A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 23, 2015

The bigger the fish tank the worse the service ...

Courtesy Google Images
It is quite common for places of business to showcase fish tanks for the benefit of their waiting customers. Though a believer that fish should be left in their natural habitats, as a diver, I love watching fish and am drawn to the tanks immediately.

What I have noticed, as a frequenter of many business establishments, is that the bigger and more elaborate the tank, the worse the service and the more aggravated the clients in the waiting rooms are! It is so common that upon entering a business, I immediately brace for a battle when confronted with a happy plastic diver blowing bubbles on a beautiful artificially sunlit reef!

What I have also noticed, is that when the tank is placed primarily for the benefit of staff viewing, the service is great suggesting that the staff is under pressure to perform properly rather than trying to hypnotize those in the waiting area into believing that they are being treated efficiently and with respect.

How about leaving the fish where they live and just doing whatever job it is well and without guile!

Dec 15, 2015

When father does not know best ...

UPDATE:   Although found guilty of animal cruelty, the klansman's son was fined $100.00 despite the fact that the veterinarian testified that the dog would have died in 48 hours if untreated. Worse - the judge would not allow the veterinarian to testify that the dog suffered because she, the veterinarian,  is not a mind reader and that there is really no proof that animals suffer. The judge bemoaned the fact that there are not different standards for city and country kids as he really hated to convict the kid. 

What an outrage. Anybody smell something rotten here??

What should a parent not do when told that their child has been arrested for animal cruelty?

A prosecutor colleague of mine filed a case against a young man for animal cruelty. Rather than recognizing that animal cruelty is often a precursor to violence against people, seeking to identify the underlying reason for this aberrant behavior and interceding on behalf of the psychological wellbeing of his son - this father responded by threatening the life of the prosecutor. What if I told you that this father was a prominent and high ranking Klan member?

Raised in an environment where both the rhetoric and perhaps deeds condone bigotry and gratuitous violence, it is possible that children of these "wizards" will be praised for their sociopathic behavior. In fact, animal cruelty may be the accepted laboratory to destroy empathy in those children. When caught, the youth is taught to threaten the prosecutor with violence to solve the problem! This is particularly awful as mentoring humane behavior is the most efficient and successful way to teach it. What better imprimatur than the participation of parents, teachers, and peers to foster humane treatment of all living things? What chance do these kids have?

Shall we predict the future?

The prosecutor will get protection. The animal will receive care. The father and son will face charges.

But who will protect us all from these future sociopaths?

Nov 20, 2015

Judge fumbles verdict in ex-Raven Terrence Cody's animal cruelty case


Former Baltimore Raven Terrence Cody was acquitted of felony animal cruelty charges but was found guilty of lesser counts in Baltimore County Circuit Court. The judge, after a bench trial, bought the argument that his conduct was neglectful but that he didn't mean to hurt the dog. 

How is this "neglectful" and evidence that he didn't really mean to hurt Taz? 

Forgetting to feed a dog once in a while is neglectful. Locking a dog in a cage in the garage and never feeding him is evidence of a decision not to feed him - hence intentional cruelty. It is important to understand that this is a slow, cruel, painful and horrific death during which the dog is suffering the entire time - sometimes months. Trust me- he hurt the dog. This is why animal cruelty is a crime where omissions as well as commissions are prosecutable "conduct". Would you rather be hit by one blow and receive treatment immediately or have an ice pick in your eye for a month? Neither is good but the latter is excruciating. The fact that Cody paid a lot for the dog is not evidence that he cared, particularly when looked at against the landscapes of NFL salaries. This verdict is a disgrace and one that I hope was not colored by the celebrity football status of the defendant and a desire not to saddle him with a felony conviction.

When do you think Terrence Cody last missed a meal? 

Facial recognition works for MI6 - why not dogs and cats!

Your spcaLA in conjunction with Finding Rover and VCA Animal Hospitals unveiled a new partnership that has the ability to help reunite more lost dogs with their family by using CSI techniques usually reserved for humans. Finding Rover’s innovative facial recognition for pets can be used on a smartphone through the app or on the web and is 98 per cent accurate in matching lost and found dog reports.

spcaLA has always been on the forefront of new technologies for animal welfare.  This venture strives to reunite lost pets using 21st century advanced technology and human compassion. You don't need a pet to participate. You can snap a picture of a dog on the street and it can be matched in minutes with a photo of a dog that is lost. Imagine how beneficial it would be if animals were reunited with their people before or soon after arriving at a shelter. It's less stressful for pets and their families, less costly redemption fees and more resources available to shelters to rehabilitate and find homes for the truly homeless pets rather than for pets with homes who are simply lost.

We are now fully integrated with this technology. Every dog that enters the spcaLA facility becomes automatically registered with facial recognition on Finding Rover. Users can view and favorite adoptable dogs, as well. VCA is doing the same which increases the data base significantly. The more photos are uploaded the better the system will work!

By 2016 the app will work with cats as well which can have interesting applications with feral colonies as well as indoor cats who accidentally got out!

Imagine how well this will work once the world joins in!

Oct 28, 2015

Who ya gonna call -UBER KITTEN!!

Uber - now a noun - "order an Uber". A verb - "let's Uber". An adjective - "it's an "Uber like" system and probably more. On October 29th, one can Uber Kitten. Yes - click on the kitten option on your app and an Uber will arrive with kittens for 15 minutes of love, stress relief and some adorable in your day. A portion of the proceeds will benefit your spcaLA!

Fun notwithstanding, it is an opportunity to spread the message of adoption, the significance of your local shelters and, the critical importance of corporate philanthropy.

Uber - a good corporate citizen and spcaLA Friend for Life!

Oct 20, 2015

Please help spcaLA fund our much needed domestic violence program

Abusers use everything at their disposal to terrorize and control those they batter - including the family pet, often threatening to harm or kill an animal if the domestic violence survivor dares leave. We are now in the worst of it as incidents of domestic violence increase exponentially with the start of footbal season and extreme heat - both occuring right now!
puppy with ball

Since the mid 1990s spcaLA’s Animal Safety Net (ASN)™ provides a safe refuge for the domestic violence survivors’ pets, free-of-charge, so that they may leave a dangerous situation without fear for their animals’ lives. Unfortunately, there is great demand for this help and we must expand these services. 

There are 3 ways to help us help these human and animal victims, one of which is to help us win a contest!
1. Vote. Help spcaLA earn $100,000 to help expand ASN in the LA2050 Challenge - with enough votes between now and November 3, 2015, we can make LA a safer place to live.
2. Donate. Help survivors of domestic violence and their pets right now. Make a special, one-time donation.
3. Shout. Tell your friends about ASN. Ask them to vote. Ask them to donate.
Where domestic violence is present, child, elder and animal abuse usually are too. If animal abuse is suspected, spcaLA investigates, gathers forensic evidence, and builds a case against the abuser. While under our care, animals receive veterinary treatment, vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery. Families remain in contact with their pets through photos and updates until they are safely out of the shelter and reunited.
At its core, ASN gives domestic violence survivors peace of mind. The comfort in knowing their adored pet is protected and cared for helps survivors escape, persevere, and begin building safer, healthier lives.
Please, help us help them. Vote, and if you’re able, donate today.

*If you don’t already have one, you will need to create a Good account using your email or Facebook in order to vote. Just one vote per account between now and November 3, 2015 at 12pm. More info.

Oct 8, 2015

The OTHER reason the bullhook veto hurts

Courtesy Google Images
In his message vetoing the ban on bullhooks, the governor stated that he did not want "to create a new crime", lamenting that there are so many, and that "our jail and prison population have exploded".

For the most part I agree that we should not criminalize every individual type of behavior when such behavior would be subsumed under a general, elastic, broad statute. The reason is that when there is a list of specific prohibited conduct, and a criminal does something not on the list, the door is opened for the defense to argue that if the legislature intended this to be wrong - it would have added it to the list. Bullhooks however, though instruments of torture, were universally accepted as a necessary training device, a likely defense to the crime of animal cruelty, and therefore needs its own statutory language. But that is NOT the reason for the veto. Prison overcrowding is the reason to the detriment of elephants and the rest us.

Our country uses prisons to house the mentally ill, the homeless, minor drug offenders, and an assortment of others hapless souls. California is already under Federal decree to reduce overcrowding in prisons. Therefore, there is an impetus to avoid the creation of new crimes, reduce sentences and release broad categories of prisoners back into society. Various broad stroke propositions like 109 (which realigns categories of crime) and 47 (which reduces penalties) among other things govern this exodus. The problem, is that these are general, clumsy, thoughtless ways of emptying the jails with no targeted and tailored programs on the other end that will reduce crime, aid re-entry, and prevent recidivism. Additionally, violent offenders who need to be incarcerated squeak out under these "fixes", (Note the increase in crime in this state!) It is analogous to cutting off an arm to treat a splinter!  The splinter is gone but the process, without more, leaves a person in serious peril.

Thus the veto on our bullhook ban. A new crime needed to be created but now won't be because of massive mismanagement of the system.

We can pass city by city bans to help our elephants as we have been doing - but who do I see about fixing the rest of this mess for us all?

Sep 29, 2015

Enter the Flexitarian

Courtesy Google Images
Food issues are a thing. People eat with a purpose which can be ideological, health based, weight loss related or simply trendy. One can be vegan for heart health reasons, environmental concerns or because of a philosophical belief that it is wrong to eat animals. There are conscientious omnivores, pescatarians, fruitarians, an entire panoply of diets from Zone to Paleo and of course endless food allergies real and imagined.

Planning menus for organizational events is just as challenging as hosting a dinner party at home where everyone attending has very particular food issues. As a toddler my son would only eat food that was green, my friend won't eat beige food, another is kosher and so on and so forth. 

I thought that I dealt with it all until a guest pronounced himself a flexitarian! In case you are wondering - a flexitarian is a vegetarian who sometimes eats meat. Is that even a thing? Is it different than a carnivore who sometimes eats vegetables or someone on the wagon who occasionally drinks? What is the purpose of this? How is it not just a varied and balanced diet?

I thought I had seen it all, but frankly, this takes the cake - gluten free of course.

Sep 25, 2015

Man Caught on Video Beating His Dog Pleads Guilty

 A 22-year-old Huntington Park man who was caught on video repeatedly striking his 2 year old German Shepherd, “Sam” in the head, pled guilty today to animal cruelty charges. 

2 year old German Shepherd, Sam

Victor Almendariz (DOB: 06-19-1992) was convicted on one count misdemeano r animal cruelty in case #5FF00619 before Judge Gustavo Sztraicher at the Metropolitan Court House.  Deputy District Attorney Kelly Sakir prosecuted the case. Charges were brought against Mr. Almendariz as a result of an animal cruelty investigation by Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA). 

Video shot by an anonymous tipster was sent to spcaLA Humane Officers in January of 2015.  Upon investigation of Mr. Almendariz, three German Shepherds including Sam were found, removed, and brought to spcaLA for medical care.

Mr. Almendariz was sentenced to 500 hours of community labor; 5 years probation; Level II animal abuse counseling (48 week program); and m ay own no animals for five years.  Mr. Alemndariz must also undergo a psychological evaluation and pay restitution.  As a condition of probation, he waived his 4th amendment right and is subject to search and seizure at all times.  Any violation of these terms of probation could result in 180 days jail time.

Click here for video.


Since 1877, spcaLA has been the premiere independen t, nonprofit animal welfare organization serving Southern California.  There is no national SPCA, parent organization, or umbrella group that provides financial support to spcaLA.  Donations run programs and services including Cruelty Investigation, Disaster Animal Response Team, Humane Education, and a variety of shelter services. 

Sep 8, 2015

LA City Council poised to fail cats again

UPDATE: City attorney directed to draft a regulation allowing the maximum number of cats one can have to go from 3 to 5   BUT- it must include "any required analysis required by the California Environmental Quality Act as part of said ordinance".

This would be easier if the amendment required that all cats must be indoor only, sterilized and wearing visible identification. At lease they listened to us and abandoned the idea of clowders of 20 or more cats!

The PAWS committee of Los Angeles city council has once again come up with an ill-conceived scheme and will ask the entire council to support it.

They want to raise the cat limit per household to 5.  We have no issue with 5. As you know, there are those who should not be allowed to have even one cat and those who can keep many more than that in a safe humane environment. There is no magic number! The devil is in the details, and the details here are nuts.

As always, demagoguery to special interest groups and ignorance of this complex issue, appear to inform the internal logic of this proposed regulation and ultimately defeats its stated purpose to reduce euthanasia and provide homes for cats.  What on earth does it mean that households with 3 cats can allow the cats outdoors while those with 4 or 5 must remain in? How can an enforcement officer know the difference between a cat who is legally out and one who is not?  Perhaps a scarlet 4 or 5 emblazoned on the cats would help identify law breakers.

The solution is simple. All cats must be sterilized, must wear a visible identification tag and must be kept indoors or in protected outdoor areas. Doing so would accomplish several things. It would extend the lifespan of the pet as indoor cats live longer free from outdoor perils. It would help shelters find homes for cats who need them rather than recycling lost cats who already have homes. It would protect cats from predators and save animals who are prey to cats. The visible tag would both assist in the return of the cat home to allowing animal control personnel to differentiate stray, community and feral cats from a lost owned cat. (Invisible microchips are useful but not for these purposes.) 

All of the above would in fact help reduce euthanasia and improve animal control efficiency as more cats would have homes, stay in their homes and animal control would have clear tools and a means of enforcement. Finally, the visible tag will help neighbors, who do not have scanning devices, return a lost cat who accidentally escaped thereby also freeing animal control personnel from that task.

Honestly, it is just tiring and trying to see our ill informed elected officials just put anything on paper that appears to do something but either doesn't or makes things worse. There is no evidence of critical thinking or an attempt to study the issues. They are just creating feel good captions to vote on. There is a lot of evidence that this city is sinking while the band plays campaign tunes. Elected officials seem to think their job is running for office and it seems that deals and regulations are achieved for those who contribute, endorse or otherwise help the officials stay in office. Beyond the animal welfare issues look at the increase in crime, traffic and weird construction projects. 

As far as cats go - this can be fixed easily. The question is will the full council do so. I guess it depends on who asks them to.....

Aug 31, 2015

Kangaroos and Californians

Courtesy Google Images
California has prohibited the trade of kangaroo parts since 1971. However, lobbying from the Australian government, sports equipment manufacturers and the kangaroo industry led to a temporary exemption of this longstanding ban. 

Kangaroo skins are most commonly used for high-end soccer cleats, gloves and other leather products. The existence of new high-tech synthetic materials have rendered kangaroo leather unnecessary for superior performance. In fact, these new materials and greater awareness of the inherent cruelty in the kangaroo hunting industry, have inspired some professional soccer players like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo to stop wearing cleats made from kangaroo skin.

This exemption is due to expire at the end of 2015 thus reinstating the ban! We, along with a multitude of other organizations around the world, are watching closely to see if a move is made by Australia to submit legislation that would extend the exemption and/or repeal the ban. We have taken some preemptive measures to deal with this and are poised to respond instantly if such legislation is introduced.

The mechanics of kangaroo hunting are cruel and in its current state is jeopardizing the viability of the species.

Essentially, if our legislators do nothing, the ban will be reinstated. Seems like a job they can do!!

Aug 10, 2015

In the echo of Cecil's final roar

Aaron Blaise's (Lion King animator ) tribute to Cecil the lion,
who was killed recently.
The utter tragedy of Cecil’s’ death notwithstanding, interesting things have resulted. 

Air lines have announced a refusal to ship such animal trophies from Africa. The list includes JetBlue, CargoJet, Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Comair, Delta Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Ethiopian Airways, Etihad, IAG Cargo, Iberia Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar Airways Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, and WestJet with hopefully more to come.

Newscasters pundits, celebrities, and corporate executives have loudly denounced the "sport" of trophy hunting. People around the world through petitions and social medial have condemned the practice as well.

So - what have we learned? We learned that ideologues aside, the enlightened position of this country is against trophy hunting and for the protection of wild animals. This bodes well for legislative and, perhaps future behavioral changes on behalf of and by the citizenry. Consumers are also understanding the power of their shopping dollar and reward those who peddle their goods with a conscience. Public and peer pressures works! Just look at the SeaWorld, puppy mill and circus cases.

We have also learned 2 more things. First, steady, rational, articulate advocacy on behalf of animal welfare is working and effectuating positive global change. Second, criminals, idiots, abusers and offenders almost always hang themselves and help our cause!

Someday, maybe we can effectuate positive reforms without the prerequisite of a horrific act.

Jul 29, 2015

Cecil the Lion

Cecil, a beloved lion, known by all for his black mane was lured out of his protected habitat in a Zimbabwean national park by a Minnesota dentist, Walter Palmer, and his guides, and killed. Not just killed - but shot with a bow and arrow and left in pain for 40 hours until put out of his misery via gunshot. 
courtesy google images

The fact that Cecil was used to tourists and trusted them to some extent, relegates this heinous act to that akin to those characteristic of a canned hunt, which is not even considered a sport by other sport hunters, and an act of extreme cowardice and overcompensation. It is certainly not a fair fight.

What is really disturbing is his defense. In a statement to the media, Palmer claimed that he didn't mean to kill Cecil specifically, and that, whoever he killed, he killed legally. As to the latter, not so fast- as his guides were arrested for poaching. As to the former - unbelievable! 

How many prosecutors would release a murderer from culpability because he said "I intended to kill someone, just not the guy I killed". The answer is the precise amount of tolerance and leniency the world should give for such behavior.

Jul 23, 2015

Charges Filed Against Holiday Humane Society Fake Veterinarian

UPDATE: CONVICTED!  Menjivar, 52, pled no contest to one count of unlicensed practice of veterinary medicine. Judge Leland Harris sentenced Menjivar to 36 months of probation, 30 days jail, 500 hours of community service and 16 sessions of animal cruelty counseling. Menjivar is scheduled to surrender on October 16, 2015. 

Congratulations City Attorney Mike Feuer and Supervising Attorney Don Cocek for prosecuting the case!

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer has brought charges against Hector Antonio Menjivar, of Holiday Humane Society, for allegedly posing as a veterinarian and operating an unlicensed after-hours veterinary clinic in Van Nuys. The amount of pain and suffering caused to the pets and their human companions is unimaginable. 

It is particularly despicable, if Mr. Menjivar was using the humane society as a shield to deflect suspicion. My heart goes out to those pets and families who were caused pain by this organization and urge anyone else who may have so been harmed to contact the City Attorney. It is, of course, a good idea to research a veterinarian or clinic before bringing in your pet, especially if you are quoted a price that is too good to be true.

We commend Mike Feuer and Deputy City Attorney Don Cocek, Supervising Attorney of the City Attorney’s Animal Protection Unit, for protecting our animals from harm as well as those of us who love them.

Jul 13, 2015

My first haiku - maybe!

After a weekend of watching too many news shows - the following haiku came to mind:

Self deport, Self heal, Self fund - Selfish

Once so declared, government and charities can just pack up, and I can go back to watching television.

Jul 8, 2015


Courtesy google images
Like most "sport" hunting and canned hunts, there is no "sport" or real bravery in bullfighting. The bull is weakened, confined, repeatedly stabbed (causing great blood loss) by a group of picadors, and practically dead before the matador even enters the arena to finish the job. The matador dances around and essentially kills the pre-killed blood soaked bull. It is not about sport or bravery but show business and bloodlust as evidenced by the fact that there is a premium on fights involving white bulls as blood shows up better on their skin. After all, the color of the bull should not matter if the "fight" were about skill and not the summary killing of a pre-killed animal.

Contrast this with the running of the bulls going on now, where the bulls are healthy, very much alive, blessed by the clergy and startled into running through city streets where civilians, not matadors, engage with them. Of course there are always goring incidents and other injuries. So the trained brave matador takes on a virtually dead bull, where an untrained college student takes on a full strength herd of charging bulls. You know the matadors would never do that!

Now, let's look at California, where bullfighting, both regular and bloodless (Velcro tipped "swords" stick to a corresponding Velcro blanket on the bull) are illegal. Both are considered cruel as even in the bloodless fight there is a lot of tormenting and pain caused notwithstanding the fake swords. Yet, in California, a bloodless bullfight can (and does) occur every year"in connection with religious celebrations or religious festivals". (Penal Code 597m)  Ergo -bloodless bullfighting without religion is a crime. Bloodless bullfighting with religion is a family outing.

Every legislative season I try to find a lawmaker willing to repeal the religious exemption as the relationship between religious practice and the activity seems tenuous at best. None are up to the challenge as there are heady constitutional arguments involved and no guaranteed kill.

Clearly, we need a college student and not a matador for this fight.

Jul 6, 2015

Protect your spcaLA donor dollars from "poachers"!

spcaLA officer to the rescue!
We are now seeing ads for an aspca event in Los Angeles and other cities. Understand that it is not connected to your spcaLA and our pets, and that your funds will go to New York. In fact, this is true anywhere in the country. They are not an umbrella organization with "chapters" anywhere, but they do poach support from the local spcas everywhere.

place your spcaLA friend for life here!
None of this would be so bad if the aspca put a meaningful disclaimer on their ads and fund raising materials so that the public would not continue to be misled. They have been repeatedly asked to do so and have refused. On the other hand HSUS, also not an umbrella organization, did the honorable thing. They have put such a disclaimer on their ads! aspca should learn from this.

What is the aspca afraid of? Is nearly 200 million dollars in the bank not enough? Is the only way they acquire donors is to fool them into thinking they are a national umbrella? Are they worried that if donors knew that they stopped investigating animal cruelty, that they payed 9.5 million dollars to Ringling Brothers in a law suit for improperly paying a witness, or that they count on this misconception to raise funds, that people will donate locally instead?

The only way to overcome this is to be informed and therefore not fooled. Perhaps asking them nicely to follow the example set by HSUS could work too - miracles do happen.

Jun 26, 2015

Stop Playing Three Card Monte With Our Pets

this is what no-kill should look like
The term "no-kill" was abandoned years ago by enlightened and legitimate organizations as it became synonymous with horrific and sometimes hoarding conditions, as well as touted  by ignorant politicians, less than savory “rescue” groups and fundraisers to assuage a concerned public that all was well with the animals. After all, it's a catchy, quick concept phrase that achieved its original purpose of sparking an aspirational dialogue which advocated that all animals able to be physically and mentally rehabilitated should be placed into homes. (Even San Francisco, the birthplace of the term ceased its’ use a decade ago.) 

this is often what no-kill looks like
Unfortunately, mayors using the term to set goals, "rescues" promising life to a heartbroken pet owner who can no longer keep a pet, or city pound struggling to reach said no kill goal, are perpetuating a major fraud on the humane, well-meaning public. (Nothing here is intended to criticize those legitimate rescue groups without whose help we would be lost.)

 A major "adoption" festival in Los Angeles, where most of the pets were simply moved to "rescues" and could well be condemned to live out their lives in agony in an airline carrier is disgraceful. These are not adoptions into loving homes but rather a Three Card Monte game with our pets. Un-vetted "rescues", often just hoarders, some who may have already been convicted of animal cruelty, may be holding your former pet in miserable cesspools of anguish while advertising and soliciting funds for their “sanctuaries”. Other "sanctuaries" are simply warehousing our pets in crates in places where they will never be seen by potential adopters and will never find a home. 

The shell game of moving pets from location to location solves nothing - except maybe soothing the collective consciences of the perpetrators and the uninformed public. I don't expect that the public be knowledgeable in the nuances and ins and outs of this business. I do expect that they be told the truth. I am also not talking about legitimate transports such as our Air Chihuahua™   program where our excess of little dogs is sent to a state with no little dogs and is greeted by a line of adopters awaiting their arrival. I am speaking of removing animals from the shelters and stashing them in the dark corners and recesses of our city.
or this - from a no-kill location

Finally, those vestigial clingers to this sham suggest they are the righteous and the rest of us are - what - pro-kill? 

It is time that we expose this for what it is and commit to treating our animals humanely, to finding them forever homes, to educate those who know not what they are saying, and to prosecute those that deceive us and harm our pets.

May 18, 2015

A Small Thank You To Our Veterans

This Memorial Day weekend (May 28th and 29th)  spcaLA will again partner with Animals for Armed Forces® to give pets to members of the military and their families at no charge.

Photo courtesy of spcaLA
Many veterans can benefit from a bona fide service dog to assist with head injury issues, and all can be helped by the therapeutic healing powers of a family pet. Unfortunately, the difficulties encountered by veterans in getting treatment for, or even recognition of their injuries, such as PTSD, have become insurmountable as we learn more each day about the ineptness of the Veterans Administration.

Why is this important today? spcaLA opened 139 years ago protecting the vulnerable in our society. Women, children and pets - were all considered property, and were all bullied by those in power. Our veterans, some who are as young as 18, are over-driven  (3 tours of duty), used and discarded and are returning home injured, traumatized, suicidal and vulnerable. They are not treated as employable or useful but rather left to be homeless, exploited by lending companies and ignored at epidemic proportions.

As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I grew up hearing of the indignities and injustices delivered to our troops instead of  the support they deserve. My father served in the Air Force on a bomber crew. His plane was shot down and they landed behind enemy lines. They miraculously reached the allied forces wounded, hungry, scared and happy to be alive. While waiting for medical attention, they were greeted by the Red Cross who offered the boys coffee and doughnuts for a charge. Yes - for money. Of course, they refused the refreshments and continue to hold a grudge against the Red Cross to this day. Upon his return stateside, my father was hailed as a hero and labeled a member of the great generation but immediately encountered the difficulties and dangers of being "helped" by the VA.

One could survive getting shot out of a plane but die waiting for a doctor.

This must not stand. I have spoken against military dogs being treated like equipment, being denied veterinary care and being left behind when their service is over. Today, I am imploring those with the doughnuts and the power to not do the same with our veterans. It is cruel and inhumane.

spcaLA will continue to do what we can to provide solace and comfort to our veterans with our dogs. We will continue our work with other military groups to pair veterans in need with service dogs. And we will continue to speak out on behalf of the vulnerable.

May 15, 2015

Step Away From the Tortoise

Spring is a time that desert tortoises awake from hibernation and search for food and mating partners. As such, they can be seen walking around, basking in the sun, grazing, drinking, and, yes, crossing the road to get to the other side. They need to replenish their water and food reserves so they can go about their business and store up food and water for next winters' slumber. Attracted to colors, they will race to flowers, plants, litter, and toes with bright pedicures expecting a fabulous treat.
Photo credit - Dustin Alpern
If you see or are approached by a hungry tortoise, do not touch, and most importantly, do not pick them up to move them. Doing so will scare them and often cause them to pee which can dehydrate them and possibly kill them if they can't find enough fluids to safely hibernate. 

Taking them home with you is especially dangerous for the tortoises as they require special care, diets, climate conditions and expert veterinarians. They can also pick up parasites, worms and other diseases detrimental to their health while also spreading diseases to others in their new environment. I can tell you from personal experience that it is awful treating a tortoise with pneumonia and other medical conditions caused by a change of address. A tortoise left alone in his or her natural habitat can live over 100 years. Unfortunately, thanks to people, their main predator, the tortoise population has been decimated to such an extent that they are legally a protected species. 

If that doesn't convince you - they bite!

Finally, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly, Fish and Game) has issued a similar warning about Western Pond Turtles -"if you care, leave them there". Though water turtles, they will come on land to bask or lay eggs and do not need rescuing.

Please-don't take anything from the wild except a picture! 

Apr 21, 2015

The Art of the Scam

Courtesy Google Images
A few days ago I did a segment for NBC4 about adoption scams. Essentially, people saw an animal on line, sent money, then more money, only to discover there was never a pet at all. As the criminals frequently insisted on the use of debit cards only, the ability to reclaim the funds through credit card intervention was impossible.

But that's not all.  The animal business is big business, and as such, is attractive to all types of human predators. Additionally, criminals are fully aware of the depth and strength of the human animal bond and will capitalize on that accordingly.

Some examples of common scams are: a person posts a Facebook entry that they need financial help in order to rescue a pet from a local shelter when their IP address is not in this country at all. Or, someone posts requesting funds for a non-existent veterinary bill for an imaginary pet, Sometimes, a fake website, designed to help an animal, or victims of a disaster, materializes, raises mega funds, and then vanishes into cyber air before people catch on.

A rescue group posts heart wrenching photos of a gravely ill pet in pain, which is kept in that condition to raise funds. Unfortunately, those funds are not used to treat or to relieve the pets' suffering. Or, a group requests needed items which rather than being used for the pets are then sold at swap meets.

Criminals, take photos of lost pet posters, contact the owner, demand a reward up front, and, of course never found your pet in the first place. A related crime is to actually take your pet and then demand ransom for his or her return.

Finally, organizations, like the aspca, though not criminals, advertise in a way that allows people to think that they are national/umbrella organizations, when in fact they are not. Donors all over the country who made that mistake often feel "taken" as well when they realize their funds do not help their local organizations.

We need to protect ourselves from our own good intentions. Adopt in person. Feel the magic of discovering a friend for life. Donate to legitimate organizations and restrain from giving to random on line posts unless you are familiar with the people involved. Run away as fast as you can when a seller will only accept debit cards. Finally, donate locally and support your community nonprofits.

Apr 8, 2015

Where Have All The Geniuses Gone?

courtesy Google images

One of the reasons life exists on this planet is water. Humans, animals, vegetables all require water to thrive. Whether one is a conscientious omnivore or vegan, one will starve without water.

Unlike some regions of the world, the United States is not water poor. So where are the geniuses?

Why can't there be a national pipeline infrastructure system, essentially a giant irrigation network, that can transport water from areas where there is flooding to areas of drought?

Where are the advances and creative uses of cloud seeding technology?

We are surrounded by oceans. Are there no desalinization plants and creative uses for brine?

Where are the ideas that I can't think of?

Penalizing people for violating mandated water use restrictions won't work. It doesn't create more water. It does require expensive law enforcement efforts and a system to adjudicate offenders. It will also fail as there is no capability to monitor how many loads of laundry one does nor how long one is in the shower. Why not use those funds to figure out how to solve the problem? 

The time for science is now. Even those who don't believe in science, or who abdicate all responsibility for climate change will get thirsty.


Mar 27, 2015

Beware of Idea Segregation

Courtesy Google images
The article describing proposed California legislation, "The Sodomite Suppression Act", submitted by an attorney which mandates that all gay people be shot in the head, was sent to me by someone who demanded that I say something and would not stop yelling until I agreed to do so. Why me? Because your spcaLA has been protecting vulnerable classes - children, women and animals since 1877, and my personal and professional paths have frequently placed me between a bully and a victim.

What can I say about this proposed law?  We are devolving into a society of ideologues, religious and secular, where idea segregation is being imposed on us all. "If you are not with us-you are against us" is shrieked from blogs, pulpits, news echo chambers and fundraising mailers. We no longer "agree to disagree" so much as plot the elimination of the enemy. I can't voice my opinion on the implementation of clowders without receiving a few threats and a notice that I am unwelcome at a particular conference. I can't address a flaw in a piece of legislation without being accused of being anti-animal protection.  Those of us who know better and can fight back successfully can simply lament over a drink the days when we talked it out or compromised. Conversely, those with no voice or means to fight back can be severely harmed and disenfranchised. The latter are often our more vulnerable members of society.

The thing is - it shouldn't matter which member of society we are. What matters is that it must be safe to disagree, safe to live a different lifestyle, and safe to practice or not practice a religion. To that end this country's promise to separate church and state must be unfailing and eternal. You may believe that your faith prohibits same sex unions. My state may neither execute you for believing that nor for practicing the opposite.

We can do something about the legislation. What do we do about the vitriol behind it? We stop taking everything personally. Just because I disagree with you doesn't mean I want you dead. We may need each other the next go 'round.

Mar 5, 2015

Ringling Bros. Failed to Train the Public to Come to the Show

Courtesy Google Images
UPDATE: Ringling announced today that it is eliminating elephant acts May of 2016 rather than 2018 citing concerns over public opinion and pesky local ordinances!

Ringling Bros. announced that they are phasing out elephant acts by 2018, Their parent company Feld Entertainment cited public concern for the welfare of elephants and this;

"...  certain cities and counties have passed "anti-circus" and "anti-elephant" ordinances. The company's three shows visit 115 cities throughout the year, and Feld said it's expensive to fight legislation in each jurisdiction. It's also difficult to plan tours amid constantly changing regulations.." (President Kenneth Feld)

We should take note that constant vigilance, intelligent opposition and local legislation can yield powerful results. We must keep this up for the benefit of the tigers, dogs and camels and other animals still asked to perform extreme acts for our entertainment. I would also urge close monitoring of their Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida where their elephants are housed.

Until all the animals are unshackled and released from the forced travel, training and dystopian existence we must watch, speak and legislate their freedom.

The public won't be “bull hooked” into buying tickets.

Jan 28, 2015

Animal People Are Not Humorless

Courtesy Google Images
There was a great rage and fuss raised over a GoDaddy Super Bowl ad involving the selling of a puppy on line. GoDaddy responded by pulling the ad and assuring the public that the dog was adopted by a member of the GoDaddy team.

What disturbed me was the other reaction by the public that animal people are humorless.

I can say that is not true of me and most of my colleagues. It is my undying belief that, unless there is actual harm or criminal activity, everyone has a right to be offensive, write stupid copy and voice their opinions. We have the power to not watch, not buy and not vote for the proponents of those ideas and things we don't like.

Most of us are not humorless ideologues. To those who are or who can't separate the make believe from the real I say this: Beware of advocating content based censorship in regard to things you don't like, as someone else will censor the things you do like.

So, laugh, enjoy, and be glad you are not the person responsible for that ad!

Jan 21, 2015

The City of Los Angeles considering Increasing Cat Pet Limits and Permitting Clowders

The City of Los Angeles is thinking of raising its cat limit law from 3 to 20+ cats per household. The proposal suggests that if a person owns 1 to 3 cats, the cats may be indoor or outdoor, but outdoor only if altered. Additional cats, or the cats in a registered private “clowder”, must be kept indoors with no requirement for sterilization. It is possible for even more cats to be kept, if those cats are foster cats rather than owned. What could possibly go wrong here?

The proposal in its current form is poorly constructed. It allows owned cats to roam at their peril or potentially end up back in the shelter using valuable space and resources. It allows breeding at a time when the overpopulation of cats is at crisis levels. It potentially allows the suffering of cats in ill equipped “clowders” who may not get help but for an annual inspection or cruelty complaint. Its analysis of the hoarding and foster care components is deficient.

spcaLA's position is that one abused pet in a home is one too many, and fifty well cared for pets in a home is fine. It is however, traditional for government animal control agencies to arbitrarily limit the number of pets in a household in the name of public safety, health, welfare, and nuisance control. Such limits also aid in the prevention, management and prosecution of animal hoarders.

The pet limit number varies from community to community, with, neither a nexus between the existence of a limit and a stated result, nor, a nexus between particular numbers to the same. In other words, the presence of this restriction does not deter animal neglect, unsanitary conditions, bites and bugs, and there is no magic limit number that has been found to effectuate a positive outcome. One noisy dog can wake up neighbors, and one stinky cat can smell up an apartment floor while eight well behaved dogs and five clean cats present no problem, notwithstanding a potential violation of a limit law.

The reality is that limit laws do not produce more capable pet owners and do not deter irresponsible pet owners. There are those who should not be allowed to have even one pet, yet they can have three, five or, soon in Los Angeles 20+. Conversely, such laws can prevent law abiding citizens from offering a good home to a needy pet, can penalize a person who properly cares for pets and is mindful of neighbors, and can leave more animals in shelters and pounds.

Therefore, if Los Angeles wants to try this increase they should do so in a way that is easy to enforce and does not contribute to the breeding of more cats. Accordingly, the following must occur:

1.     All cats must be sterilized.
2.     All cats must have identification.
3.     All cats must remain inside or in supervised/protected outdoor areas.
4.     Foster cats are not owned pets and need not be counted and treated as such, but must be documented and efficiently tracked by the City. Foster cats should and would not be housed with owned cats in a proper foster setting.

5.      The risk of hoarding need not be minimized. The City cites the “number of busts” as minimal and therefore not a factor. The truth is that the hoarding problem is epidemic. We try to work with the person to alleviate the situation and reserve the “bust” as a measure of last resort. Accordingly, the number of arrests is significantly fewer than the number of hoarding situations and is not illustrative of the problem.

6.     The idea that the “clowder” fees will cover inspections without factoring in the increased calls resulting from mismanagement or nuisance complaints, is and will be a costly mistake. (A full blown hoarder investigation and prosecution will surely use up all the fees.)  

I have respectfully requested that the City Council consider this decision carefully and that they keep the best interests of our cats and community in mind.