A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Mar 30, 2011

The Dog Ate My Oxygen

CNN reported on a book "Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living" by Robert and Brenda Vale, which asserts that dogs are as bad for the environment as driving an SUV, because they are carnivores and a lot of land is required to produce dog food.

Of course dogs have a carbon footprint as do humans, houses, cars and factories.  In fact, most humans are carnivores which require miles of land to produce food for billions of cows, sheep. buffalo and other food mammals for our eating pleasure. The methane alone produced by these animals is in and of itself polluting. Additionally, we use unclean fuels, dump toxins in our oceans, waste finite resources as if they were renewable and vomit factory emissions into the air we breathe with no regard to the consequences.

I wholly subscribe to the notion that we should always choose the humane and environmentally conscious option at every crossroad. But - do we really want to guilt pet owners and increase the euthanasia numbers of unwanted dogs and cats for these reasons? How about reducing or eliminating the amount of meat we consume, driving a hybrid and/or electric car and adopt pets from shelters rather than encouraging puppy mills and breeders to make more. That should really help!

Here is the link to the CNN story: http://ow.ly/4pJ0q

Mar 24, 2011

Update to Military Families Forced to Leave Pets Behind in Japan

Immediately following reports of, and my blog post commenting on, the inability of military families to evacuate on government flights with their pets, an official government document, updated as of the evening of March 21st, was sent to me. This document stated that families could bring a maximum of 2 pets, of a certain type, on certain flights under certain conditions or they could finance their own evacuation.  While this is better than nothing it is a far cry from perfect and still pointed to the need for a closer look into and reform of evacuation and disaster preparedness issues. The power of the human animal bond cannot be ignored or minimized.

As such, I addressed these issues in an op-ed piece that was published today in the Washington Times which I would like to share with you.  http://bit.ly/eOQrP7

Mar 21, 2011

Military Families Forced to Leave Pets Behind in Japan

It is being reported that families of military members stationed in Japan must leave their pets behind if they wish to evacuate the country on government run flights. http://ow.ly/4j8YB The families were also told that those pets would then be euthanized. Once again, as witnessed during Hurricane Katrina, a forced choice to leave without a family member or stay in harm's way has further traumatized those already suffering through the violence of an earthquake, a tsunami and the fear of radiation poisoning. This decision by the military is truly shocking and contrary to the lessons learned from prior disasters.

The world watched in horror as people chose to drown rather than abandon their pets in New Orleans. Consequently, FEMA added pet evacuation strategies to their checklists, and states, like California, passed laws mandating that pets be considered in disaster planning.  Yet our military is asking their families to kill their pets as a condition of being rescued. Is the military asking a parent to explain to a child why his or her puppy and kitten can't come on the rescue plane? Is the military telling those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country that their country will not help them unless they kill their dog? Is this the same military, deployed to assist in national disasters, which saw people essentially commit suicide when confronted with this choice before that forgot the enormous strength of the human animal bond?

President Obama: As commander in chief, please countermand this order. If you are going to rescue people -do it - without torturing them in the process. Crate the small pets, muzzle the large ones and just get it done. http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Mar 17, 2011

Save Gym Dues and Get a Dog

Another use for a treadmill!
There has been a lot of research touting the health benefits of having a dog, reduced stress, faster healing and stable heart rhythms to name a few.

Animal assisted therapy programs involving dogs visiting those confined to hospitals, homeless shelters, and prisons boast similar benefits. And now, the New York Times suggests that dog owners are more active over those people with no dogs. The article goes on to say that "if you are looking for the latest in home exercise equipment you may want to consider something with four legs and a wagging tail".

As someone who lives with both dogs and a treadmill, I can attest to the fact that I would rather interact with my dogs. Whereas I can ignore the treadmill, hang clothes on the frame and use its presence as an excuse to buy workout clothes - i can't ignore the dog. The dog needs to "do his/her business" in rain or shine, in sickness and in health and whether it's convenient or not.
Furthermore, the dog needs to do this every single day. (I will admit, there are days when I am exhausted and the weather is awful  that the treadmill begins to look good!)

As the growing obesity of Americans is a subject of national concern this study is timely and useful.  Walking a dog a few times a day is exercise. Taking the dog on hikes is exercise, and playing catch, tossing a Frisbee or participating in dog sports like agility or fly-ball is exercise. They are all activities that adults and responsible children can have fun with. It is also important to note that as pets are more obese than ever the benefits are mutual

There is great synergy here- increasing activity, health benefits and companionship while simultaneously decreasing the number of homeless pets in our midst.

Article first published as Save Gym Dues and Get a Dog on Technorati.

Mar 11, 2011

Dam Beavers!

Once again the clash between people and wildlife, specifically beavers, has pitted animal welfare professionals and environmentalists against California's Departments of Water and Power (DWP) and Fish and Game (DFG). Beavers are felling trees, building dams, enhancing their habitats, and generally behaving like beavers. Unfortunately, this activity is interfering with DWP's equipment and causing some flooding in Central California's Owens Valley.beaver at work

The decided upon solution is to trap and kill the offending beavers and destroy their habitat, all with the blessing of DFG, an agency whose mandate it is to protect native species. To that end DWP is accepting bids from trappers to perform this task. "The beavers are very destructive and can rapidly take down many trees in environmentally sensitive areas if they're not controlled," DWP Spokesman Joe Ramallo told City News Service. "We have many environmental mandates and responsibilities in the Owens Valley to ensure water flow on the waterways." http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_17342275

There are, however, those that assert that trapping ultimately fails as beavers will migrate back and continue their activities. They rather propose the construction of flow devices to control the water, which would permanently fix the problem and eliminate the recurring need to kill the beavers. (Boyles and Savitsky, 2008 http://www.beaversww.org/assets/PDFs/Boyles-et-al.-2008.pdf and http://www.martinezbeavers.org/wordpress/)

There are ancillary concerns. First, DFG requires that the entire animal be discharged pursuant to their regulations and that it would be unlawful to retain the pelt. However, DFG lacks resources to monitor the trappers to enforce this rule. Second, there is the need to check traps so that there is no unnecessary suffering and to make sure a non-targeted animal is not caught. There is no plan to monitor that either as Joe Ramallo further stated that he is not sure how often the traps would be checked. One also wonders how many killed beavers is enough and how that is determined?

It seems that beavers have no choice but to act like beavers. Conversely, twenty-first century humans should act like humans and solve the problem in a more humane and sensible way. Of course, if DFG continues to allow the depredation of our native species, they will finally have nothing to do instead of just doing nothing.

Please feel to express your concern to 'lee.turner@ladwp.com'; 'director@dfg.ca.gov'

This article first published as Dam Beavers! on Technorati.

Mar 4, 2011

I Can't "Bear" This Anymore - Call to Action

This is as bad as it gets. The California Department of Fish and Game thinks that we, the taxpayers, and interested citizens, can't see through their smokescreens or tell fool's gold from the real deal.

The Department is again campaigning to expand the number of California bears that can be killed during the hunting season by approximately 20% despite the overwhelming objection to this by state residents. (See my prior call to action piece that describes this cruel and unsportsmanlike activity http://bit.ly/icDFsi ) While trying to allow more bears to be killed, this same department is simultaneously bragging about their efforts to rehabilitate a few bear cubs orphaned by - yes - hunters! Once the babies are of the appropriate age to be hunted they could be released to the wild to be such a target.

They are essentially fattening those baby bears for slaughter. Did they think that we would not notice? Did they think that we would be so blinded by the image of cuddly, carousing cubs to not see the manipulating, sinister hand behind their self congratulatory press releases? We are not so easily distracted by shiny objects.

I concur with my colleagues' piece in the San Francisco Chronicle http://bit.ly/exhOBs with one exception. I don't think we should come to praise Fish and Game for these acts but rather bury them with requests not to expand the hunting numbers and devote more resources to rehabilitating and protecting our native wildlife. I also believe every single resident of California should contact Jerry Brown, our new governor at                               http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php and ask for a top to bottom review of the entire Department of Fish and Game and its impotent Commission.