9:19 AM, December 1, 2008

In today's Los Angeles Times:

The Times' Carla Hall writes about the continuing controversy swirling around elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Every elephant death was scrutinized; every public hearing about the animals was filled with protesters. It's no coincidence that the largest land mammal has prompted the largest and longest-running public relations problem for the zoo. Critics contend that the zoo has never had sufficient space to keep the lumbering behemoths.

And there's still not enough space, they argue, in the $42-million "Pachyderm Forest" now under construction. Several weeks ago, zoo officials eagerly showed off the portion that was completed and spoke of how the 3.6 acres would include a waterfall, water holes, mud wallows and varying surfaces for elephants' problem-prone feet to trod. ...

Today, the City Council's budget and finance committee is scheduled to meet and discuss whether the zoo project, funded by a bond measure, city money and private donations, should be shut down.

Times staff writer Kim Murphy has the latest developments in the case of the disappearing spotted owl.

Spotted_owlAcross their entire range in Washington, Oregon, Northern California and British Columbia, there are thought to be fewer than 5,000 northern spotted owls left. In the dense forests of the Olympic Peninsula last year, spotted owls were found in 19 of the 54 sites they had once populated. Their numbers have declined by a third since the 1990s, when old-growth logging across the Pacific Northwest came to a virtual halt in an effort to protect their habitat.

The declines have been so persistent -- averaging 4% a year -- that a growing number of scientists have come to think the most immediate culprit is not logging but the aggressive barred owl, which has crept into the West Coast forests from Canada over the last few decades.

And a man who once pleaded guilty to federal charges in the deaths of three bald eagles has been pardoned by President Bush.

--Alice Short

Photo credit: Associated Press

2:43 PM, November 14, 2008

L.A. Unleashed has visited the topic of rental pets in the past.

Apparently the possibility was raised in West Hollywood, but that city is having none of it. West Hollywood's City Council has banned the business of pet rentals. Mayor Jeff Prang called the practice "horrific." For details, jump to L.A. Now.

Photo: Los Angeles Times

3:56 PM, November 12, 2008

From the Associated Press:

Conservationists are taking the first step in suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the agency cut the habitat for Southern California's endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat by two-thirds.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and the Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley filed a formal notice of intent Wednesday to sue the agency.

The conservation groups say the reduction in habitat will drive the animal closer to extinction.

Agency spokeswoman Jane Hendron has said the reduction was suggested for a variety of reasons, including new mapping technology that allows scientists to determine exactly what areas are critical to the animal's conservation.

2:58 PM, November 12, 2008

Times staff writer David Savage reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has had its say about sonar and whales:

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a defeat to environmentalists today and cleared the way for the Navy to use high-powered sonar 12 miles off the Southern California coast even if it poses a threat to whales and other marine mammals.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts said the Navy needs to train its crews to detect enemy submarines, and it cannot be forced to turn off its sonar when whales are spotted nearby. "The public interest in conducting training exercises with active sonar under realistic conditions plainly outweighs" the concerns voiced by environmentalists, he said for a 5-4 majority.

Roberts faulted judges in California for "second-guessing" the views of Navy leaders. "Where the public interest lies does not strike us as a close question," he said.

Roberts also questioned whether whales have indeed been harmed by sonar. He said the Navy had been operating off the California coast for 40 years "without a single documented sonar-related injury to any marine mammal."

The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups strongly disagreed. They say studies conducted around the world have shown that the piercing underwater sounds cause whales to flee in panic. These studies said some whales have beached themselves and have shown signs of bleeding in their ears as a result of high-powered sonar.
Today's ruling lifts a Los Angeles judge's order that required the Navy to turn off its sonar when whales or marine mammals were seen within 1.2 miles of a ship. The ruling left in a place several measures to protect the whales, including a 12-mile zone along the coast where the Navy may not use its sonar. These were not challenged in the Supreme Court.

The Bush administration had urged the court to take up this case and rule quickly so the Navy could conduct training exercises scheduled in the next few months.

1:50 PM, November 7, 2008

Pamelyn Ferdin, an activist who has protested the use of animals in scientific experiments, was convicted of contempt of court Thursday for violating an injunction against demonstrations near the homes of UCLA researchers. Times staff writer Larry Gordon reports:

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John L. Segal, who conducted Ferdin's hearing in Santa Monica, scheduled sentencing for Nov. 18, according to a court clerk.

Ferdin was found to have violated an injunction, issued in April at UCLA's request, when she demonstrated in June near the Westside homes of UCLA faculty members and distributed fliers that included scientists' home addresses and phone numbers.

Reached by telephone Thursday, Ferdin said she planned to appeal her conviction but was proud of her involvement in the protests. She said the injunction covered other people and did not name her.

"I have every right to hand out the leaflets," said Ferdin, 49, of Agoura Hills.

Read more Animal rights activist convicted of contempt of court »

8:57 AM, November 6, 2008

Two_chickensCalifornians passed Proposition 2 on Tuesday, but the debate over egg prices hasn't completely died down.

For months, farmers in the Golden State contended that passage of the farm animal welfare measure, which is supposed to free about 20 million egg-laying hens of their tiny cages, would drive up egg prices -- or even drive them out of business.

Wednesday, the measure's proponents said that rise was unlikely, especially since the measure doesn't take effect until 2015. The head of the Humane Society of the U.S., which sponsored the campaign, said farmers would adjust to meet an increasing demand for eggs from cage-free birds. "For them to say 'we're all going out of business because we have to let the birds stretch their wings' is absurd," said Wayne Pacelle, the group's president.

In addition, California imports a third of the shelled eggs it consumes from out-of-state producers, which are not subject to the new regulations. A new study from the UC Davis Agricultural Issues Center said there would be no reason for a jump in the price of those eggs. 

But Ryan Armstrong, an egg farmer in Valley Center, Calif., predicted he would have to leave the state rather than convert to cage-free housing. "We haven't quite figured it out. We'll probably in the next month or so let some employees go and slim down our operations," Armstrong said Wednesday. "Our goal is probably not to stay in the egg business."

Times staff writers Carla Hall and Jerry Hirsch have the details in today's Business section.

--Alice Short

Photo credit: Associated Press

2:18 PM, October 25, 2008

Gray_wolf_2Some news items you might have missed this week:

The Bush administration is trying once again to remove the gray wolf of the Northern Rockies from the endangered species list, sparking protests from animal advocates.

A Hemet, Calif., woman was arrested for allegedly kidnapping her neighbor's barking dog and dumping it 15 miles from home.

Scientists with the Audubon Nature Institute unveiled a genetically engineered glow-in-the-dark cat named Mr. Green Genes.

EBay said it would stop selling ivory on its websites after an investigation by an animal welfare group found the online auction giant was listing thousands of animal products taken from endangered species.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Associated Press

6:20 PM, October 21, 2008

Hen_cages The state ballot initiative that would outlaw confining hens, pigs and calves in movement-restricting cages has become a high-profile and costly fight between celebrity-backed animal activists and agricultural groups, Times reporter Carla Hall writes.

The treatment of farm animals has been on the radar of national animal welfare organizations for more than two decades. But no initiative or legislation has raised the profile of the issue like Proposition 2 has. The measure, aimed at protecting creatures that many urban Californians may never have seen up close, has captivated animal welfare advocates and galvanized their opponents well beyond state lines.

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres promoted it on her program and co-hosted a gala fundraiser with her spouse, actress Portia de Rossi. Oprah weighed in last week, hosting both sides of the debate on her show.

Meanwhile, the measure's opponents have received hundreds of thousands of dollars not just from California farmers but also from out-of-state agricultural interests, concerned that their practices could be targeted next.

Earlier this week, Times columnist George Skelton weighed in on the issue, opining that the comfort of chickens is something that should be worked out among farmers, activists and consumers, not by way of the ballot box.

"I'm for chicken compassion," he wrote. "But I feel more compassionate about the chicken farmer in this bankrupting economy."

--Tony Barboza

Photo: Farm Sanctuary

12:53 PM, October 17, 2008


Despite vetoing a bill banning pets from motorists' laps, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger earned an A on the annual report card put out by the animal rights organization PawPac.

The San Francisco-based group gave the governor good grades for his position supporting bills that prohibit the slaughter of sick cows, improve funding of spay-neuter clinics and boost protection of wildlife. (In the photograph above, Schwarzenegger tours the Nash Dairy in Selma, near Fresno, in 2006.)

Eleven state legislators received A+ grades, including Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), who tried unsuccessfully to push through a bill requiring most dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered.

An F grade was given to 17 lawmakers, all Republicans, for their votes on the targeted bills, including state Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido). Wyland said he voted against a bill allowing a check-off on income tax filings to fund spay-neuter programs because the filings have become too cluttered with such boxes dedicating money to causes. He was dinged for voting against two global warming bills.

"I believe we have to reduce emissions but many of the bills we see are unworkable, damaging to the economy and don’t solve the problem," he said. Wyland said the grade does not accurately reflect his feelings for animals. "I love pets," Wyland said. "I’ve had dogs for many years."

-- Patrick McGreevy

Photo: Christian Parley/AP

5:55 PM, October 13, 2008


The statewide campaign to improve conditions for California's farm animals moves from the news section to the funny pages this week.

The creator of the syndicated comic strip "Mutts" sends his farm animal characters to the streets to ask voters for better living conditions.

Patrick McDonnell devotes his strip this week to messages he hopes will sway voters to vote "yes" on Proposition 2, which sets size standards for cages housing hens, veal calves and breeding pigs. The New Jersey artist is on the board of the Humane Society of the United States, the major backer of the proposition.

The eight-day series depicts chickens, calves and pigs going door to door. In the opening strip, a chicken asks a man for "some sun and a little piece of Earth."

Mutts, seen in 700 newspapers, often carries anti-cruelty messages, and the state's proposition is the latest theme in the series.

Earlier this year, L.A. Unleashed also told you about McDonnell's book that features his comic strips alongside the stories of animals adopted from shelters.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Los Angeles Times archives

12:05 PM, October 12, 2008

You may recall the massive raid that rescued about 1,000 dogs from a West Virginia puppy mill in August, or earlier that month, the report of two Pennsylvania kennel owners who legally shot and killed 80 dogs because they had fleas.

The Quaker State, it turns out, is one of just a few states where mostly unregulated puppy mills are concentrated. But this week the state became the latest to clamp down on the facilities, the Associated Press reports. Gov. Ed Rendell, himself the owner of two rescued golden retrievers, signed the bill on Thursday:

The new law imposes strict standards on commercial kennels, including at least twice-a-year veterinary exams, larger cages and exercise requirements.

"We've catapulted ourselves into having one of the best laws in the country," said Sara Speed, the Humane Society's Pennsylvania state director. . .

The new law in Pennsylvania targets about 650 large-scale commercial breeders, or roughly one-quarter of the state's 2,600 licensed kennels, that sell any dogs to dealers and pet shops or traffic in at least 60 dogs per year. Violators would be subject to both criminal and civil penalties.

Pennsylvania joined Virginia, Louisiana and Arizona, other states that have taken steps this year to regulate kennels.

--Tony Barboza

8:03 AM, October 10, 2008


Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has never hidden the fact that she's a proud hunter from her home state of Alaska, first with a famous photo (below) through which many Americans initially came to know of her with a caribou she shot, to Wednesday's photo (above) of the governor carrying a tote bag with the slogan "Real Women Hunt Moose."

But some animal rights advocates and activists have taken issue not only with her hunting practices, but more so her administration's stances on issues in Alaska regarding animal welfare.

Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, slammed the VP nominee in a blog post, saying Republican presidential candidate John McCain's choice "cemented" his organization's decision to endorse the Democratic ticket of Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden instead.

Markarian's stinging criticism of Palin:

Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-Alaska) retrograde policies on animal welfare and conservation have led to an all-out war on Alaska’s wolves and other creatures. Her record is so extreme that she has perhaps done more harm to animals than any other current governor in the United States.

Palin engineered a campaign of shooting predators from airplanes and helicopters, in order to artificially boost the populations of moose and caribou for trophy hunters. She offered a $150 bounty for the left foreleg of each dead wolf as an economic incentive for pilots and aerial gunners to kill more of the animals, even though Alaska voters had twice approved a ban on the practice. This year, the issue was up again for a vote of the people, and Palin led the fight against it — in fact, she helped to spend $400,000 of public funds to defeat the initiative.

What’s more, when the Bush administration announced its decision to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Palin filed a lawsuit to reverse that decision. She said it’s the "wrong move" to protect polar bears, even though their habitat is shrinking and ice floes are vanishing due to global warming.  (Note: It's not the first time L.A. Unleashed told you about Palin's polar bear controversy.)

The choice for animals is especially clear now that Palin is in the mix. If Palin is put in a position to succeed McCain, it could mean rolling back decades of progress on animal issues.

French film icon and well-known animal enthusiast Brigitte Bardot also has been harsh about criticizing Palin, referring to the governor's joke about the difference between her and a pitbull having to do with lipstick, our Dish Rag reports from Britain's Telegraph:

Referring to Palin's pitbull-with-lipstick crack, Bardot adds: "I know dogs well, and I can assure you that no pitbull, no dog, nor any other animal is as dangerous as you are. By denying the responsibility of man in global warming, by advocating gun rights and making statements that are disconcertingly stupid, you are a disgrace to women and you alone represent a terrible threat, a true environmental catastrophe."

Bardot lashed out at Palin for supporting Arctic oil exploration that could threaten ecosystems and for dismissing measures to protect polar bears.

"This shows your total lack of responsibility, your inability to protect or simply respect animal life," she wrote.

The 74-year-old former film star is notorious in France for her outspoken views on immigration, the environment and animal rights. She has been convicted and fined four times in Paris for anti-gay and racist remarks.

But all the criticism may have little to do with how pet owners view her ticket, as McCain had their votes over Obama earlier this summer. However, we must note, that survey was taken before Palin was unleashed into the political campaign.

--Francisco Vara-Orta


Photo credits: Top: Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images; Below: Associated Press

12:03 PM, October 7, 2008


From the Associated Press:

ANCHORAGE -- The federal government will designate "critical habitat" for polar bears off Alaska's coast, a decision that could add restrictions to future offshore petroleum exploration or drilling.

Federal law prohibits agencies from taking actions that may adversely modify critical habitat and interfere with polar bear recovery. That probably will affect oil and gas activity, said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of three groups that sued to get a critical habitat designation.
"Other than global warming, the worst thing that's going on in polar bear habitat right now is oil development and the potential for oil spills," Siegel said.

Bruce Woods, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, said it's not known what area in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska might be designated for polar bears, especially given that sea ice conditions are changing and areas now covered by ice might in the future be open water.

The agreement to designate critical habitat was filed Monday in Oakland as a partial settlement of a lawsuit brought by Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Siegel's group.
They sued in March after Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne missed a January deadline for declaring polar bears threatened or endangered.

Kempthorne on May 14 declared polar bears "threatened," or likely to become endangered, citing their need for sea ice, the dramatic loss of sea ice in recent decades and computer models that suggest sea ice is likely to further recede.

The settlement sets a deadline of June 30, 2010, for a final rule designating critical habitat for the polar bear.
Photo: Subhankar Banerjee / Associated Press

3:14 PM, September 30, 2008

Cat_pawThe charity arm of PetSmart this week announced a pledge to raise $13.8 million to fund eight low-cost spay and neuter clinics in Los Angeles County.

Two nonprofits, FixNation and Clinico, will operate the facilities, said PetSmart Charities spokeswoman Kim Noetzel. Three of the facilities are already operating in Pico Rivera, Downey and Los Angeles.

"We believe that ensuring high-quality, low-cost, high-volume spay neuter services in the areas where they are needed the most is one of the keys to ending pet homelessness," Noetzel said. "That means fewer animals enter the shelter system, where they could be euthanized."

The timing is significant; Wednesday is the first day Angelenos can be cited for not having their pets spayed or neutered under a law that took effect in April (yes, the grace period ends Oct. 1).

L.A. Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks welcomed the initiative, saying it would help the city control the number of animals entering the shelters and thus rein in euthanasia. He said the pledge will also help push along an effort to expand spay-neuter clinics both at city shelters and at outside facilities. Currently, only the shelter in South Los Angeles offers spaying and neutering.

Noetzel, of PetSmart Charities, said the Los Angeles area was chosen for the project because it has one of the highest levels of animal euthanasia in the nation. She estimated that over the next five years, the program could result in 500,000 cats and dogs being neutered, preventing the birth of perhaps millions of kittens and puppies.

--Tony Barboza

Photo: Richard Hartog/Los Angeles Times

3:03 PM, September 29, 2008


Celebrities posing for photographers, a Bel-Air mansion, an elegant dinner outside under twinkling lights, the iconic Carole King singing and playing the piano. Was it a fundraiser? Yes, of course. But the issue wasn't a presidential campaign, Darfur or the environment. The cause: factory farm animals. 

The Humane Society's Wayne Pacelle estimated that more than $1 million was raised Sunday night from 450 guests. The funds help pay for advertising and other expenses incurred in the campaign to help pass Proposition 2, the California state ballot measure that would outlaw confining crates and cages used in the factory farming of hens, veal calves and pregnant pigs. According to the campaign --sponsored by the Humane Society of the U.S., Farm Sanctuary and other animal welfare groups -- the cages are so tiny that hens cannot spread their wings, and the crates are so small that calves and sows cannot turn around.Pacelle_ellen_and_portia_2

Ellen DeGeneres and her new spouse, actress Portia de Rossi -- posing at right with Pacelle, the head of the Humane Society -- hosted the event on the grounds of the estate of businessman John Winfield.

Animal welfare causes have been championed by an array of deep-pocketed business people and philanthropists for years. But if you thought farm animals were a stretch to evoke passion and philanthropy, the supporters Sunday night said just the opposite.

"I think no one goes out of their way to hurt an animal," said DeGeneres, sitting with De Rossi for a brief chat in a living room -- there appeared to be several in this house -- before walking outside to schmooze with guests. But on the issue of conditions for farm animals, "unfortunately there's not a lot of awareness," she said.

"They're sentient beings, and they feel pain and fear," De Rossi said. "It's up to us, the more intelligent species, to take care of them."

"This isn't even taking care of them," DeGeneres added. "It's just making things a little better for them."

"It's such a modest proposal," De Rossi said.

Read more Farm animal gala raises more than $1 million for Prop. 2 »

11:17 AM, September 28, 2008

Think it's OK to drive with your puppy in your lap? Some folks in Sacramento were hoping to outlaw such behavior. But it looks like it won't happen this time. Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy reports:

Facing a backlog of legislation that he refused to sign until a state budget was passed,  [Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger took his veto pen to 95 bills, including a measure that would have prohibited dogs from riding on the laps of motorists.

Many of the vetoed bills, including the lap-riding measure, received the same message from Schwarzenegger: "Given the delay, I am only signing bills that are the highest priority for California. This bill does not meet that standard and I cannot sign it at this time."

10:06 AM, September 26, 2008


The famous six-toed cats at Ernest Hemingway's island home aren't going anywhere, the Associated Press reports:

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum announced Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the federal government that allows the 50 or so cats to continue to roam the grounds, ending a five-year battle that could have resulted in the felines being removed or caged.

Most of the cats descend from Snowball, a cat given to the novelist in 1935. Since then, the felines have freely wandered the grounds of the Spanish colonial house. All the cats carry the gene for six toes, but not all show the trait.

The home is where the Nobel Prize-winning author wrote "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "To Have and Have Not" and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Florida Keys.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the agreement. It had threatened to fine the museum $200 per day per cat -- about $10,000 a day -- saying the museum didn't have the proper animal exhibition license and couldn't qualify for one, primarily because the animals weren't enclosed.

The museum has installed a fence to keep the animals on the one-acre property.

From 2003 until October, a series of meetings between the USDA and museum officials proved fruitless, Michael Morawski, president and chief executive of the museum, told the Associated Press. He said the museum has spent more than $250,000 on lawyers and the fence and continues to question the need for the permit. 

"The cats have been living on the grounds for years, and we're not a zoo, carnival or amusement park," Morawski said.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Rob O'Neal / Associated Press

5:10 PM, September 25, 2008


Mexico has seized 12 animals from a circus a day after one of its elephants wandered onto a highway and was struck and killed by a bus.

Mexico's Environmental Protection office said the two Asian elephants and 10 Siberian tigers were not properly contained and were at risk of escaping.

The office said Wednesday in a statement that inspectors found the elephants tied to the tire of a trailer. Doors on several of the trailers also lacked proper locks.

On Tuesday, a 5-ton elephant named Indra escaped the circus, wandered onto a highway outside Mexico City and was hit by a bus carrying 41 passengers. The driver and the pachyderm died.

Mexican media reported that the elephant escaped as its keeper arrived to feed it.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Associated Press

3:07 PM, September 25, 2008


A former Southern California slaughterhouse worker was sentenced Wednesday to nine months in jail and probation after being caught on undercover video abusing sick and injured cows, leading to the largest beef recall in U.S. history, the Associated Press reports:

Daniel Ugarte Navarro, 49, was sentenced after pleading no contest in June to two felony counts of animal cruelty and two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to downed animals. (Navarro, left, is pictured above standing outside Chino Superior Court after his sentencing. With him is defense attorney Ruben Salazar.)

Navarro can serve his jail time on weekends in a work-release program, must attend counseling and must serve three years of felony probation, said Susan Mickey, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County district attorney. He could also serve the time through electronic monitoring at the discretion of the jail, she said.

Another worker, Rafael Sanchez Herrera, pleaded guilty in March to three misdemeanor counts of illegal movement of a non-ambulatory animal and was sentenced to six months in jail.

The undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States led to a federal investigation and the recall of 143 million pounds of beef in February. The video shows workers at Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. dragging sick cows with metal chains and forklifts, shocking them with electric prods and shooting streams of water in their noses and faces.

Salazar told the Associated Press that his client was just following orders and that prosecutors overcharged Navarro to appease an angry public and animal-rights activists.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: David Bauman / The Press-Enterprise via the Associated Press

3:36 PM, September 23, 2008

"Pet Out the Vote." That's what the Proposition 2 folks are calling their campaign event in Santa Monica on Wednesday. The organizers of the November ballot initiative -- which would outlaw confining cages and crates for hens, veal calves and pigs -- are inviting supporters to bring their dogs to a rally at 11:30 a.m. at the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier.

Dogs should be on a leash. Their people can be unleashed (and with campaign signs, if they like.)

You can also read up on the anti-Proposition 2 folks' arguments at www.safecaliforniafood.org.

--Carla Hall

12:26 PM, September 23, 2008

From the Associated Press:

BILLINGS, Mont. — Federal wildlife officials have asked a judge to put gray wolves in the Northern Rockies back on the endangered species list — a sharp reversal from the government's prior contention that the animals were thriving.

Attorneys for the Fish and Wildlife Service asked U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula to vacate the agency's February finding that more than 1,400 wolves in the region no longer needed federal protection.

The government's request Monday follows a July injunction in which Molloy had blocked plans for public wolf hunts this fall in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho pending resolution of a lawsuit by environmentalists.

"What we want to do is look at this more thoroughly," Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Sharon Rose said. "We definitely have a lot of wolves out there, but we need to address some of [Molloy's] concerns in a way that people feel comfortable with."

At issue is whether a decade-long wolf restoration program has reversed the near-extermination of wolves, or if — as environmentalists claim — their long-term survival remains in doubt due to proposed hunting.

"This hit everybody really cold," said John Bloomquist, an attorney for the Montana Stockgrowers Association. "All of a sudden the federal defendants are going in the other direction."

The government's request to remand, or reconsider, the issue was filed in response to an April lawsuit from a dozen environmental and animal rights groups.

"I would call that victory. What they're requesting is to go back to the drawing boards," said Doug Honnold, an Earthjustice attorney representing the plaintiffs. They include the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, the Humane Society of the United States and other local and national groups.

If Molloy goes along with the government's request, the Fish and Wildlife Service would embark on a re-evaluation of wolves that could last for months or even years. The agency would again open the issue to public comment before returning with a new decision.

In the meantime, the killing of some wolves by government wildlife agents or ranchers would continue. More than 180 wolves were killed last year in response to wolf attacks on livestock.

A recent inventory of wolf populations in the three states showed their population in decline this year for the first time in more than a decade. Federal biologists say the decline occurred because wolves had filled up the best habitat in the region.

1:31 PM, September 22, 2008


SAN FRANCISCO -- An attorney whose dogs mauled her neighbor to death in a gruesome attack that received national attention was sentenced this morning to 15 years to life in prison for the 2001 murder of lacrosse coach Dianne Whipple.

Marjorie Knoller was originally sentenced to four years in prison on a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, after a judge threw out the jury's second-degree murder conviction in 2002. Diane_whipple_2

Superior Court Judge James Warren said at the time that there was not enough evidence that Knoller knew her two Presa Canarios -- each weighing about 100 pounds -- would kill. One of the dogs, Hera, is pictured above.

Knoller served about half of her sentence and was paroled in 2004, later moving to Florida. But the California Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that Warren interpreted the murder statute too narrowly and said that a judge must reconsider the more serious conviction.

Last month, Superior Court Judge Charlotte Woolard reinstated the second-degree murder conviction. She sentenced Knoller Monday morning. Dennis Riordan, Knoller's attorney, said his client plans to file an appeal.

Whipple, pictured right, received more than 70 bites in the attack.

-- Maria L. LaGanga

Photos: Associated Press

11:15 AM, September 22, 2008


U.S. Geological Survey biologists believe that, if current climate-change trends continue, every polar bear in Alaska could be gone by 2050, but The Times' Kim Murphy reports that may not be a major concern to Republican vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin:

Palin's administration has fought federal protections announced in May for polar bears, going to court to assert that the projections for a dramatic shrinking of the bears' icy habitat are unreliable and that polar bears are already protected enough.

Since becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee this month, Palin has championed a balance between energy exploration and environmental regulation. A review of her record as governor shows that, most often, she has tilted that balance in favor of oil and gas development, mining and hunting -- the economic backbones of a state that many residents consider both a scenic treasure and an exploitable resource.

"From further oil and gas development to fishing, mining, timber and tourism -- these developments remain the core of our state," Palin told state legislators last year.

"We here in Alaska share concerns about wildlife, of course -- every Alaskan has concerns about wildlife," she later said. "We're going to continue to . . . make sure that polar bears survive, and thrive, for decades to come."

Since Palin became governor in 2006, the state has sought to ramp up a program that encourages the shooting of wolves from aircraft in areas where they compete with human hunters for moose, caribou and deer.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photos: Polar bear, California Museum of Science & Industry; Sarah Palin with caribou she shot, Associated Press

3:55 PM, September 18, 2008


The Food and Drug Administration today opened the way for a bevy of genetically engineered salmon, cows and other animals to leap from the laboratory to the marketplace. The Times' Karen Kaplan and Thomas H. Maugh II report:

"It's about time the federal government has acknowledged that these animals are on [the] doorstep and need to be regulated to ensure their safety," said Greg Jaffe, director of the project on biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington.

Many experts, however, fear that the proposed regulations do not go far enough to protect and reassure the public. In particular, they argue that the approval process would be highly secretive to protect the commercial interests of the companies involved and that the new rules do not place sufficient weight on the environmental impact of what many consider to be Frankenstein animals.

Animals can't be treated exactly like drugs, said Jaydee Hanson, a policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety in Washington. "Drugs don't go out and breed with each other. When a drug gets loose, you figure you can control it. When a bull gets loose, it would be harder to corral."

The genetically modified animals have a variety of potential uses:

Some, like many agricultural crops now in use, are more disease resistant. One company, for example, has produced a cow that is not susceptible to mad cow disease.

Others are more nutritious or grow faster, improving the diet and enhancing farmers' profits.

Some would serve as sources for organs for human transplants, expanding the small pool of donor organs now available.

Others, called biopharm animals, would be used to produce drugs such as insulin, which are now manufactured in yeast or bacteria.

The full story here.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

2:18 PM, September 17, 2008

California's red-legged frog may be getting some of its land back.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed on Tuesday to more than triple the habitat set aside for the threatened frog, citing scientific miscalculations and political manipulation by former Interior Department official Julie MacDonald that had greatly reduced the protected acreage.

MacDonald resigned in May 2007 after an internal investigation showed she had altered scientific conclusions to reduce protections for endangered species and had provided internal documents to lobbyists. Since then, the department has been reconsidering eight decisions made while MacDonald oversaw the endangered species program for the Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the Interior Department.

Tuesday's decision, a result of that review, would create a 1.8-million-acre habitat in 28 Central and Northern California counties. Development and destruction of wetlands have eliminated the frogs from more than 70% of their historic range. MacDonald would have reduced what was left of the frog's range by 82%.

An Interior Department investigation found that MacDonald pressured staff to count three sub-species of the California tiger salamander as one, which undermined the case for protection. A federal judge overturned that decision in 2005, saying it was made "without even a semblance of agency reasoning."

The investigation determined that MacDonald improperly provided department information to lobbyists and private-sector interests, such as the California Farm Bureau and the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California.

"MacDonald appears to have a close personal and business relationship with a Farm Bureau lobbyist," the report said.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed habitat. The agency will undertake an economic analysis to determine if the financial burden on property owners from habitat protections is outweighed by any benefit to species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service previously released a study that showed nearly $500 million in costs to home builders for protecting the frog's habitat.

--Julie Cart

Photo: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times

12:47 PM, September 12, 2008


Chile is making its Pacific Ocean territorial waters a whale sanctuary, the Associated Press reports:

The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a bill submitted by President Michelle Bachelet that bans whale hunting off Chile's 3,400-mile coast.

Bachelet is expected to sign the legislation into law in the coming days.

The bill bans hunting for commercial and scientific purposes.

Chile has not hunted whales since the 1970s.

But Bachelet says the South American nation wants to send a clear sign of its will to protect whales in its waters.

Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama already ban whale hunting. A whale sanctuary also exists in Antarctica.

Earlier this year, The Times' reported that whales off Chile's coast are making a comeback.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Liliana Nieto del Rio

5:27 PM, September 11, 2008


Acting on scores of telephone tips from unsuspecting owners of the outlaw amphibians, Nevada game wardens say they tracked down a mail-order tadpole provider as the source of nearly 200 illegal African clawed frogs.

It also turns out the mail-order tadpoles from Grow-a-Frog are not legal in Nevada and at least 10 other U.S. states, including California.

The Florida-based Grow-a-Frog, which takes orders over the phone and the Internet, has agreed to pay a $3,600 fine and stop sending the unwelcome guests to Nevada, said Capt. Cameron Waithman, the Nevada Department of Wildlife warden who led the months-long investigation.

The Associated Press reports:

Agents seized 119 of the frogs from three Reno homes last month and publicized the raids to get the word out they’re illegal. Inundated with calls, they recovered another 68 this week in seven Nevada counties.

"I had my wardens out all across the state — everywhere from Reno to Las Vegas, Elko, Ely," Waithman said.

Banned as an illegal invasive species, the clawed green creatures that live mostly in the water and grow as large as bullfrogs can destroy entire ecosystems if they escape by voraciously eating native fish and just about anything they can swallow, he said.

Some scientists believe the frogs carry and spread an African fungus that has decimated frog populations worldwide, he said. Nevadans who knowingly possess them are subject to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Company officials cooperated in the investigation, providing customer records so wardens could contact people who made purchases at growafrog.com, Waithman said.

"Absolutely none of the folks had any idea they were prohibited. Most of them didn’t know what they had," he said.

Some expressed genuine concern about the environmental threat, while others "just said, 'I’m not going to jail for these frogs.'"

Other states that outlaw the frogs without a special permit include Arizona, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia and Washington.

Grow-a-Frog officials did not respond to e-mails from The Associated Press seeking comment on Wednesday and Thursday.

Read more Nevada officials seize 187 illegal African frogs »

10:57 AM, September 11, 2008

Considered to be the second break-in at a fur ranching outfit in Oregon this year, the Animal Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for last week's release of hundreds of mink from the S&N Fur Farm in Scio. Bryan Denson of the Oregonian reports:

The saboteurs wrote that they released as many as 150 mink in Thursday's raid. But ranch owner Ed Sandberg confirmed today that 215 mink were set free after someone cut a hole in his fence.

The ALF saboteurs wrote a communique, passed to The Oregonian Monday morning, explaining that their actions were inspired by releases last month in Jordan, Utah of 600 mink and in Aldergrove, British Columbia of 6,000 mink.

"This is our path through this chaotic and frustrating world," the saboteurs concluded. "Our wisdom will appear to you long before we will. Till the last cage is empty, till all beings are free. ALF."

The ALF struck the Jefferson Fur Farm in April, releasing 53 mink, all of which were recovered, according to the ranch.

FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele confirmed today that agents are investigating the case. The bureau describes the Animal Liberation Front as one of the nation's leading domestic terrorist groups.Mink_in_the_center_of_battle

Fur industry officials told the Oregonian that captive mink, raised for coats and other garments, rarely survive in the wild after being released. Those not recaptured are often run over by cars or die of starvation or dehydration, the paper reported.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Steve Ringman / Associated Press

6:31 PM, September 10, 2008

A 4-year-old female condor captured Friday in Big Sur and rushed to the Los Angeles Zoo for treatment of lead poisoning has died, according to the Monterey County Herald:

The bird, identified as Condor No. 336, was shaking and weak when found by Ventana Wildlife biologist Sayre Flannagan, who caught it in a net on the ground in Big Sur.

Kelly Sorenson, executive director of the Ventana Wildlife Society, the only nonprofit group in California that breeds condors for introduction to the wild, said the condor was released three years ago at Pinnacles National Monument and was living and scavenging in Big Sur.

It was initially taken to the Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic in Monterey, given a blood test that showed "really high, life-threatening levels" of lead, and given emergency treatment, according to Ventana Society senior wildlife biologist Joe Burnett. The bird was then taken to the Los Angeles Zoo for more comprehensive veterinary treatment. (L.A.'s zoo has a condor habitat.)

The bird appeared to rally at first, he said, but weakened and succumbed Sunday.

A normal adult condor weighs 18 to 25 pounds, said Burnett. Condor No. 336 was down to 10.9 pounds when captured.

"It's hard to bounce back from a weight loss like that," Burnett said.

National Park Service superintendent Eric Brunneman at the Pinnacles told the County Herald that Condor No. 336 was "perhaps our most well-known condor," because the bird had been featured in a video on YouTube eating a deer heart:

Condor No. 336's death comes on the heels of a contentious battle over lead ammunition and the implementation on July 1 of a bill banning the use of lead ammunition in hunting.

California's condors are a fiercely guarded endangered species that has recently faced wildfire threats from Big Sur to L.A. and a West Coast-based struggle to procreate.

In the latest development in protection efforts, officials at the Pinnacles National Monument also announced today that a team of U.S. and Argentine scientists are joining forces in a five-year project to boost the condor population soaring above California and the Andes.

The Associated Press' Debora Rey reports:

Scientists from Pinnacles National Monument in central California visited Argentina this week to improve tracking and studying techniques of the birds, whose 9-foot wingspan has inspired reverence among indigenous people of the Americas for centuries.

The number of California condors is estimated at around 300 — half of which are in captivity — and they are still in danger of extinction. The Andean condor, a different species, has fared better: There are between 2,000 and 3,000 of the birds gliding over Argentina's snowy crags.

Argentine and U.S. scientists have been working together since the early 1980s, when the California condor was on the brink of extinction. U.S. scientists applied successful efforts in Argentina to breed condors in captivity and then release them to salvage a waning California population.

“The situation of the condors in both countries is grave,” said Pinnacles biologist Denise Louie.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

12:46 PM, September 8, 2008

The Humane Society of the United States has sued the University of California. The East Bay Business Times has the details:   

The [HSUS] said Friday it filed a lawsuit in Yolo County Superior Court in Woodland to force the University of California to make public documents that the society contends would reveal “potentially unlawful campaign activities by (UC) staff regarding Proposition 2...”

That proposition on the Nov. 4 ballot, called the Standards for Confining Farm Animals Initiative, would amend the state’s Health and Safety Code to prohibit the confinement of certain farm animals that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, or stand up and fully extend their limbs. It would apply to three types of confinement: veal crates, battery cages, and sow gestation crates.

If approved by state voters, the statute would go into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

The Humane Society said in its lawsuit that the University of California Agricultural Issues Center recently published a report that predicted myriad economic outcomes for industry and consumers if Prop. 2 passes in November, and that the UC system’s promotion of the report emphasized negative aspects of the study’s claims, while downplaying its conclusion that California consumers would see “little to no impact” on food prices if Prop 2 passes....

An organization called Californians for Safe Food formed to oppose Proposition 2 includes a coalition of agribusiness, veterinarians, labor unions and grocers, according to its website. They contend Prop. 2 would undermine animal welfare and food safety by increasing the risk of salmonella, forcing dependence on eggs grown in Mexico and driving up food costs.

5:00 PM, September 4, 2008

After her SUV, phone and dog were stolen at a cemetery last month, Hemet resident Mary Michael tried to get Verizon to track the phone in the vehicle carrying her beloved pet, Rebel.

Verizon said it couldn't do so without a warrant. Rebel was found dead, prompting Michael to take aim at that regulation, The Times' David Kelly reports:

A distraught Michael said Rebel would be alive today if Verizon hadMary_michael_with_rebel_photo traced the cellphone  she had left inside the car.

"They could have saved Rebel's life," she said Tuesday during a news conference outside Riverside County Superior Court. "It's my phone. It has GPS capability. We should be able to use it."

Michael, who is originally from London and lives in Hemet, has started a campaign to make such tracking easier. Many wireless companies now require warrants before tracing phones, but Michael argues that obtaining a warrant takes too long when a life hangs in the balance.

Verizon spokesman Ken Muche said state and federal privacy laws make it impossible to trace a phone without a court order. He said criminals and stalkers had impersonated customers in the past to try to find cellphone users.

"We work with law enforcement and will respond to requests from the court like subpoenas and warrants," Muche said. "We have a policy in place so our customer service people are not in a position of having to determine a person's identity."

Had Verizon traced the phone, it could have pinpointed the location as close as 50 to 100 yards, he said.

That was cold comfort to Michael. "If this had been done, Rebel would not have had to suffer, and we would not be going through the pain of losing her in this terrible way," she said. "I can't bear to think of what she went through during those last hours. I can't go there, it's too horrible."

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times

1:11 PM, September 2, 2008

Bighorn_sheepThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on the final details of a map that would cut by nearly half the habitat the agency had previously considered to be critical to the survival of the peninsula bighorn sheep. The plan could be approved by the end of September. Leslie Carlson reports:

Scientists and environmental advocates say the trimmed habitat could deal a permanent setback to a species that has shown signs of recovering after 10 years of federal protection. They accuse the Department of the Interior, which governs the Fish and Wildlife Service, of mixing politics with science and caving to mining and tribal interests in the desert. One mining operation in Imperial County already has applied to expand its operation into land once listed as critical to the sheep's recovery, documents show.

The recovery plan . . . has been working," said Mark Jorgensen, supervisor of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, who has worked with peninsular bighorn sheep for 40 years. "Why take out 500,000 acres of it and say that it's not a big deal? And that it's based on science? Why not come out and say that it's just politics?"

Jane Hedron, a spokeswoman for the wildlife service, defended the new boundaries as sufficient to help the species recover.

"Critical habitat is habitat considered essential for the recovery of the endangered species," she said. "It is not intended to include the entire range of a species."
Photo: Leslie Carlson / Los Angeles Times

7:30 PM, August 26, 2008

Writing about animals, it seems, doesn't make you an expert on how to treat them.

Eugene Scott, a reporter for the Arizona Republic, has been charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty for leaving his year-old puggle in his hot car for a half-hour in 100-degree while he got a bite to eat. And here's where it gets weird: the incident happened about a year after he wrote about a police sergeant doing nearly the same thing, the Republic reports:

Scott was arrested outside the mall Aug. 15 after another shopper discovered his one-year-old puggle, a pug-beagle mix, barking inside an SUV and called 911. The dog was treated at an emergency veterinary clinic for possible heat stroke and returned to Scott, who was briefly detained in a police substation holding cell.

The incident happened the same day Chandler Police Sgt. Tom Lovejoy was found not guilty of misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges in the death of his Belgian Malinois police dog, Bandit.

While working as a public safety reporter last year, Scott had written initial stories about Lovejoy, the police sergeant who was accused of forgetting his dog in the back of a patrol vehicle a year before, according to the Republic. And then, in a strange coincidence, Scott, the reporter, was arrested on the same day Lovejoy was found not guilty in the death of his dog.

Since repetition clearly can't hurt, here are some tips for caring for dogs in hot weather. And lest history repeat itself, this reporter will pay special attention to pointer number one: "parked cars can become death traps in a matter of minutes."

-- Tony Barboza

6:38 PM, August 26, 2008

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — A judge has decided that a suburban Seattle woman who registered her Australian shepherd-terrier mix to vote has spent enough time in the legal doghouse.

Jane Balogh had been charged with making a false statement but entered into a plea agreement last year. A King County judge dismissed the charge Monday after Balogh showed that she had paid $240 in court costs and completed community service.

Balogh says she registered her dog Duncan to protest a loophole in the law that she says makes voter registration so easy that a nonexistent person could be added to the voter rolls.

She says she made no secret of her action after the fact, telling a number of elected officials she had registered her dog.

And she says Duncan never voted.

-- From the Associated Press

1:05 PM, August 21, 2008


With lawmakers trying to ban driving with your pet on your lap in California, just how will you make sure your dog doesn't go flying out the window if you get in an accident?

According to Christina Selter, co-founder of Bark Buckle Up, a San Diego nonprofit group that educates drivers about safely transporting pets in vehicles, the only way to ensure a safe ride is by tethering your companion to the seat. Ken Bensinger of The Times' automotive blog Up To Speed explains:

Not only can untethered dogs get seriously injured in accidents, but 80-pound Dobermans and 4-pound Chihuahuas alike can become fearsome projectiles upon impact, hurtling through the air and possibly hurting passengers. (We're not even going to mention the perils of flying pet porcupines.) On top of that, Selter says, "in a crash, a big problem is that first responders open the door, the pet runs out, it can bite someone, cause another crash or get hit by a car."

Who knew driving Miss Fido could put so many lives on the line?

To address the species safety gap, Bark Buckle Up has been touring the country offering clinics, giving away pet safety kits that include crucial data such as allergy information and veterinarian contacts, and letting pet owners play with a range of harnesses, pet seats and tethers.

There's no shortage of options: pet car seats, harnesses, safety belts and straps -- even ramps to help the short-legged or elderly trot up and into the car.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Los Angeles Times

5:29 PM, August 18, 2008


Things are getting catty in California's Legislature. Really.

Passing laws to make the declawing of cats illegal is itself not legal, according to a bill approved today. The legislation is aimed at cities and counties that have tried to regulate professions licensed by the state. In this case the city of West Hollywood wanted to bar veterinarians from declawing cats. As Patrick McGreevy reports via the L.A. Now blog:

The Senate voted 23 to 3 to restrict local governments from prohibiting actions allowed under state licensing by numerous professions, including veterinarians, optometrists and dentists.

Sen. Sheila Keuhl, a Democrat who represents West Hollywood, blasted the decision, saying it usurps the ability of cities to set higher standards for businesses.

AB 2427 was written by Assemblyman Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) following an appeals court decision last year that found existing state law did not preempt the city of West Hollywood from adopting an ordinance barring veterinarians from declawing cats. City officials believe the procedure is inhumane.

Without the law, which previously was approved by the Assembly, "We would have a collage of laws throughout the state, county by county, saying what healthcare professionals can and cannot do," said Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley), an oral surgeon. "That is not acceptable."

As part of the compromise to get the bill approved, Eng agreed it would not apply to city ordinances approved before Jan. 1, 2009, so West Hollywood felines remain safe.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has missed the six-week deadline to pass a budget, L.A. Now's Veronique de Turenne writes, adding, "There ought to be a law."

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Matt Slocum / Associated Press

9:58 AM, August 18, 2008

A Los Angeles man who killed his girlfriend's cat, telling her to "follow the blood trail to find Tweety," has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Blood was found in the girlfriend's apartment but Tweety was never found.

Scott Allen Atkinson pleaded no contest to two felony charges of animal cruelty and threatening the woman's life. He was sentenced Wednesday.

Prosecutors say that Atkinson, 46, killed the black-and-white cat after an argument in October, then he told the woman's daughter he was going to kill her mother.

-- Associated Press

12:45 PM, August 15, 2008


An Oakland couple that has rescued hundreds of pit bulls to help reverse the dogs' criminal image has set its sights on the most villified outcasts of all: fighting pit bulls taken from disgraced football star Michael Vick, The Times' John Glionna writes.

Tim Racer, above, and Donna Reynolds, who head a rescue group called Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls (or BAD RAP), have taken in 13 of Vick's dogs, finding homes for 10 so far.

In most dog-fighting busts, the animals are euthanized. But this time, a federal judge ordered Vick to pay for the dogs to be assessed individually by experts who would look past the breed's stereotype.

"The Vick case is a milestone," said Reynolds, 46. "For once, these dogs were not destroyed, dismissed as ticking time bombs. They were seen for what they are -- as victims."

Photo: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times

11:27 AM, August 15, 2008


Backers of a farm animal rights measure on California's November ballot have sued agriculture officials, saying they illegally approved $3 million in spending by an egg board to defeat the measure.

The federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Californians for Humane Farms, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the $3 million in spending by the federally supervised American Egg Board, an egg producers' trade group, despite a law prohibiting the board from using funds to influence government policy.

The measure, Proposition 2 on the Nov. 4 ballot, takes aim at so-called "factory farms" and would be the most comprehensive farm animal rights law in the country, its supporters say. The law would ban cramped metal cages for egg-laying hens, metal gestation crates for pregnant sows and veal crates for lambs — industry standards that confine animals so that they can barely move.

But a recent UC Davis study said that if the measure passes, the state's $330-million egg industry will be so heavily restricted it would face "almost complete annihilation."

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times

2:57 PM, August 14, 2008


Three common pesticides are helping push the Pacific Coast's prized but imperiled salmon closer to extinction according to a new federal report, Times staff writer Eric Bailey writes.

Bailey, who has followed the West Coast salmon industry's crisis this year, reports:

The National Marine Fisheries report says the pesticides interfere with basic functions of the fish: their ability to find food, reproduce, even to swim. The three pesticides -- malathion, diazinon and chloripyrifos -- have been used for decades by farmers and home gardeners.

Joshua Osborne-Klein, an attorney with the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, said the report pointed to a need to find alternatives to the chemicals.

The fisheries service is expected in coming months to make recommendations on potential remedies to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which governs pesticide use. Agency officials could order restrictions or prohibit use of the pesticides.

The sudden collapse of the chinook salmon run in California's Sacramento River, where the salmon return to spawn, has led to various government moves such as the federal government declaring the West Coast ocean salmon fishery "a failure," and the inking of a 10-year agreement between the United States and Canada aimed at preventing overfishing of salmon off the western coast of Canada and southeast Alaska.

That's not even mentioning another West Coast fish-related drama with the delta smelt.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Kimberly White / Bloomberg News

2:46 PM, August 14, 2008


Earlier this week, L.A. Unleashed posted that the Bush administration had proposed a regulatory overhaul of the Endangered Species Act that would allow federal agencies to decide on their own if their projects would affect animals protected by the act.

A Times editorial published today weighs in on the matter, criticizing the move on a variety of levels from the possibility of corruption to the timing of the proposal:

Because of a 30-day public comment period, instead of the usual 60 or 90 days, the rule could be adopted and in place before the presidential election. Though it might well be overturned by Congress, the courts or perhaps a new administration, the process would take months, giving federal agencies the chance to push through their projects.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images

11:06 AM, August 14, 2008

Two Pennsylvania kennel owners shot and killed 80 dogs because they had fleas, and here's the catch: it was legal. The Morning Call reports:

Rather than seek medical attention for flea-bitten dogs, two Berks County kennel owners did something drastic but legal, officials said.

They shot the dogs -- 80 of them.

Elmer Zimmerman shot 70 dogs at his E&A Kennel in Maxatawny Township after a July 24 inspection by state officials, the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement said.

His brother, Ammon Zimmerman, shot 10 dogs at his neighboring business, A&J Kennel. Wardens had ordered 39 dogs checked for flea and fly bites. They also issued citations for extreme heat, insufficient bedding and floors that dogs' feet could fall through.

Under current law, kennel owners can dispose of dogs for any reason. House Bill 2525, introduced in May and supported by Gov. Ed Rendell, would require veterinarians to euthanize dogs in commercial kennels.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a statement today condemning the kennel owners' actions.

"This incident is a clear indicator of the need to amend current Pa. law and give qualified veterinarians sole authority to humanely euthanize animals in medical or behavioral circumstances as they see fit," said ASPCA President and Chief Executive Ed Sayres.

More about the state's efforts to regulate dog breeding businesses can be found here.

-- Tony Barboza

6:32 PM, August 10, 2008


This weekend in The Times, animal news abounds:

Margot Roosevelt reports: The California condor, a beloved but beleaguered bird, will be unable to survive on its own without a ban on lead ammunition across its vast western habitat, a scientific study has concluded.

Richard C. Paddock reports: Two firebomb attacks last week on UC Santa Cruz scientists who conduct animal research have angered and worried academics throughout the UC system, but the scientists say they will not be intimidated.

*Associated Press reports: Police don't apologize for shooting the two dogs of the mayor of Berwyn Heights in Maryland, described as an innocent victim in a marijuana smuggling scheme.*

On The Times' Outposts blog, Pete Thomas tells the fascinating tale of a woman who was attacked by a grizzly as she jogged on a trail Friday evening in Far North Bicentennial Park in Anchorage, Alaska.

Washington Post reports: Whole Foods Market has pulled fresh ground beef from all of its stores in the second E. coli outbreak linked to Nebraska Beef in as many months.

Home decor retailers face legal risks with animal artifacts such as feathers and bones from endangered species. Jeff Spurrier offers some tips on avoiding legal woes, including keeping proper documentation and being careful about online purchases.

In the Guide, Elina Shatkin compiles a list of off-leash dog parks in such places as the San Fernando Valley, Orange County, Palm Springs and Santa Monica (with a handy-dandy map to boot).

Want an encounter with a leopard shark? In Sunday's Travel section, Christopher J. Bahnsen advises you to head down the 405 Freeway to La Jolla.

And finally, The Times' Dish Rag maven Elizabeth Snead tries to answer a very important question: "Do Hollywood stars look cuter with puppies?" Judge for yourself after viewing Snead's photo gallery packed with more than 35 celebrities.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Chad Olson / Associated Press

*the first version of this post omitted the word "don't"

6:50 PM, August 1, 2008
  • Cat_woman A dog breeder in the Northern California town of Boulder Creek was arrested on felony and misdemeanor animal abuse charges after authorities found at least 40 dogs along with dog skulls, a severed dog head hanging from a tree and severed dog paws on his property.
  • A 97-year-old Missouri woman, right, said her cat's yowling saved her from a house fire.
  • Actress Kim Basinger is asking U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop plans to send two tigers to Iraq's Baghdad Zoo, saying in a letter that the animals "cannot be properly protected from the country's military conflict."

--Tony Barboza

Photo:  Peter Franklin / Kansas City Star

6:13 PM, August 1, 2008

Discouraging_dogs_as_a_love_connectYou've probably heard of the guy-with-a-dog ploy: A single man goes for a walk around town with a dog (or even better, a puppy) and coincidentally finds himself lavished with attention from the opposite sex.

Men using pets to pick up women have officials in Saudi Arabia's capital so worried that they have prohibited them from buying cats and dogs or even walking them in public, the Associated Press reports.

The prohibition went into effect Wednesday in the capital, Riyadh, and authorities in the city say they will strictly enforce it — unlike previous bans in the cities of Mecca and Jidda, which have been ignored and failed to stop pet sales.

Violators found outside with their pets will have their beloved poodles and other furry companions confiscated by agents of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the official name of the religious police, tasked with enforcing Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic code.

The commission's general manager, Othman al-Othman, said the ban was ordered because of what he called "the rising of phenomenon of men using cats and dogs to make passes at women and pester families" as well as "violating proper behavior in public squares and malls."

"If a man is caught with a pet, the pet will be immediately confiscated and the man will be forced to sign a document pledging not to repeat the act," Al-Othman told the Al-Hayat newspaper. "If he does, he will be referred to authorities." The ban does not address women.

Let's hope the man pictured above gets the message.

--Tony Barboza

Photo: Associated Press

6:22 PM, July 29, 2008

From the Associated Press: CHEYENNE, Wyo. - A federal judge in Wyoming has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the booking company for Cheyenne Frontier Days against an animal rights group.

U.S. District Judge William Downes ruled Tuesday that the lawsuit by Omaha, Neb.-based Romeo Entertainment Group was not filed in the correct state.

Romeo Entertainment filed the lawsuit after the rock band Matchbox Twenty pulled out of a scheduled performance at this year's Frontier Days.

The suit names Illinois-based SHARK, which stands for Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, and its president Steve Hindi.

The lawsuit contends the group and Hindi used "false and misleading information" and "threats of negative publicity" to persuade Matchbox Twenty and singer Carrie Underwood to cancel performances at the Cheyenne rodeo.

The entertainers are not being sued in the lawsuit.

Romeo Entertainment lawyers say they're considering their next move.

6:22 PM, July 25, 2008


VACAVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Kim Sturla began bringing goats, pigs, chickens and cows once slated for slaughter to the Animal Place sanctuary 20 years ago, before supermarkets offered eggs from cage-free hens and beef was advertised on menus as being hormone free.

Two decades later, the treatment of farm animals is a national issue being debated in state legislatures and put before voters who want to have a say in how their food is raised. Footage circulated on the Internet of sick farm animals being kicked and beaten has intensified calls for reform.

“People want conditions to change,” said Sturla, who co-founded the Animal Place sanctuary for abused and discarded farm animals in 1989. “On this issue, you don’t have to give propaganda. In fact, you have to downplay the conditions or people will shut down. They’ll think you’re embellishing.”

This fall, California voters will consider  the most comprehensive farm animal rights law in the country , a measure that would ban cramped metal cages for egg-laying hens, metal gestation crates for pregnant sows and veal crates for lambs — standard industry practices in which the animals are kept so confined that they can barely move.

The initiative follows more limited measures recently passed in several other states ...

Photo: Farm Sanctuary

Read more California farm animal rights law would require room to roam »

10:54 AM, July 23, 2008


From the Associated Press:

Animal advocates opposed to a federal proposal to euthanize wild horses in Nevada say there are other solutions to problems officials face of overcrowding and overpopulation.

Bureau of Land Management officials say their facilities are full and more space is needed to make room for thousands of horses that are rounded up from open ranges.

Lacy Dalton, president of the Let 'Em Run Foundation, says the government should build sanctuaries and give tax breaks to ranchers who let wild horses in their grazing areas.

There are an estimated 33,000 wild horses in 10 Western states. About half of those are in Nevada.

Ranchers say the horses become a problem when they take water and food from other animals. Federal officials are expected to meet in September.

Photo: Brad Horn/Associated Press

12:28 PM, July 20, 2008

Sometimes the bad guys just don't seem to care if they are seen committing a crime.... and a few of them have the audacity to return to the scene of the crime. Consider this recent report in the La Cañada Valley Sun:

At about 2:15 p.m. last Thursday (July 10) a suspect allegedly attacked a newer black Toyota Camry that was parked in front of a residence in the 1000 block of El Vago Street. The suspect caused damage to both sides and the front of the vehicle.

A gardener next door to the residence witnessed the incident and quickly notified the homeowner. “The gardener was really alarmed; he didn’t speak much English, but he pointed out [the suspect who] was standing within 25 feet of the car, in an aggressive stance,” said Lisa Phelan, who lives at the residence.

Phelan’s husband, Scott, carpools with the vehicle’s owner, Brian Epperson of Alta Loma. The car was not damaged when the two men left for work that morning, she said.

What’s even more disturbing, she added, is that though she was able to chase the suspect away from the vehicle, he returned later that day to create additional damage. And, with his brightly colored attire, there was no question that this suspect made no attempt to flee or disguise himself, he even appeared proud of his act of vandalism.

Law enforcement authorities said  there was nothing they could do. It was a fowl situation. Literally. Read on to discover the identity of the perp.

Read more Fowl play in La Cañada »

2:25 PM, July 19, 2008

The new question might be: Can they sue?

Animal law classes are the hot new offering at Canadian law schools. The University of Toronto and Queen's University will start teaching animal law this fall, joining at least six other Canadian universities where dogs and cats are already on the curriculum.

Before you reel at the notion of Rover retaining a lawyer to petition for 10 walks a day or the fish suing the cat for harassment, fear not. It's a serious field of study; even in the U.S., where animal law is more developed and lawsuits are much easier to pursue, courts have not been overrun by frivolous Fido filings.

Some experts compare animal law today to environmental law in the 1970s -- just emerging from its reputation as a special-interest niche (with a tinge of left-wing loony) to become a solid discipline that is widely accepted and potentially lucrative for practitioners.

The concept of animal law is almost as broad as that of "people law," encompassing everything from veterinary malpractice and custody cases (when couples split, who gets the pets?) to more philosophical issues of animal rights and personhood.

Many of these issues are hypothetical right now in Canada. Despite recent efforts to change the law, animals are still legally property in Canada, and the courts have been reluctant to humour would-be petitioners who view their pets like furry children....

But there have been signs of change. In 2006, Ontario courts awarded emotional damages for the loss of a dog; a boarding kennel that lost a dog while its owners were vacationing in Hawaii was ordered to pay the couple $1,417.12 for pain and suffering.

Photo: Rene Macura / Animal Planet

11:44 AM, July 19, 2008

In today's L.A. Times:

Carla Hall profiles Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States:

In the four years since the 42-year-old vegan -- he neither eats nor wears animal products -- ascended to the top spot at the Humane Society, Pacelle has retooled a venerable organization seen as a mild-mannered protector of dogs and cats into an aggressive interest group flexing muscle in state legislatures and courtrooms.

Eric Bailey reports on vindication but no relief for imperiled steelhead salmon, steelhead:

A federal judge struck a largely symbolic blow for imperiled salmon and steelhead Friday, declaring that the state's vast water-export system is putting the fish at risk but rejecting environmentalists' key demands for change.

Tami Abdollah reports that protections for wolves have been reinstated:

Gray wolves in the northern Rockies regained endangered-species protections Friday when a federal judge in Montana granted a preliminary injunction to environmentalists, who had challenged the wolves' delisting.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials announced in February that gray wolves would be removed from the endangered species list after what they termed a successful 20-year effort to reestablish the wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Environmentalists sued.

The judge's ruling nullifies plans by Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to hold wolf hunts this fall.

And finally, David Savage reports on a setback for the animal rights movement.

1:58 PM, July 18, 2008

DENVER (Reuters) — A businessman has been charged with animal cruelty for the slaughter of 32 bison near his Colorado ranch after what prosecutors said was a dispute with a neighboring rancher.

Jeffrey Scott Hawn, 44, the CEO of privately held software company Attachmate Corp, is charged with aggravated animal cruelty, theft and criminal mischief, a spokeswoman for the Park County District Attorney said Thursday.

According to court papers, the bison were killed after Hawn failed to resolve a dispute with a neighboring rancher whose bison herd Hawn claimed trampled fences and caused damage to his property.

Hawn is accused of shooting two bison himself and hiring hunters to shoot the others. His Seattle-based company declined to comment on the charges.

The charges follow the discovery in March of 32 dead bison on a mountain ranch about 85 miles southwest of Denver. Seven of them were pregnant. Police first thought they were shot in an illegal hunt.

Colorado is home to about 14,000 bison. Sacred to American Indians and a symbol of the American West, bison herds once numbered in the millions before they were hunted to near extinction in the 19th century.

8:31 AM, July 18, 2008

California's Supreme Court gave new protection to the state's endangered species Thursday, ruling unanimously that developers, loggers and other commercial interests may be required to compensate for unforeseen wildlife losses. Times staff writer Maura Dolan reports:

The ruling, which affects both public works and private development, threw out a long-term logging plan approved by the state for 200,000 acres in Humboldt County, a plan that lower courts put on hold several years ago.

The state high court said the Department of Forestry had approved an "unidentifiable" plan that was still a work in progress and then delegated its completion to the logging company. Justice Carlos R. Moreno, writing for the court, called the Forestry Department's action illegal and an abrogation of its duties. The California Department of Forestry "failed to proceed according to law," Moreno wrote.

The decision grew out of lawsuits that followed the historic Headwaters Agreement, a 1996 pact between Pacific Lumber Co. and the state and federal governments. It was designed to resolve litigation and disputes over the logging of old-growth forests.

11:01 AM, July 16, 2008

California law requires stunning an animal — often with the use of a bolt gun — before slaughter so there is no pain, but a Watsonville slaughterhouse allegedly failed to stun a sheep before its death, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports:

Efrain Toledo, who owns Toledo Harkins Slough Ranch on Lee Road, was cited Monday for not stunning a sheep before killing it, as required by California law, said Todd Stosuy, the county's Animal Services supervisor.

Stosuy said he watched Toledo put the sheep in a contraption that flipped it upside down, and then Toledo slit the animal's neck. The sheep took a few minutes to die, Stosuy said.

Toledo was cited for allegedly failing to provide a humane death for being slaughtered.

"I think that people who eat meat don't want the animals they eat to have suffered," Stosuy said.

Toledo was already under investigation for improperly treating animals.

In May, as Stosuy drove down the road near the slaughterhouse, he first noticed an injured cow whose horn was squirting blood. More than two dozen sick and injured goats, sheep and rabbits and a cow eventually were removed from the facility, and Toledo was cited for animal neglect.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

5:20 PM, July 10, 2008

Police arrested a man today for allegedly running a cockfighting operation in Sylmar, authorities said.

Genareo Vasquez, 52, was arrested in the 15000 block of Lakeside Street by officers from the Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Task Force after they received a tip, said Lt. Gil Moreno of the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services.

"The officers’ preliminary investigation revealed numerous fighting roosters" housed at the location, Moreno said.

Officers seized and destroyed 42 roosters, 90 hens and 15 chicks, Moreno said.

It’s the second cockfighting bust this month.

On July 1, a man from South Los Angeles was charged with running a cockfighting ring after Los Angeles police received a tip about a cockfight in progress in the 1300 block of East 108th Street, according to a police report.

Israel Ramirez, 52, was arrested on a warrant charging him with felony cockfighting, animal cruelty, possession of cockfighting paraphernalia and possession of birds with the intent to fight, officials said.

Officers apprehended Ramirez and 10 spectators.

Cockfighting cases are handled by the City of Los Angeles animal cruelty task force. Reports of animal bloodsport and cruelty can be reported to the task force at (213) 847-1417.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

10:25 AM, July 10, 2008


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that it will remove the Preble's meadow jumping mouse from the threatened species list in Wyoming, but keep the mouse on the list in Colorado, the Associated Press reports:

The government said the mouse can be delisted in Wyoming because new populations have been confirmed in habitat not at risk for development. But in Colorado, home construction and other types of development continue to threaten Preble's mouse habitat, Fish and Wildlife officials said.

“Much of Preble's riparian habitat in Colorado has been severely altered or destroyed by human activities,” said Steve Guertin, director of Fish and Wildlife's Mountain-Prairie Region. “Continued rapid development is expected along Colorado's Front Range as the population continues to grow. Without the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act, much of Preble's habitat would be lost.”

The Preble's mouse, which has a tail twice the length of its 3-inch body, lives in streamside habitats and the adjacent foothills of southeastern Wyoming and along part of Colorado's Front Range, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. It can jump as far as three feet to escape predators.

Environmentalists including the Center for Native Ecosystems reacted to the announcement by saying they're preparing to file suit to restore the mouse's threatened status in Wyoming.

Read more Mouse jumps off the threatened list, except in Colorado »

4:50 PM, July 2, 2008

A South Los Angeles man has been charged with running a cockfighting ring, the district attorney's office announced today.

Israel Ramirez, 52, was arrested Tuesday night on a warrant charging him with felony cockfighting, animal cruelty, possession of cockfighting paraphernalia and possession of birds with the intent to fight, officials said.

Los Angeles police received a tip last month about a cockfight in progress in the 1300 block of East 108th Street, according to a police report.

Officers apprehended Ramirez and 10 of about 30 spectators who ran from the scene.

-- Joanna Lin

6:25 PM, July 1, 2008

A Lancaster woman has been sentenced to two years and eight months in state prison after pleading no contest to animal cruelty charges, CBS2 news reports:

The charges stemmed from a dog and a horse that had to be put down after Animal Control officers found the neglected animals. Janis Ridgeway Damiani, 57, was the manager of a horse rescue in Pearblossom where, authorities said, a number of horses were kept in deplorable conditions that included being underfed.

Twenty-eight other animal cruelty charges filed against her earlier this month were dismissed as a result of the plea, according to John Nantroup, head deputy of the district attorney's Antelope Valley office.

Those charges involved 14 other horses and 14 cats that were starving or severely injured and had to be euthanized, authorities said.

4:38 PM, June 27, 2008

A 20-year-old man accused of trying to drown his Shih Tzu, Toby, after the dog defecated on a carpet pleaded no contest today to felony animal cruelty, officials said.

Casey Purser was charged with the single felony count on Oct. 4, 2007, following his arrest.  Purser had been in jail on an unrelated drug case and was released on bail three days earlier, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.

When Purser returned to his Van Nuys home, he found that the Shih Tzu, one of his two dogs, had defecated on the carpet. He allegedly threw the dog into a bathtub and held it under water, Gibbons said.

A neighbor rescued the dog, gave it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and took it to a veterinarian. The animal survived. Purser’s other dog, a pit bull puppy named Evesue, was taken by authorities when Purser was arrested at the veterinarian’s office.

At his arraignment hearing Friday, Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Richard Kirschner ordered Purser to undergo a 90-day diagnostic study prior to sentencing, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Jane Creighton.

Released on bond, Purser was ordered to surrender on Aug. 4 for the study, Creighton said.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

10:15 AM, June 27, 2008

A_gorilla_dines_out_2Who says that Europeans are concerned only with bad pop music and the strength of the Euro?

Last month, L.A. Unleashed reported that Austrian animal rights activists are fighting to get a 26-year-old chimpanzee legally declared a "person," and they say they have filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Now it turns out that Spain is pondering the idea of extending legal rights to apes. The Times of London reports:

In what is thought to be the first time a national legislature has granted such rights to animals, the Spanish parliament’s environmental committee voted to approve resolutions committing the country to the Great Apes Project, designed by scientists and philosophers who say that humans’ closest biological relatives also deserve rights.

The resolution, adopted with crossparty support, calls on the government to promote the Great Apes Project internationally and ensure the protection of apes from “abuse, torture and death.”

“This is a historic moment in the struggle for animal rights,” Pedro Pozas, the Spanish director of the Great Apes Project, told The Times. “It will doubtless be remembered as a key moment in the defence of our evolutionary comrades.”

Reactions to the vote were mixed. Many Spaniards were perplexed that the country should consider it a priority when the economy is slowing sharply and Spain has been rocked by violent fuel protests. Others thought it was a strange decision, given that Spain has no wild apes of its own.

-- Alice Short

Photo: Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press

8:24 AM, June 26, 2008

Laddie_appeared_in_sacramento_last_Animal welfare advocates behind a state bill requiring Californians to neuter or spay their pets claimed some measure of victory Wednesday in Sacramento. 

AB 1634 -- which passed the Assembly last year -- cleared the tough hurdle of winning approval in the state Senate's Local Government Committee. But not before the bill was changed dramatically.

Now, AB 1634 requires spaying or neutering only when a dog has three official violations of an animal ordinance against it. (Excessive barking is not enough.) For a cat, it's two violations. The bill -- kind of a "three strikes" law for dogs -- is expected to go to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The bitterly contested bill has fervent supporters and opponents. And one of its high-profile foes is Lassie (pictured at a legislative meeting last year), who trod his way through the halls of the state Capitol this year and last to oppose the bill. (Check out Lassie working the Capitol.

Well, not the Lassie of the classic TV show who saved Timmie over and over again and made you tear up as that melancholy theme music played. It was actually Laddie, the son of the son of the son of -- oh, just suffice it to say he's the ninth-generation Lassie. Or Lassie IX, as he is officially called by his trainer, Bob Weatherwax, the son of Rudd Weatherwax, the trainer of the first Lassie. (Classic Media, which owns the rights to TV Lassie, no longer uses Weatherwax Lassies.) 

Alas, Lassie or Laddie -- and he bears a striking resemblance to that original Lassie -- failed in his lobbying efforts. He did get to attend the hearing Wednesday morning and watch the vote.

"Somehow this dog has magical powers and gets to go wherever he wants," mused Zak Meyer-Krings, legislative assistant to Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Woodland Hills), who introduced the bill.

Although even Laddie isn't exempt from the measure. (No exemptions for any animal.) If he gets in serious trouble three times, he could be neutered.

The point of the bill in both its incarnations is to stem shelter euthanasia, supporters say. "In California, we have a million dogs and cats going into animal shelters and we euthanize 500,000 of them every single year," Levine said Tuesday. "This is a way to bring down the number of animals going into shelters." 

It also costs the municipal shelters of the state millions overall to house and euthanize animals, he noted. Levine's spokesperson adds that the bill gives animal control officers a way to target "irresponsible owners."

-- Carla Hall

Photo: Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

1:09 PM, June 24, 2008


A grand jury recommended installing smoke detectors at an animal shelter in Lake Elsinore where a fire killed 39 puppies and kittens, the Associated Press reports:

The Riverside County jury issued a report last week recommending upgrades to the shelter where 39 puppies and kittens died in February after an electrical fire broke out in a wooden trailer being used as a temporary shelter.

The report also recommended upgrading lighting, providing better drainage to eliminate flooding during rains, providing more room for larger dogs and taking more measures to prevent parvovirus, which killed two dogs at the shelter in March.

Fifteen Himalayan cats and 24 dogs housed in a trailer perished in the fire, The Times reported in February.

Shelter officials told the Associated Press that many of the recommended changes already were in place, including the addition of smoke detectors:

“We did it within a few weeks of the fire,” said Willa Bagwell, executive director of Animal Friends of the Valleys, the nonprofit group that runs the shelter.

Since the fire, many animals have been living in temporary kennels under canopies, said Bagwell, pictured above after the fire ravaged the shelter.

However, the shelter recently got a replacement trailer that should be ready to use in a few weeks, Bagwell said.

Animal Friends has planned to build a permanent shelter in Wildomar for years but government approval has been delayed over issues ranging from parking lot design to protection of burrowing owls at the site, Bagwell said.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times

10:29 AM, June 20, 2008


U.S. Marshals seized various animal food products stored under unsanitary conditions at the PETCO Animal Supplies Distribution Center located in Joliet, Ill., following orders under a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court in Chicago, officials said Thursday.

At the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Marshals seized all FDA-regulated animal food susceptible to rodent and pest contamination. The products violated the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act because it was alleged in a case filed by the United States Attorney that they were being held under unsanitary conditions.

During an FDA inspection of a PETCO distribution center in April, widespread and active rodent and bird infestation was found. The FDA inspected the facility again in May and found continuing and widespread infestation, officials said.

The Illinois distribution center provides pet food products and supplies to PETCO retail stores in 16 states including Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

California's PETCO stores were not issued products from the Joliet distribution center, according to the FDA.

If a pet has become ill after eating these food products, FDA officials said pet owners should contact their veterinarian and report illnesses to FDA state consumer complaint coordinators.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Tony Dejak/Associated Press

9:45 AM, June 19, 2008


The eight young pandas evacuated during the recent earthquakes in China have become the Beijing Zoo's media darlings, Barbara Demick reports.

Visitors to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta can pay to swim with whale sharks, but some experts says the practice could be risky for the sharks, Richard Fausset reports.

Speaking of risk, some SoCal surfers are opting to take the risk of a swim in the shark-populated waters at a beach north of Ixtapa, Mexico, Pete Thomas reports.

President Bush urges offshore drilling in wildlife refuge areas, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger disagrees with tampering with California's coast.

Meanwhile, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a nonprofit coalition of hunting, fishing and other organizations, filed  a lawsuit against the Interior Department and the Bureau of Land Management in U.S. District Court in Washington, saying the government agency "failed unequivocally" to monitor and mitigate the effects of gas and oil drilling on wildlife in Wyoming, Tami Abdollah reports.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's refusal to let firms test for mad cow disease denies consumers a safety net, a Times editorial says.
-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Andy Wong/Associated Press

10:24 AM, June 16, 2008

South Korea's president vowed Sunday not to allow the import of meat from older cattle, in hopes of quelling public anger at the resumption of beef imports from the United States, the Associated Press reports:

President Lee Myung-bak's comments came as the chief U.S. and South Korean trade envoys met in Washington on the dispute. But today, the Foreign Ministry said that there was no breakthrough.

"The government stance is firm that beef from cattle older than 30 months will not be brought" into South Korea, Lee said. Meat from older cattle is thought to be at greater risk of carrying mad cow disease.

Talks will continue through diplomatic channels, the Foreign Ministry said.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

6:02 PM, June 13, 2008

Here's a privacy issue that hadn't occurred to us before we read about it in the San Jose Mercury News:

A new policy aimed at controlling rabies and raising more money for San Jose Animal Care and Service is drawing fire from veterinarians because it will force them to turn over the names and addresses of clients who get rabies shots for their pets.

City officials hope to use the information to get more pets registered, but several vets said they fear the new policy will keep pet owners - especially those with more than the legal limit - from getting rabies shots for their cats and dogs.

The city's concern "is revenue, our concern is privacy," said Walter Hoge, owner of Camden Pet Hospital on Camden Avenue. "And if they start doing this, people will not get their pets vaccinated because they won't want to deal with privacy concerns."

The new policy, set to go into effect July 1, requires that all veterinarians who practice in San Jose provide to San Jose Animal Care and Service the pet owner's name, address and phone number, in addition to information about the pet and the date of the rabies vaccination.

2:45 PM, June 11, 2008


About 80,000 people demonstrated in Seoul against U.S. beef imports, with candlelight vigils lasting into the early hours today. President Lee Myung-bak was expected to accept Cabinet resignations over the issue.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Dong-A Ilbo/Associated Press

6:34 PM, June 7, 2008

Deputies arrested a well-known animal rescuer in the Mojave area Friday, accusing her of abusing animals, the Bakersfield Californian reports:

The new Grand Jury charges against Cynthia Bemis added to the dozens of animal cruelty charges already filed against the 59-year-old woman, according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Department. Bemis is facing 15 criminal charges of failing to care for animals in San Bernardino Court and 20 animal cruelty charges in Kern County Superior Court.

Under a court order, Bemis must submit to weekly inspections by Animal Control at her property located at East Trotter Avenue southeast of Mojave, said Sgt. Richard Wood with the Sheriff’s Department. Officers impounded two cats and nine dogs in a raid on Bemis’ property in February after a report of several animals being unhealthy.

Deputies also arrested Cynthia Trapani, 47, at Bemis’ property on Friday, deputies said. Trapani, who works with Bemis, is accused of shoving an animal control officer in an inspection in February, Wood said.

4:19 PM, June 5, 2008


The Humane Society of the United States today urged a nationwide ban on lead-shot ammunition after the lead poisoning of critically endangered California condors. One of the birds has died, "evidence that this ammo keeps on killing long after it leaves the gun barrel," the society said.

"Like asbestos, lead shot is a lethal and cruel pollutant that has no place in our modern society,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the society, said in a statement released today.

“Discharging countless tons of lead-shot ammunition and dispersing it in open space areas throughout the nation is a prescription for slow agonizing deaths for wildlife, particularly for scavengers such as condors who feed on animals killed by lead shot and are then poisoned themselves," he said. "It's time for policymakers to stand up to the extremist voices within the hunting lobby and demand that hunters use nontoxic shot.”

The poisoned condors account for one-fifth of the entire Southern California population of the creatures.

California enacted a law forbidding the use of lead shot, and lead bullets, in condor territory beginning July 1.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Scott Frier / Associated Press

1:48 PM, June 5, 2008

A 55-year-old South Los Angeles man has been sentenced to five years in prison for dogfighting, the Associated Press reports.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Kimberly Abourezk said Wednesday that Jerome Hayden Woods was sentenced in Superior Court after pleading no contest to four counts related to dogfighting.

At the time of Woods' arrest in January, authorities said officers found 11 scarred, emaciated pit bulls; exercise equipment; bloody towels; and bloodstained fighting pits.

Woods also must pay $11,900 for the care of the seized dogs. Some of them were euthanized, and others were put up for adoption.

7:59 PM, June 3, 2008

Maryann Mott, who writes exclusively about pets for a variety of national publications, will be blogging at L.A. Unleashed from time to time. She lives in Arizona with K.C., a rescued Akita mix, and Sasha, an energetic 8-year-old Belgian sheepdog. You can see more of her work at petwriter.com.

Dog_walkingFlexPetz caused quite a stir last year after opening its dog renting business in New York, Los Angeles and London. Now animal welfare advocates in Boston are trying to stop the company for setting up shop in their state.

A hearing is scheduled Thursday on House Bill 4753, which would prevent commercial entities from leasing dogs or cats by the hour or day in Massachusetts. If passed, the bill would be the first such law in the country.

FlexPetz charges busy urbanites thousands of dollars in yearly fees for the ability to spend time with one of the dogs from their canine fleet of Afghan hounds, Labrador retrievers and Boston terriers.

According to an Associated Report in July, Marlena Cervantes, founder of FlexPetz, bristles when people refer to her five-month-old business as a rent-a-pet service. She prefers the term "shared pet ownership," explaining the concept is more akin to a vacation time share or a gym membership than a trip to the video store.

Read more Massachusetts considers a ban on pet rentals »

10:48 AM, June 2, 2008


Wild horses, better known as mustangs, have been protected by federal laws since the early 1970s, but many are still being shipped off by cattle ranchers to the slaughterhouse, says Deanne Stillman in today's Opinion section:

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were about 2 million mustangs in the wilderness; according to the government, there are about 23,000 on public lands in the Western states now, and more than half are in Nevada. Wild horse advocates, however, say the number is much lower. Because the animals have been "zeroed out" from at least 100 of their 300 official herd areas (contrary to the 1971 law's provisions), they may be on the brink of no return.

Many cattle ranchers have long regarded wild horses as "pests" that steal food from their herds. The livestock lobby has tried to dismantle the wild horse and burro law through four U.S. administrations, and it has the political clout to push policy toward a mustang-free America.

Stillman writes that the mustangs are more than just animals but symbolize America's heritage, and urges a moratorium on wild horse removals until a population count is conducted.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Katey Barret/Times archive

10:17 AM, June 2, 2008


Anyone who's wandered the charming Piazza San Marco in Venice knows that the only staple of the square isn't just the breathtaking architecture and lovely surrounding canals, but a familiar site to Americans: pigeons. People pay a few euros for a small bag of feed at many squares in Italy -- and most of Europe -- encouraging the birds to land on their arms or hands.

But not all are fans, as evidenced in today's Column One by Times foreign correspondent Tracy Wilkinson, in which we learn of a battle between pigeon lovers and haters:

A band of animal lovers armed with skull-and-crossbones flags zips over the choppy Venice lagoon in speedboats. They dock at the palace-lined piazza, lug out 20-pound sacks of birdseed and scatter the food for all to eat. Or peck.

The pirate pigeon-saviors have made three lightning raids into St. Mark's, the first two at the crack of dawn and now, at midday, to deliberately confront the police and their ban on feeding the birds.

So goes Venice's battle over its ever-multiplying pigeons. "Flying rats," in the view of the mayor -- airborne menaces that poop all over precious, centuries-old marble statues. "Cool," in the view of many tourists -- can you imagine a picture of St. Mark's without them?

Part One of the city's anti-pigeon plan, launched May 1, was to force the 19 licensed bird feed vendors to close their kiosks. Eventually, people trying to feed the birds will be fined, city officials say.

"The problem is the number," says Pierantonio Belcaro, Venice's chief environmental officer. By City Hall's calculation, Venice should accommodate, ideally, about 2,400 pigeons. Instead, he says, there are 60,000.

But Venice lawmakers aren't the only ones frustrated with the birds. Last year Hollywood became the first area in the nation to employ birth control -- in the form of kibble on rooftops -- to shrink the pigeon population pooping on the cars and buildings they adore.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Tracy Wilkinson/Los Angeles Times

2:59 PM, May 30, 2008


A conservation group announced this week it will sue to force federal action on a petition to list the Pacific walrus as a threatened species because of global warming and offshore petroleum development, Dan Joling of the Associated Press reports:

The deadline was May 8 for an initial 90-day review of the petition by the U.S. Department of the Interior, according to Center for Biological Diversity attorney Brendan Cummings. The group filed the petition back in February.

Shaye Wolf, a biologist and lead author of the petition, said Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than the best predictions of climate models.

"As the sea ice recedes, so does the future of the Pacific walrus," she said.

The Center for Biological Diversity was one of three conservation groups that successfully petitioned to have polar bears listed as threatened because of sea ice loss caused by global warming, a decision announced this month by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. That listing also followed court action to force deadline decisions, though.

Listing a species as "threatened" means it is likely to become endangered, government officials said. "Endangered" is more dire and means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or much of its range.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Associated Press

7:38 PM, May 28, 2008

Two_greyhounds_2Those who are following the saga of Riley the greyhound on L.A. Unleashed may be interested to learn that officials at the Tuscon Greyhound Park are unhappy about a grassroots ballot measure.

The measure, called the Tucson Dog Protection Act, was drafted by a group called Tucson Dog Protection and is spearheaded by retired Assistant U.S. Atty. Susan Via. To reach the ballot, the measure needs 70 signatures.

The measure would amend the existing animal cruelty section of the South Tucson City Code. (South Tucson is a 1-square-mile community surrounded by Tucson.) The proposed measure contains three provisions that address steroids, confinement and feeding dogs tainted raw meat.

Tucson Greyhound Park would be affected enough by the measure that it could eventually be pushed out of business, said Tom Taylor, the park's chief executive.

Photo: Kevin P. Casey / Los Angeles Times

12:43 PM, May 27, 2008

Animal_rights_activists_are_trying_Somehow, as we planned for Memorial Day weekend (hot dogs or chicken? Indy or Iron Man? "Living Lohan" or "Deadliest Catch"?)  we missed some of the most important animal news ever.

Austrian animal rights activists are fighting to get a 26-year-old chimpanzee legally declared a "person," and they say they have filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. The International Herald Tribune reports:

The Vienna-based Assn. Against Animal Factories insists the chimp needs that legal standing so a guardian can be appointed to look out for his interests — especially if the bankrupt animal shelter caring for him shuts down....

In January, Austria's Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that had rejected the activists' request to have a trustee appointed for the chimp. The high court ruled that under Austrian law, only people are entitled to have guardians.

The full name of the chimp, above, is Matthew Hiasl Pan. Last year, the shelter where he lived filed for bankruptcy protection.

(This all raises another question: Can a human be legally declared a chimp? We can offer up candidates if pressed.)

--  Alice Short

Photo: Lilli Strauss / Associated Press

6:57 PM, May 24, 2008

Poodle_puppies The Humane Society of the United States--not surprisingly--was closely following the just-passed Farm Bill (the Senate and the House overrode a presidential veto). HSUS says the bill ushered in "key new protections for animals." According to an HSUS release:

The final bill -- which is now considered law, except for one section excluded due to a technical glitch -- bans the import of puppies from foreign puppy mills for commercial sale in the U.S. The law spares young, unweaned, and unvaccinated pups from harsh, long-distance transport -- during which they are exposed to extreme temperatures and often die in cargo holds -- and will keep foreign breeders from adding to the tragic overpopulation of pets in this country.

The Farm Bill also adds a provision to federal law to make almost any form of animal fighting a federal felony. It's also now a federal crime to knowingly possess or train animals for fighting, and the maximum prison time for a single violation of any section of the law goes from three years to five years. It is hard to overstate what a blow this is to dogfighters and cockfighters, and it brings us one step closer to eradicating these criminal industries.

The Associated Press reports that about two-thirds of the law would pay for nutrition programs such as food stamps, which would see increases of around $1 billion a year. About $40 billion is for farm subsidies and almost $30 billion would go to farmers to idle their land and for other environmental programs.

--Alice Short

Photo: Craig Mathews/Associated Press

2:44 PM, May 23, 2008


The U.S. and Canada have reached a new 10-year agreement aimed at preventing overfishing of salmon off the western coast of Canada and southeast Alaska, Rachel La Corte of the Associated Press reports:

The plan announced Thursday by the Pacific Salmon Commission could most affect chinook salmon, which migrate from Washington to the waters of British Columbia and Alaska, where they are often caught by sport and commercial fisheries.

Under the proposed change to the existing Pacific Salmon Treaty, the U.S. would give Canada $30 million for its effort to reduce commercial salmon fishing; Alaska would receive about $7 million. Washington would receive about $7 million to improve chinook habitat.

Alaska will reduce its catch of wild salmon 15% over the next 10 years; Canada will make a 30% reduction.

The agreement comes less than a month after federal authorities declared the West Coast ocean salmon fishery a failure, opening the way for Congress to appropriate economic disaster assistance for coastal communities in California, Oregon and Washington.

The declaration stemmed from the sudden collapse of the chinook salmon run in California's Sacramento River, where the salmon return to spawn.

Scientists are studying the causes of the collapse, with possible factors including ocean conditions, habitat destruction, dam operations and agricultural pollution, but the agreement does not address the the issue.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times

11:36 AM, May 23, 2008

Felony charges have been filed against a Lakewood owner of a pit bull that attacked and seriously hurt a Southeast Area Animal Control Authority officer, the Associated Press reports:

Antoynette Michelle Jenkins is charged with one count of owning mischievous dogs causing bodily injuries for a May 7 pit bull attack on officer Vince Hernandez, who underwent surgery for injuries to his right hand and arm.

Los Angeles County prosecutors also charged the Lakewood woman with two counts of animal cruelty because of the unhealthy condition of her dogs.

Hernandez went to the Jenkins home after she had agreed to give up three of her five dogs to comply with a city ordinance permitting only two dogs per household. A pit bull named Rocky attacked the officer and the other dogs joined in.

10:59 AM, May 22, 2008


A congressional investigator with the Government Accountability Office asserted Wednesday that at least four Interior Department officials might have inappropriately interfered in decisions on protecting endangered species, the Associated Press reports:

The allegation came during a House hearing on purported interference by Julie MacDonald, an Interior official who resigned last year after the department's inspector general found that she had pressured government scientists to alter their findings about endangered species and leaked information to industry officials.

The Bush administration later reversed seven rulings that had denied endangered species increased protection, such as the Canada lynx pictured above, saying they had been tainted.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Jack Smith / AP

Read more Endangered species officials under investigation »

4:30 PM, May 21, 2008

Wayne_pacelle_cockfighting_magazine It may be a little harder for "chicken aficionados" to get their hands on the Gamecock and the Feathered Warrior, both the subject of a federal animal cruelty lawsuit that was settled this week when the magazines' publisher agreed to ask Amazon.com to stop selling its publications online, the Associated Press reports.

In 2006, the Humane Society of the United States asked the U.S. Postal Service to stop delivering the magazines. Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle, pictured at right with the magazines in question, explained in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed piece last year that the group also began fighting with Amazon because it was trafficking materials that "incite cockfighting."

Amazon has argued that it has a constitutional right to sell the publications and called pulling them from sale a form of censorship, according to the AP.

The Humane Society last year sued Amazon demanding the online retailer stop selling the Gamecock, which the group called "the oldest and best-known cockfighting magazine in the United States." An attorney for the Marburger Publishing Co. described the magazine much differently, saying it was appealing to "chicken aficionados."

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Robert A. Reeder / Washington Post

3:48 PM, May 21, 2008


The government plans to close a loophole in meat inspection rules that led to the record recall of 143 million pounds of ground beef this year. The Baltimore Sun's Jonathan D. Rockoff reports:

The Department of Agriculture will prohibit meat plants from slaughtering any cow that can't stand and walk on its own at any point after it arrives at a plant, Schafer said.

The rule would eliminate existing provisions that allow plants to send "downer," or sick, cows to slaughter if they fall ill after passing an initial inspection and then pass a second inspection.

"I believe it is sound policy to simplify this matter by initiating a complete ban on the slaughter of cattle that go down after an initial inspection," [Agriculture Secretary Edward T.] Schafer said in a statement. The new rule should be in effect by the end of the year.

The revision of the rules was prompted by an undercover Humane Society video showing abuse of sick cows at Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino that lead to a massive recall earlier this year.

-Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Cezaro De Luca/EPA

3:48 PM, May 21, 2008


In today's Times, Patrick McGreevy takes a deeper look into the proposed law that would ban live animals from being on drivers' laps (among other proposals that could affect California's drivers):

Assemblyman Bill Maze (R-Visalia) said he introduced the bill against lap dogs after a car passed him with two large canines hanging out a window and a third in the driver's lap.

"It's a very dangerous thing for the drivers and others," Maze said. "It's a distraction."

Maze is unfazed by national radio personality Rush Limbaugh's derision of his measure. "Talk about the land of fruits and nuts," Limbaugh told listeners recently.

And Maze doesn't care that other critics have ridiculed the measure as the "Paris Hilton bill," after the celebrity partygoer who often totes a tiny dog with her.

"I don't know anything about her," Maze said.

But Dick Messer, above, the director of the Petersen Automotive Museum, likes driving around with his Pomeranian, named Peaches, on his lap. He thinks the proposed law is "ridiculous":

"It's just nuts, the stuff legislators come up with instead of dealing with the real problems facing the state: crime, the economy, the . . . budget deficit," Messer says.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times

2:34 PM, May 20, 2008

A_polar_bear_cub_plays_with_its_motConservation groups that sued to list polar bears as threatened are back in court, the Associated Press reports, taking aim at what they say is the animals' top threat -- greenhouse gas emissions that have led to the rapid melting of polar bear habitat: sea ice.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council announced today they have challenged administrative actions by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to keep greenhouse gas regulation off the table for a polar bear recovery plan. ...

In response to a court-ordered deadline last week, Kempthorne announced polar bears would be listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

But echoing President Bush, he said he would not allow the Endangered Species Act to be "misused" to regulate global climate change.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had not made a "causal connection" between development actions and loss of a polar bear, he said last week. ...

In court filings late Friday that amend their original lawsuit, the conservation groups asked U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland to reject Kempthorne's administrative actions and apply endangered species law to polar bears.

Photo: Daniel Maurer / Associated Press

6:09 PM, May 19, 2008

Rapper DMX has been arraigned on four felony drug charges and seven misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges. He is scheduled to be back in court July 2, according to the Arizona Republic:

Dressed in a white baggy T-shirt and dingy jeans, Simmons walked into Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Lisa VandenBerg's courtroom at 9:30 a.m., an hour late. VandenBerg entered a not-guilty plea on all 11 charges for the internationally known rapper...

The animal-cruelty and drug charges stem from an early-morning May 9 search of Simmons' Cave Creek-area home by Maricopa County sheriff's deputies.

The search warrant was served seven months after the Sheriff's Office launched a high-profile investigation into reports that Simmons was neglecting 12 pit bulls. Some were dehydrated and appeared to be underfed. Three were found buried in his backyard.

DMX had no comment on the charges.

6:10 PM, May 17, 2008

The Associated Press reports that the Bush administration has released a final recovery plan for the northern spotted owl that officials say could lead to recovery of the threatened bird in 30 years.

The plan outlines a series of 34 steps to halt the owl's decline, reduce threats and return a stable owl population in Washington, Oregon and California.

The recovery plan identifies the primary threats as habitat loss due to logging and catastrophic wildfires. Competition from the barred owl, a related species, is also a factor.

Critics said the report was an improvement over a draft plan last year. But they say it doesn't do enough to restrict logging old-growth forests where the bird lives.

The northern spotted owl is protected as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

1:06 PM, May 15, 2008


Chicago on Wednesday overturned its two-year ban on foie gras, the delicacy made from the fattened livers of ducks and geese, the Chicago Tribune reported. The ban, slipped into a routine City Council vote in 2006, earned the city international attention: admiration from animal rights groups and ire from the culinary world.

Reaction to the repeal was swift. Relieved chefs, including Christophe Pouy, above, celebrated, and began preparing the controversial dish in time for dinner last night.

Chef Didier Durand, who led the fight against the ban, told the Tribune, "We're going to paint the town with foie gras."

Animal rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, decried the reversal, calling it "dirty political maneuvering" by the food industry and saying the city was "right the first time in banning this hideously cruel product."

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune

11:31 AM, May 15, 2008

Polar_bear_4The Bush administration's decision to list polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act likely means more tourists will flock to a tiny Canadian town on Hudson Bay where bears are the star attraction every fall. Read all about the polar bears on the home page of the L.A. Times travel section.

Photo:Subhankar Banerjee/Associated Press

2:17 PM, May 14, 2008

Polar_bears_4 Polar bears, which have become a symbol in debate over global warming, today were added to the federal list of endangered species, the Times' Ken Weiss reports:

The Bush administration today designated the polar bear as threatened with extinction, making the big arctic bear, whose fate clings to shrinking sea ice, the first creature added to the endangered species list primarily because of global warming.

The designation invokes federal protections under the Endangered Species Act, the nation's most powerful environmental law that requires designation of critical habitat to be protected as well as forming a strategy to assist the bear population's recovery.

The decision came only after a U.S. District Court in Oakland forced the Bush administration's hand by imposing a May 15 deadline for the decision that was supposed to have been completed by Jan. 9.

It was the first time in more than two years that the Interior Department extended protections to another species under the Endangered Species Act -- the longest hiatus of new listings by the department since President Richard Nixon signed the law in 1973.

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, who announced the decision today, says in a news release that "this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting. Any real solution requires action by all major economies for it to be effective."

That seems to mean that the debate over listing polar bears and how protecting them might translate into policies to stem climate change is far from over. Nor are requests for even further protection.

As Weiss reports, U.S. conservation groups have already been urging the Interior Department to give the polar bear a higher designation, one of "endangered with extinction," rather than merely "threatened."

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Jonathan Hayward/AP

6:39 PM, May 13, 2008

There's nothing like an elephant... in a zoo... to get many Angelenos riled up. Should the elephants stay or should they go? And what about that $40-million new elephant habitat under construction? Today, City News Service reports that a lawsuit filed to close the Los Angeles Zoo's current elephant exhibit and stop the construction of a new one was dismissed.

In the suit filed last Aug. 2 against the city and zoo director John Lewis, actor Robert Culp and real estate agent Aaron Leider maintained zoo authorities have withheld medical care, kept the animals over the years confined in a small area, and used bull hooks and electric shock to control them.

They also maintained the larger exhibit would be a waste of taxpayer money. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley said the issues should be resolved in the political arena rather than in the courtroom.

“America is all about democracy,” Wiley said in granting the city’s motion to dismiss the case before trial. “Sometimes we like its results, and sometimes we abhor the results.”

While calling the arguments in the lawsuit compelling -- including opinions submitted from experts as far away as Australia -- Wiley said the grievances should be brought to the attention of the politicians who made the decisions to have an elephant exhibit and expand the one already there.

The Los Angeles Zoo’s elephant exhibit is currently home to a 21-year-old Asian elephant named Billy. The $40-million exhibit under construction, set to open in 2009 and be called Pachyderm Forest, is designed hold up to five adult Asian elephants and three of their offspring.

5:19 PM, May 12, 2008

Bullfighting_3Animal activism, it seems, is catching on in Europe. A report in the Houston Chronicle explains that the animal rights movement is affecting, among other things, bullfighting.

Spain's iconic sport, bullfighting, is known for its ferocity and flair. But the centuries-old spectacle may have met its match in an equally tenacious opponent: Europe's animal rights movement.

For the first time Thursday, doping tests were introduced at Spain's most prestigious bullfighting festival after allegations that bulls are given drugs to tip the balance in favor of the matador. Under pressure and falling ratings, Spanish TV has dropped bullfighting from its schedule.

The increasingly vocal anti-bullfighting lobby says it's only a matter of time before the sport is relegated to the history books.

"People in Europe are finally beginning to accept the animal welfare message," said Kate Fowler-Reeves, head of campaigns for Animal Aid, the U.K.'s largest animal rights group.

In Switzerland, dogs are about to benefit from a little activism as well. Starting Sept. 1, a law will require dog owners to take (and pay for) a two-part training course. Among other things, dog owners will be instructed on how to properly walk a dog on the street. For more on those wacky Swiss and their new rules about "social species," check out this report from the Times of London:

GoldfishFrom guinea pigs to budgerigars, any animal classified as a “social species” will be a victim of abuse if it does not cohabit, or at least have contact, with others of its own kind. The new regulation stipulates that aquariums for pet fish should not be transparent on all sides and that owners must make sure that the natural cycle of day and night is maintained in terms of light. Goldfish are considered social animals, or Gruppentiere in German.

-- Alice Short

Bullfighting photo: Paul White / Associated Press

Goldfish photo: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times

3:33 PM, May 12, 2008

Dmx_2 Rapper DMX was arrested Friday -- for the second time in a week -- in connection with a raid on his house last summer that allegedly turned up weapons, drugs, dog carcasses and abused pit bulls.

The Arizona Republic reports:

After a 7-month investigation, Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies arrested Earl Simmons, better known as rapper DMX, at his Cave Creek home early Friday morning on suspicion of misdemeanor animal cruelty and felony drug possession.

The arrest stems from a raid by deputies on the rapper's home in August, which led to the seizure of 12 dogs that appeared malnourished and the discovery of three more dogs buried in the backyard.

The rapper tried to barricade himself in his bedroom while the search warrant was being served, but he eventually emerged, authorities said.

DMX had been arrested Tuesday on suspicion of driving up to 114 miles per hour on a highway.

It's hardly a surprise that a search of DMX's house would turn up pit bulls. After all, one of his recent albums was called "Year of the Dog...Again," and he does have song hooks that feature barking dogs.

DMX was convicted of animal cruelty in New Jersey in 1999 for housing 13 pit bulls in tight cages, and agreed to record a public service announcement against cruelty as part of his plea deal, according to the Republic.

To the surprise of sheriff's deputies, who found five pit bull puppies at his house Friday, DMX continued to keep dogs at his house even after the raid last summer. "He had to know that we were still investigating him," Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told the Republic.

The puppies were taken away and will now be in the care of jail inmates.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Frank Miceotta/Getty Images

12:40 PM, May 9, 2008


Trader Joe’s announced Thursday that it will stop carrying eggs from a Central California farm where an animal rights group shot undercover video showing chickens being mistreated by workers, the Associated Press reports:

Footage released earlier this week by the Chicago-based nonprofit Mercy for Animals showed hens at Gemperle Enterprises’ farms confined in crowded metal cages with rotting bird corpses.

The chain decided against carrying Gemperle eggs because "it is of utmost importance that all of our vendors abide by industry-established animal care practices," Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said.

Previously, the chain’s Northern California and Northern Nevada stores had sourced conventional eggs from NuCal Foods Inc., which also distributes eggs from Gemperle and dozens of other farms to Raley’s and SaveMart Supermarkets.

Mochizuki said the Trader Joe’s ban on Gemperle eggs was indefinite.

Raley’s plans to continue to carry all eggs from NuCal, but "does not condone any acts of cruelty to animals," said spokeswoman Nicole Townsend. A SaveMart Supermarkets spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times

12:31 PM, May 9, 2008

A member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe who killed a bald eagle for use in his tribe's sun dance must stand trial, according to Times wire reports.

A panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver reversed a 2006 decision by U.S. District Judge William Downes of Wyoming that had dismissed a criminal charge against Winslow Friday of Ethete, Wyo.

The appeals court ruled that American Indians' religious freedoms are not violated by federal law protecting eagles or the requirement that they get permits to kill eagles.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

3:03 PM, May 7, 2008

Rooster_3Getting a little tired of grabbing your newspaper as soon as it hits the driveway because your neighbor's rooster likes to greet the world at 4:30 a.m.?

Well, there's no relief in sight, at least in terms of that cock-a-doodle-doing. A proposal to limit the crowing of roosters in Los Angeles... is going nowhere. Read all about it at L.A. Now.

Photo: Wilfred Lee / Associated Press

2:57 PM, May 7, 2008

The bill that a California lawmaker proposed that would ban motorists from holding pets on their laps while driving passed the Assembly on a 44-11 vote on Monday and now heads to the Senate, the Associated Press reports.

Assemblyman Bill Maze (R-Visalia) says his legislation has nothing to do with pet-loving celebrities, such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, who are often photographed driving around Los Angeles with their small dogs.

Maze says he introduced the bill after seeing a woman driving with three dogs on her lap. He says pets are a distraction that put motorists and their passengers at risk.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

10:52 AM, May 6, 2008


An animal protection organization is throwing back the curtains on the West Coast's largest distributor of eggs, releasing a hidden-camera video that shows chickens being mistreated by handlers and locked in cages so small the birds can't spread their wings, The Times' Eric Bailey reports:

The footage, shot covertly by an undercover investigator with the group Mercy for Animals, shows workers kicking and stomping on chickens and snapping the necks of sick hens. It also shows birds left with untreated wounds and crowded into cages, sometimes amid rotting corpses.

Officials with the animal protection group said the video was shot this year at Gemperle Enterprises, a Turlock farming outfit that supplies giant NuCal Foods Inc., the biggest supplier of eggs in the western United States.

The company's response?

[Steve] Gemperle said it was unclear whether the new footage truly was shot at one of his family's farms, but said the mistreatment violated his company's policies.

The video comes on the heels of an effort to get a measure on the November ballot to outlaw the kinds of cages that the chickens in the photo above are contained within.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Mercy for Animals

9:53 AM, May 6, 2008

Another_pit_bullSome days it does not pay to be a pit bull. As readers of L.A. Unleashed know, the so-called "bully breed" arouses feelings of great passion on both sides of the debate: Are pits genetically predisposed to violence, or is it the owner's fault when something goes wrong? Do pits make loving pets when treated well, or should they be avoided at all costs?

PetSmart has been the target of online complaints about “breedist” requirements at its doggie day-care facilities.

Now Tulsa, Okla., is dealing with the controversy about pit bulls: According to a report in the Tulsa World, the Tulsa Animal Shelter's policy prohibiting the adoption of pit bull terriers will be reviewed to see if it complies with state law.

Officials at the shelter won't allow people to adopt stray pit bulls or pit bull mixes to prevent them from being trained to fight -- a criminal activity. If owners of pits bulls do not claim the dogs within three business days, they are euthanized once the shelter runs out of space, Jean Letcher, shelter manager, said Wednesday.

The shelter's policy became an issue when Sam Thompson called the facility April 23rd to pick up two stray pit bulls that had wandered into the dent-repair shop where he works on Sheridan Road near 41st Street.

When he learned three days later that they would be euthanized, Thompson asked to adopt the dogs but was denied because of the shelter's policy.

Meanwhile, Long Island just had its first-ever conference on pit bulls. According to Newsday, the principal message of the conference was this: "The predicament facing these canines does not really lie with the dogs, but with humans and how they treat them."

-- Alice Short

Photo: Anne Cusak/Los Angeles Times

2:23 PM, May 5, 2008


New York City's Police Department Patrol Guide, a thick-and-getting-thicker collection of rules and regulations, has been amended to let officers know that seeing-eye dogs are not the only service animals, Newsday's Rocco Parascandola reports.

Indeed, a monkey might qualify as a service animal. Or a snake. In an amusing report, Parascandola delves into the Patrol Guide and it rules on service animals.

It is not just the blind who can have service animals, the Patrol Guide now says, but also those with other conditions, including mental disorders. Among other things, a service animal can alert others if its owner is in distress. Or maybe its mere presence helps calm someone prone to panic attacks.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press

3:21 PM, May 2, 2008

Quiz: What was one of the last things New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer did before he resigned in disgrace, implicated in a prostitution ring? If you guessed "outlawed animal electrocution," you're right.

Spitzer in March signed into law a ban on the electrocution of animals in a particularly gruesome way to harvest their fur, making New York the first state in the nation to combat the practice, the Associated Press reports.

It looks like no one took notice until now. (Maybe the New York press had other things to cover).

The law bans the practice of anal and genital electrocution of fur-bearing animals, including mink, foxes, chinchillas and rabbits. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail.

National animal rights advocates on Wednesday said they hope it will force similar measures in other states.

--Tony Barboza

11:05 AM, April 23, 2008


South Korean customs officials have announced that the seven dogs they have cloned (six are pictured here,fighting over a rag) are now being trained as sniffers for their customs agency.

The dogs were born after the country's customs service paid a biotechnology company to reproduce a Canadian Labrador retriever, and are already showing an uncanny sniffing ability, according to the AP:

Only about 30% of naturally born sniffer dogs make the grade, but South Korean scientists believe that could rise to 90% using the cloning method....

A spokesman for South Korean customs said the pups have passed the first round of tests for behavioural patterns and genetic qualities and will report for duty in June after completing a second round of training.

The puppies, all named Toppy (Tomorrow's Puppy) are identical to their father as seen here in the video below.

--Tony Barboza   

Photo: EPA

8:48 AM, April 23, 2008

A Santa Barbara man will spend nearly a year in jail for banging the head of his roommate’s kitten against a wall, the Associated Press reports.

Nicholas David Thompson pleaded no contest to a felony animal cruelty charge, and was sentenced Monday to 360 days in Santa Barbara County Jail.

Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa also ordered the 21-year-old defendant to attend anger management classes for a year.

Thompson banged the head of the kitten, named Gigi, against a wall, tossed her into the shower and turned on the water. The roommate and his friend managed to rescue the kitten, and Gigi recovered, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kimberly Smith told the Santa Barbara News-Press.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

10:45 AM, April 22, 2008


The delta smelt, a tiny endangered fish causing big headaches for California's water kingpins, could soon get help.

A Central Valley lawmaker wants the state to build a hatchery to boost the smelt's flagging population.

Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) has proposed a Delta Smelt Preservation and Restoration Act with the primary goal of building at least one hatchery by 2011 to breed the fish.

Smelt, pictured here as seen through a microscope, have been a victim of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta's flagging ecological health and the voracious pull of giant aqueduct pumps that send delta water to the south.

This year, water exports could be trimmed by 30% because of a federal court ruling intended to protect the endangered fish.

Florez's act would authorize the state Department of Fish and Game to work with the University of California and state Department of Water Resources.

Construction costs would be picked up by large water users.

-- Eric Bailey

Photo: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

3:36 PM, April 18, 2008

An Orange County man accused of taking a video of himself abusing rabbits and a dog pleaded not guilty Thursday to six misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, authorities said.

Joseph Anthony Deiss, 19, surrendered at the Fullerton Justice Center, where he was arraigned and released on $10,000 bail. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing May 8. Deiss, of Yorba Linda, is accused of throwing a pug and three rabbits 15 to 30 feet in the air and allowing them to hit the ground.

The charges were filed after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals saw a video of the incident on Deiss' MySpace page and showed it to authorities. None of the animals appeared to be injured.

Deiss, a part-time college student, later apologized and said he had bought the rabbits as food for his two pet boa constrictors.

Here's what Deiss told The Times about the video Wednesday:

"I just posted it and kind of forgot about it. I didn't even realize that anyone was watching."

"It wasn't meant to be intentionally cruel," he said. "I can see that it was somewhat bad, but nothing got hurt. . . . People feed their snakes all the time."

-- Tony Barboza

11:03 AM, April 16, 2008


Lawmakers have taken aim at many driving distractions lately, talking on your cellphone and texting to name a few.

But driving with your dog? That's a new one.

A bill introduced by state Assemblyman Bill Maze (R-Visalia) would ban pets from sharing the driver's seat with their owners and fine drivers $35 if they were caught with a pet in their lap, the Palm Springs Desert Desert Sun reports.

The bill, reviewed by a committee Monday, was prompted by data showing pets were among the worst in-car driving distractions, Maze told the newspaper.

If the bill passes, all of those head-out-the-window, lap-loving dogs might have to learn a new command: Sit (on the passenger seat).

--Tony Barboza

Photo: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times

11:00 AM, April 16, 2008

University of California officials are backing a state bill that would crack down on recent attacks by animal rights activists targeting animal researchers' homes.

The bill, introduced by Bay Area Assemblyman Gene Mullin, would restrict public access to personal information of animal researchers, including names, home addresses and photographs, the Mercury News reports.

There would also be a criminal provision, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:

The legislation, AB2296, would also prohibit attempts to injure or intimidate animal researchers or interfere with their work, making such acts a misdemeanor punishable by as long as a year in jail and fines as high as $25,000.

UC Berkeley's Daily Californian quotes animal rights attorney Christine Garcia saying the bill would unlawfully censor the free speech of animal rights protesters.

But Steven Beckwith, UC vice president for research, said this legislation is necessary because some demonstrators have crossed the line of civilized protest and free speech.

"As a university, we really cherish free speech," Beckwith said. "So free speech is not the issue. The issue is violence. In particular, we don't tolerate terrorism."

The bill comes after a series of animal rights attacks at several UC campuses in recent months...

Read more UC-backed bill would restrict animal rights activists »

9:32 AM, April 16, 2008


More bad news for salmon fishers: State regulators Tuesday banned salmon fishing this year in coastal waters off California, just days after a federal decision to cancel the season for the first time ever.

The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to prohibit commercial and recreational salmon fishing in state waters, which extend three miles off the coast.

The federal ban approved last week by the Pacific Fishery Management Council applies to U.S. waters extending from three to 200 miles off the coasts of California and Oregon.

Government regulators are taking the unprecedented action because runs of fall-run chinook salmon are experiencing a sharp decline.

Scientists say the most worrisome trouble is on the Sacramento River.

-- Eric Bailey

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

7:31 PM, April 11, 2008

*UPDATE: The above headline is incorrect. Jereme James was convicted on one count of concealing and one count of possessing endangered animals. He was acquitted of smuggling. The U.S. Attorney's Office erroneously announced early Friday that James had been convicted "of federal smuggling charges." The office later corrected its statement.

A Long Beach man trying to illegally transport rare iguanas has fallen to the long leg arm of the law.

Jereme James, 34, of Long Beach, was found guilty Thursday on two federal charges related to bringing three rare iguanas into the U.S. from a nature preserve in Fiji in 2002. Prosecutors said he brought the reptiles into the U.S. by hiding them in a special compartment he had constructed in his prosthetic leg.

James was convicted on one count of concealing and one count of possessing the endangered animals, Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said in a statement. He was acquitted on one count of smuggling. James is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Manuel Real on July 14, facing a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Read more Man convicted of smuggling iguanas in his fake leg* »

3:06 PM, April 11, 2008

A circus elephant act in Panorama City was shut down Thursday by Los Angeles city animal services, the LA Daily News reports.

The elephant act, contracted to appear with Circus Vazquez, was found to be violation of the City of Los Angeles' permit requirements.

The elephants, Tina, Jewel and Queenie, have a long history of abuse and neglect, all documented in official U.S. Department of Agriculture records, said Ed Boks, general manager of Animal Services.

Boks told the Daily News that when he contacted the USDA, he found out that the elephants’ owner, Will Davenport, acting under different names and business aliases in Arizona and Texas, had a history of numerous Animal Welfare Act violations.

"We commend L.A. Animal Services for taking action to prevent these abused elephants from being exploited in our city,” said Catherine Doyle, a campaign director for In Defense of Animals, which helped draft the city permit guidelines. “If only federal authorities would act as swiftly and decisively as the city has.”

Doyle told the L.A. Times she's calling for federal authorities to seize the elephants and return them to an animal sanctuary.

-Francisco Vara-Orta

11:03 AM, April 11, 2008

An initiative that would prohibit what its supporters call "cruel confinement" of farm animals such as pregnant pigs and egg-laying hens has qualified for the November ballot, Secretary of State Debra Bowen has announced.

The Prevention of Farm Cruelty Act would prohibit tethering or confining any farm animal which lives in a covered space in a manner that would prevent it from lying down, standing up and fully extending its limbs and turning around freely. The initiative qualified when 536,605 of the 782,507 signatures submitted were determined to be valid after a random check of signatures.

Animals covered are calves raised for veal, pigs during pregnancy and egg-laying hens, such as the ones pictured in cages below. Exceptions include animals used in scientific or agricultural research; examination, testing or treatment for veterinary purposes; transportation; and rodeo, state or county fair exhibitions and 4-H programs. In addition, the initiative would not cover animals during the slaughter process and the seven-day period before a pig’s expected date of giving birth.


Photo: Farm Sanctuary/Farm Sanctuary

Read more Farm initiative qualifies for ballot »

5:40 PM, April 8, 2008

Circles the yell-billed Pekin duck A yellow-billed Pekin duck who was ambushed by a group of pellet-gun-toting young people on Long Island, N.Y., last month has achieved an unusual kind of retribution for the bloody attack.

After one of the the duck's assailants, Ylik Mathews, pleaded guilty to felony animal cruelty charges for piercing the duck's neck with a pellet, the judge issued the duck's owners a full order of protection against Mathews, Newsday reported.

A key provision: the order included the duck, Circles, at right.

In 2006 the state of New York passed a law allowing pets to be included in protective orders, according to Newsday.

--Tony Barboza

Photo: James Carbone / Newsday