A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Mar 30, 2020

"Safe at Home" not so safe for Victims of Domestic Violence

Incidents of domestic violence rise significantly during times of stress. Unemployment, substance abuse, fear, boredom, frustration and feelings of worthlessness often manifest themselves as anger against one’s family and/or self, specifically, as suicidal or homicidal acts.  Being cooped up indefinitely exacerbates the situation. Significant others, children, elder citizens, and pets can find themselves in dire straits during the Covid-19 pandemic. Add, home schooling, layoffs, past due bills, a surge in gun purchases, and general angst to the mix, and you have a perfect storm for violent and abusive behavior.

In the late nineties, spcaLA, (not a chapter or part of any other SPCA), developed the Animal Safety Net program (ASN) which offers shelter and care to the pets of domestic violence victims at no cost, so they may flee a dangerous situation without fear for the safety of their animals. This program has provided refuge to dogs, cat, rabbits, rats, horses and a fish. Sadly, the domestic violence shelters that we deal with are reporting to us that they are already full. 

Both, the New York Times and CNN  are writing about this issue in the context of the pandemic. It is also important to state that anyone, men, women, children, elders, and pets can be a victim of this rage.

Please take care of yourselves and each other.

I have included below a resource list provided by CNN:

National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522

Available 24/7. Can connect callers with local resources and immediate support. Also available through online chat tool.
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
Provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Available 24/7. Also available through online chat tool.
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
Available 24/7 in 170 different languages.
Office on Women's Health Helpline 1-800-994-9662
    A resource provided by the US Department of Health & Human Services.

    Mar 27, 2020

    PETS and COVID-19

    In light of recent reports that a dog in Hong Kong was found to have developed an immune response to the COVID-19 virus - antibodies were found in the blood – I want to reassure you and provide you with some tools to keep us all safe. 

    Your spcaLA has been working around-the-clock with veterinary and public health officials nationwide to develop protocols to protect pets, animal care staff, and the public during this crisis.

    Despite this result, Hong Kong officials stressed that these cases of infection in dogs appear to be infrequent. As of March 25, 2020, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has conducted tests on 17 dogs and eight cats from households with confirmed COVID-19 cases or persons in close contact with confirmed patients, and only two dogs had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. These findings indicate that dogs and cats are not infected easily with this virus, and there is no evidence that they play a role in the spread of the virus.
    Veterinarians stress that it’s important to note that an infection, as was the case in these Hong Kong animals, does not mean the animal is infectious, and the best practices are focused on hygiene and social distancing.

    Guidance for Pet Owners
    Pets are members of the family, and just like human family members, spcaLA urges pet owners to protect pets. If dog parks are still open in your area, spcaLA urges pet parents to avoid them.

    • Maintain good hygiene practices by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching pets, in keeping with CDC guidelines.
    • Do not allow your dogs to play with other dogs or meet people during daily walks. Keep a six-foot distance between your dog and others, just as you would with other people.
    • Curb your dog’s interest in sniffing excrement of other animals, or picking up refuse on the ground.
    • Before you come inside from a walk, wipe your dog’s paws with a sudsy solution of pet shampoo and water. When finished, discard the wipe and thoroughly rinse your pet’s paws with water to remove soap residue. If you have them available, you may consider having your dog wear shoes, socks, or booties outdoors.
    • Keep your cats and other pets safely indoors. If you are unable to confine your cat, follow the wipe down procedures indicated above.
    • Do not use Lysol wipes, bleach, or other harsh chemicals on your pets. Ask your veterinarian for additional safe options to clean your pet’s paws.
    Guidance for Animal Care Facilities
    • Protect your staff and volunteers. Determine and implement your shelter’s intake procedures, which should apply to returning fosters and other clients, as well as stray and surrendered pets.
    • Protect the community. Determine and implement your shelter’s procedures prior to placing animals in adoption, foster, or returning them to their owners.
    • Pet boarding and daycare facilities, many of whom are open and caring for the pets of medical, grocery, sanitation, food delivery, and other essential workers, should take care to develop and implement intake and return procedures.
    • Protocols for incoming and outgoing animals may include bathing (paying special attention to the areas most frequently petted by people), a period of isolation, and other actions. Further consideration should be made as to PPE for staff and procedures to accept or return animals to the public while maintaining safe social distance. Animal care facilities can email info@spcaLA.com to obtain a sample copy of spcaLA’s protocol.
    We will continue to monitor the situation, and will update protocols with any new information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Furthermore, you are encouraged to stay informed by following these organizations’ websites: World Health OrganizationAmerican Veterinary Medical Association, and World Organization for Animal Health.

    It’s our job to protect animals and that is what we intend to do. Right now, it’s important to keep a level head. Take care of your pets, and each other.

    Mar 23, 2020

    Convicted Glascow drug dealer sells designer dogs from Dubai

    Since today is National Puppy Day, I would like to remind you to adopt a shelter dog rather than to buy a designer dog puppy from a puppy mill half way around the world. Like the drug trade, the designer dog trade is worldwide, lucrative, often criminal in nature, (notwithstanding animal cruelty,) deceptive, (a lot of bait and switch), appeals to those who lack empathy for the dogs and their customers, and subscribe to a business model that invests nothing in the "product" while gauging the highest prices from their buyers. Sometimes the dogs offered for sale are actually stolen.

    I have been ranting about this for a while, and even wrote a book about it, as the trend to have a designer dog exploded exponentially, leaving customers brokenhearted and puppies broken bodied.  Here is an example that just came across my desk courtesy of the Scottish Sun: a convicted cocaine dealer was released from prison in Scotland, fled to Dubai, and uses his old drug network to sell and transport English and French Bulldogs!

    The only way to stop puppy mills, Craig's list peddlers, and Instagram fakers, is to just not buy them. Don't create a demand for this "supply". This "supply" has feelings and feels pain.

    So please, adopt a shelter dog. 

    Mar 20, 2020

    spcaLA and Safer at Home order

    Last night, California leadership came together to issue the new Safer at Home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order seeks to help our community flatten the curve, and reduce the spread of the virus.

    For many of us - me included - my first thought was of the pets. Will pets in the shelter be okay? Can staff come to care for them? And more personally, can I still walk my dogs?

    The pets will be okay. spcaLA staff will continue to provide care for those in the shelter. And, you can continue to care for your own pets. Veterinary offices can continue offering services, pet supply retailers can continue to provide pet food and supplies.
    In fact, caring for your pets is one of the very best things you can do. If you have a dog - or two - go for a walk. Just, maintain social distance from your neighbors and their dogs, in keeping with the Safer at Home order.

    Cat person? Your indoor cat has been practicing isolation for some time - snuggle with your kitty and a good book by a sunny window. Take a nice long stretch. No pets at home? Take a gander at our live cat feed on Explore.org.

    Tortoise person? Hibernate!!! 

    Looking for ways to enrich your life, and those of your pets and kids? Follow spcaLA on social media, like Tik TokFacebook, and Instagram. We'll do our best to keep you informed, educated, and entertained.

    If you are able to help, please consider making an online donation to help spcaLA continue to serve. Looking for other ways to help? Please use AmazonSmile when ordering supplies, vote for spcaLA on your TargetCircle app (until 3/31), and make spcaLA your charity of choice on your Ralphs account (NPO Number 82162).

    I know these are uncertain, and frankly scary times. Together, we will come through this. 

    Please, take care of yourselves, and each other.

    Mar 5, 2020

    Corona (Covid-19) - what about my pets?

    I know that we are all worried and concerned for the people and pets we love. It does not help that this is also a situation that changes daily with new data and news. The important thing is to rely on facts from those sources who know the facts.  

    I am sure that you heard that Hong Kong health authorities released information that a pet dog belonging to a person infected with the Covid-19 virus tested as a weak positive for this type of coronavirus. At this time there is uncertainty if this dog was actually infected by the owner, or if the weak positive test result was due to surface contamination from the dog picking up traces of the virus in its nose and mouth. The dog is currently under quarantine with the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for further testing. 

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at this time there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread Covid-19.
    Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) continues to monitor the situation, and encourages the public to stay informed with updates regarding Covid-19 from the following organizations’ websites: World Health Organization, American Veterinary Medical Association, and World Organization for Animal Health.
    spcaLA offers these tips to pet companions in the wake of Coronavirus concerns:
    • Maintain good hygiene practices by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching pets.
    • Optimize your pet’s health by providing regular preventative care including vaccinations, deworming, and flea and tick prevention.
    • Regularly visit a veterinarian for overall health examinations.
    • Create a pet emergency preparedness kit that includes items like, food, bowls, water, medications, leash/collar, vet records, etc. Include pets in emergency plans, and indicate a designated caregiver in the event you are unable to care for your pets. Visit spcaLA.com for a complete list of pet preparedness kit items.
    • Make sure your pet is licensed and microchipped, and information is up to date.
    • Ensure all of your pet’s information is readily available for emergencies including current photos, pet license information, vaccination history, and microchip number. Consider saving and updating the information on your smart phone for quick access.
    • Always keep a cool head. Remember, preparation is key.
    Stay healthy and prepared.

    Feb 21, 2020

    Pigeons and MAGA hats glued to their heads! STOP

    wikimedia commons

    As national attention turned to Nevada amid a Presidential visit, a Democratic debate, and Saturday’s Democratic Caucus, one group chose to make their political point using live pigeons. A group calling itself Pigeons United to Interfere Now (P.U.T.I.N.) took credit for gluing small hats, and one wig, on aflock of pigeons before releasing them in Downtown Las Vegas on Tuesday, February 18, 2020.

    Can we please leave animals out of politics? It is unconscionable to affix items on these birds, inhibiting their eyesight and exposing them to other potential dangers for the sake of a political or any prank. Our animals belong to no party but will still love you regardless of yours.

    Did they suffer while the items were glued onto their heads? I bet it hurts to take them off. Will others make them victims of new pranks, or try to capture them? What about copycats? (No insult to cats intended.)

    Come on - STOP

    Feb 18, 2020

    "Leadership is an action not a position"

    The subject of pit bulls and other "bully" breeds has always been fraught with agita as we have steadfastly fought against breed specific legislation and bias while focusing on the owner. Even so, there has been an acknowledgement that sometimes nurture loses to nature and that shelter personnel must responsibly make difficult decisions that allow for the adoption of these dogs while considering public safety issues as well. It neither fosters trust in the shelter i.e. to place a dangerous dog in a home, nor protects adoptable dogs of a certain breed from negative media hype and bias.

    Sadly, the fear of these dogs results in adoptable ones not being chosen, euthanized, and banned completely from placement opportunities. I write now as two stories crossed my desk today. One, a twenty year old pit pull ban in Denver was about to be repealed and then vetoed at the eleventh hour, while reports of other bites, here in Los Angeles and elsewhere surfaced.

    The inroads that were made in stressing reasonableness and responsibility have given way to the ignorant ideologue chants of place everything. They pressure shelter directors around the country to sanitize files, to use euphemistic words to mask aggressive behavior, and to tell well-meaning adopters that just a little love will cure all. The result is more bites, negative press, and lawsuits, which creates shelters full of wonderful dogs that the public is afraid to take home. Again, victimizing the dogs for the sins of those who should and are in a position to know better is cruel. Allowing these pets to languish in shelters creates an appearance that bully breeds are all that shelters offer - so the family turns to puppy mills, Instagram, Craig's' List peddlers, and other questionable sources for a healthy, reliable dog. This leads to warehousing of dogs, hoarding, and overcrowding - again - driving people away from the shelter.

    This is not fair at all. Running an animal shelter means leading, managing, and protecting both the shelter pets from harm at the hands of the public as well as protecting the public from dangerous dogs at the shelter. It does not mean running away from difficult decisions.

    "Leadership is an action not a position"  Donald Mcgannon

    P.S. spcaLA never stopped placing pit bulls and other bully breeds despite the trend to do so, nor will we place a demonstrably unsafe dog into a home. Animal evaluation is not a perfect science - but- our supporters appreciate that we try.

    Feb 4, 2020

    The Empty Cage Outrage Game

    In 2016, six dogs came into spcaLA’s care in very dramatic fashion – their owner let them loose on the 710 freeway during a police pursuit.  After the requisite holding periods, spcaLA transferred in all six dogs from Long Beach Animal Care Services.

    Four were puppies and adopted very quickly, but two of the dogs - Honey and Brittney - were adult Pit Bull mixes, who were in poor condition, under-socialized, and clearly presented an adoption challenge.  

    For the next year, spcaLA staff and volunteers worked with Honey and Brittney, rehabilitating them physically, including grooming, and veterinary care. Training staff worked on socialization and basic commands so that they would be successful in their new homes. The effects of this attentive and expert attention began to show, and the dogs improved dramatically. These training, grooming, vet care, and education activities all take place outside the kennel. At the end of 2016, Brittney began working with children in spcaLA’s award-winning violence prevention program, Teaching Love and Compassion (TLC ™). Each day, she would leave the shelter to train with the students, her kennel was cleaned and left empty for her return. 
    Sadly, there are ignorant agitators who see an empty cage and accuse Brittney of causing the death of another dog who needed that cage. How irresponsible and ridiculous. What true animal lover would not want a dog to be taken out of the cage and be seen? There is no correlation between an empty cage and occupancy. Ask yourself, does a hotel put other occupants in a room while a guest is out sightseeing? No.

    This empty cage outrage game is common everywhere animal welfare exists. Those spouting these alternative facts are not serious thinkers and certainly not actual helpers. Their business model is to simply agitate and to recite false facts.

    At spcaLA, we have the benefit of 140+ years of animal welfare experience to draw upon to help pets like Brittney and Honey. All of the in-shelter programs, training, vet care, and more is done with one aim in mind: rehabilitating pets and getting them into permanent homes. But, what if you do all the work, and no adopter comes forward? Luckily, we have multiple adoption locations and relationships all over the country to give animals a chance. One pet that gets no looks at one location, can be moved to another, and low and behold, the perfect adopter inquires. Why wouldn’t we, as animal welfare professionals, give a pet every opportunity and benefit possible for a good home including sending them to another location and vice versa?

    Does a world class city like Long Beach want to be known for building a wall around their borders to prevent the network of reciprocity between shelters to find homes for difficult to place pets? (A suggestion of the agitators.) Of course, this wont help the pets.

    The uninformed recite the same talking points even when educated to the facts. Saddest of all, the agitators find willing vessels in those that prefer to mimic and recite rather than to think and learn for themselves.

    Unfortunately these people find those most susceptible to finding similar parasites to spread their nonsense. Fortunately, most thinking individuals see through them. 

    spcaLA and our colleagues will continue to do what is best for the animals including  that they be seen by all sorts of potential families. Brittney and others like her will get out of their cages and thrive - whereas the agitators and their infected are doomed to remain in their cages, surrounded by a wall, and wait for the puppeteer to send them their new thoughts.

    For those interested in more about Brittney and Honey - see below:

    Video of their story: https://youtu.be/y7a5cg3dgxg
    Video of Brittney at TLC in East Whittier: https://youtu.be/h4xd-ExU-Po

    Jan 14, 2020

    spcaLA and the Long Beach State of the City -2020

    Mayor Beverly O'Neill opening day 2001

    spcaLA served the residents and animals of City of Long Beach since the forties! We operated Long Beach Animal Care & Control from  1940-1960 under the name Southern California Humane Society. At the time, the Long Beach shelter was located at 2150 W Cowles St. Today it’s a used truck sales company.

    In the late 1990's, the city of Long Beach again asked spcaLA for help. In a dark overcrowded shelter on Willow street, Long Beach Animal Control was taking in approximately 14,000 animals a year, with a very low live release rate. Under a very forward thinking Mayor, Beverly O'Neill, and a like-minded council the idea of a public private partnership was born. spcaLA began a capital campaign, built and opened the spcaLA P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village in 2001. 
    Finding homes for over 40,000 Long Beach animals is one of our biggest sources of pride. Our aggressive adoption programs, combined with the fact that our adoptions procedures are trusted throughout the country (as evidenced by our Air Chihuahua program, active since 2009, and other transport activity) has resulted in this fabulous number.

     In addition to our adoption strategies, spcaLA's  robust educational initiatives, affordable vaccine and sterilization programs, creating a beautiful village where people come from around the world, and working with at risk community survivors, have, after 2 decades created at least 2 generations of compassionate and responsible adults. “Compassion saves” is not just adoptions. It is mindful decision making, forward thinking policies, respect for our work, collaborating with other cities, and a moral and ethical approach to ensuring the best quality of life for all our animals. The impound rate plummeted to a remarkable 5195 in 2019. 

    On this, the Long Beach State of the City celebration, and the beginning of a new decade. spcaLA congratulates the city of Long Beach, our hundreds of thousands supporters in Long Beach, including our Long Beach staff and volunteers, as well as our millions of supporters throughout the state and other countries who join in this success. Annual visitors since 2001 from Japan, Australia, Dubai, the United Kingdom, have come to Long Beach to study our methods and our public private collaboration – the first of its kind in 2001 and still the best!

    Congratulations Long Beach!