A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

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.