Tuesday, February 26, 2008


New city law requiring all cats and dogs be spayed or neutered will help control LA’s pet population and humanely decrease the number of cats and dogs abandoned and euthanized every year.

LOS ANGELES - Pledging to continue the efforts to reduce pet euthanasia and control the City’s pet population, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, joined by Los Angeles City Councilmembers Richard Alarcón and Tony Cardenas, Los Angeles Department of Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks, Animal Rights Advocate Bob Barker, Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle, PETCO Foundation President Paul Jolly and local animal advocates, today signed the Spay/Neuter Ordinance, a new law that requires all pet owners in the City of Los Angeles to have their cats and dogs spayed or neutered.

"By requiring that all cats and dogs be spayed or neutered, we can help to humanely decrease the number of pets abandoned and euthanized each year," said Mayor Villaraigosa. "This ordinance, which contains clear guidelines and enforceable penalties, creates a valuable tool to take this city another step closer toward eliminating the unnecessary euthanasia of animals."

The Spay/Neuter Ordinance will require all pet owners in the City of Los Angeles to have their cats and dogs (four months of age and older) spayed or neutered, unless otherwise exempted because the animal competes, serves as a rescue or service animal, or unless the pet is a registered breeder. Any person violating the spay/neuter law will be cited, and could be subject to up to a $500 dollar fine or 40 hours of community service.

"This spay and neuter will move Los Angeles towards being the most humane city in America by educating pet owners to be more responsible, making our streets safer, reducing the number of animals killed each year in our shelters and allowing us to more effectively use our resources," said Councilmember Alarcón. "The problem in our city is not the animals but the human owners, and this ordinance will allow the Department of Animal services to target resources towards the worst offenders whose irresponsibility threaten public safety and fills our shelters with unwanted dogs and cats."

This new law, which aims to assist in humanely decreasing the number of cats and dogs abandoned and euthanized every year, also poses health benefits for the animals as well. Spaying reduces the risk of certain types of cancers and infections in females, especially if it is performed prior to the first heat. Moreover, neutering lessens a dog's temptation to roam, as well as to fight, as studies show that the majority of dog bites are made by intact, untrained male dogs.

The signing of this ordinance comes on heels of Spay Day USA 2008, an annual Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) coordinated event, during which, thousands of volunteers coast to coast host activities to educate and assist people with getting their pets spayed or neutered.

"The Humane Society of the United States commends the Los Angeles City Council for passing this commonsense measure that will save animal lives and taxpayer dollars," said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. "Combined with the availability of financial assistance for pet owners in need, Los Angeles now has the tools in place for successfully ending the euthanasia of healthy and treatable animals."

"As with so many important accomplishments, this Spay/Neuter law is not the end of the story, but rather just the beginning," said Mayor Villaraigosa. "We will continue to lead the effort by getting our dogs and cats spayed and neutered, licensed and permitted, and saving more animals’ lives."

The new Spay/Neuter law will take effect in April.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Extreme acts of animal cruelty: The Humane Society investigator who spurred the biggest beef recall in U.S. history speaks to Salon

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/02/22/animal_cruelty /
By Katharine Mieszkowski
Feb. 22, 2008 |
In October 2007, John Wrangler, not his real name, took a job as a livestock handler at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Calif., for a salary of $8 an hour. Working from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week, Wrangler herded cattle, many of them milked-out dairy cows, off trucks, and hustled them from pens towards the "kill box" to be slaughtered. All in all, he helped the plant turn about 500 cows per day into meat, with much of the beef going to supply the National School Lunch Program.

In the course of the six weeks that Wrangler worked at the Southern California slaughterhouse, he witnessed extreme acts of animal cruelty and gross violations of federal food safety standards. On his first day on the job, he watched a skinny and weak cow collapse while going up the narrow chute that leads to the kill box where animals' throats are cut. A worker pulled the animal's tail, hoping to get it to stand up. When that failed, the worker applied a "hot shot" cattle prod to jolt the cow to its feet. When the cow still didn't stand, another worker jumped into the chute and shot the cow in the head with a captive bolt gun, designed to stun the animal into unconsciousness. With the cow lying in the chute out cold, the worker put a chain around its neck and attached it to a mechanical hoist, which dragged the unconscious animal to the kill box to be slaughtered and processed into meat.

Wrangler isn't an ordinary slaughterhouse worker. He is an undercover investigator for the Humane Society of the United States, who got a job at the Westland plant and filmed the abuses with a hidden camera. "There wasn't a formal strategy or anything like that," he says. "You're there just doing the job, and this stuff is just happening all around you." On Jan. 30, the Humane Society broadcast excerpts of the video on its Web site. The next day, the United Stated Department of Agriculture suspended Westland Meat Co. as a supplier to the National School Lunch Program. A few days later, USDA pulled its inspectors from the plant and shut down the plant, pending further investigation. The acts of animal cruelty have led to the arrest of two meatpacking workers by Chino police.

More than two weeks after Wrangler's video caused a sensation online, the USDA issued the largest beef recall in the history of the United States: 143 million pounds of beef products, most of which has already been consumed. About 40 percent of that meat went to the National School Lunch Program and other federal nutrition programs. Amazingly, all of the abuses occurred with USDA inspectors on the premises. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said he was "dismayed at the inhumane handling of cattle" at the plant.

Because anemic animals are often the most diseased -- their meat may be contaminated with E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease -- federal regulations hold that a cow should be able to walk to its own slaughter. If a cow goes down, a USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service veterinarian must be immediately notified and the animal must be examined to determine if it should be euthanized. Coercing lame animals to slaughter and into the human food supply is in clear violation of the USDA rule. Yet that is exactly what the Westland was doing, Wrangler says.

In industry parlance, a cow too sick or weak to get to its feet and walk to its slaughter is a "downer." Wrangler, who guards his real name to protect his anonymity, says some trucks delivering old dairy cows for slaughter would arrive with feeble animals lying on top of each other in the back of the truck. "A lot of the animals weren't able to get up on their own," Wrangler recalls. "They're too sick or too old for whatever reason. You go and tell the manager, 'Hey, we've got three down on the back of the truck, what are we doing to do?' And his response always was, 'Get 'em up.' That was his mantra."

Despite the USDA rule, Wrangler says, the mind-set at the plant was, "'We're not going to lose this cow.' They're not going to get the inspector." Workers, including the pen manager himself, would go to extremes: kicking, beating, pulling the animals' tails, shocking them, jabbing them in the eyes, dragging them with chains. "The thought was if you cause enough pain, they'll stand up," says Wrangler. "If that didn't work, he [the pen manager] would use a forklift to dump them into the next pen or into the alleyway that leads up to the slaughter chute." Wrangler even witnessed a bovine version of waterboarding, involving "spraying water down their throat to try to get them to stand up."

Since the scandal broke, industry groups, such as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, have sought to assure the public the problems were an isolated incident. "This recall is happening out of an abundance of caution because the company did not follow regulations for handling non-ambulatory cattle," James O. Reagan, chairman of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council, said in a statement. "We support USDA's recall as a precautionary measure. At the same time, we can say with confidence that the beef supply is safe."

But Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, has his doubts. The Humane Society, he attests, had not been tipped off to abuses at the plant. "This plant was selected at random," he says. "There are 6,200 facilities across the country that USDA inspects. We chose this one and found egregious abuses. There is no way that these groups can say that everything is safe."

The shocking videos of the animals abused at the plant, and the fact that millions of pounds of their meat has already made it into the federal school lunch program, which feeds more than 30 million children per day, has provoked outrage and demands for USDA reforms. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein called for an investigation of the Westland plant for violations of food safety laws and animal cruelty standards. Boxer and Feinstein are also co-sponsors of legislation, introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka, that would require downer cattle to be euthanized.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chairwoman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, announced that Congress will hold hearings about the scandal next month. "It's alarming that the problem was not discovered by USDA itself," she says. "We need to ensure that the school lunch program does not become the industry's dumping ground for bad meat." The House's General Accountability Office also opened an investigation. The United States Humane Society is calling for greater oversight of the animals at slaughterhouses by the USDA, as well as a legislative ban on downer cows being sold as meat.

For his part, Wrangler is glad that his six weeks in meat packing have had such an impact. "A month ago, no one was thinking about the fact that dairy cows went to slaughter, or the fact that a place would purposely buy the cheapest, skinniest animals they could get to make a profit supplying this government program."

-- By Katharine Mieszkowski

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

L.A. Council Passes Spay-Neuter Measure to Curb Shelter Killings

2008-02-12 14:32 (New York)
By Nancy Moran

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The Los Angeles City Council voted to require sterilization of cats and dogs at four months of age or older, aimed at reducing the number of stray animals the city's shelters kill each year.

The ordinance, passed 14-1 today, also goes after illegal breeding, dog-fighting, and hoarders, said District 7 Councilman Richard Alarcon, the sponsor. If the measure is signed, LosAngeles will become the largest municipality in the U.S. to adoptsuch a requirement.

One of the measure's biggest supporters was retired game-show host Bob Barker, who for 25 years concluded the "Price IsRight'' by urging viewers to spay or neuter their pets. He's put about $35 million of his own money toward U.S. programs that subsidize surgeries. "Where would civilization be if we didn't have a few thingsthat are mandatory?'' Barker said in a telephone interview fromLos Angeles last week.

Barker, who will be named by Alarcon to an advisory committee to help with outreach, said the statute won't be a burden on the elderly or poor residents because the city offers about 11,000 vouchers for free surgeries a year and another 20,000 discounts.

"The problem in our city is not the animals but the human owners, and this ordinance will allow the Department of AnimalServices to target resources toward the worst offenders,'' Alarcon said in a statement before today's vote.

Opponents, including District 11 Councilman Bill Rosendahl and members of Concerned Dog Owners of California, raised a variety of questions, from the health effects of early spay-neuter surgery to the infringement on personal property rights. Rosendahl was today's lone "no'' vote. "We need to get more people responsible by getting them within the map of registrations of the animals,'' Rosendahl said during a Feb. 1 hearing.

State Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, who introduced a similarbill at the state level in 2007, attended the Feb. 1 hearing. He said that California ends up killing more than 500,000 of the million animals its jurisdictions take in each year. More than $300 million is spent on animal control services, including disposal of animals that are put down. "I find that a fiscal catastrophe and a moral crisis,'' he said at the hearing. His bill, AB 1634, made it through the state Assembly and is pending before the Senate.

A Third Killed
More than a third of the 45,875 animals impounded at LosAngeles shelters last year were killed. "Thanks to the leadership of Councilman Alarcon, the Cityof Los Angeles is taking a crucial step towards increasing the practice of spaying and neutering our pets and reducing our homeless pet population,'' Villaraigosa said in a statement.

While it costs $135 to euthanize a cat and $195 a dog, it costs $60 to $80 to spay or neuter them, according to Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks. "Despite the fact that we have achieved tremendous success in reducing the killing in our shelters, the number of intakes has remained relatively stable, making all our efforts a bit like running on a treadmill,'' Boks said in an e-mailed statement before today's vote.

The Animal Services Department's Web Site shows that thec ity's euthanasia rate declined to 33 percent last year from 56 percent in 2002, while the number of impounded animals averaged 49,400 in the five-year period. Los Angeles aims to be a "no-kill'' city by the year 2010, Boks said.

Alarcon said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to sign the bill, which has seven categories of exemptions. They include licensed breeders and show, guide and law-enforcement dogs. Spaying and neutering surgeries may also be delayed for medical reasons or due to age, with a veterinarian's letter. "This is going to be a complaint-based system,'' Alarcon said. "If you manage your animal properly, then it's not goingto be a burden.''

Monday, February 11, 2008

Battle to put Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act on the ballot continues

A precedent-setting ballot initiative campaign to ban what many consider to be the cruelest forms of confinement in the veal, egg, and pork industries has been underway in California for the past few months.

A total of 650,000 signatures are required to put the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act on the statewide ballot this November, and with just two weeks left, about 90,000 signatures are still needed.

If you are interested in finding out more about this initiative click here for full details: http://humanecalifornia.org/

More background information can be found in an LA Times editorial that ran this past Saturday, entitled "Hard to Stomach". In it, The LA Times criticized the USDA for failing to prevent abuses recently exposed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in a California meat packing plant. There's also an Associated Press story about the USDA extending the ban on this plant which has been closed since the story broke on January 30th.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

LA City Council approves Spay/Neuter Ordinance!

The LA Times trumpeted the news in today’s edition, “The Los Angeles City Council voted 10 to 1 today to approve mandatory sterilization of most pets at the age of 4 months or older - a decision greeted by cheers and applause from the crowded room at the Van Nuys City Hall - where the council meets the first Friday of every month.

Los Angles is the largest city in the United States with such an ordinance.

On behalf of LA Animal Services, and the tens of thousands of lost and homeless animals we care for every year, I want to thank everyone who was able to attend Friday’s City Council meeting and anyone who played any role in helping to get the long awaited Spay/Neuter Ordinance passed.

This is a victory for the entire community, whether they were there or not, and whether they know it or not. Soon we'll have an important tool with which we can make significant progress toward the goal we all aspire, ending euthanasia as a method of pet overpopulation control.

This is a monumental accomplishment and, on behalf of the Department, I congratulate and thank you all.

Please take a moment to express your appreciation to Council Member Richard Alarcon for his extraordinary leadership in authoring and supporting this ordinance to victory!

fax: (213) 847-0707