spcaLA in the News
Los Angeles Times | Gardena | Friday, November 1st, 2013
A judge on Friday sentenced the former owner of a Gardena guard dog company to three years' probation for his conviction of animal cruelty.
Charles Ferguson, 52, will also be required to attend counseling for animal neglect and will not be allowed to own any dogs for 10 years under the sentence handed down by Superior Court Judge Allen Webster.
Earlier this year, Ferguson was convicted of neglecting four of the dogs he owned by depriving them of drink and shelter and subjecting them to needless suffering. Ferguson previously owned and operated J.R. Ewing Guard Dogs.
Steven K. Hauser, Ferguson’s attorney, said he thought the sentencing was fair because Ferguson does not have to go to jail.
“He’s not a criminal,” Hauser said. “He did not intend any harm to any dog, he just didn’t take proper care of them.”
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Frisco said that if Ferguson violates any of the conditions of his suspended sentence, he could end up serving a four-year state prison term.
Frisco said he thought the court’s decision was “proper.”
“I’m glad we’re finally taking these types of cases seriously,” Frisco said. “All animals are worthy of protection.”
Ferguson's license for his guard dog company was revoked by the county prior to the trial, said Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, which was the first to discover the abused dogs. He had been operating since at least the 1990s, Frisco said.
The dogs were found in various states of neglect, Frisco said, either emaciated or suffering from burned skin caused by lying in their own feces.
One dog, a Doberman pinscher, had its swollen uterus cut off while she was still alive and bled to death, Frisco said.
Another dog, a 3-year-old Rottweiler, was found dead in the back of a van where he had been left with no ventilation or food, Frisco said.
Ferguson gave differing accounts of what happened to the Rottweiler, including that he had found the dog dead, Frisco said. Throughout the trial he maintained that he had done nothing wrong.
Frisco said he initially asked for Ferguson to be sentenced to state prison, but said that the believes “the judge is giving [Ferguson] an opportunity to reform himself.”
By James Barragan
Riverside County supervisors recently passed an ordinance prohibiting residents of unincorporated areas of Riverside County from owning an unaltered pit bull, or pit mix, older than 4 months.
Earlier, a court in Maryland found that pit bulls and pit bull mixes are “inherently dangerous” dogs, and owners and landlords who know that an attacking dog is a pit bull or mix are strictly liable for damages to the victim of the attack. Simultaneously in Ohio, laws were amended to say just the opposite.Madeline Bernstein, president, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles
In Colorado, cities that were “earlier adopters” of breed discrimination laws found themselves in litigation for removing a bona fide pit bull therapy dog from his companion due to a pit bull ban.
Included in the Riverside County ordinance are exceptions for therapy dogs, licensed breeders, law enforcement and dogs certified too ill for surgery. Other laws contain no such exceptions.
Efforts to cast breed discrimination in a more socially conscious light, argue that many of these dogs, due to their scary reputations, languish in shelters for lack of homes – scary reputations born of breathless media coverage and knee-jerk law enactments.
Besides demonstrating the futility of circular reasoning, these quick fix breed discrimination laws don't solve the problems. Rather, they create endless litigation and serious angst for those families who live with wonderful pits and pit mixes. We need to approach this intelligently.
All dogs are dogs.
All dogs bite.
Mandatory sterilization, with rational exemptions (health, legitimate breeders, etc.) and serious enforcement of vicious-dog ordinances are good ideas for all dogs and people!
Why waste time trying to correctly identify whether a mixed breed falls within a specific breed ban or spay/neuter ordinance, or litigating whether a law as written is constitutionally vague or violative of due process?
Why pile on one breed when it is true that not all pits are dangerous and not all retrievers are nice?
A spay-neuter ordinance that applies to all dogs requires only that law enforcement recognize the difference between a dog and a giraffe!
A dog that bites or mauls someone should trigger sanctions in applicable civil and criminal law arenas.
We must focus on lucid and balanced policies that improve the quality of life for all dogs and citizens. We must protect every person from becoming a victim of a vicious dog. We must protect every dog from harm at the hands of a vicious human.
Imagine instead a world where we are discerning instead of discriminating, where no adoptable dog is euthanized for time and space, and where humans are held accountable for acts of cruelty and damages caused by themselves and their dogs. Imagine using our limited resources to achieve these goals.
This we can and should do. We can and must make it so.
– Madeline Bernstein is president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles
SCVNews | | Monday, August 26th, 2013
Deputies from the Community Oriented Services Bureau (COPS), Antelope Valley Team, conducted a search warrant service at 34230 90th Street East, Juniper Hills, regarding an alleged cockfighting operation. The COPS Team was assisted by Los Angeles County Animal Control, Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA).
Animal Control officers found 279 birds at the location.
The birds were examined and 239 were found to have their combs and waddles removed and they also had their rear feathers removed for cooling the birds. This is only done to birds that are used for fighting. The remaining 40 birds were hens, which were used for breeding. Animal Control seized all 279 birds.
Additional evidence seized as a result of the search warrant included a 20 gauge shotgun, shotgun ammunition, fighting gaffs (Razor blades), training gaffs and medicines used to treat the fighting roosters.
The case will be presented to the District Attorney for filing.
Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s COPS Bureau at (323) 627-8137.
By Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
The Wall Street Journal Online | | Sunday, August 11th, 2013
Apps for Pets Entertain, Teach Critters, Fans Say; Hunt and Peck
At a recent class in New York City on how to use iPads, an instructor had a remedy ready for distracted students: She smeared the screen with peanut butter.
One student, a Hungarian hunting dog named DJ Sam, ate it up.
Dog trainer Anna Jane Grossman began providing private iPad lessons to dogs last year. About 25 of her clients have signed up, and she is planning a 90-minute iPad clinic for dogs later this month, where they will learn to nose the screen to activate apps.
"People always say, 'Oh, can you have my dog do my online banking?' " Ms. Grossman says. In reality, dogs don't "necessarily do very useful things on the iPad," she adds. "But I don't necessarily do very useful things on the iPad either."
Ms. Grossman is part of a nascent but growing group touting the use of apps for pets. They say the apps can entertain pets stranded alone at home, teach valuable motor skills and even promote social behavior by engaging loner animals.
Some smell a rat. They say it isn't fair to make a cat endlessly chase a critter that can't be caught. "Without a successful capture," says Pam Johnson-Bennett, an expert on cat behavior, "I believe the play session keeps the cat too revved up instead of allowing for a satisfying winding down of the action."
Brooklyn cat owner David Snetman intended to let his cat, Pickle, play with his iPad until he tired of it. An hour later, Pickle was still whacking at the screen. Although Pickle's interest never flagged, Mr. Snetman hasn't let him play again since. "It seems very frustrating for him," Mr. Snetman says.
App developers dismiss such criticisms as, well, catty. People "have negative connotations of a zombie child staring at a TV for hours and hours," says T.J. Fuller, who helped develop the popular "Game for Cats." "But I think it's quite different for cats," he says, adding that the games challenge cats physically and mentally.
He and business partner Nate Murray developed it after an app they designed for children flopped. They now have three cat iPad apps, including one that allows cats to paint on a screen and "Game for Cats," which encourages cats to swat a laser dot, mouse or moth scurrying across the screen. Mr. Murray says the apps have been downloaded more than one million times. The basic version of the original is free; others sell for $1.99.
"I started off really early on thinking that it was ridiculous, but it ended up being something really meaningful for people," Mr. Murray says, noting that some people have printed and displayed pictures painted by their cats and given them as gifts.
There are at least a dozen pet-specific apps available in the iTunes store. Although cats and dogs are the main targets, the games have been played by penguins, tigers and frogs, developers say. Penguins especially "seem to really love" "Game for Cats," Mr. Fuller says, but "I don't think the market is very big."
More than a dozen Magellanic penguins periodically play the game at the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, Calif., says Dudley Wigdahl, curator of mammals and birds. During their first gaming session in February, he was astonished to see penguins pecking vigorously at the screen, trying to catch the mouse. "They got a lot out of it," he says. "I didn't expect that."
But success has brought its challenges: copycats, Messrs. Fuller and Murray say. Shortly after their game was released, the cat food company Friskies released its own series of cat-oriented apps. "There is a rivalry there," says Mr. Fuller, adding that he believes his newest game, "Catzilla"—which enables cats to wreck an animated urban landscape—is too edgy for the food company to follow.
Friskies says it developed its games independently and never claimed to be first. "We don't really know how they create their games, but we think they look pretty different," spokeswoman Julie Catron says.
The company's biggest success is an app called "Cat Fishing," which she says has been downloaded more than 500,000 times. The sequel, "Cat Fishing 2," emits meows if the app senses the cat is losing interest and enables owners to share results through social media. The games are free.
Friskies has released seven iPad games, using a focus group of six cats. Several were dubbed "gamer cats" after becoming "completely obsessed" with the games, says designer Eric Sutherland. Gary, an 11-year-old tabby, can spend entire days alternating between 15-minute bursts of game-playing and napping.
Another Friskies app, "You vs. Cat," pits competitors in "the first dual species game," Mr. Sutherland says. Humans at one end of the iPad attempt to score a goal by flicking a ball forward on the screen, while cats try to deflect shots from the other side. The Friskies website shows cats winning as of Aug. 11, with 28.2 million points to 19.7 million. "Humans are just getting pummeled," he says.
Some applications are more serious. A shelter in Los Angeles has begun using iPads with its cats as a therapeutic tool. "It pulls cats out that are a little shy," says Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles.
She advises pet owners, though, that such techniques can backfire: Her own cats now assume the iPad exists for them. "They're constantly getting in my way," when it is her turn to use the device. Still, using iPads provided the shelter with a fundraising opportunity. Officials printed cat paintings from the app onto notecards. So far, they have sold 600 packets, priced at $5.99, crediting the drawings to Frida Katlo and Jackson Pawlick.
Dogs require a different approach, says Ben Kamens, who designed "Game for Dogs" with a partner, Jason Rosoff. They simplified the background and created a starker contrast between virtual animals and the screen.
They experimented on Mr. Rosoff's Yorkshire terrier, Phoebe. "It's at the point now where when she sees the iPad she'll start freaking out," Mr. Kamens says. "She must think there are animals in it."
By Sophia Hollander