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Five ways to show your love for animals this Valentine's Day

Puppies at the South LA shelter

These animal-centric options will let you show your affection for a significant other, family member or friend on Valentine's Day and help animals at the same time. We'd call that a win/win situation!

• Local group the Lu Parker Project is working to make sure every last dog at the L.A. Department of Animal Services' South L.A. shelter gets a chance to sleep on a comfortable pet bed rather than on cold, hard cement. The shelter has 140 concrete kennel runs, most of which house more than one dog at a time -- and there are nowhere near enough beds to go around. Many commercially available pet beds aren't well-suited to use in animal shelters because they aren't sufficiently durable or become soaked through when the kennel runs are hosed down during routine cleaning. So pet-bed company Kuranda is offering its raised, chew-proof and easy-to-clean beds at a discount through this program. What does it have to do with Valentine's Day? If you donate a bed (cost: $65) before Feb. 14, you'll receive a free bouquet of flowers and a Valentine's Day greeting card. Flowers and cards can be picked up Feb. 13 or Feb. 14 at one of two local locations: Sporteve in Culver City or Peet's Coffee & Tea on Main Street in Santa Monica.

• When you purchase flowers through Teleflora's ASPCA page, 20% of the cost will be donated to the animal protection organization. Prices start at $29.99 and go ... well, pretty darn high. Just make sure to check the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center page to determine which flowers are nontoxic to your pet, or be prepared to be vigilant about keeping the flowers away from your animals if you opt for something harmful if swallowed. (For instance, lilies can cause liver failure if ingested by cats, and some varieties are also toxic to dogs; daisies can cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination and other symptoms in dogs and cats; and irises can cause vomiting, lethargy, diahhrea and excessive salivation in both dogs and cats.)

Rescue Chocolate's handcrafted candy bars, chocolate hearts and truffles are all-vegan and kosher. Even better, the company donates 100% of its net profits to animal charities. A different charity benefits from Rescue Chocolate's generosity each month -- this month, it's Bay Area pet rescue group Furry Friends, which has saved more than 12,000 animals otherwise destined for euthanasia at municipal shelters in Northern California since 1998. Previous beneficiaries of Rescue Chocolate's generosity include Austin Pets Alive, United Animal Nations, Farm Sanctuary, Philadelphia PAWS, In Defense of Animals and the Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti. Rescue Chocolate sells its products online and in retail stores in 14 states and the District of Columbia. (Here in Southern California, West Hollywood's Du-Vin Wine & Sprits, the Pasadena Humane Society and San Diego's All Vegan carry the treats, but it's a good idea to call ahead to make sure they're in stock.)

Farm Sanctuary has a suggestion for an unorthodox Valentine's Day gift for animal lovers: sponsorship of a rescued farm animal! In addition to its work advocating for farm animal welfare, the organization operates two sanctuaries (one in New York state, one in California) that house cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, ducks, geese and chickens that have been saved from slaughter, abusive situations and other sorry circumstances. Animal lovers can "adopt" a farm animal by making a one-time holiday donation or a recurring monthly donation for its care. Monthly donations start at $10 per month for a chicken to $50 per month for a cow.

• When you send the Animal Rescue Site's free "Got Love?" e-card, the recipient will trigger the donation of a bowl of food to a needy animal just by opening it! It doesn't get much easier than that -- and you can send it to up to 20 people.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Puppies gather at the front of their kennel at the South L.A. animal shelter in a 2007 photo. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times

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Why would you promote ASPCA in Los Angeles? ASPCA is in New York. If you donate to them, that's where the money stays. For animal lovers in Los Angeles that want to help in THIS community, they must donate locally.

how about looking into volunteering at your local shelter?
it's fun, the animals feel your love and you meet great people.
also, people can donate used blankets and towel, pet toys and food, etc to their shelter all year long.
start by just going to your shelters webpage or calling & find out what they need

Cary has a point, but there are other considerations that just being local. I used to be a member of both the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the U.S., as well as donating to spcaLA.

That is until I found out how much the chief officers of these supposed non-profits make from the donations of animal lovers across the country. Here are the most recent reported figures:

Wayne Pacelle, President, Humane Society of the U.S. : $228,981

Madeline Bernstein, President, spcaLA: $202,926

Ed Sayres, President, ASPCA $473,998

Money donated by average people being guilted by ASPCA's multi-million dollar TV ad buys is going to a CEO making nearly half a million dollars. How many animals could that money be saving? Next time you see one of ASPCA's slickly-produced spots ask yourself, "What does a primetime ad buy in Los Angeles cost?" Then ask if an organization that has that kind of budget needs your donation as badly as a small local rescue or shelter.

Then there is the issue of these mega-charities' overwhelming influence that often results in bad outcomes for animals. Because HSUS is seen as a national arbiter of humane issues, their (possibly to be changed, but who knows when?) policy that all dogs seized from fighting operations MUST be euthanized with NO individual temperament assessments has cost hundreds of victimized dogs their lives, including puppies. They vehemently called for the killing of all Michael Vick's dogs, many of whom are now famously rehabilitated and great family pets. Then there is the issue of HSUS' infamous subsequent partnership with Vick, which has led this historic humane organization down the path of minimizing and deliberately obscuring the acts of animal cruelty committed by Vick, including drowning, strangling and slamming dogs into the ground until they died. THIS is HSUS' poster boy for humane treatment of animals.

There are many great local animal rescues and shelters who are doing the front-line work, without multi-million dollar budgets and six-figure salaries. I volunteer at a private shelter on the Westside that has always been no-kill, and that puts every penny donated to food, shelter, maintenance and vet care for the cats and dogs. The founder's salary after twenty-plus years of seven day work weeks? Not one dime -- ever. Do the research and donate where your money pays to care for animals, not for the exorbitant salaries and posh lifestyles of famous "humanitarians."

Such BEAUTIFUL Little Guys...


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