A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

May 27, 2014

aspca et al bribed witness which costs us all

Many of you have been sending me this story and asking about it. Many of you also think that aspca and hsus are national/umbrella organizations. They are not. They are not connected in any way to the other spcas and human societies across the country. Your spcaLA has nothing to do with this egregious conduct. 

That said, 14 years ago aspca and others sued Feld for issues regarding the improper treatment of their elephants. As standing is required to be heard in court - a plaintiff was identified and the case was allowed to proceed. When it was learned that there was an issue regarding the legitimacy of this plaintiff, Feld countered under the Rico statute which is a federal criminal racketeering law alleging bad behavior and conspiracy on the part of aspca, hsus et al. This is the result:

aspca,  hsus and others collectively have to pay Feld, the parent company of Ringling Brothers circus almost 25 million dollars (9.2 and 15.5 million respectively) to settle a lawsuit in which, as stated by the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, " the groups and their lawyers bribed a former circus employee to make up allegations that Feld abused Asian elephants in its circus."

This number does not include 14 years of legal fees, trial costs,  and other assets wasted for over a decade, expenses often not covered by insurance as they were the initiators of the suit. (Insurance surely would not cover the almost 300,000 in inappropriate witness payments.)  I say wasted because they knew from the start that they had a tainted witness and continued anyway. I would not be upset if it was a bona fide ethically handled lawsuit to help circus elephants that just was lost. That happens. In a world where Ringling Brothers had to pay the largest exhibitor fine ever to USDA for their treatment of animals and where Sarah the elephant collapsed on stage - the aspca et al had to mess with a witness to allege a problem? 

It is not enough that aspca is criticized for unethical fundraising practices, not disclosing that they are not a national umbrella organization which hurts animals all over the country who suffer from lack of resources, but their unethical behavior in this law suit has hurt  the reputation of animal welfare organizations everywhere who are mistakenly believed to be their "chapters",  the elephants, other circus animals who are slaves to the entertainment industry and trapped in pom-poms and chains, and has set back efforts to help these animals. This is particularly vexing as it hands the bullhook to Ringling Brothers with which to beat us.

That said, here in Los Angeles, without lawsuits, and millions of dollars your spcaLA, PAWS, Voice for the Animals, other local charities and you, the citizens of our city, dealt a blow to the circus by successfully enacting a bullhook ban in the city of Los Angeles, which, according to Ringling Brothers, means they can't come here anymore. 

Of course, this is not enough, but, we didn't have to bribe anyone to do it.

Ugh - so disappointing.

May 23, 2014

Veterans as Our New Vulnerable Class

On November 8th and 9th  spcaLA again partnered 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.

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. Suffice it to say that whenever my father needs medical care -he says - "if I am unconscious, don't take me to the VA."

Why is this important today? spcaLA opened 135 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), exploited 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.

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 14, 2014

Do Not Leave Children and Pets in Cars -Even For a Minute

Courtesy Google Images

Every year children and pets are left in hot cars - often left to die. Just last week a dog was found dead in a car in Riverside California. The owner was charged with felony animal cruelty.

In warm weather the car heats up quickly and cracking the windows is useless in cooling it down. Furthermore, your shady parking spot can quickly be in the sun as the earth rotates. The shortest of errands can be too long for your loved ones to survive the oven like conditions of the vehicle.

In these cases we see people who love their pets so much that they take them everywhere only to become distracted and realize the horror of what they have done.

Please leave your pets at home and view spcaLA's hot weather tips.