A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 3, 2017

The Horrible Fate of Turntle the Turtle - A Warning

Courtesy Google Images
The latest innocent victim of a feud is a turtle named Turntle.

Turntle had his shell ripped from his body, allegedly by two or three Florida State football players who broke into a fraternity house to settle a score. The residents of the house awoke to celebration activity coming from the first floor and found football players Ricky Aquayo, Ryan Izzo and a third person "Shane" dancing around and holding the dead Turntle whose shell had been torn of his body. How very brave of these big athletic football players to challenge a turtle to a grudge match rather than the fraternity members.

What is also disturbing is the abdication of the prosecutor to prosecute these cowards. The decision of the fraternity brothers not to press charges is not binding on the prosecutor. The prosecutor's excuse that they couldn't prosecute because they didn't know who actually killed Turntle is gibberish, shameful and lazy. There were three people there who, in concert conspired to kill Turntle. I am sure that statements were made on scene, that there was biologic and other forensic evidence there, perhaps planning conversations in front of other witnesses before the trio left for the fraternity house, all of which could constitute a strong circumstantial case to achieve justice for Turntle and obtain counseling for the perpetrators.

Tearing apart a turtle is pretty violent and callous behavior to say the least, and does not augur well for the future of these young men.

That said, how often we have seen parents, on television, cry into the camera that they had no idea that their son or daughter could be capable of committing a violent crime against a person or persons.

To the parents of these young men I say - here is your warning sign. Get them help now.

Margaret Mead said "One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture and animal and get away with it."

I suspect that the Turntle horror was not the first clue of trouble.

Nov 21, 2017

The Season for Giving and Thieving

Courtesy Wikimedia commons
Holidays, disasters, tragedies and social causes bring out the best and the worst in us. It is as common as dirt for con artists to pretend to be charities, to fake a sick children and to concoct a variety of tall tales in order to steal funds from an extremely well-meaning and philanthropic citizenry. Yes, stealing. Obtaining funds by misrepresentation and false pretenses is larceny. That said, it is also not uncommon for legitimate charities to behave badly and misrepresent material facts to secure donations that should go elsewhere or for another use. Charitable scamming is so prevalent that this year the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office issued a "Fraud Alert" specific to the animal rescue industry among the variety of alerts issued in other industries.

The  California State Attorney General has a Department dedicated to the regulation of, and, if needed, the shutting down of fraudulent charities which also includes a consumer friendly search tool that anyone can use to research a charity that is registered and/or fundraising in California. It is also important to protect yourselves and use the available tools to check the legitimacy of an organization, to ensure that the programs important to you are occurring, and where, why and how funds are used before donating. If you send funds to an organization in New York believing that they are an umbrella organization for spcas everywhere, and expect that local animals will be assisted, you would be wrong. Donating locally is recommended as you can visit and see your charity in action. Funds sent for hurricane victims, wounded warriors, disease research and anything else must go to those efforts and doing the proper research before investing will help achieve that.

This holiday season is the last one in California where predatory "lease to own" financing (analogous to subprime mortgage loans) for dogs and cats will be legal. Very simply, if a pet dealer offers an installment plan to pay for a dog, that plan might, in fact, be a lease where a huge balloon payment is due after the lease period in order for you to keep the dog. In other words, despite what you think, you didn't buy the dog. This "payment plan" can be catastrophic for a variety of reasons from having your pet repossessed to ruining your credit rating. As of January 1, 2018 this type of transaction will no longer be legal in California, but is legal right now.

The bottom line is that the world is a better place because we care about vulnerable classes and are willing to do something about it.  As such, there are always those willing to exploit our generosity and run a scam for their own benefit. Let's be more vigilant about this so those that need our help, get it.

Let's make sure that this holiday season we give to those in need rather than to those who thieve.

Nov 10, 2017

Do More than Just Say Thank You This Veterans Day

I was dealing with a project today involving multiple players with diverse views and a fair amount of baggage, when it was suggested by one that further discussion should occur away from the group, privately, although the matter concerned the entire group. Usually, this happens when someone is disagreed with and doesn’t want everyone to see that, or worse, he or she senses dissent and is forming an “enemy camp”. I began thinking that this behavior has become common from the heights of government power, to the television networks and often when religious or social issues are involved. It helps not the world at large and surely not our animals and vulnerable classes as it is a form of discourse that accomplishes nothing but petty score setting with the stated goal becoming an excuse for a fight rather than an achievement.

Trying to force people to stop sharing opinions publicly, whether via a list serve, news program, schoolroom or Twitter should shock our collective conscience. We can all choose to agree or not, participate on a list serve or not, watch a program or not, donate, tweet, protest or not. We can participate in any project or not.  We cannot, ever, shut each other up.

On this Veterans Day I ask all of you to stop trying to hide comments that you disagree with, stop trying to silence the dissemination of information that you don’t want to hear, and honor the freedoms that we have that allow us to both brawl and hug in public. These are the freedoms for which our veterans fought, and continue to sacrifice their time, health and lives. Saying “thank you for your service” or “our prayers are with you” is a nice easy social conceit that honors them not at all if we squander our freedoms and their valiant efforts to protect them.

Nov 6, 2017

Time to Speak Truth to Power - Words Matter

The term "no-kill" has been abandoned and seriously debunked by legitimate animal welfare professionals. My prior article "No-Kill does not Mean No Death" discusses the inherent divisiveness, misdirection, dishonesty and cruelty suborned by this characterization, as well as the appropriation and pollution by irrational ideologues of the original and noble aspiration of the concept, which is that no adoptable pet should be put to sleep simply for lack of time and space. The further aim was to also

rehabilitate those pets that could be made adoptable as well. This is actually what reputable shelters and rescue associations do! The term continues to survive because it connotes something quickly and graphically to the public. By public, I refer to the reasonable citizen consumer and not to the politician who knows better but silently stares guiltily at his shoes while demanding the achievement of arbitrary no kill goal by a set time. Such a politician prefers to be lied to rather than demand the transparency and honesty to which the public is entitled.

It is interesting that when you talk to said consumer and ask her expectations of an animal shelter, she will tell you clean, humane, safe, honest, reliable and committed to social responsibility and public safety - not inconsistent with what we all already practice. She further will tell you that she does not expect the experts, (us) to ever give her, a non-expert, either an unsafe pet (animal or people aggressive), or a sick pet without full disclosure of these conditions. Finally, she thinks that both dogs and cats, in fact any animal lost or hurt, deserves the safe harbor promised by government animal control centers. She thinks that no animal that is adoptable or could be made so should be killed while understanding the heartbreaking realities of pet overpopulation.

What is crystal clear, is that the animal welfare professionals, members of the public, and the legitimate no-kill followers all concur that it is the moral, ethical, and socially responsible thing to treat the animals both inside and outside the shelter with care, and to be honest, transparent to, and mindful of the safety of the consumer. Additionally, behaving responsibly promotes and reinforces the belief that adopting from any of these sources is safe - a desire we all share.

Only the pathological ideologues and the politicians are outliers. To that end, these outliers will sanitize the records to hide prior bites or medical issues. Not only is this dangerous to the new adopter, but, if you allege to love animals what about the dog ripped apart on the street by this newly "sanitized" family pet? Do we not care about that dog? These outliers will even mask the breed name to trick an unsuspecting or perhaps first time dog adopter.  Of course, we can't be responsible for guessing with certainty the breeds of shelter dogs or represent that because they physically resemble a specific breed we can predict behavior and temperament consistent with that breed. But we can explain and educate that reality. What we cannot say is that a dog is a "brown male dog" to try to push a bully breed on someone who doesn't want one or doesn't know what he is looking at. Does this inspire confidence in the system?

These extreme ideologues will force an animal to suffer mercilessly, maintain them in hoarding conditions, and deprive them of any quality of life to feed their contorted statistics. They will even treat cats like squirrels i.e. another species of wildlife to reduce shelter intake.  All of this creative writing is intended to manipulate and produce illusory no kill statistics. The consumer neither expects, nor condones this once the truth is revealed. Do you think she would return to another animal shelter after learning this? How does this help us convince people to adopt rather than to purchase pets and actually achieve the desired goal of not leaving an adoptable animal behind?

It is time that the legitimate and responsible animal welfare professionals unite behind a better, honest and more realistic collective vision. Socially responsible and humane behavior towards animals and the public we serve rather than sustaining antiquated yet lingering no-kill dividing lines. Protecting animals from people and people from animals are both critical parts of our responsibility.

I am asking that we, as an industry shed this itchy, divisive and inflamed skin of the ideologues, and emerge with a new uniting, truthful characterization and message of "engaging in progressive and socially responsible animal management", something that most of us and our public already agree upon, expect and should have.

Let us turn this fiction into truth. What say you?


Sep 18, 2017

California's Foie Gras Ban Reinstated by US Ct. of Appeals!

Courtesy google images
In 2004 a law was passed in California that would ban foie gras if the pate was made from force feeding the birds or obtained by a company that treated the birds that way. The effective date of law was delayed almost 8 years to allow producers the time to convert to a humane method of feeding the birds.

On the eve of July 1st 2012, the day the ban would become law, the litigation began, unsuccessfully, to seek to overturn it. Foie gras was off the menu. In 2015 the ban was defeated on the theory that it was preempted by federal law which would prohibit states from imposing "ingredient requirements" that differed from or added to the federal regulations. Foie gras has been on the menu again since then.

The United States Court of Appeals, finding no violation of federal law, has just reversed the lower court and reinstated the ban finding that there is no ingredient issue regarding the liver, but rather, the issue is how the birds are treated while they are alive!

This ruling will not take effect in order to allow the exhaustion of the appellate process, but it is certainly directionally correct!

Foie gras is already banned in other countries such as Argentina, Israel, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Italy, and Prince Charles has banned it from all his events. Let's hope we can keep the momentum up....

Aug 23, 2017

Is roadkill cuisine on the menu?

If you have ever hosted a dinner party or planned an event, you know that food issues can make you crazy. Besides allergies, gluten, special diets as in Paleo, Mediterranean, and unique eccentricities, vegetarians, vegans, and flexitarians must not be permitted to leave hungry.

Now, there is a trend toward legalizing the procurement and the eating of road kill. Newsweek  is reporting that about 20 states allow this with Oregon joining that club this year. Arguments in favor of this practice tout the millions of animals left on the side of the road each year that could feed hungry people for free, or for a cost of a permit, point out that these animals are grass fed, free of antibiotics and hormones, and are not subject to the horrific conditions of factory farms.  

Arguably, if you don't eat food that is a product of a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) for humane reasons, roadkill is considered a good option. If you believe that people should not eat animals at all, this new source of meat won't affect you.

Before you run off to harvest a deer or a rattlesnake for dinner, you must check the laws in your state as they differ substantially. I would also check with a gastroenterologist near you!

Is it okay to ask your host if they are serving roadkill before accepting a dinner invitation? Etiquette experts?

Jul 24, 2017

"No-Kill" does not mean no death - It's often worse

A puppy is born with a swollen head and no chance of survival as so decreed by a veterinarian. Because the shelter alleges that it is "no-kill", a shelter employee, a "no-kill" ideologue, insists on fostering the puppy with hopes that he will be all right. This employee has no medical knowledge or ability to soothe this baby as there is no treatment for the condition and his system is too frail to survive pain killers. The puppy, however, is suffering horribly. He screams when touched and his breathing is labored. The zealot, bathed in self-righteous glory, watches the puppy die slowly, unable to touch him, for 15 tortuous hours, proud to worship at the "no-kill" ideology altar. The employee returns the little body to the shelter, where his death is classified as "died in care", or lack thereof, rather than "humanely euthanized".

"Died in care" has become the new statistical catch-all for permitting animals to suffer in agony and die while perpetuating the lie that the euthanasia rate is low or non-existent. In other words, if cages are overloaded and animals kill each other, if animals are allowed to die like this puppy, if animals are given to hoarders or incompetent/fake rescues in an endless game of three card monte where they live for years cramped into feces filled airline crates, the shelter administration can statistically present the shelter to the public as "no-kill", thus turning their back on the suffering thereby condemning these pets to a fate worse than death. It is shameful, cruel and conscience shocking.

Of course, the politicians want the lie and demand to be lied to, psychopathic fanatics monetize their no kill behavior to fund themselves and shame others, and the public begins to believe that all is well with the world while also withdrawing support from shelters who won't play this game, classifying them as pro-kill. Shelters themselves have become the hoarders and as such can neither prosecute a hoarder who they continue to supply with animals nor rescue animals from harm because of lack of space.

It is quite clear what the result of this diplo-feculence means. Our pets our being victimized both by animal abusers and those charged with protecting them. How would you feel if your pet ended up grieving and pain ridden in an environment like this? How can the same person claim to be an advocate for life while compliant in such misery and anguish?

I, for one, am sick of this. We need to expose this for what it is and stop the enabling.

Jun 30, 2017

Declare independence from FRAUD this 4th!

The July 4th holidays often result in an increase of pets, disoriented and scared by fireworks, becoming lost on the streets and hopefully ending up safely in a shelter. It is also an opportunity for FAKE RESCUES to pick up these pets and deprive both the pets and their humans of a happy reunion. I am already seeing Facebook posts of found pets, some with unregistered microchips begging for funds - for what - to help them with these pets - to do what?

Don't enable this crime by donating, thereby making you a crime victim of fraud as well.

If you find a loose pet it is the law to turn that pet into a shelter unless you have an arrangement of notifying and sending photos to your shelter in lieu of actually relinquishing the pet. This is so the pets' family, who could one day be you, can find him or her.

The existence of an unregistered microchip or lack of a tag does not mean the pet has no family who is frantically searching but rather could mean that the dog got out of his home where he does not wear his collar or is a new pet whose chip has not been registered, or a new owner does not know there is a chip, or someone did not fully understand the way the chips work. The bottom line is that these nefarious "rescuers" might be holding your dog, in substandard conditions, and by violating the law deprives you of an ability to find him. They are not well meaning people but rather con artists who use your pet to raise funds for themselves.

The problem is so bad that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office issued a FRAUD ALERT about these scammers. They raise funds ostensibly to help care for a pet or to help a shelter care for the pet. Neither is true. The funds are their income!

The best thing that you can do is to safeguard your pets as best as you can, report those you discover on social media to local law enforcement, the IRS and your state Attorney General, and spread the word about this situation that can condemn a pet to cruel treatment, deprive both pet and family of each other, and steal precious funds that are much needed to protect animals. Also - check with your local authorities before donating to determine the legitimacy of the group. Don't enable these criminals.

Finally, in the internet world in which we live, impulse donations to a Facebook post creates many victims - a pet who truly needs help, a shelter whose survival depends on donations, a family who will never see their pet again, and YOU. 

Jun 9, 2017

FRAUD ALERT issued by LA County District Attorney re animal rescues

Courtesy LA County DA
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office issued a FRAUD ALERT warning people of predators trying to scam well-meaning consumers of funds to the detriment of animals in real need and legitimate charities who need those funds to help animal victims. These predators and fake rescues exploit benevolent citizens by stealing funds, lying about a need and, in some cases pretending to be a legitimate charity. We saw an example recently when a KCBS investigative report exposed a rescue who advertised as but was not a legally compliant charity.

The District Attorney's FRAUD ALERT says in part: (Click on the words FRAUD ALERT above for the entire alert and video.)

"The image of a sad puppy in a cage at a shelter will inspire many animal lovers to donate money to rescue organizations but scammers may be preying on their compassion.
In the animal shelter scam, crooks will post pictures of the animals with false information about “high kill” shelters and imminent death unless they immediately receive money to rescue the pets.
Consumers may be contacted on social media, email, phone or U.S. mail seeking donations to rescue an animal.  In one common scam, fraudsters post old pictures of animals or that are not in our region or local shelters and indicate they are legitimate charities when they are not. 
The money raised by scammers doesn’t go to the care of the animal, sheltering agencies or to the adopting party or organization." 

It is always a wise idea to check before you donate as even legitimate charities can mislead or not actually provide the services that you want to fund. Or, as you know, many donate to the New York aspca thinking that they are an umbrella organization that is connected to your local spca which is not at all the case. Finally, in the internet world in which we live, impulse donations to a Facebook post might create at least 3 victims - a pet who truly needs help, a shelter whose survival depends on donations, and YOU. 

May 17, 2017

Largest Cockfighting Bust in U.S. History

Over 7000 fighting birds, paraphernalia and other related items were seized in what is purported to be the largest cockfighting bust in U.S. history.

Spearheaded by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Blood Sports Unit, spcaLA elite Humane Officers, Los Angeles County Animal Control officers and helping hands from hsus volunteers entered a property in Val Verde which hosted the birds, mobile fighting arenas and other combat accessories. There was an excess of 100 deputies on the scene along with support personnel, such as crime lab experts, veterinary support, and over 100 other people provided by the involved organizations to assist in this massive raid.

It is spectacular to see this level of commitment from law enforcement here in Los Angeles as there is a recognition that these crimes never exist in a vacuum, often involve minor children as spectators, and is an absolute painful, cruel and often fatal experience for the birds. Additionally, the sheriff's department took extra steps and planned to make sure that numerous loose dogs on the property, used to guard the birds would be handled gently and without the need of lethal force. To that end, spcaLA officers entered in the lead with the first team to ensure that neither humans nor dogs would be harmed as a result of this criminal operation. The plan worked beautifully, and all officers could then turn their attention to collecting evidence and processing the crime scene.

I would just ask you to believe me when I say that this type of enlightenment and commitment to crimes against animals is special and not typical either in California or in other states.

Congratulations to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Blood Sports Unit!

May 1, 2017

Fakers, Frauds and "Fonies" Oh my ...

UPDATE: California Attorney General issued Cease and Desist order to Saving Spot. They are also prohibited from reincorporating under a different name. They are no longer in operation.

KCBS news investigative reporter David Goldstein did an expose on a "fake animal rescue charity". In the piece, we learn that the "rescue" Saving Spot is advertising as a charity, soliciting donations and advising people that the 450 dollar price tag for a dog was deductible. Upon further investigation it is revealed that it is not true, and that their charitable status was actually suspended due to noncompliance. More alarming was the fact that in Los Angeles, 29 out of 66 "rescues" were also not proper nonprofit charities who were likewise soliciting funds.

Fake charities, fake net-workers and fake internet fund raising pleas have sprung up in epidemic proportions and capitalize on the kindness of human beings who want to help. Some may even be in cahoots with backyard breeders or puppy mills.

Make no mistake. It is a crime to take funds under false pretenses. Worse, it takes funds away from legitimate shelters, and those, both private and nonprofit entities that are in compliance with the law.

It is bad enough that there are real charities that don't act very charitable or, as in the case of the aspca (New York's spca) a real charity that refuses to correct the misimpression that they are a national umbrella organization thereby receiving funds from those who believe that it will be distributed locally, we now have to deal with outright frauds, all of whom are taking food out of the mouths of animals residing in shelters who need financial support. Some of these "rescue net-workers" simply use a public picture of a shelter dog and raise funds on line to care for him or her. In other words, your 5 or 20 dollar donation on Facebook is supporting a person who doesn't even have an animal.

Please, don't just give funds without checking, don't just buy a dog believing that you are helping a rescue when you might be purchasing a dog from a breeder, and please, donate locally so you can see your donor dollars at work.

This is just the beginning of this story. Stay tuned and stay smart!

Apr 24, 2017

Call to Action: Los Angeles City Council Vote to Ban Exotics in Entertainment and House Parties

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

On April 25 Los Angeles City Council will vote on a proposal File No. 16-1357 to prohibit the exhibition of wild or exotic animals for entertainment or amusement, including circuses, other wild or exotic animal shows, and rentals for house parties

Animals don't magically appear at theaters, festivals, and fairs. They spend most of their time cooped up, sometimes chained, traveling in trains, trucks and the like. When they are not performing or rehearsing, they are also confined, often in minimal spaces for efficiency, ease of transport and cost concerns. When they are "on", they are contorting themselves and performing unnatural acts for our amusement. These animals are stressed, ill-used, and, as such develop health and behavioral issues often resulting in more confining and training "corrections". This is no life for these exotics and should be an unacceptable form of entertainment for a civilized society.

Can our children grow to be fine adults without witnessing this? I surely hope so. Make no mistake. It is not magic. These animals aren't born wanting to perform those tricks. They are forced, hurt, bullied and can't call for help. They have no choice.

To do this is not living up to our potential nor commensurate with a humane and empathetic society. We must rethink this for the future of our planet and for any chance at raising compassionate and empathetic children. We do have a choice and should mentor, and teach a more compassionate life style.

I urge you to respectfully contact your councilperson and urge them to vote "aye".

Thank you - see the contact information for your councilperson below:

Gilbert Cedillo – District 1 (Northeast Los Angeles including Highland Park, Echo Park and Chinatown)
Email: councilmember.cedillo@lacity.org
Phone: 213-473-7001
Paul Krekorian – District 2 (SF Valley including North Hollywood, Studio City and Van Nuys)
Email: Paul councilmember.Krekorian@lacity.org
Phone: 213-473-7002
Bob Blumenfield – District 3 (SF Valley including Woodland Hills, Tarzana and Canoga Park)
Email: councilmember.blumenfield@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7003
David E. Ryu – District 4 (ordinance sponsor) (Central Los Angeles including Hollywood, Koreatown and Los Feliz)
Email: david.ryu@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7004
Paul Koretz – District 5 (Westside including Westwood, Palms and Bel Air)
Email: paul.koretz@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7005
Nury Martinez – District 6 (SF Valley including Sun Valley, Van Nuys & Lake Balboa)
Email: councilmember.martinez@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7006
District 7 – Vacant
Marqueece Harris-Dawson – District 8 (Western-South Los Angeles including Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw and West Adams)
Email: councilmember.harris-dawson@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7008
Curren D. Price, Jr. – District 9 (DTLA & South Los Angeles)
Email: councilmember.price@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7009
Herb J. Wesson, Jr. – District 10 (Central Los Angeles including Mid-City, Koreatown, and Wilshire Center)
Email: councilmember.wesson@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7010
Mike Bonin – District 11 (Westside including Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, and West Los Angeles)
Email: councilmember.bonin@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7011
Mitchell Englander – District 12 (Northwest SF Valley including Northridge, Granada Hills and West Hills)
Email: councilmember.englander@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7012
Mitch O’Farrell – District 13 (Central Los Angeles including Silverlake, Atwater Village and Westlake)
Email: councilmember.ofarrell@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7013
Jose Huizer – District 14 (Northeast Los Angeles including Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock and Glassell Park)
Email: councilmember.huizar@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7014
Joe Buscaino – District 15 (Port of LA, San Pedro and Harbor City)
Email: councilmember.buscaino@lacity.org
Phone: 213- 473-7015

Apr 19, 2017

Face reality instead of facing off against Facebook

courtesy google images

Use extreme caution before taxing Facebook with a moral responsibility to censor its content, be it offensive or otherwise. 

Facebook content is frequently the only evidence that a crime has been committed, is the window for now millions of eye witnesses, and is a treasure trove of forensic evidence. In fact, the worst thing you can do when you see a crime on Facebook is to report it to Facebook, because they take it down and it's gone. The best thing to do is to report it to law enforcement which allows the page to be preserved before it's taken down thus saving the evidence of the crime and its attendant forensics. spcaLA frequently is involved in this arena as animal cruelty is often live streamed or posted on that site.

Blaming Facebook for the content is like blaming Major League Baseball for giving out bats on Bat Day. It's not the bat or the event that is problematic, but rather the idiot that hits someone with said bat that needs dealing with. Crimes, by choice, are typically committed in secret unless the criminal is narcissistic, bragging, or feels invisible on the internet. Many "he said she said" crimes streamed by a victim or third party would never be prosecuted were it not for Facebook evidence. What is the difference between watching the crime on Facebook or a gruesome cell phone video played on the news in an endless loop. The answer is, again, censorship responsibility. The editors in a newsroom decide what we should see and how often rather than us. We should not be choosing our censors, we should be using the information to right a wrong.

I don't want any misguided puritanical ideologue, self-righteous editor, or a questionably virtuous CEO telling me what I can and cannot see and deciding when to protect my sensibilities from unpleasant things. 

Don't be fooled by the "oh my god the children" argument either.  They see everything now whether it's on the internet, television or in video games. It is up to us to mentor and actively instill in them a moral core and help them develop critical thinking skills from day one. Whether they just saw a crazed murder or a police officer shoot someone through a car window, they will have questions and deserve the respect of answers and respectful dialogue so they can become discerning individuals.

Picking on Facebook is the proverbial slippery slope problem. Would you prefer seeing only rainbows and unicorns while permitting bad actors to remain at large, and the hiding of unpleasant images, or using our technology to face the truth and deal with it?

Finally, asking Facebook to immediately preserve and forward such posts to the authorities would be useful. Asking them to destroy the evidence would be the real crime here. 

Apr 5, 2017

Family pet gunned down by Garden Grove Police - Call for Video

Inaugural Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement Class
in Hawthorne 2015-Google Images/Daily Breeze
Once again a family pet was gunned down.   

Yesterday, March 29th a Garden Grove police officer shot and killed Jax, a 2-year-old Pit Bull Terrier, the family pet of Steve Pudiquet, while they were at his residence executing a search warrant for illegal drugs.

They knew in advance that there would be a dog, Jax, on the scene and brought a fire extinguisher and catch pole with them to handle him. 

First, despite the fact that some self-proclaimed experts suggest a fire extinguisher in this instance, most real experts disagree. Spraying the dog often enrages him and could cause him to race, blinded by the chemicals, in all directions, out of control, and endanger all in the vicinity including passersby. Frequently, the officers spray and blind each other instead. More important, this could set up a need to use lethal force not present at the outset.

Second, a catch pole requires a lot of training and constant practice to use effectively. 

Third, just as you would not send officers to a drug raid with only one or two guns to share, sending a group with one tool does not help the other officers at the scene should they need to defend themselves. Training ALL officers in appropriate canine threat assessment and adapting a command presence that is more appropriate for dogs is essential for them to minimize the need for lethal force. 

There is a POST certified course, offered by spcaLA that does just that.  “Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement.” was developed specifically with law enforcement in mind, and offers real-life scenarios to meet the needs of officers. “Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement” is certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) which gives participants continuing education credits for course completion. The course is reinforced with the most current and credible information available from an array of recognized, respected leaders in animal science fields.

The Garden Grove police department needs to enroll.

There are questions here that need answering.  

Why did they not ask our humane officers or animal control officers to accompany them for the sole purpose of expertly handling the dog? They had the luxury of time to plan as this was a warrant execution unlike a surprise encounter. A bad plan doesn't count.

Did one officer shoot five times or did five officers shoot once? Approximately five bullets were shot into the dog. Shooting that many shots is a threat to the public and each other as they can miss or the bullets can ricochet and wound an innocent bystander of another officer. A bullet might also injure the dog but not stop him from becoming angry and more dangerous. When they retrieve the bullets during the necropsy we will know the answer to this question.

There are times that an officer must use lethal force to protect him or herself. Nobody is quarreling with that. Where the officers find themselves criminally and civilly liable is when the justification for lethal force is not present. When this happens an otherwise righteous law enforcement action becomes a payday for a criminal and everyone suffers. Hence my last question - why don't they help themselves?

If anyone out there has video of the actual shooting event please send it to us at info@spcaLA.com. We would love to analyze it and incorporated into the training class.

 Pet lives matter.

Mar 9, 2017

Healthy Communities - We Must Support our LOCAL Charities

I was watching an interview with Thomas Friedman who was advocating the concept of "healthy communities". Essentially he articulated the fact that life was moving too fast for single families to anchor themselves securely against the winds of change, and that governments are too slow to turn on a dime and help. The solution, he posits, is to focus on the local level, where there is more nimbleness to adapt to changes, and develop "healthy communities".  Additionally, it is your fellow neighbors that know who needs the help from jobs to services. It is the local nonprofits that know where those who fell between the cracks of the government and for-profit sectors lie suffering, and can respond. As local communities respond and become healthy, the nation benefits

I agree. It starts with the power of one. If I am strong and solvent I can care for another. Then we two can help a third and so on. We can then hire one who needs a job, shop in a local store and build up our neighborhood so that it is strong and able to thrive. Strong neighborhoods are the foundations of strong cities and so on and so forth.

Let us add local charities to the mix.  The resources, new jobs, services and aid to our vulnerable constituents, including animals, will boost the local economy and quality of life, thus strengthening the community’s ability to prosper. As an auxiliary benefit one can actually visit the charity, participate in the effort, and confirm that the funds are actually benefiting the area rather than merely assuming so. For example, the aspca, the New York City spca, is not an umbrella organization which funnels funds to other spcas by zip code. spcas throughout the country are individual legal entities and not chapters of the aspca. Yet aspca spends tens of millions of dollars annually on television and other fundraising outlets which omit that significant fact. Donating to your local charities keeps the funds local and helps build "healthy communities" for all.

Finally, many local charities are now shuttered having fallen victim to the slow growing economy, foreclosures, unemployment, and increased operating costs. Yet, the need for our services is greater because of those same reasons. Ironically, we have to figure out how to serve more with less. What if we're not there? Neither, the government nor those behemoth fundraising organizations have the agility or ability to identify, locate, adjust and provide aid with the alacrity needed to help those in need, when they need it.

Let us heed Thomas Friedman - vote, shop locally, care, volunteer, donate locally, and let's build "healthy communities" for the good of us all. His theory is by doing so, everyone will be connected, protected and respected. Imagine that. Imagine the hope for our planet should that come to pass.

Feb 8, 2017

Kakistocrats Scrub Animal Welfare Inspections and Reports

courtesy google images
A kakistocracy is defined as "government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens".  We are experiencing a systematic scrubbing, deleting, and shredding of all sorts of data from climate science, law enforcement training to homeland security documents. Now, USDA animal welfare inspection records and reports have also been removed from the relevant websites. According to the government, this serial hiding of information was necessary to create transparency!

The government maintains that all this information can be obtained easily through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Any member of the public or consumer who has requested information this way knows that the process could take forever, the material, if produced, may be heavily redacted, or the information is simply not found. The latter is certainly likely if the records are deleted and destroyed!

Anyone interested in animal welfare, in eating food, or in attending an exhibit involving animals could check these sites to see inspection reports. Those of us in law enforcement use that information to inform state violations, assess patterns of mistreatment and to propose legislation. Conversely, those bodies regulated by USDA could use the same information to rebut unsubstantiated claims of cruelty and malfeasance by unscrupulous entities.

This is not a move towards transparency, but it is rather the building of a wall that we will pay for dearly. This includes those special interest groups that like this now, but will not later, when the worm turns. 

The kakistocracy are public servants who are employed by us and who must show us their work product. We must demand this and make it so.

spcaLA urges all those who would see animals provided basic care to contact their elected officials and insist that the USDA reports be restored.


Jan 30, 2017

Alaska is First State to Consider Well Being of Pets in Divorce Proceedings

Animals are legally considered property despite the fact that said designation often feels weird. It feels weird because both the humans and the animals can feel love, can hurt, can grieve and can suffer. No matter how much you love your car, your car can neither love you back nor suffer if you don't gas it up.

The courts and legislators struggle with this all the time as there is a universal recognition that animals are a unique form of property. Hence, animal welfare laws prohibit humans from treating their pets poorly and can actually prohibit some offenders from having pets at all. California was an early adopter of a set of statutes that permitted pets to be listed on restraining orders in cases of domestic violence. This was revolutionary at the time as doing so was akin to ordering someone to remain 100 yards from a stereo!

Alaska is the first state to go even further and now requires that in divorce proceedings judges may decide the issue of custody of the pets based upon "the well-being of the animal" rather than merely looking at who purchased the pet as one might look at a house or furniture. In other words, courts may analyze pet custody issues in an analogous manner to child custody disputes in that single or joint custody will be awarded based on the pet's needs rather than those of the humans.

Like infants, pets can't testify as to their preferences. I bet there will be some interesting witnesses and other evidentiary offerings to help the judge determine the issue and make a just and righteous call.

Stay tuned ....

Jan 17, 2017

The Final Curtain to Fall on Ringling Brothers After 146 years

courtesy Google Images
Ringling Brothers is finally closing the circus  after 146 years.

Henry Bergh, the founder of spcaLA (1877) was reputed to be seen frequently fighting with P.T.Barnum on the streets of New York City in order to persuade him that such a use of animals was shameful and immoral. If you do the math you can see that the use of animals in entertainment has been a core issue for as long as we have opened our doors.

For me, it's also personal. The first day of my first animal welfare job ever, required me to go to Madison Square Garden to check on a unicorn that was premiering in the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily circus. I was horrified to see that the unicorn was a goat with a horn surgically implanted in her skull. Of course, we were outraged that it wasn't enough that circus animals already had to endure travel hardships, harsh training practices, abnormal environments and extreme stress, but it appeared that surgically transforming animals to look like something else was not off the table. It made me very sad as it pulled the curtain back and forever altered my very positive childhood memories of my father, in a suit, taking my brothers and me, all dressed up, to see the animals and swing our little red circus flashlights as elephants marched and trapeze artists flew. 

Ringling cited poor attendance, bullhook bans, elephant bans and animal activists as the reasons for their decision. I say, that we all evolved, community standards changed and that we collectively agreed that magic and illusions are fun as long as the man behind the curtain is not actually beating an animal or any living being to create the effect.

I would like to thank my colleagues for their persistence in this matter and, yes, also Ringling Brothers for finally doing the right and humane thing.