A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 19, 2016

"Healthy Communities" - Why Thomas Friedman is Correct

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.

Dec 6, 2016

A $5.00 Rolex Will Not Tell Time!

It is not uncommon for someone to approach you on a New York City street and offer you the deal of the century. Hung on the inside lining of a long coat are all sorts of shiny objects, including a $5.00 Rolex watch. If you spend your hard earned cash on this watch, two things will be true. It will not tell time and you have no one to complain to but yourself.

The same is true for dogs. A $3,000. purebred puppy, offered from the back of a truck in a parking lot for $500 in cash will often be ill, unable to survive, will have forged papers, and could cost you $10,000 in lifesaving medical bills. The seller is usually long gone leaving you only a burn phone number and heartache.

spcaLA recently convicted one such individual, Armando Viramontes, on 2 counts of the Penal Code - selling a puppy under 8 weeks of age and selling said puppy in a public place. He is currently awaiting sentencing.

Holiday season brings out more of these individuals than we have the resources to deal with. Please, don't create a demand for these puppies. You do not want your holiday puppy to die in someone's arms, nor do you want to be complicit in the suffering of these animals.

spcaLA suggests giving a gift certificate for a pet which allows the recipient to choose, adopting a shelter pet, and, as a last resort, researching a legal, humane and local provider of puppies.

The $5.00 Rolex will simply not tell time. The callous trafficking of these babies hurts all of us, all the time.

Dec 1, 2016

Fish and Game (Wildlife) Outsourcing Killing of Mountain Lion -P-45

Courtesy Google Images
UPDATE: Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to stop issuing automatic depredation permits (kill permits) to livestock owners with lion issues in the areas of Santa Monica mountain range and Santa Ana Mountains.  See bulletin.

By issuing the depredation permit to a private citizen to “take” i.e. kill the mountain lion known as P-45, the Department of Fish and Game, (trying to change their image by renaming themselves Fish and Wildlife) has circumvented the law and permitted a citizen to do that which the Department itself cannot do.

After the massacre of the lion cub that wandered into Santa Monica, against the landscape of a genetic dearth of diverse male lions, and because mountain lions are legally protected, the law was changed.

Fish and Game Code 4801.5 entitled “Removal or Taking of Mountain Lion Not Designated as Threat to Public Health or Safety” was enacted to mandate that nonlethal procedures shall be used to take a mountain lion unless there is an imminent threat to a person and not specifically the responders. The law also allows the Department to authorize qualified individuals to use these nonlethal measures on their behalf. Unfortunately, the law still allows anyone who suffered livestock or property damage by a mountain lion to request a permit to take a mountain lion.

If the Department itself can’t use lethal force to remove a mountain lion that is not threatening people, why would they grant a request to any person trained or untrained to use lethal force when there is no such threat? Are they not circumventing the point of the law which is that mountain lions are legally protected and the Department must so protect them, specifically, keep them alive?

I mourn the loss of the alpacas as well. But those keeping animals must take steps to protect them from reasonably foreseeable dangers including known predators. Killing the lion doesn’t make the rest of the alpacas safer, it just kills the lion.

As for the Department, they need to start protecting the wildlife under their purview rather than treating them like hunting game and assist people in protecting their livestock rather than automatically granting depredation permits. Then their name change will mean something.

P.S. - After a great deal of protest the owner of the alpacas has decided not to pursue killing the lion. It does not, however change the fact that Fish and Game needs to rethink its actions.

Oct 21, 2016

Cats on Leashes - Seriously

courtesy google images
Taking your cat out on a leash is far from a crazy idea. This is exactly what is happening in Alaska.

We have succeeded, nationally, in drastically reducing the number of impounds of lost dogs. Spay/neuter efforts, leash laws, identification systems, and more committed pet owners have helped reduce unwanted dogs, reunite lost dogs with their people, and achieve buy in to the idea that families keep a dog for the duration of the dog's life.

Not so with cats. Not at all.

Many continue to let their cats outside to roam, intact and without identification, all to the detriment of the cats and other wildlife. First, people don't realize their cat is lost until it's too late. Second, authorities can't discern between a lost cat, a community cat and cat transitioning to feral status. Third, the cats on the street are breeding, ailing and serving as food for predatory animals.

Consequently, we are using resources to find a cat who already has a home, a new one, perhaps at the expense of a cat who never had one.  Instead of giving every animal an opportunity for a family, we are giving some multiple tries, and others, no chance at all.

Imagine if all pets were required by law to be contained on their property, or if out strutting, be required to be on a leash. Then imagine if all the funds, food, medicine and cage space were freed up for those pets who truly needed a home rather than for those just needing a different home with more committed human companions. 

This effort alone would result in a substantial decrease in the number of animals in shelters, the amount of euthanasia performed, and would propel us forward in our resolve to end the pet overpopulation crisis. As an ancillary benefit, we would learn to value the pets we have, thereby reducing the market for unscrupulous breeders. Only then would we begin to live an ethic that treats companion animals like family members rather than like disposable commodities or Doritos.
It would certainly help hoist me out of my existential pit. Isn't that worth something?

Oct 5, 2016

Please Don't Kill Me Because I look Like A Pit Bull

Many of us are disturbed by the fact that Montreal issued a ban of all pit bulls and pit bull type dogs (whatever they are) and further planned to euthanize all such dogs by October 3rd. However, a judge has temporarily suspended this plan while he is reviewing the matter. This is not just a Canadian issue as there have been similar bans in the United States.

Breed specific legislation is unenforceable, ineffective, absurd, and more about lazy legislators, enforcement agents, and insurance companies than public safety. The fact that pit bulls are not a breed at all seems irrelevant. The fact that many dogs are mutts and therefore cannot be identified as a specific breed at all seems extraneous. The fact that Chihuahuas and Cocker
Spaniels are at the top of the most likely to bite list, while pit bulls are often not even on the list, seems like unnecessary information. And, the fact that it is human criminals that train many breeds of dogs to be their accomplices is a fact that is completely ignored. The result - persecution of the pit bull, prosecution of responsible human companions, and preposterous consequences - all foreseeable when facts are ignored!  These pronouncements also inspire nervous nellies and "not in my backyarders" to become consumed with fear if they learn that a neighbor has a pit bull. Ignorant insurance companies, suddenly concerned for the safety of its customers pile on and refuse to provide homeowners insurance policies for those with these dogs. The list goes on.

Lawmakers and enforcement personnel look for the easiest way to cope which means the use of a number, a label, a color or a one size fits all mandate in order to reduce the need for critical thinking, fact finding and imagination. It is essentially stereotyping and profiling in the worst way. As expected they spend most of their time in court defending the indefensible - the fact - it is not a pit bull, and the principle - too broad to be constitutional.

Instead of discriminating be discerning. All dogs can bite. All dogs can be gentle. Any breed can be a genetic lemon, and any breed can be the best dog ever. Mean people who try to make their dogs vicious (all breeds) are the ones who should be prosecuted. And, legislators, enforcement personnel and insurance companies should be better than this.

How does one explain to a child that his or her pet must be killed because the pet looks like another dog that was vicious? Anybody?

Sep 9, 2016

When Dogs Bark - Listen

Courtesy Google Images
Both Los Angeles County and Los Angeles City are revising their barking dog ordinances to promote relief and resolution of this "nuisance" and to flesh out factors that animal control can use to analyze the situation.

Why do dogs bark incessantly? Some have separation anxiety which means the dog doesn't bark when you are home, and you don't hear the barking when you are out. It can be fixed once you believe your neighbors who tell you the noise is constant. Some dogs are just tied up outside and bark at everything to relieve the stress of being left alone and/or restrained. This also needs investigating and also can be fixed. Some dogs bark at everyone and everything that passes by. This is not continuous but can be annoying to neighbors and can also be fixed.

The commitment to work with and invest in abating these issues is part of being a responsible pet parent. This helps all dogs as property owners won't insist on "no pet" clauses which allows more people to have pets which reduces the euthanasia rate in your community. Additionally, investigating why a dog is barking can also reveal a cruelty situation and allow the dog to be rescued.

It is absurd to immediately assume these ordinance revisions are a conspiracy to take dogs away and kill them or to allow the dogs to be pawns in neighbor versus neighbor disputes. First, ask yourself why would that be? Second, there have to be factual findings presented to a hearing officer not gibberish and paranoid theories.

Please, if we care for, clean up after, and fulfill our promise to treat our dogs as family members for the rest of their lives, we make it okay to have a dog and we help other homeless dogs find families in the process.

Dogs bark for a reason - let's listen.....

Aug 31, 2016

California Veterinarian Loses License for This ....

I apologize for the photo – but – this what your spcaLA does …. Know that the veterinarian’s license was revoked by the California Veterinary Medical Board after they concluded that he (Ryan James Whitney) subjected a “feline patient to unnecessary surgeries, and therefore needless pain and suffering.”

In 2015, spcaLA Humane Officers began investigating Furrever Grateful Rescue (FGR) and Whitney based on an animal cruelty tip. FGR was fundraising for Sandy on social media, a practice not uncommon, and meant to pull at the heart and purse strings of donors. They were, however, taking Sandy to Whitney for treatment,

spcaLA discovered that Whitney was providing inadequate medical care to Sandy, who was suffering from an erosive tumor that eventually ate away at the left side of his face, including the left eye, part of the nose and mouth. Medical records from September 2014 show that tissue was removed from the eye area three times, and the eye drained multiple times. No diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment plan were ever provided by Whitney.  The investigation by the medical board also showed that “Dr. Whitney committed other acts of negligence and incompetence, and also maintained extremely inadequate medical records.”

Sandy continued to suffer as the tumor consumed his entire face and he wasted away to less than 6 lbs. Still his picture remained posted on the rescue’s Facebook page with a request for funds.

Finally, FGR took Sandy to a different vet hospital where the veterinarian noted that Sandy had a large necrotic tumor and was diagnosed with end stage squamous cell carcinoma.  Based on his poor condition and abominable quality of life, his refusal to eat and weight loss, the vet recommended euthanasia as there was no effective treatment for his condition and his pain.  FGR, instead, opted to take Sandy home and continued to solicit funds. Profoundly disturbed by this, the doctor contacted spcaLA and the veterinary board. 

No living being should ever suffer like that if such suffering can be alleviated. In a perfect world no one should have to make the decision to pull the plug on a loved one or exercise the right to commit suicide in a right to die state. But euthanasia, when properly invoked is the ultimate humane action and the last bastion of dignity to any living thing that is self-aware and in constant agony. Sure, no one wants the deaths of healthy animals to be the solution for finite space and resource issues. Sure, no one who loves wants to see their loved ones die. But this? This, my friends, is often the reality justified by the words “no kill”.

How do you call yourself a saver, a healer, a lover of animals and allow this?

Note: Because the rescue is within the letter of the law and “provided medical care,” there are no animal cruelty charges pending against FGR at this time, however the Attorney General is looking into whether they are compliant with annual nonprofit regulations.

Aug 26, 2016

More Than Footballs Fly During The Game

Courtesy google images
Many of you know that in the mid-90's spcaLA created and still operates Animal Safety Net™ (ASN), a domestic violence program designed to shelter pets while a battered victim can flee to an emergency shelter. All abusers use the pet as leverage to control and retain their victims, and many victims won't leave their pet behind. Frequently, the pets are also abused.

There are many excuses tendered by batterers as to why they are agitated and must strike out. Alcohol, unemployment, extreme heat, and all of the above are the common ones. But did you know that watching a football game is even more dangerous?

Every year, when preseason football begins, incidents of domestic violence spike exponentially and remain high through the super bowl. This year is no different. spcaLA just received 17 pets, it seems, right after the first coin toss! One cat came in with a fractured skull after having a chair thrown at him. (This, of course, will incur the charge of animal cruelty in addition to any other applicable charges.) This pattern has not abated for as long as I have been in a law enforcement career.

While there are reports of the correlation between the game itself and family violence, and some emulating of football players involved in domestic violence, there are no formal studies that prove this, just anecdotal evidence via the victims.

So-what can I say? Please be aware of this phenomena and if you see something - say something. The excuse that "I got excited during the game" must not now nor ever stand.

More Than Footballs Fly During The Game

Courtesy google images
Many of you know that in the mid-90's spcaLA created and still operates Animal Safety Net™ (ASN), a domestic violence program designed to shelter pets while a battered victim can flee to an emergency shelter. All abusers use the pet as leverage to control and retain their victims, and many victims won't leave their pet behind. Frequently, the pets are also abused.

There are many excuses tendered by batterers as to why they are agitated and must strike out. Alcohol, unemployment, extreme heat, and all of the above are the common ones. But did you know that watching a football game is even more dangerous?

Every year, when preseason football begins, incidents of domestic violence spike exponentially and remain high through the super bowl. This year is no different. spcaLA just received 17 pets, it seems, right after the first coin toss! One cat came in with a fractured skull after having a chair thrown at him. (This, of course, will incur the charge of animal cruelty in addition to any other applicable charges.) This pattern has not abated for as long as I have been in a law enforcement career.

While there are reports of the correlation between the game itself and family violence, and some emulating of football players involved in domestic violence, there are no formal studies that prove this, just anecdotal evidence via the victims.

So-what can I say? Please be aware of this phenomena and if you see something - say something. The excuse that "I got excited during the game" must not now nor ever stand.

Jul 21, 2016

Pokémon Go - AWAY

courtesy Google Images
When my kids were younger I spent a good deal of time assisting them in their frenetic need to have complete first edition sets of Pokémon cards. A graduate of the previous "have to have the original green power ranger" school of mom, I knew the ins and outs of where to score these items. To my horror, they are now into Pokémon Go, where they walk transfixed, staring into a phone screen looking for these mythical characters loitering in our world. 

Also interesting in this "Go" round, is the assertion by some that this game supports animal research (when you send a Pokémon back to the professor), animal fighting (when they engage in combat) poaching, (capturing the characters from the wild) and other animal cruelty conduct. While absolutely understanding the importance of messaging and the fears of desensitization, I also recognize the difference between real and imaginary harm. 

I have received complaints in the past that Ariel (the Little Mermaid) is a hoarder, and Gaston (Beauty and the Beast) is an animal abuser. Again, their actions definitely provide food for discussion, but no actual injury has occurred, and I lack the jurisdiction to prosecute cartoons. (Notwithstanding websites devoted to diagnosing psychotic Disney characters, it frankly bothers me more when Disney films kill off a parent within the first 5 minutes of almost every film!)

What is real about Pokémon Go is the danger that, completely distracted by the game, a child or adult  can walk into the street while walking a dog, drive into another car while searching for Pokémon, and/or simply become so oblivious to their surroundings that they are no longer safe. We should talk, teach and learn about the animal welfare issues lurking in the game, but we must take steps to prevent real harm.

If you want to help animals for real and organize safe pretend Pokémon searches, start a ResQWalk in support of spcaLA. You can download the App (free) from the App Store or Google Play and choose spcaLA as your “ResQ”.

Then promise me to PLAY RESPONSIBLY!

Jun 28, 2016

Let's Leave the "Life" in "Wildlife"

courtesy google images
An Amazon jaguar was shot and killed at an Olympic torch ceremony in Brazil when he/she attempted to escape from the organized photo shoot. I fail to see any credible, logical or humane reason to have a live jaguar at such an event and their justification that the Brazilian teams' mascot is a cartoon jaguar should both be rejected and shock the conscience of the universe.

The co-mingling of wildlife with people often results in great tragedy. Planting Walt Disney World in the natural habitat of Florida's alligator and crocodile populations resulted in the most horrific situation imaginable - the death of a toddler by alligator. Yet, the truth is that both the alligator and the child were behaving naturally. The child's family will never be the same again and Walt Disney World is busy killing alligators to ascertain the actual culprit. Was that the best place for a family theme park?

Transplanting wild animals to zoos and circuses results in all kinds of hurt. Neither the people nor the animals can behave naturally in those environments and the result is, again, harm to both. A gorilla was killed because a child entered the exhibit, and people have been hurt because animals have exited their exhibits, notwithstanding the already enormous stressors inherent to being a wild animal in captivity.

Add to the mix those like the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, who travel around the world just to invade the sanctuary spaces of our wildlife to kill them for trophies, and those who would bring a jaguar to a heavily populated press ceremony and you have one hot mess.

You should also know that under the United States Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife services can issue permits to zoos, circuses, amusement parks and researchers to possess endangered wildlife if the importer or exporter can show that doing so will enhance the survival of the species. It has been recently reported that a charitable contribution to a conservation agency mysteriously seems to grease the wheels in successfully obtaining such a permit. This is so disturbing that U.S. Representative Brendan Boyle has asked the agency to halt this practice. It is also a practice that is clearly not helping the survival of the species.

Look- this is not ok. Whether we destroy animal habitats and displace them for our convenience, hunt them in the habitats we left for them, or force them into people spaces where they can't behave naturally, we cause them physical and emotional harm. 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.

Otherwise, there will be no more "life" in "wildlife".

Jun 23, 2016

The Rage Against The Majority

courtesy google images
I was positively transfixed watching the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives stage a
sit-in and then actually teared up when they burst into "We Shall Overcome". Why? I am no stranger to activism and civil disobedience. What made this different is that the protestors and the "protestees" are on the same team i.e. not us versus them but rather them versus them - a body rising up against itself. Also, the method of protest was old school despite the aid of Periscope and Facebook. What is going on?

It is what happens when a majority pushes a minority too far, leaving no dignified method of recourse, and becoming, in effect, the ultimate bully.

Our constitution, drafted in response to a revolution against a British king, imposes and defends minority rights, freedom of religions, and the right to equal protection under the law. In essence, a system designed to protect the vulnerable, and ensure fairness without having to wait for the majority to voluntary relinquish some of their power. (After all, why would they?) It is an anti-bullying document designed to protect the minority against abuse by the reigning clique by allowing a civil road to redress and justice. It, and the system of laws derived from this are crafted to act as an equalizer between the oppressed and the bully so there is no need to devolve into blind rage and violence.

In this case, both sides, the Democrats and the Republicans, are the ones responsible for making sure laws are enacted commensurate with the constitution and that in doing so they behave with the recognition that their status changes from majority to the minority frequently enough. Currently, the Democrats are at a disadvantage as the minority party in both the Senate and the House. They have been unable to introduce bills, call for votes or even confirm presidential nominees. In the House, there is not even the possibility of a filibuster - the relief valve for the minority party. In adult discourse, these advantages are played fairly and graciously so that when positions reverse and the advantage changes, they still can get along and accomplish their work.

In this instance, the minority party acted and appeared to feel that this majority, like a bully, kept pressing the advantage and ceding nothing, until there was no recourse but to rise up.

The second interesting thing that happened here is the form of the protest was old school. In a world where we click, tweet, like, snap, and electronically sign petitions to express ourselves and effectuate change, our lawmakers resorted to civil disobedience. The House Democrats occupied the room, obstructed the business of the House, and broke rules by using social media to ensure that they were seen and heard. This behavior does not come without risk and requires a higher temperature and commitment than sitting safely in a lounge chair and retweeting something using a pseudonym.

In October of 2010, Malcolm Gladwell published an article for The New Yorker entitled “Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted”. Comparing the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and other social  revolutions. Gladwell describes the scene where 4 black college students sat down at a “whites only” lunch counter in Greensboro North Carolina and stayed in their seats when they were refused service. More protesters gathered on their behalf, sit-ins began and eventually 70,000 students were actively involved in the protest. He argues that this type of   “high risk strong-tie” commitment is not created through social media platforms which are built upon “weak-tie connections” and don't involve sacrifice.

It is therefore interesting that a veteran of said civil rights movement, John Lewis, the choreographer of the House sit-in, and his colleagues, felt strongly enough to replicate this type of "high risk strong-tie" action against this majority's oppression with its attendant risks. Normally they would issue press releases, send letters and tweet. It was truly amazing to watch.

It's a tale as old as time. A story of abuse of power in one form or another. People will only stand for so much, even against their own "families". The choice is to either lay there and take it, or fight back.

Here, they sat up and sang.

May 20, 2016

Animals Happily Await Beer Drinking Boaters & Litterers!

see more photos from linked news item
A Florida brewery has proven that you can simultaneously be decadent and righteous - the ultimate multi task!

The company has created edible six-pack rings that can feed sea turtles, birds and other animal life that comes in contact with them. They are made from the byproducts of beer, including barley and wheat and are 100% biodegradable. This is so cool because the widely used plastic rings can entangle wildlife, cause digestive problems and can kill those ingesting them!

I also love this idea because it turns a problem into a solution. It acknowledges that you can't make everyone stop drinking and littering but you can ask them to, at least, use their litter to feed animals! How great is that!

There are already good corporate citizens that give back to non-profits like your spcaLA! We encourage people to indulge and spoil their pets by shopping in our marketplace, the proceeds of which support pets who have yet no home.

Imagine though, what more creative and exceptional innovation can do for us all!

Let's drink (and feed) to that!

May 17, 2016

Let Bison Be Bison

Tragically, a baby bison was euthanized in Yellowstone National Park after tourists, thinking the newborn needed help, put the calf in their car and drove to the ranger station. After unsuccessfully trying to reintroduce the baby to the herd, the National Park Service concluded that they lacked resources or options to care for the baby, and the baby was euthanized.

Wildlife and domestic pets are not the same. Wildlife responds differently to human intervention and unwanted touching. They are not domesticated. They abide by the rules of the wild. As such, there are laws that criminalize such interference whether it be a hummingbird (The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918), seals on the beach (The Marine Mammal Act) or United States Fish and Wildlife Rules regarding bison, In other words, the danger to humans notwithstanding, these laws are designed to allow our wildlife to behave naturally, in the wild.

Unfortunately, whether you mean well but are simply ignorant of the issues, determined to torment an animal in order to take a selfie, or just have an irresistible impulse to touch and get a closer look, the result is the same. The animal always suffers harm.

President Obama just declared the bison the Official Mammal of the United States. It is worth it to mention here that in the 1500's an estimated 30-60 million bison lived here. Now, there are about 500,000.

Today, there is 1 less.

Apr 21, 2016

The Painfully High Cost of Adorable

puppies from mill seized by spcaLA
I recently appeared on a radio show to discuss the harm caused by irresponsible breeding practices and the avarice of some breeders, specifically, bulldogs. These dogs should be the "poster children" for everything that is wrong with this system. They are extremely expensive, have extensive medical and skin issues, and are magically adorable. Despite the former and because of the latter they are in high demand. The other guest on the show billed herself as a bull dog breeder who loves these dogs, yet orders them from mills in the Ukraine forcing them to travel when only 7 weeks old to suffer all the perils of transit aggravated by the respiratory and other medical complications caused by inbreeding, nutritional deficits and the like. A caller to the show lamented that her french bulldog cost $10,000 and a lot more than that in medical upkeep and surgeries to ease all the congenital defects in the dog. A very common story that in many cases ends with the dog being turned into a shelter. The fact that everybody wants one plus the huge price tag of one, is all the breeders need to hear to create a supply of these dogs.

The same day, a shipment of 23 unresponsive puppies (pure breed and mixed) found in a hot car at the US-Mexico border were confiscated by officials. Again, people looking for a specific breed or in some cases a "reduced price" for an expensive breed create a demand for the puppy mill breeders on the Mexican side of the border. People pay cash only for these dogs, often via a street sale, for less than the going rate, only to find the dog dead within 48 hours and nothing but the number to a burn phone and fake paperwork left in his or her wake.

This has to stop. The dogs are sick, the families who care about them are heartbroken, the breed is decimated and these unscrupulous people laugh all the way to the bank.

If we stop creating the demand the suppliers will suffer. Isn't that better?

Apr 6, 2016

Secret Cat Adoption Tip Inside!

Some of you have expressed concern with a tweet from Hill's® touting the advantages of purebred cats. In fact, they have a similar statement regarding purebred dogs,

It is critical to know that purebred animals can come with their own set of "purebred problems", including major health and temperament defects. This is exacerbated if the source of your pet is a puppy or kitten mill where earnings and not responsible breeding is the driving business goal. It is also important to realize that breed is more predictive of appearance than anything else.

Shelters around the world are coping with an excess of animals who need loving homes. To that end we must adopt from the existing supply of homeless pets rather than to create a demand for unscrupulous breeders to fulfil. Additionally, about 25% of shelter populations are, in fact, purebreds. It is therefore possible, with patience, to get a specific type of dog or cat without contributing to our pet overpopulation problem.

I have reached out to Hill's and was assured that they would make some changes in their materials. They do spend a lot of corporate capital working with shelters and I am confident that we will be pleased with the results. When they do I will gladly share it with you.

Finally, here are some spcaLA faqs for adopting a pet.

PSSST: Here is my secret for success when adopting a cat: Sit in our cattery, wait for a cat to pick you- and voila - done!!

Mar 1, 2016

Hippo Selfies - That's a Thing!

Courtesy Google Images
No sooner did I express my outrage at those taking selfies with wildlife, to the demise of the wildlife, that it was brought to my attention that selfies with hippos at the Los Angeles Zoo is now a thing!

The "Hippo Encounter" tour allows customers to observe hippos as well as to touch them and take a photo with them. Notwithstanding a pending federal complaint that this exhibit violates the Animal Welfare Act, there is the question of what we are teaching our children, violation or not.

Hippos are wild animals and extremely dangerous. The fact that the zoo would allow people to stick their hands in and pet them seems quite risky to say the least. It also sends the message that it is ok to approach a wild animal, touch them and, yes, try for the selfie! This could end very badly for the child who simply assumes that this behavior is just fine in all instances.

When my children were young we took them to a lot of children's theatre performances. There, they were encouraged to interact with, shout at, and often join the cast on stage. A great time was had by all. However, the first time we took our kids to a Broadway play, they assumed the same rules applied, and that if Hamlet asked "to be or not to be" a loud response from them was expected. The worst case scenario was that we were mortified and/or required to run after them as they headed for the stage in response to a "come hither", but not faced with the tragic and life changing consequences of a wild animal attack while chasing a selfie.

The point, is that if the zoo wants to be considered seriously as an educational facility, it should educate responsibly and not recklessly.

Feb 24, 2016

Death by Selfie - Please Stop

coutesy google images
The obsession with selfies has become dangerous to living things.

In China, a peacock died of fright as he was passed around to tourists for selfies. An Argentina crowd did the same with a rare dolphin with the same result. A man dragged a shark out of the water on a Florida beach to take a selfie, also killing the shark. I have seen people, who should know better, attempt to grab a raccoon for a photo, or others in our deserts unable to resist a selfie with a tortoise.

In these instances there is certainly a risk to the photographers, but I must speak up for the risk to the animals. Whether they die on the spot, (how do you explain that to your children) or dehydrate and die slowly as is typical with tortoises, (you miss seeing that) it is an abominable thing to do and most certainly can be a crime. In one car commercial taking a selfie with your dog is used as proof of love and a reason to buy that car.

The craze has evolved from just posting photos of social encounters and meals, to staging weird and dangerous poses. This is not a new problem. Think back to shows about funniest videos or David Letterman's stupid pet tricks. They started out harmless and natural to choreographed daredevil stunts and a dog "trick" that was achieved by breaking the dog's back so he would walk funny.

Whether you are addicted to or apathetic towards selfies, you must agree that killing an animal by shooting a photo is the same as doing so with a gun. Let's think about our animals and not just about our "selfs".

Feb 11, 2016

The Animal Three Card Monte Game Continues With "Pet Shops"

Once again the Los Angeles City Council Personnel and Animal Welfare committee, chaired by Paul Koretz is doing something that will ultimately be detrimental to Los Angeles pets. 

Now, they want to change the definition of "kennel" in the zoning code to exclude pet shops thereby obviating the need for a kennel permit and allowing these "pet shops" to be in commercial zones. 

Though seemingly innocuous on its face, it is not, and here's why. A pet shop is subject to the California Health and Safety Code pet shop provisions among other things, even if they sell shelter pets. That would also be true of an animal rescue group that is not a 501(c)(3).  An animal rescue group that is a 501(c)(3) and operates a pet shop would be exempt from that statute, but typically, would have enough animals in said space to qualify as a kennel - thereby requiring a permit and be subject to inspection. The scary part under the proposed change, is that rescues can call their kennels "pet shops", warehouse animals all over town, and voila- no Health and Safety, no kennel permit required, and no inspections mandated! No scrutiny at all. There are already existing permitted places where you only need to walk nearby to smell the unsanitary conditions to then see depressed pets sitting in their own filth. Imagine no oversite.

Said another way, under this proposed change (to be heard in committee February 16th) those presenting the most danger to the health and welfare of our pets will lose the most routine oversight. I reiterate that I am not talking about the legitimate and wonderful rescue groups that we deal with routinely, and, of course, criminal charges will lie if applicable, but Councilman Koretz and his committee are offering a free pass to abuse and neglect animals on a large scale.

I can only theorize why he is selling this to us. In conjunction with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the commission that oversees the city's animal services department, they have figured out another way to move animals out of the shelters, off their books, and into the shadows to create an impression that they have a successful live release rate. Again, they are moving the queen around in their endless game of Three Card Monte. If they would only use their skills to figure out how to honestly place pets into loving homes instead of creating the illusion of placement, there would be far less suffering for our pets.

It is again the case where the emperor has no clothes, but this time, they are trying to sell us the clothes they don't have.

Let's say no to this.

The Committee:

Paul Koretz -- paul.koretz@lacity.org

David E. Ryu -- david.ryu@lacity.org

Marqueece Harris-Dawson -- councilmember.harris-dawson@lacity.org

Jan 26, 2016

Fostering animals saves lives and is now tax deductible!

In a recent opinion, the IRS has ruled that volunteers who foster animals for a duly registered charity may deduct expenses for food, medicine, veterinary bills, and supplies,  ( Van Dusen v. Commissioner) It is also possible to deduct a percentage of utilities in your home if that area of the home is used soley for fostering.

Make sure you keep all receipts and obtain a letter from the charity that verifies your volunteer or foster status with the organization.

This ruling also applies to other volunteer expenses for charitable work for an approved organization.

Finally, if you are working for an organization that purports to be a charity and is not - this won't work. So if the tax issue is important to you - trust but verify - and report scammers to the IRS.