an elephant’s extremely sensitive trunk. The assertion that the use of the bullhook is just an extension of a trainer's arm and rarely leaves a mark is nonsense. If that were so it wouldn't need a sharp point and hook to persuade the elephant to something.  Further, if it were used to only strike but not tear it would also be abusive as it would be analogous to repeatedly smacking someone in the face during a walk to ensure that he or she gets somewhere on time. The constant smacking may not leave a mark – but – it surely would be horrible to endure. Experts have stated that the association with a bullhook is so frightening that elephants who have not seen one in years will visibly respond to the mere sight of one.

Notwithstanding the fact that the more enlightened perspective is to leave such animal “entertainment” in the annals of history, or change our acceptance of what would under other circumstances amount to repeated acts of animal cruelty, an outright ban of the use of bullhooks in Los Angeles is an excellent first step. 

Bullhook Courtesy Google Images
Let’s keep our elephants safe, free of pain, and away from those who would abuse or exploit them. 

Please contact your councilperson  and politely urge them to vote for this ban and, come to City Hall on Wednesday and tell them again.

Thank you

Oct 9, 2013

Really, don't hate me because I'm a pit bull

spcaLA uses pit bulls, like Patty, to help re-instill empathy
in youth from at-risk communities.
Last night, Riverside County supervisors passed an ordinance prohibiting residents of unincorporated areas of Riverside County from owning an unaltered pit bull, or pit mix, who is older than 4 months.

Included in the ordinance are exceptions for therapy dogs, licensed breeders, law enforcement and dogs certified too ill for surgery. Besides their concern with the perceived danger of pits, they also lament that many of these dogs languish in shelters for lack of homes.

This is a good idea for ALL dogs!

All dogs bite. All dogs are being euthanized across the country simply because there is no time or space for them to wait for a loving family. All dogs are dogs.

Rather than wasting time trying to correctly identify whether a mixed breed falls within the ordinance or litigating whether the law as written is constitutionally vague or violative of due process - apply the ordinance to all dogs.  Why pile on to one breed when it is true that not all pits are dangerous and not all retrievers are nice.  A spay neuter ordinance that applies to all dogs requires only that law enforcement recognize the difference between a dog and a giraffe!

Imagine a world where we are discerning instead of discriminating. Viscous dogs will not be tolerated or placed in families regardless of breed. Humans who misuse and abuse dogs for illicit purposes will be prosecuted. And - due to the sterilization efforts all dogs who are adoptable will have sufficient time to find a home.

Lets do this intelligently.

Sep 11, 2013

USDA to Regulate Internet Sale of Pets

Courtesy Google Images
Businesses that sell pets over the internet (sight unseen) will be subject to licensing and inspection under the Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) as the USDA revised the 40 year old definition of "retail store".
As "retail stores" are not covered under the AWA and the definition of "retail store" was put in place before the internet was invented, a huge gap was created whereby sales of animals over the internet, or "sight unseen" were unregulated as they were exempt from oversight under the AWA and invisible to state and local law enforcement.  Naturally, sick, injured and genetically inferior animals were being sold to naive buyers across the country with no checks and balances and no minimum care standards. This situation was not good for the consumer but far worse for the pets.
The USDA restored the definition of "retail pet store" to its original intent which is "a place of business or residence at which the seller, buyer and the animal available for sale are physically present so that the buyer may personally observe the animal and help ensure its health prior to purchasing or taking custody of it" thereby eliminating the "retail pet store" exemption for internet and other "sight unseen" businesses.
As such, these "sight unseen" vendors will now have to be licensed and inspected by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to ensure the pets they sell to the public receive minimum standards of care and other requirements proscribed by the AWA.
There are a host of exemptions and other changes in this set of revisions - but - the focus and impetus for this change was the overwhelming number of sick animals coming from larger scale breeders into homes with absolutely no oversight but plenty of heartbreak.

Sep 9, 2013

New Mountain Lion and Swap Meet Laws in California!

This has been a good week for animals in California!

Governor Jerry Brown signed two new animal protection bills into law.

The first mandates that the Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Fish and Game) must use nonlethal force when removing or taking mountain lions that do not pose an imminent threat to public health and safety. The bill is specific in that the aggressive behavior not be due to the presence of the responders. This is key as we have seen responders agitate a lion until it becomes aggressive and then shoot him/her.

Hopefully the Department will train its officers in the proper use of non-lethal methods and in the definition of "imminent" so that they will be both successful in complying and able to assist and train other law enforcement that may be at a scene first.

The second will only permit the sale of animals at swap meets and flea markets if requirements for their humane treatment both at the swap meet/flea market and in transit to and from the event are complied with. This legislation fills the gap left by the ban on roadside sales bill enacted last year that did not cover swap meets and flea markets.


Sep 4, 2013

Vindication For Crimes Against Working Dogs

Charles Ferguson, owner and operator of J.R. Ewing Guard Dogs, Inc. et al, was convicted of 4 felony and 4 misdemeanor animal cruelty charges, as the result of a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) animal cruelty investigation.  

The facts of this case were as horrific and gruesome as the actions of the defendant were cold and callous. For example, one dog was found dead inside a truck with her uterus severed and missing.  A necropsy revealed that she was suffering from a severe infection and that her uterus was cut while she was still alive.  She slowly bled to death, in an enormous amount of pain before she died of bacterial shock. After a trial encompassing the submission of over 40 exhibits and 17 witnesses, presented by County of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney, Christopher Frisco, the defendant was found guilty.

This case is particularly significant in that these crimes were committed against "working animals". The animal welfare movement began in response to the cruel treatment of horses, oxen and other beasts of burden used to power factory machinery and transport people via buggies and carriages - in other words - working animals. They were not viewed as sentient beings or pets capable of suffering, but rather as machinery and vehicles. The more the animals toiled the higher the profits accrued to their owners. Although it defies logic to overdrive and weaken an animal responsible for one's income, it makes sense in that it is cheaper to replace an animal than to sustain one. In other words, it is cost effective to work an animal to death and buy a new one rather than fund quality food, veterinary care and afford them the opportunity to rest. 

Though we have progressed in our attitudes toward our pets and in our willingness to be responsible stewards of their well-being, there are still, those who see animals as workers, entertainers and merchandise, but remain blind to the fact that they are alive, suffer and ache. 

Sentencing is scheduled for September 16, 2013.  Ferguson could receive up to 16 (consecutive) years in prison and/or $160,000 in fines.   Ferguson’s license to own and operate a guard dog business has been revoked by Los Angeles County.

Sep 3, 2013

New Trapping Law In California

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that applies improves the plight of trapped animals.

The new law revises and further limits the use of certain traps such as certain "body gripping traps", it makes it unlawful to kill any trapped animal by certain methods such as drowning and chest crushing, and adds signage and warning requirements designed to prevent unintended animals and people from being harmed by the traps. Violations of this law is a misdemeanor.

It is still mandatory that traps must be visited and animals removed at least once a day.

Though our laws permit the trapping of wild animals - it should not allow the further torment and cruel treatment of those animals unfortunate enough to be trapped. This new law helps with that but further sends the message that there is no carte blanche to be inhumane to animals even under circumstances where they might be considered nuisances or lawful to hunt.

Jul 2, 2013

Hawthorne Police Gun Down Dog In Front Of Owner

Gabriel Martinze via YouTube
During an arrest of Leon Rosby for obstructing a police action, Hawthorne police officers shot and killed his  dog Max.  A spectator captured the incident on video, which has over half a million views on YouTube.

The video shows Rosby, who was filming a blockade by police with his phone, being approached by Hawthorne PD officers.  Rosby then put his Rottweiler into the backseat of his vehicle and presented himself to the officers.  As he  was handcuffed, his dog, Max, began barking and jumped out of the back window of Rosby’s car to aid his Rosby.  The officer shot the dog multiple times who,staggered, convulsed and died on the street as Rosby stood by helplessly. 

We are entitled to expect more from trained law enforcement personnel than panic. We expect that the difference between a trained officer carrying weapons and a civilian doing the same is training, discipline and control. I can panic - they cannot. Yet again, we see another instance of shoot first and ask questions later. In this video - the officer came around towards the dog with his weapon drawn - clearly demonstrating a decision to use lethal force first, rather than as a last resort. Where was the attempt at a non lethal alternative or solution? At the least - a thorough investigation into the training of all officers as well as into the specific behavior of these officers is warranted. 

The problem here is that even if it is determined that the shooting was not righteous - Max is gone for good.

Jun 30, 2013

Athletes Unload Their Pets via Twitter

Recently, professional athletes are using Twitter to unload their family pets
courtesy Google images
Kendrick Perkins  (basketball), Anthony Davis (football) and Isaiah Stanback (football) all posted the desire to sell their dogs on Twitter, and at least Perkins and Davis sold their family pet in under an hour with the requirement by Davis to "Just don't be mean to him".
As I am willing to defer to the professionals in sports, I would ask that they, in turn, let me and other credentialed professionals find unwanted pets new homes. Notwithstanding the difference between merely getting rid of a pet to the first bidder and actually finding a pet a new home-(The former accepts the tweet for the highest bid while the latter searches, screens and tries to assess compatibility with the family)- there are darker issues at play here. Is the allure of the pet the fact that is belongs to a famous athlete? Is the intention to re-tweet and resell to the highest bidder? What is the effect on the dog who must travel, and readjust to new surroundings. Is this the message that pro athletes, often viewed as role models, want to convey to our youth about commitment and responsibility?
I would advise these athletes and those that will imitate them to turn their pets over to a local humane society or spca with a donation sufficient to ensure their well-being while they wait for a new family. 
While it is certainly possible that a good home may be found using Twitter. gambling with a pets' life is not the game these athletes should be playing.  

Article first published as Pro-Athletes Unload Pets Via Twitter on Technorati.

Jun 11, 2013

Hens will Suffer in Push for Big Government over State Sovereignty

courtesy Google images
When California voters passed Proposition 2 which requires egg farmers to give egg-laying birds room to stand, spread their wings and move around, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) added an additional requirement that all eggs sold in California must come from farms that meet California standards- a decree in keeping with the republican mantra of less federal government and more state sovereignty.

Permitting assault weapons, governors refusing to enact the Affordable Care Act, regulating abortions and same sex marriages, to name a few, are all example of issues and instances where the tenet of states' rights was and is invoked as sacrosanct.

Yet, in this case,  Republican Senator Steve King has added a section to the proposed farm bill that would prohibit states from imposing conditions on another state's agriculture production thereby effectively allowing big government to trounce California's law and Californians message that basic humane treatment of animals, even food animals, should be required which, by the way,  is not inconsistent with the sentiments encoded in the Federal Animal Welfare Act. Yes, the Senator represents Iowa, a major egg producing state, so there is certainly self-interest at play here, so how should this be resolved?

It seems to me that our elected officials should cross party lines and attempt bipartisan action to improve civil rights, guard our constitutional protections and develop policies that foster humaneness and compassion.

Why not, instead, require all egg laying birds to have some comfort rather than trample the law? Why "chicken out" from standing up to special interests whose concerns are not always in the best interests of all?

Why insist that Iowa has a superior right to treat hens their way but California does not.



May 31, 2013

Juveniles Sentenced to spcaLA for Violence "Cure"

Your spcaLA and the Juvenile Division of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office have united to bring spcaLA’s award winning  violence prevention program to the Los Angeles juvenile system. This mandated, alternative sentencing program,  jTLC™.works by re-instilling empathy into teens with the aim of "curing" violence.

In a  two-day, court-mandated course, teens are paired with shelter dogs and offered intensive sessions designed to help at-risk youth identify and break the cycle of violence.  The jTLC candidates are carefully selected by the District Attorney’s Office along with the Juvenile Court judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. 

These children learn coping and anger management skills and gain self-esteem with the help of our shelter dogs. We instill in them compassion and empathy – which steers them into a more positive direction.

For the last two years, spcaLA has pilot-tested the jTLC program with juvenile offenders from communities like Long Beach and Sylmar.   80% of the offenders have avoided trouble and have not, to date,  re-offended.  jTLC is unique to spcaLA and Los Angeles County.  Other communities, like New York City, have inquired about the program and how they can introduce it into their own juvenile systems.

“As an animal lover, retired Police Sergeant and currently Los Angeles County District Attorney Juvenile Offender Intervention Program (J.O.I.N.) hearing officer, I knew from experience and studies that the direct correlation between animal cruelty and domestic violence, child abuse, bullying and school fights is factual,” said Lianne Osendorf.  “The cycle of abuse will continue unless there is intervention to break the cycle. The collaboration of the LA DA and spcaLA to bring awareness and intervention to these minors is a major step in doing just that. Thanks to Melanie Wagner, Director of Humane Education, and her staff and some very caring District Attorneys the program has been a phenomenal success.  With few exceptions the minors that participate come away from the experience with new found respect for animals and people. The weekend class focuses on teaching minors how damaging abuse can be not only to animals and people but also to the person inflicting the abuse.”

jTLC attendees range from teenage girls who were convicted of bullying to an animal abuse offender who, at 8 years old, was bullied by his brother to injure a rabbit.  Now at 14 years old, he was sentenced to jTLC for hitting a dog in the head with a brick. 

Just as violent offenders learn how to desensitize their natural feelings of empathy by abusing animals, we can turn the tables and put it right back in!

People always ask me why do I spend my time insisting that we be kind to animals when there is so much violence against people in the world. My response is that articulated in the 1870s by George T. Angell - "I am working at the root of the problem."

May 1, 2013

Is This News to Anyone?

courtesy spcaLA -rescued from breeder
NBC just reported that "AKC-registered breeders raising dogs in 'miserable" conditions". Really?

What do AKC (American Kennel Club) breeders, puppy mills, pet shops, professional breeders, and opportunistic breeders (those that cater to fads or animal movie stars) have in common?  They profit from the sale of these pets. Ergo, the more they invest in care and husbandry the less the profit or the higher the prices must be. Essentially, the pets are considered inventory and not feeling, suffering living things.

Consumers are outraged when they spend a small fortune for a registered, certified and papered pure bred that either dies shortly after purchase or requires costly medical care with no promise that there will be no lingering disabilities. What do you expect if neither the mother nor the puppies, while living in filth, receive proper nutrition and essential medical care. Even the "bargain hunters" who will hand over thousands of dollars to a guy selling "discount puggles" from the back of a truck will demand justice after the dog dies within hours after the transaction. Really? It reminds me of the fellow selling Rolex watches for $5.00 on the streets of New York City. Do you really expect it to tell time?

Over 20 years ago in New York, I, as a novice in this business,  had access to the back rooms of the Westminster Dog Show and was disgusted by what I saw. I did what I could then but also requested  that Roger Caras, the voice of the show, step down from that position once he became President of the aspca as the conflict seemed obvious and the optics looked worse!

courtesy spcaLA

Enough already. We must stop creating a demand for these AKC type pets so the suppliers dry up. There are plenty of dogs and cats, pure and mixed, in shelters around the world who need homes today.

This deplorable situation is not news. Consumers using their buying power to change things would be.

Apr 18, 2013

ESPN: The Size of a Man's Dog Does is NOT Indicative of His Penis Size

Courtesy Google Images
During Wednesday's Lakers game the ESPN commentators could not stop wailing about the tragedy that Kobe Bryant was seen in this photo with a little dog. They ranted, wept and prayed for someone to "say it isn't so" that such a "macho" guy would have a lap dog. They lamented that any dog that could be "cradled" in one's arms was not an acceptable companion for such a man as Kobe.

Finally, to their relief, Kobe contacted them during half time and comforted the hysterical commentators with the news that he had 4 dogs - two of which were German Shepherds. The commentators were outright thanking the almighty for this proof that the world is right again - that- their hero had 2 "manly" dogs which generously excused the presence of the little dog.

First, the size of a man's dog is not indicative of the size of his penis. Second, let's not force men into behaving in projected stereotypical ways. Strong men can be kind and gentle to children and other vulnerable  living beings without sacrificing their masculinity. And third, would these sports "experts" suggest that Michael Vick was the better example of a real man?

Apr 5, 2013

UPDATE - Swap Meets, Lead Ammo and Ag Gag - Oh My!


UPDATE - The "Ag-Gag" bill, sponsored by the California Cattleman's Association was  withdrawn by Assemblymember Jim Patterson. It will be technically dead after after the first week of May deadline. We were heard!!

It is once again legislative season and your spcaLA is working on bills that will prevent animal cruelty. To that end, I will resume nagging you to voice your support or disgust to our employees - our elected officials.

      Remember: The power of the people is greater than the people in power -Wael Ghonim

Assemblymember Roger Dickinson introduced Assembly Bill 339, which, in its current form, strives to ban the sale of live animals in swap meets and flea markets.  Husbandry, veterinary treatment, and often basic humane care are often non existent in these venues, which, unfortunately were excluded from recent enacted legislation prohibiting street corner sales of animals. This bill passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee this week and onward and upward we go! (support)

Assemblymember Anthony Rendon introduced Assembly Bill 711 would prohibit the use of lead shot in hunting. Lead is toxic to both humans and animals and safe alternatives exist.(support)

Assemblymember Jim Patterson introduced Assembly Bill 343 an "Ag Gag" law which seeks to stop whistle blowers, undercover operatives and activists from exposing animal cruelty in the food industry. It is sponsored by the California Cattleman's Association and is designed to stifle our rights to speak of disturbing practices that occur as well as our right to know about them.  (oppose)

Additionally, bills which would: protect animals that are trapped, create the "Bobcat Protection Act" , mandate non-lethal alternatives to killing mountain lions and exempt animal medicines from sales tax, are all part of this years legislative "to do" list.

You will be hearing more from me as things progress. Thank you as always for your help and support.

Mar 14, 2013


Courtesy Google Images

On March 6th a five foot long white-tipped shark flown from New York to Los Angeles to be used in the filming of a Kmart commercial exhibited signs of stress on the set and ultimately died. The shark was treated on set by the trainer and then taken to a specialist to no avail.

According to a source cited by the Los Angeles Times, Kmart's request for a replacement shark to be brought out for the shoot was refused by the production company, Boxer Films, who instead substituted an animatronic hippopotamus.

The group American Humane Association (AHA) who certifies that "no animal was harmed in the making of a film" ,who receives funding from the film industry to monitor animal actors, and who is currently under fire for the fact that three horses died on set of the HBO show "Lucky" is investigating the matter.

Notwithstanding the vigor of an actual shoot, the travel back and forth to and from the location, the living in strange quarters, the strange climate, new water, and a host of unfamiliar human handlers, are all recipes for disaster.

Although the technology exists to use simulated animals in the entertainment industry the will to do so does not.

What could you buy in Kmart that is worth the life of a majestic shark? 

Would it be worth it?

Feb 27, 2013

If You Don't Believe In The Link Between Domestic Violence And Animal Cruelty-Read This

courtesy spcaLA

If you don't believe in the link between domestic violence and animal cruelty-read this:

Excerpts From spcaLA Press Release:

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) investigation and supporting evidence led to a felony animal cruelty conviction against Terrance Hawkins of Los Angeles, after he threw his girlfriend’s dog out of a 5th story window during an argument.

Bizzie, the beloved American Eskimo dog of Hawkins’ girlfriend, succumbed to his injuries and perished after twelve days in intensive veterinary care.

“Where domestic violence is present, animal cruelty and child abuse can usually be found - we call it ‘The Link,’” said spcaLA President, Madeline Bernstein.  “The cycle of violence continues until it is broken by law enforcement, education or other intervention.”

spcaLA offers the Animal Safety Net (ASN) ™ program which provides free boarding and veterinary care for the animals of domestic violence victims at an undisclosed location, so they may flee a dangerous situation without fear for the safety of their pets.  Case workers and victims can call 888-527-7722 for more information about ASN.

spcaLA also offers internationally recognized violence-prevention programs – like Teaching Love and Compassion(TLC)™ for at-risk youth and jTLC™, a court-mandated condition of probation for some juvenile offenders.  spcaLA’s Humane Education initiatives are aimed at breaking the cycle of violence and restoring empathy where it is lacking.

For more information about the Link, Teaching Love and Compassion (TLC)™ or Animal Safety Net (ASN)™ visit www.spcaLA.com. 

Humane Officers responded to an anonymous tip from the spcaLA Animal Cruelty Tip Line.  To report animal cruelty, call the spcaLA Animal Cruelty Tip Line at 1-800-540-SPCA (7722) or report online at www.spcaLA.com.

Any questions?

Feb 6, 2013

Violent Behavior-Heed the Early Warning Signs

courtesy spcaLA
Against a landscape of mounting gun violence, our nation is finally willing to look at the issue of gun safety in a comprehensive manner. To that end, universal background checks, bans on high capacity magazines and gun/gun owner data bases are options on the table designed to manage who can obtain a weapon and what to do with that knowledge. However, the root causes of violence, whether attributed to mental illness, bullying, random circumstances of nature and nurture must also be studied so that they may be mitigated. We would be remiss in our duties if we did not point out that there are glaring symptoms and tangible early warning signs of future violent behavior that can be detected now, with or without new legislation, and successfully treated with early intervention - sometimes as early as pre-school age.

 According to the FBI, the three behaviors most credited as precursors to committing violent acts are pyromania, enuresis (excessive bed-wetting) and animal cruelty. spcaLA is primarily focused on the third behavior. Deriving pleasure from causing an animal pain can be seen even in very young children. As children are not born violent, (true sociopaths notwithstanding) such behavior towards an animal is abnormal and indicative of a problem in the home that is either directed at or witnessed by the child. If not treated, and the cause not explored, that person will become desensitized to suffering and may continue to use the infliction of pain on other living things as a way to control his or her surroundings.

spcaLA (not affiliated with any other spca as there is no national/umbrella spca) has a series of core programs designed to intervene and prevent animal abuse as well as to deter violence towards people. They comprise a court mandated alternative sentencing course for juvenile offenders convicted of bullying, animal abuse or other violent crimes, an internationally acclaimed "at risk" youth program where schools target certain students to participate in the program, and one assisting victims of domestic violence and their pets where immediate help is mandated. The point is that the earlier the warning signs are recognized, the greater the chances of successful intervention, behavior modification and the abatement of future violent behavior.

The secret to the cure is for teachers, parents, social workers, and others in contact with our youth to know and recognize the symptoms. If you see animal cruelty, report it and seek help.

I can’t tell you how often I am told by a parent “It’s just a dog. You should be happy it’s not a person.”

 Next time it will be.