spcaLA in the News
Photo courtesy of spcaLA
Newman is one of many dogs waiting for adoption.
Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2014 10:38 am
By Sarah George
Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA), encourages people to think twice before they make pet adoptions as a gift this holiday season.
Bernstein says adoptions tend to pick up around the holidays because it’s a romantic time to give a new pet to kids, a loved one or even friends. But people tend to forget that it is a very stressful time as well, she said. Sometimes, pets are promised to children by parents, and the promise is fulfilled even if it’s clear the family may not have the resources to care for a pet.
“People need to realize that it is a commitment,” Ted Stevens, manager of Long Beach Animal Care Services (LBACS), said. “People often like the idea of a new pet, but after they adopt them, they realize puppies and kittens are a lot of work.”
Stevens said when it comes to pet adoptions, the most common thing people forget is how much it costs to care of a pet, such as food and cat litter. New pets also might need medical treatment shortly after adoption.
Because of the holiday season, LBACS expects to take in approximately 300 dogs plus an additional 60 abandoned by their owners. West Coast Animal Rescue volunteer Leslie Bryant said the spike occurs because people can’t or don’t arrange for boarding due to the expense, so they see animal shelters as a less expensive alternative.
“Some come back for their pets and some don’t,” Bryant said.
Although both Stevens and Bernstein warn the public of the responsibilities and the issues of adoptions this holiday season, they both support adoption instead of purchasing animals from stores. Bernstein said store purchases are discouraged because it often leads to inhumane practices and persuades people to breed more animals.
“Millions of animals are waiting for a family,” Bernstein said. “The same animals that people see through Internet dealers and stores can also be found at shelters.”
Once the decision is made to adopt a pet, there are special causes for concern during the holidays, Bernstein said toxic food and dangerous decorations could make new pet adoptions very difficult for inexperienced pet owners.
If a pet is adopted, Bernstein provides some tips to remember to stay happy with the new family member around the holidays.
• A new pet can topple over a Christmas tree, which can cause a fire. It’s common, she said, for fires to start as a result of a tree around the holidays.
• Bernstein also recommends new owners be on lookout for dogs and cats who like to eat table scraps or purposely knock food down from the table. She warns that pets can get Irritable Bowl Syndrome from table food, which can cause pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting.
• Although some animals might already be house broken, she said it is common for pets to have accidents when they arrive to a new home.
•Beloved holiday decorations and furniture can be destroyed by new pets.
• Holiday guests in a new home might add stress to the animal.
Because of these possible issues around the holidays, Bernstein recommends people use gift certificates as a gift rather than the animal itself and encourages the people with the gift certificates to come and pick out the pet themselves.
Stevens said if finding the right animal is difficult, he encourages the public to ask the shelter’s staff to help find their ideal animal.
“Sometimes people come into the shelters thinking they want a dog, and then they end up coming home with a hamster,” Bernstein said.
Gift certificates can be applied to anything at the shelter, including pet adoptions. Bernstein said these certificates are the solution to people returning pets, which is discouraged, she said, because the goal of the shelters is to provide new homes for the animals.
“It’s not adoption if it’s a return,” Bernstein said.
If the stress of the holidays is of a concern to potential owners, Bernstein said shelters are willing to keep an animal until after the holidays.
For more information on pet adoptions, visit spcala.com/index.php.
SpcaLA P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village and Education Center, as well as the Long Beach Animal Services, is at 7700 E. Spring St.
By Sarah George
Press-Telegram | | Thursday, December 11th, 2014
LONG BEACH >> A Long Beach man accused of killing multiple cats after attempting to return two dead felines to an animal shelter pleaded guilty today in a deal that will reduce his maximum sentence.
Steven Ullery, 24, agreed to the deal after an October trial ended with a jury failing to reach a verdict, with all but two jurors on the panel favoring conviction. He was scheduled to begin a second trial today.
Long Beach police arrested Ullery Jan. 23. The Los Angeles chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigated Ullery after he and his wife attempted in August 2013 to return two dead cats to one of the organization’s animal shelters. The couple claimed the cats were “defective” and asked for a refund one month after adopting the felines, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
Investigators concluded the Ullery couple brought another three dead cats to Uptown Animal Hospital in Long Beach between March and May of 2013. Prosecutors say one of those cats died from blunt trauma to its face and another was choked to death.
Rather than face a new jury, Ullery pleaded guilty to four felony counts of animal cruelty. He will be allowed to change his plea to a single count as long as he returns to the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse Jan. 6 for sentencing.
Ullery faced a maximum sentence of five years in state prison. The deal provides for a two-year sentence.
Although Ullery did not agree with prosecutors that he intentionally killed the animals, defense attorney Louis Pilato and his client decided not to risk a second trial, Pilato said after the morning’s proceedings.
“We did have a trial. The jury voted almost unanimously against my client,” Pilato said. “Given the circumstances and exposure he faced ... we had a deal to avoid an excessive sentence.”
Judge Tomson T. Ong allowed Ullery, who is not in custody, to return to court after the holiday season. He warned Ullery that he would be sentenced for all four felony counts if he misses his next court date.
By Andrew Edwards
L.A. Times | Los Angeles | Saturday, October 4th, 2014
Why did the monocled cobra slink across the road? To give Los Angeles County animal control officers the slip, of course. It didn't work; the nomadic ophidian is now in residence at the San Diego Zoo. And while the hooded snake sighting and ensuing four-day chase unnerved some Thousand Oaks residents last month, for Department of Fish and Wildlife Patrol Lt. Marty Wall, wild encounters in the concrete jungle simply go with the territory.
You might not think that the Los Angeles basin, with its rivers of traffic and concrete, would be a likely home to wildlife. But you'd be wrong. Wall has seen a lot of strange things roaming the big city in 22 years with the department, ranging from a baboon on a front porch in Chatsworth to a bear on a Northridge golf course. The Thousand Oaks serpent wasn't the first cobra to slither across a Southland street, Wall said — although its Twitter following (@AlbinoMonoCobra, @Toakscobra) and the fact that it's white, not albino, according to zoo officials, certainly makes it unique. And, oh, by the way, if you see a bear on a golf course, "get out of the way," Wall said. Even if you think you're channeling Tiger Woods, "let the bear play through," he added.
L.A.'s wildlife comes from a variety of places. The escaped baboon was legal, permitted by Fish and Wildlife and returned safely to the owner. Bears and mountain lions follow flood-control channels and can get lost in the heart of the city. Deer are drawn to drought-resistant plants that are popular with developers. Mountain lions and coyotes follow deer and other smaller animals. And many critters (bats, foxes, mice, opossums, peacocks, raccoons and skunks) just live among us.
As home builders expand into undeveloped areas and water sources wane in the drought, human-wildlife encounters can seem more common. Still, while a tweeting cobra with a Facebook page can make it appear that the wild things are taking over, Wall said animal populations haven't changed much.
"If I had to blame anything for the perception, I'd blame social media. Information gets out so quickly," he said.
Wall, whose squad includes three other wardens and services L.A. County north of Interstate 10, said he resolves most of the department's cases, one or two a month, by showing up, creating a safe escape route for the animal and asking police and residents to step back. No, really, take a big step back, Wall said. "The animal will go on its way. I've never seen a bear skeleton up in a tree. They always come down. You just have to let them," he added.
Wall said bear, deer and mountain lions prompt the most calls. And not every story has a happy ending. Animals that can't get home unaided and those that pose a threat to public safety are captured and relocated (often to the nearest forest or animal sanctuary) or killed.
Bears and mountain lions may steal the media spotlight, but L.A.-based trapper Johnathan Russell said coyotes, opossums, raccoons and skunks cause more trouble for homeowners.
In August, Janet Keyte realized that a ring-tailed house guest had moved into her La Crescenta home when the 10-week-old cubs started roughhousing at 5 a.m. Her son called five raccoon removal companies before he reached Russell's.
The trapper arrived the next day. During the hourlong service call (average cost: $300 to $400), he surveyed the roofline opening, photographed the feral clan and left pads scented with male raccoon pheromones in the attic. Russell said the female raccoon, sensing danger, would likely move the family within three days.
Keyte, who had raccoons in the house once before, planned to seal the roofline and prepare for some ribbing from the locals, the human ones.
In Seal Beach, it's coyotes that are prompting calls. Residents say they have become too brazen after killing dozens of pets, and the City Council recently approved a plan to start trapping and euthanizing them.
Even the experts get stumped at some encounters. Madeline Bernstein has been with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles for 20 years. But when her husband called about the lion in the garden of their Encino home in 2009, she was befuddled.
"I said, 'Do you mean a lion or a bobcat?' He said, 'What's the difference?' I said, 'If it's a lion, stay inside … make some noise,' " she recalled.
The animal left, but Bernstein never forgot the encounter. And she's had a few more since.
"It's interesting that you can have raccoons and bobcats and opossums and coyotes all showing up at your door in Los Angeles. I moved here from Manhattan," she added, "but I still look around every once in a while and think, 'This is a lot of wildlife for a city chick.' "
By Michelle Hofmann
ABC News | Los Angeles | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
Young people who torture and kill animals are prone to violence against people later in life if it goes unchecked, studies have shown. A new federal category for animal cruelty crimes will help root out those pet abusers before their behavior worsens and give a boost to prosecutions, an animal welfare group says.
For years, the FBI has filed animal abuse under the label "other" along with a variety of lesser crimes, making cruelty hard to find, hard to count and hard to track. The bureau announced this month that it would make animal cruelty a Group A felony with its own category — the same way crimes like homicide, arson and assault are listed.
"It will help get better sentences, sway juries and make for better plea bargains," said Madeline Bernstein, president and CEO of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles and a former New York prosecutor.
The category also will help identify young offenders, and a defendant might realize "if he gets help now, he won't turn into Jeffrey Dahmer," she said.
Law enforcement agencies will have to report incidents and arrests in four areas: simple or gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, including dogfighting and cockfighting; and animal sexual abuse, the FBI said in statement. The bureau didn't answer questions beyond a short statement.
"The immediate benefit is it will be in front of law enforcement every month when they have to do their crime reports," said John Thompson, interim executive director of the National Sheriffs' Association who worked to get the new animal cruelty category instituted. "That's something we have never seen."
Officers will start to see the data are facts and "not just somebody saying the 'Son of Sam' killed animals before he went to human victims and 70-some percent of the school shooters abused animals prior to doing their acts before people," said Thompson, a retired assistant sheriff from Prince George's County, Maryland.
FBI studies show that serial killers like Dahmer impaled the heads of dogs, frogs and cats on sticks; David Berkowitz, known as the "Son of Sam," poisoned his mother's parakeet; and Albert DeSalvo, aka the "Boston Strangler," trapped cats and dogs in wooden crates and killed them by shooting arrows through the boxes.
It will take time and money to update FBI and law enforcement databases nationwide, revise manuals and send out guidelines, Thompson said, so there won't be any data collected until January 2016. After that, it will take several months before there are numbers to analyze.
The new animal cruelty statistics will allow police and counselors to work with children who show early signs of trouble, so a preschooler hurting animals today isn't going to be hurting a person two years from now, Bernstein said.
The FBI's category will track crimes nationwide and is bound to give animal cruelty laws in all 50 states more clout. Many states are seeing more of those convicted of animal cruelty being sentenced to prison, in marked contrast to years past.
Whether talking about state laws or the FBI change, it is clear "that regardless of whether people care about how animals are treated, people — like legislators and judges — care about humans, and they can't deny the data," said Natasha Dolezal, director of the animal law program in the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.
By Sue Manning