A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Sep 11, 2013

USDA to Regulate Internet Sale of Pets

Courtesy Google Images
Businesses that sell pets over the internet (sight unseen) will be subject to licensing and inspection under the Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) as the USDA revised the 40 year old definition of "retail store".
As "retail stores" are not covered under the AWA and the definition of "retail store" was put in place before the internet was invented, a huge gap was created whereby sales of animals over the internet, or "sight unseen" were unregulated as they were exempt from oversight under the AWA and invisible to state and local law enforcement.  Naturally, sick, injured and genetically inferior animals were being sold to naive buyers across the country with no checks and balances and no minimum care standards. This situation was not good for the consumer but far worse for the pets.
The USDA restored the definition of "retail pet store" to its original intent which is "a place of business or residence at which the seller, buyer and the animal available for sale are physically present so that the buyer may personally observe the animal and help ensure its health prior to purchasing or taking custody of it" thereby eliminating the "retail pet store" exemption for internet and other "sight unseen" businesses.
As such, these "sight unseen" vendors will now have to be licensed and inspected by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to ensure the pets they sell to the public receive minimum standards of care and other requirements proscribed by the AWA.
There are a host of exemptions and other changes in this set of revisions - but - the focus and impetus for this change was the overwhelming number of sick animals coming from larger scale breeders into homes with absolutely no oversight but plenty of heartbreak.

Sep 9, 2013

New Mountain Lion and Swap Meet Laws in California!

This has been a good week for animals in California!

Governor Jerry Brown signed two new animal protection bills into law.

The first mandates that the Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Fish and Game) must use nonlethal force when removing or taking mountain lions that do not pose an imminent threat to public health and safety. The bill is specific in that the aggressive behavior not be due to the presence of the responders. This is key as we have seen responders agitate a lion until it becomes aggressive and then shoot him/her.

Hopefully the Department will train its officers in the proper use of non-lethal methods and in the definition of "imminent" so that they will be both successful in complying and able to assist and train other law enforcement that may be at a scene first.

The second will only permit the sale of animals at swap meets and flea markets if requirements for their humane treatment both at the swap meet/flea market and in transit to and from the event are complied with. This legislation fills the gap left by the ban on roadside sales bill enacted last year that did not cover swap meets and flea markets.


Sep 4, 2013

Vindication For Crimes Against Working Dogs

Charles Ferguson, owner and operator of J.R. Ewing Guard Dogs, Inc. et al, was convicted of 4 felony and 4 misdemeanor animal cruelty charges, as the result of a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) animal cruelty investigation.  

The facts of this case were as horrific and gruesome as the actions of the defendant were cold and callous. For example, one dog was found dead inside a truck with her uterus severed and missing.  A necropsy revealed that she was suffering from a severe infection and that her uterus was cut while she was still alive.  She slowly bled to death, in an enormous amount of pain before she died of bacterial shock. After a trial encompassing the submission of over 40 exhibits and 17 witnesses, presented by County of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney, Christopher Frisco, the defendant was found guilty.

This case is particularly significant in that these crimes were committed against "working animals". The animal welfare movement began in response to the cruel treatment of horses, oxen and other beasts of burden used to power factory machinery and transport people via buggies and carriages - in other words - working animals. They were not viewed as sentient beings or pets capable of suffering, but rather as machinery and vehicles. The more the animals toiled the higher the profits accrued to their owners. Although it defies logic to overdrive and weaken an animal responsible for one's income, it makes sense in that it is cheaper to replace an animal than to sustain one. In other words, it is cost effective to work an animal to death and buy a new one rather than fund quality food, veterinary care and afford them the opportunity to rest. 

Though we have progressed in our attitudes toward our pets and in our willingness to be responsible stewards of their well-being, there are still, those who see animals as workers, entertainers and merchandise, but remain blind to the fact that they are alive, suffer and ache. 

Sentencing is scheduled for September 16, 2013.  Ferguson could receive up to 16 (consecutive) years in prison and/or $160,000 in fines.   Ferguson’s license to own and operate a guard dog business has been revoked by Los Angeles County.

Sep 3, 2013

New Trapping Law In California

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that applies improves the plight of trapped animals.

The new law revises and further limits the use of certain traps such as certain "body gripping traps", it makes it unlawful to kill any trapped animal by certain methods such as drowning and chest crushing, and adds signage and warning requirements designed to prevent unintended animals and people from being harmed by the traps. Violations of this law is a misdemeanor.

It is still mandatory that traps must be visited and animals removed at least once a day.

Though our laws permit the trapping of wild animals - it should not allow the further torment and cruel treatment of those animals unfortunate enough to be trapped. This new law helps with that but further sends the message that there is no carte blanche to be inhumane to animals even under circumstances where they might be considered nuisances or lawful to hunt.