A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Apr 26, 2021

Not to be Morbid - but What if our Pets Outlive Us?

 Not to be morbid - but what if we outlive our pets?

Pets are part of the family, and, can be addressed in an estate plan.  California recognizes the unusual status of pets, as beyond their legal designation as property, by permitting them to be beneficiaries of a trust and cared for should the owner die or become incapacitated.  An estate planning attorney will be able to analyze your needs and advise you accordingly. I ask only that you think this through so that your pets are protected and that you have peace of mind.

spcaLA has a pet re-homing program into which you can enroll in advance and leave your pets to us through your will or trust. There are similar programs around the country. If you are leaving your pets to a sanctuary, where your pet will live out his or her life, please investigate first to ensure that your pet will have a good quality of life at that location. If you are choosing to set up a pet trust, provide as much detail as possible as to the care, feeding, stimulation, needs and habits of your pet including euthanasia issues and disposal of remains. These instructions will make the task easier for the caretaker and trustee as well as ensuring continuity for your pet who will be grieving and dealing with change. They are also essential even if you are leaving your pet with a relative or friend through a traditional will. Please note that when dealing with exotic pets like birds, tortoises, coy etc. you must plan for their life spans which can be much longer than that of humans!  A huge estate or great personal wealth is not required to provide for your pets - just thought and attention to the details.

Finally, an emergency plan is essential to cover the event of an accident or gap between death and when it is discovered that there are pets in need. Details of this plan must be shared to all relevant parties and attached to your estate planning documents and important papers so your pets will be immediately retrieved. 

Planning in advance will make you less dependent on the kindness of strangers, will truly fulfill your pledge to care for your pet for the pets' life and will provide you with the peace of mind of a job well done.

As long as you are in a planning mode - please also consider pet prenups in case of divorce or separation. California Law considers the "best interest of the pet" when the issue is litigated. But - why wait until then and rely on a judge to decide.

Take care, stay well and be prepared.

Feb 19, 2021

Sick Puppy Peddler Pleads In Superior Court Today

The world is full of people who prey on others for money. In this case, it was at the expense of the suffering of helpless puppies and heartbroken families left with nothing but veterinary bills and tears. Today justice was served, but this was just one person exploiting vulnerable puppies and those who would offer them homes and love. Please, let us not create a demand for these "sick puppy peddlers" by buying these dogs from the internet and social media.

If we don't create the demand - there will be no profits for the suppliers.

Following a 2 year investigation, Gustavo Gonzales (DOB 4/1/93),  who was charged with 73 felony and misdemeanor criminal counts, including, burglary, fraud, theft and animal cruelty, for selling sick puppies, pleaded no contest  to one count of Penal Code § 597.4 in Superior Court today (Case# BA478369). He was arrested on June 6, 2019, and has since been in custody.

Gonzalez advertised on social media and met potential buyers at public locations or at his home. To conceal his identity, Gonzalez used 15 different fictitious names and 40 different telephone numbers via apps and burner phones.

spcaLA investigators identified 93 families victimized by Gonzalez. Of the 99 puppies sold to unwitting customers, 57 died shortly after purchase. In total, 93 families paid Gonzalez $68,070 for puppies and spent $176,803 in veterinary bills to save the puppies, most to no avail.

In addition he to serving 623 days in custody, Gonzalez is sentenced to one year probation; one year of counseling for animal cruelty under Penal Code § 597(h); and is prohibited from owning or being around any animals for the next 10 years under Penal Code § 597.9. Gonzalez is subject to search and seizure conditions by Animal Control Officers or spcaLA Investigators, and is prohibited from engaging in any employment or business without proper licensing. He is also required to pay restitution to 63 of his victims as well as spcaLA for a total of $203,000. 

He is further ordered to stay away from all victims and witnesses in this case.

“The pets that we bring into our homes become a beloved part of our family. Trying to sell sick puppies to unsuspecting people is just plain wrong,” District Attorney Gasc√≥n said. “That’s why it’s so important to use established animal shelters or pet adoption agencies so that we avoid becoming victims and also help end the market for unscrupulous illegal dog breeders.”

Thank you to, Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA), the District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation and the Downey Police Department.

We must all collaborate to stop these cases from occurring. That means you too!

Adopt from a shelter!




Dec 22, 2020

Yes - a POEM

 In animal shelters worldwide, providing solace to pets,

Are dogs, cats, pigs and more awaiting the BEST.

 They roll, high-five, and socialize,

Mani-pedis they endure,

All the while maintaining one beautiful eye on the door.

 Good listeners galore, companionship plus more,

Commiserations on any topic,

They will provide love where none can top it.

 Yet here they sit, play, and twirl awaiting the BEST.

The BEST news in the world – they are getting adopted,

With the BEST families, friends, food and toys allotted.

 They will love you the BEST – and if you love in return-

You will ace the mensch test and a good deed you will earn.

 I submit to you, loving a shelter pet is right.

Happy holidays to all –

Keep up the good fight.

Dec 2, 2020

Covid Detection Dogs Working in Finland Airport

 I have written before how dogs were being trained to detect Covid-19 in people - well check this out:

Finland has already begun a pilot program using Covid detection dogs at airports! Passengers are asked to wipe their skin with a cloth which is then placed in a jar. The jar is then brought to the dog (kept separate from the people) who sniffs and then alerts if specimen is positive. It takes less than a minute to get results.

I have been keeping an eye on this story. Though the pilot program is due to end later in December the results are promising. MedicalExpress.com is reporting that "Preliminary experiments in the first major wave of infections earlier in the year suggested the dogs can detect the virus with close to 100 percent accuracy, up to five days earlier than a PCR test.

Many dogs that detect drugs, seizures, explosives, cancer and other things are very often found at shelters or through people who have enrolled in recreational training classes, such as Fun Nose, offered by spcaLA, and discover that they have a dog that is good at this. 

Keep in mind that animal shelters across the country are full of geniuses and gems. With their human companions - anything is possible.

Nov 2, 2020

Vote for YOU. Vote for US. Vote national, state, county and local!


I need your help tomorrow - not with donations - but with your vote.

True leadership, vision, collaboration and change start right here, at the local level.

That leadership is forged in every election, by you.

Consider the public-private partnership entered into twenty years ago between your spcaLA and the City of Long Beach - resulting in the spcaLA P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village & Education Center.

Partnerships like ours became the norm and the model not just in animal welfare, but right now in pandemic response. Chefs working with government to feed the hungry. The state of California working with private hotel chains. Public-private collaboration shows the best of America.

When you vote in every election, at the local level, you are voting for yourself. Your kids. Your parents. Your pets. Your businesses.

Whether your interest lies in protecting the environment, fostering animal welfare, increasing literacy, or providing comfort and housing to the homeless, to name a few, you must be vigilant in studying the candidates, their competencies and virtues and vote for the ones you would hire in your own businesses.

Conversely, we must fire the ones that don’t deliver. Don’t allow top leadership to abdicate and delegate policy and responsibility to loud, fact-challenged ideologues who holler at them during council meetings.

We small businesses, charities, and citizens must band together as “Davids” against the “Goliaths:” the governments, the public servants who would exploit us for their own benefit.

Vote every time, in every election, whether local, county, state or national.

Vote to keep your elected officials on their toes. Vote to insist they honor their promises. Vote to ensure your future.

Just vote.

Oct 19, 2020

Blink If You Love Me!

 It has always been a "trade secret" that you can communicate with your cat by blinking slowly. In fact,
veterinarians I know have use slow blinking to put stressed cats, and feral cats at ease before treatment. The first time I tried it with my cat, I was amazed at how the cat and I just took turns blinking and mirroring each others' blinks!

Recently, Science Reports has published a systematic investigative study "The role of cat eye narrowing movements in cat–human communication" where they discuss their methodology and conclusion suggesting "that slow blink sequences may function as a form of positive emotional communication between cats and humans". It is further suggested that eye narrowing in cats is akin to a human smile versus the actual smile of Alice in Wonderlands' Cheshire cat.  

This information may, in the future, be a tool to inform people as to the emotional welfare of a cat in a variety of environments. 

Try it! You'll like it!

Sep 9, 2020

What do Gender Reveal parties, Labradoodles, and Cubicles have in Common?

We have now come to learn that some type of smoke bomb launched at a gender reveal party ignited a wildfire in Southern California - the second time a wildfire started this way. (There was a similar gender reveal fire in 2017 in Arizona.) The person credited with inventing the gender reveal occasion, Jenna Karvunidis, reportedly went on Facebook to denounce her creation as these events can get out of control and become very destructive,

I discussed in my book, Designer Dogs, how Wally Conron, the founder of the Labradoodle wished he never created that mixed breed as his "invention" sparked the very cruel and inhumane designer dog craze which continues to leave a trail of sick, broken, misshapen and discarded dogs all around the world.

An article in Business Insider  reports numerous other "creators" also regretting their creations. This group of "Frankensteins" includes Robert Propst, inventor of the office cubicle, an idea to stimulate collaboration, left workers in teeny tiny spaces with no privacy, the scientists that participated in the Manhattan Project, which developed the atom bomb, and Anna Jarvis, who created Mother's Day, who hated the commercialization of the holiday and was even arrested for protesting it!  Others include the single use K cup, (fills up landfills), pepper spray, (misused constantly, the double slash in URLs, pop-up ads and more!

What do we make of this? Here we are, in our cubicles, in the midst of a pandemic, surrounded by designer dogs, fires, hurricanes, and plague, wondering- how many good ideas, movements, or concepts gone wrong are we dealing with? Many ideas start as fun, a solution to a problem, a social cause, a thing that makes you laugh, but then mutates into something horrible or just simply clashes with another newly invented good idea.

Still, we would be nowhere without creativity, altruism and sparks of genius. Perhaps, someone can invent super-duper long term vision or get to work on a time machine....

             "Exhilaration is that feeling you get just after a great idea hits you, and just before you realize what's wrong with it." - Unknown