A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

May 25, 2018

Use of force simulator next step in assisting law enforcement with pet encounters

Statistics indicate that 70% of shots fired by law enforcement are at animals, mostly family pets, then wildlife. In response to a highly publicized shooting of a dog in Hawthorne California, spcaLA developed a course, certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Training and Standards, to assist officers in avoiding lethal force where possible thus enhancing the safety of pets, the officers and members of the public at or near the incident.  

We just announced the next step of this training which, in concert with the National Canine Research Council (NCRC) and MILO Range, is an interactive training using a force option simulator. This 21st century training will transform the way that law enforcement interacts with dogs—tremendously enhancing safety for the officers, the animals and the public.

Additionally, this program will be unique in that, unlike other simulator programs, we are using family pets in the simulations and NOT trained police dogs or animals actors. No trainer can tell a dog to pretend to be a household pet, nor it is fair to the officers to provide such inadequate training and put them back in the field. 

It goes without saying that we will be using the best credible science available in the development of this interactive curriculum.

There are times that an officer must use lethal force to protect him or herself. Where the officers find themselves criminally and/or civilly liable is when the justification for lethal force is not present. When this happens, everyone suffers.

Our collective intention is to make sure that this doesn’t happen.

May 7, 2018

Loving a pet is not a disability

courtesy google images
UPDATE: American Airlines has now joined other airlines in restricting "emotional support" animals on planes.

Back in April of 2011 the misuse of "service" and "emotional support" pets was spiraling out of control. At that time the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) shrunk the definitions of permissible service animals to dogs and miniature horses which negatively impacted those relying on other animals to assist with their disabilities. Additionally, states enacted their own definitions of "service" and "emotional support" animals and mandated criteria for each. Sadly, in lieu of compliance, an industry of fraud was born to capitalize on the fact that people wanted to take their pets everywhere. Service and support dog vests, tags, and scarves in assorted colors and styles materialized on the internet, sales of "doctors' notes" for $1200 and up could likewise be obtained, and people took advantage of the fact that most places would rather not engage in interrogating a person seeking the shelter of our disability statutes. Predictably, the situation spun out of control as people asked to board a plane with a peacock, demanded that their dog accompany them on a ferris wheel (I was there for that!) and generally tested the public's tolerance, both of pet lovers and haters alike, to suffer pets everywhere. Suffer, because the majority of these pets are not skilled helpers but rather just the goofy family pet who is forced to be in places that he or she finds scary and intolerable.

I love the emotional support of having my dogs with me at the office or where appropriate. That does not magically turn my dog into a legal emotional support dog. As President of spcaLA I want everyone to understand and benefit from the intense human animal bond and bring a pet into the family for all the attendant emotional benefits. That is because we all have the capacity for love and not because we all share a diagnosis rendering us disabled under the law.

In 2011 I warned that continued abuse of these laws would lead to severe and additional backlashes which would impact negatively on those with bona fide and true needs for these animals. Now, due the level of fraud surrounding these animals, the uptick in bites, the complaints of those allergic to or frightened of these pets, 21 states have either enacted or are exploring new laws to address this and criminalize such behavior while airlines are also adjusting their policies and documentation requirements to bring a pet on board.

All of the above will hurt both those legitimately disabled as their options narrow,
those of us always seeking appropriate places to bring the family pet, and our pets who find themselves in horrifying situations where they can't succeed. Wanting to be with your pet is a symptom of love not of a disability. Let's make sure those who truly need service and support dogs have as much freedom to do so, while the rest of us be mindful of their needs and act accordingly.