spcaLA in the News
I've been accused of ruining the reputation of the entire animal rescue movement — dooming thousands of dogs to death — with my column on Tuesday about a spat over a lost-and-found pet.
If you missed the column, here's a recap:
Rosa Torres' dog disappeared from her backyard, landed in a shelter with no tags or ID and was bailed out by an animal rescue group, Karma Rescue. The group adopted the dog out to a new home the next day even though it had received calls and emails from Torres trying to reclaim her lost pet.
It bothered me that Karma Rescue didn't respond to Torres until her dog had already been placed with the new family. Her application — to adopt her own dog — didn't meet their standards, the group said in a statement on Monday.
The column caused a storm in a rescue world made up of thousands of passionate volunteers who don't always agree on how best to save unwanted dogs and cats. And it infuriated animal-loving readers already frustrated by bad experiences with rescue groups.
Karma Rescue had plenty of defenders, who said I'd unfairly cast the group as the villain in this drama, when I should have blamed the irresponsible dog owner.
"I have no doubt that Torres loved" her dog, wrote Linda Wendell Henry, owner of a rescued dog. "But let's face it, love alone is not enough."
What kind of person, angry readers asked, buys a puppy from a breeder, fails to spay or license the dog — as the law requires — and doesn't bother to protect the pet with ID tags or a microchip?
A person who needs an education in the responsibilities of a pet owner.
That's a lesson Karma Rescue could have taught Torres, if its volunteers had talked with her, visited her home and considered returning her dog — under the strict scrutiny that makes adoption contracts a form of mutual bondage.
I didn't intend to malign the rescue world. The groups work on shoestring budgets doing a difficult job that's often more heartbreaking than fulfilling.
But rescue groups have an image problem outside their tight-knit community. That was clear from the public comments on my column and the dozens of emails I received.
"These people are supposed to be finding homes for animals, not playing God," wrote Karen Jossel, who found a great dog through a rescue group, after being turned down by another that required owners to be home all day with their dogs.
I understand the passion of rescue volunteers. They see the worst of human nature in the abused and neglected animals they take in. They want to make sure those dogs and cats land in loving, responsible and permanent homes.
But that leads some to set unrealistic standards for prospective adopters. One reader told me he had an easier time adopting his infant son than adopting a rescued dog. Even rescue volunteers joke that they might not make the cut if they had to apply for their own pets. .
Qualifying can be an intrusive and exhausting process. Applications can run to a dozen pages; Karma Rescue's has more than 100 questions, including "Are you planning on having children in the future? If so, when?"
Readers shared distressing stories about arbitrary and condescending guidelines that deemed them unfit:
They were too old (60s) or too young (20s). The yard was too small, the house didn't have a doggy door, the 6-foot-high backyard gates were latched but not locked. If you're unemployed, you can't afford a dog. If you work, you don't have time for one.
"The way they talked to me was like I was dirt," wrote Barbra Chambers, whose yard was deemed by rescue groups too small for a dog.
She adopted a pooch from a shelter instead. "He has a wonderful life. He goes to doggie day care, runs on the beach, sleeps with us, has special food from the vet — you get the picture," she said. "I will never forget my terrible experience with the rescue groups."
I do get the picture — and I hope rescue groups do, too.
For all the attention this situation has received, cases like this crop up frequently and are hard to resolve, said Madeline Bernstein, Los Angeles president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which helps mediate disputes.
"We talk to everybody, try to figure out what happened and broker a deal," Bernstein said. "But it's no simple process. There are always complex feelings involved on both sides."
Officials at Karma Rescue said they've contacted the new owners several times and appealed to them — without success — to return the dog.
"We are truly sad about the situation, but there is no legal way we can remove a dog from its adopter," the group's statement said.
Karma Rescue is considering revising its procedures so this doesn't happen again. I hope they take a lesson from other rescues that don't put strays up for immediate adoption, but lodge them with volunteers for 30 days in case an owner spots a photo of a missing pet online.
The group will also be offering free microchipping on Sunday, March 9, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the first 500 dogs brought to the East Valley Animal Shelter at 14409 Vanowen St. in Van Nuys.
That's a worthy gesture by a group that has yet to admit that it rushed an adoption that didn't have to happen.
Karma Rescue has been battered by this in ways I never expected. I may not agree with its actions in this case, but I do respect the good work the group has done for more than 10 years.
It's time to dial down the ugly rhetoric and threats, and work to make sure that cherished pets don't land in crowded shelters.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
By Sandy Banks
Orange County Register | | Thursday, February 20th, 2014
Long Beach police were on patrol around midnight on Jan. 28 when they followed a trail of smoke and found a burning motor home in the 500 block of West 17th Street.
The officers grabbed a fire extinguisher from their cruiser and began to extinguish the flames as firefighters rushed to the scene. As they busted open the motor home's front door, a golden retriever covered in ash and soot came running out. The dog was shaken but unharmed, animal control officers said.
Inside the motor home was the body of her owner, 61-year-old Thomas Taylor of Long Beach. Police later determined that Taylor's death was a homicide and arrested Diana Sequen, 20; Jose Alfredo Zolorza, 19; and David Romero, 28. All have been charged with murder and are being held at the Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail. They are due to appear in court in Long Beach for arraignment today.
Detectives believe Taylor and the suspects were involved in an ongoing dispute and the fire was an attempt to destroy evidence.
The dog, a 2-year-old retriever named Puddles, was taken Long Beach Animal Control and put up for adoption through spcaLA.
Though it's a tragic ending for Taylor, at least his dog will have a happy ending. On Wednesday, Puddles was adopted by a family, said Ana Bustilloz, a spokeswoman for spcaLA.
Aside from ashy fur from being trapped in the burning motor home, Puddles was remarkably unharmed, Bustilloz said, adding that a few baths restored her golden coat. Bustilloz credited the fast action of the police officers for saving her life.
“She's still a little shaken but she's doing OK,” she said.
By Kelly Puente
The zoo asserted that this giraffe, though healthy, possessed genes too common to be used in their breeding program. The killing was done despite both the posting of online petitions opposing it and the offers of other facilities to take Marius.
The zoo argued that such “culling” occurs in the wild and that it has done this many times with goats, antelope and boar. The zoo further argued that seeing a giraffe killed this way was educational for youngsters.
I understand that we are routinely confronted with the conflicts of choosing between saving the predator and saving the prey. Do you let a snake starve because you won’t kill a mouse?
Such contradictions exist everywhere in our lives: Criminals can behave kindly, pit-bull fighters can cherish the family pet dog, and people can kill to protect others.
Not every decision is a “Sophie’s choice,” but each decision must be recognized as the product of a complex world with competing priorities. The mouse and the snake both want to live, and they will fight to do so.
Zoos have educational mandates and responsibilities to treat their animals and visitors humanely. Zoos should not exist to replicate the wars fought in the wild, but rather, if they must exist, to demonstrate compassion, conserve endangered species and teach respect for those beings with which we humans share this planet.
I don’t think wild animals should be held captive for our entertainment. I surely don’t think they should be massacred for it, either.
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Long Beach Press Telegram | | Monday, December 16th, 2013
Responsible pet ownership is what matters most
The latest salvo to reduce euthanasia in animal shelters is to increase the number of pets legally allowed in households. The theory is to increase output thereby reducing the population inside and presto — problem solved. Though spcaLA neither tolerates even one pet per household who is not properly cared for nor worries about those with an excess number of pets who are, the issue is one of responsible pet ownership, the maximum number of which varies in conjunction with the available resources of the adopters. In other words, some can handle 10 while others should not be allowed even one.
Unregulated breeding, lack of sterilization and irresponsible owners cause pet overpopulation and high euthanasia rates in this country — not the shelters. The question, therefore, is whether increasing the number of pets per household will help. In a perfect humane world the answer is yes. Not so much in ours.
First, this fix does not address the need to reduce the number of animals coming into shelters. Therefore, there will always be more unwanted pets than homes for them. Second, lack of pre-adoption screening, record numbers of pets being turned in due to economic pressures, and those unable to adequately care for the animals they have, suggest potential quality of life worries.
Glib sounding solutions — have more pets, leave cats in the street like wildlife, and refuse to take owned pets — without studying whether they address the root of the problem are simply catch phrases to politicians and catnip to the uninformed who seek credit and comfort in presenting an illusory fix to a tragic problem.
We must legitimately stop the influx of animals in the first place by eliminating puppy mills, reporting backyard breeders, adopting from shelters, sterilizing along with ensuring pets are safe at home, wearing identification and retained for his/her natural life.
If not , do we increase the limit to 10 next year?
— Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (spcaLA)