1:05 PM, November 24, 2008


After fighting for decades over its oil and land, conservationists, developers and city planners are joining forces to let the Los Certitos Wetlands grow wild again. Times staff writer Louis Sahagun reports:

Earlier this month, the city of Long Beach announced a proposed land swap with a developer that would protect the 175-acre core of the wetlands in exchange for 52 acres of city-owned property. The city would then sell the marsh to the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority for about $25 million.

It won't be easy sealing the deal. The issues surrounding the wetlands' future are complex. But at the heart of the ongoing debate is a hope that the wetlands can bounce back and become a model of restoration and cooperation.

Just in time, some might say.

The wetlands on the Long Beach-Seal Beach border at the mouth of the San Gabriel River once stretched 2,400 acres. Today, little more than 400 acres remain, including the 175-acre parcel owned by developer Thomas Dean.

The developer's willingness to consider a land swap rather than an outright sale of the wetlands -- bordered by Pacific Coast Highway, Studebaker Road and the Los Cerritos Channel -- was key to bringing the warring parties together.

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

4:58 PM, November 21, 2008

The Humane Society of the United States is accusing Petland stores of selling dogs from “puppy mills,” where animals are bred in cramped cages with substandard care. The Kansas City Star reports:

Michael Markarian, Humane Society vice president, on Thursday announced the results of an eight-month investigation of Petland. The investigation, he said, used U.S. Department of Agriculture reports and other records to connect Petland stores to known high-volume breeders or brokers.

Missouri was one of the states singled out by Markarian as a haven for puppy mills.

Petland Inc. responded to the Humane Society report with a written statement.

“At Petland, healthy, happy, well-socialized pets within our care are our number one priority, as they have been for 41 years,” the company said. “We do not support substandard breeding facilities, and we provide each Petland store with ‘Humane Care Guidelines’ that were developed in conjunction with the USDA to assist with breeder facility inspections as it pertains to pet selection.”

Markarian said there are about 140 Petland stores in the U.S., a mix of corporate and franchise stores, with several in Missouri and Kansas.

Humane Society investigators visited 21 stores and 35 breeders and brokers that sold to Petland, he said, and reviewed records of 322 other breeders and 17,000 puppies linked to Petland. The investigators did not visit Missouri or Kansas stores.

1:22 PM, November 20, 2008

The Associated Press has an update on a West Virginia poultry grower that has been accused, by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, of abusing turkeys.

Global poultry grower Aviagen Inc. said Wednesday it has suspended a supervisor and would investigate a video released by an animal rights group that appears to show horrific abuse of turkeys at the company's West Virginia farms.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the video, which includes workers stomping on turkeys' heads and twisting their necks to kill them, was shot by an undercover investigator who worked on the companies' farms for more than two months.

The undercover worker, who was not identified, described stifling, dusty barns where the animals were kept and caught video of several workers killing turkeys, slamming them into metal cages and bragging about previous abuse of the animals. The New York Times first reported the allegations.

Representatives of subsidiary Aviagen Turkeys Inc. on Tuesday were shown the video that "appears to show inappropriate actions and violations of our animal welfare policies," the company said in a statement. "We condemn any abuse of the animals in our care and will take swift action to address these issues," the statement said. The company said it was investigating the actions and workers shown in the video and they could be fired. The supervisor involved has been suspended pending the outcome.

Read more An update on a case of alleged turkey abuse »

9:25 AM, November 20, 2008
The Los Angeles Zoo's controversial pachyderm exhibit was hardly the proverbial elephant in the room Wednesday during a packed L.A. City Council meeting.

Far from being an unspoken issue, the topic consumed 4 1/2 hours of discussion. People cheered and groaned as wildlife experts, animal welfare activists, impassioned schoolteachers, zoo lovers, a former game show host-cum-animal cause philanthropist (Bob Barker) and council members weighed in on the future of elephants in the city.

At issue was a proposal from Councilman Tony Cardenas to halt construction of the zoo's $42-million "Pachyderm Forest" habitat and create an elephant preserve of at least 60 acres elsewhere in the L.A. Basin.

In the end, the council took no vote and referred the matter to its budget committee for further study. But at least one council member said he was amazed by all the trumpeting the issue inspired.

"I hope we spend four hours on the homeless, gridlock and other issues that affect our city," Councilman Bill Rosendahl said.
The fate of the exhibit has been called into question several times over the last few years. On Wednesday it was clear that the issue remained an emotional one for council members and city residents.

Read more L.A. Zoo elephant debate takes over City Council meeting »

3:23 PM, November 19, 2008

Riley_mug_shotLos Angeles Times Entertainment Editor Betsy Sharkey has adopted a greyhound, Riley, at right, that used to race at the Caliente Racing Track in Tijuana. She will periodically post updates on his assimilation into her family here on L.A. Unleashed. Today she writes about dog training.

It all started when I began Tivoing NatGeo’s “Dog Whisper With Cesar Millan” and Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog,” with British trainer-star Victoria Stilwell. The more I watched, the more I realized that I was definitely not the leader of my pack.

If you know anything about dog behavior, making sure you’re the pack leader is critical if you want to enjoy having dogs in your life. The chaos, or the unbalanced pack at my place starts with Max, my English Setter. He spends many hours a day in frenzied activity -- endlessly chasing butterflies and birds in the backyard -- and jumps with boundless energy on anyone who tries to come into the house. And with him at 14 months now, I can no longer blame his bad behavior on puppyhood. Diagnosis: He thinks he’s the pack leader, but is constantly anxious that he hasn’t got everything covered.

Then there is Riley, my greyhound rescue. In the midst of the chaos Max kicks up each day, Riley remains the calm center. But as I’ve watched Riley in the months since I adopted him, I’ve found a few rough edges that -- as I’ve learned from Cesar, who like Cher really only needs one name, and Victoria -- I should quickly get under control.

While Riley is consistently lovely with people, big or small, and eager to snuggle up against all comers, he has started taking serious issue with any dog who barks at him. I discovered this during a recent trip to the dog park after a very nervous daschund went ballistic in his direction and Riley responded in kind.

Read more Educating Riley (the greyhound) and his master »

9:47 AM, November 19, 2008

From the Associated Press:

LEWISBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A video released by an animal rights group on Tuesday claims to show horrific abuse of turkeys at West Virginia farms operated by major global poultry grower Aviagen Inc.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the video, which includes workers stomping on turkeys' heads and twisting their necks to kill them, was shot by an undercover investigator who worked on the companies' farms for more than two months.

The undercover worker, who was not identified, described stifling, dusty barns where the animals were kept and caught video of several workers killing turkeys, slamming them into metal cages and bragging about previous abuse of the animals.

A company official told The New York Times that they "condemn the abuse of any of the animals in our care and will take swift action to address these issues." They said they would investigate the allegations, which could lead to firing employees who were involved.

Read more Just in time for Thanksgiving, allegations of turkey abuse »

8:45 AM, November 18, 2008
USA Today, among other media outlets, has reported that the cost of corralling and caring for wild horses in the West is spiraling, sparking concern among animal lovers that the horses may be slaughtered:
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says slaughter remains a possibility for some of the more than 30,000 wild horses and burros being cared for in government-run pens.

A Government Accountability Office report issued last week lent support to the agency's assertion in June that the costs of caring for the animals have skyrocketed. The GAO said the agency should consider euthanizing some horses or selling them, likely to a slaughterhouse, as an alternative to keeping them in long-term holding pens for their entire lives ...

But today the Washington Post reports that these horses may not have to be slaughtered after all. Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, has made it known that she wants to adopt "most or all of the 30,000 horses and burros kept in federal holding pens. ... Madeleine Pickens is looking for land in the West that would be an appropriate home for the horses."
Animal rights groups are, to say the the least, thrilled.

-- Alice Short
Photo credit: Associated Press

1:54 PM, November 15, 2008

You may think you've read all there is to read about the Obamas and their dog-to-be ... but wait, there's more! Times staff writer Carla Hall writes in today's paper that "Ever since President-elect Barack Obama announced in his victory speech that his daughters would be taking a new puppy with them to the White House, interest in the subject of the First Pooch has exploded. Animal welfare websites bristle with advice on pet ownership and praise for Obama's pledge to search for a shelter dog."

Hall continues:

Petfinder.com, citing Malia’s allergies, blogged this week that its database included about 5,000 dogs of hypoallergenic breeds. ... Ed Boks, general manager of L.A.'s Animal Services Department, said he called the office of Antonio Villaraigosa in hopes that the mayor -- who's on Obama's economic task force, after all -- might "put in a good word for L.A.'s homeless dogs. Our dogs would make the very best ambassadors to the White House."

But so would the bald and stark-looking Peruvian hairless dog -- at least according to the Friends of the Peruvian Hairless Dog Assn. "They do not cause any type of allergy and are very friendly and sweet," the group's director, Claudia Galvez, told a wire service reporter this week. Galvez sent a letter through diplomatic circles offering a male puppy.

And Yoyo, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina and a rescue dog of the puli breed -- a Hungarian sheepdog -- is scheduled to announce her candidacy for First Dog at a Nov. 25 news conference at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in West L.A., according to hospitality and pet industry publicist Susan Hartzler.

And don't forget: Times columnist Chris Erskine has actually nominated his own canine, Cujo, to be First Dog. And it turns out, the prospect of a First Puppy has attracted headlines in other countries as well, including the Times of London, which offered some tips on finding a hypoallergenic pet.

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

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.

10:13 AM, November 8, 2008

In a Friday news conference, President-elect Barack Obama was asked about Iran, the economy and, of course, "the puppy issue."

Why? Because his two daughters have been lobbying for a dog, setting off a worldwide debate on what kind of dog and the source of said dog. In addition, in his presidential acceptance speech, Obama pledged to get his daughters a puppy.

PoodlesOn Friday, the president-elect jokingly referred to the pet-selection process as a "major issue," saying it had generated a great deal of discussion on his website.

"We have two criteria that have to be reconciled," Obama said. "One is that [daughter] Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic." Yes, he would prefer to adopt a dog from a shelter. But?

"A lot of shelter dogs are mutts, like me," Obama said. "So whether we're going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household."

The first family-elect is getting a great deal of advice. Consider:

In a poll by the American Kennel Club, Americans chose the poodle (pictured above) as the "best breed for the Obamas."

"I think the poodle is an excellent choice because the breed is versatile, highly intelligent and easily trained," said AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson, adding that "good manners are important at the White House."

Read more Lots of advice on the selection of the 'first dog' for the Obamas »

7:52 AM, November 8, 2008

The Daily News reports that animal activists and zoo supporters locked horns in a heated battle Thursday over whether the Los Angeles Zoo should stop construction of a new $42 million elephant enclosure.

Among a herd of celebrities, including former game-show host Bob Barker and several "Desperate Housewives" cast members, actress Lily Tomlin said subjecting elephants to zoo life amounts to torture.

"The word `zoo' is sort of elephant-speak for Guantanamo," Tomlin said.

"Golden Girl" Betty White also showed, but spoke in favor of building the new enclosure and dismissed claims that the lone remaining elephant at the zoo was stressed out or depressed.

The City Council's Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee recommended to the full council that construction continue.

Those in favor of the six-acre enclosure told the committee the new habitat would be more comfortable for the zoo's elephant population - which currently sits at just one, a 21-year-old Asian elephant named Billy - and boost the zoo's prestige.

Opponents say the millions of dollars the city would spend to build the enclosure and care for the animals should instead go to projects that would directly benefit humans.

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

10:37 AM, October 31, 2008

a feral siamese cat

Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control officers have begun the trapping of cats--feral and friendly--who make up the colonies roaming through the old buildings of the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. For years the cats have roamed, fed by volunteers. Some, such as the arresting Siamese above, find shelter in the roomy nooks and crannies of the old buildings' foundations.

But after months of controversy over the cats supposedly leaving feces and attracting fleas near more populated buildings -- including a childcare center -- on the center's campus, the county has declared they must go.

They're not going too fast though. County officers set humane spring-loaded traps--cats walk into the cages and a door shuts behind--last Saturday as well as Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

So far, they've gotten six, according to David East. He and his wife, Linda, both retired, have devoted themselves to the cats over the past few years and would like the county to just leave the trapping task to them and other members of a group called Fail-Safe 4 Felines. County officials said they tried that and the colonies only increased to more than 150 cats with evidence of five new litters.

"That's just not true. We're there every day," said David East. "There have been only one or two litters this year that we pulled out and got adopted."

He also said they estimate there are 130 cats remaining. And he also said he believes the sources of the fleas are the dogs he observes people walking and allowing off-leash on the grounds. "They're trying to blame the cats."   

Read more Rancho Los Amigos cat saga continues ... »

10:26 AM, October 31, 2008

Remember the sea turtle that was trapped and wounded in the San Gabriel River? Times staff writer Louis Sahagun has an update.

Lance_adams_releases_a_sea_turtle_iA rehabilitated green sea turtle the size of a manhole cover was set free in the San Gabriel River on Thursday after two months of intensive veterinary care at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

Aquarium veterinarian Lance Adams grabbed the two ends of the 44-pound reptile's mossy carapace and let it go in the murky water under the East Second Street bridge south of the 405 Freeway, silently urging it on.

The turtle's flippers went into action and it disappeared into the green depths near the warm outflow of a Long Beach power plant where federal biologists recently discovered a resident colony of green sea turtles, about a mile upstream in a heavily industrialized stretch of the river.

"It didn't stop to say goodbye," Adams said with a smile.

The creature's release was celebrated with applause from about two dozen witnesses. Among them were biologists and staffers from a local National Marine Fisheries Service headquarters and heavy-equipment operator Dana Williams, 57, who happened to have been bicycling in the area when he caught sight of the commotion.
"This is exquisite," he said. "But they ought to put up a sign: No speed boats. Turtle sanctuary."

Read more Rehabilitated sea turtle set free »

3:14 PM, October 30, 2008

We can't get enough news about the Olsen twins (that's Mary-Kate and Ashely for those who've asleep for the last 15 years), who have again attracted the attention of animal rights protesters, this time at a New York event for their new fashion book "Influence." Envirolink has the details:

The_olsens_promote_their_new_bookMary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's book signing attracted masked animal rights protesters yesterday.

Two representatives from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) -- who call themselves the Trollsen Twins -- wore masks designed by the organization and held signs condemning the pair's penchant for fur at the New York event for the Olsen's new fashion bible 'Influence'.

The placards read 'Trollsens Fur Hags From Hell' and 'Hairy Kate + Ashley
Olsen: Fur Tramps.'

Dan Shannon, PETA's assistant director of youth campaigns, said: 'From their ghoulish garb to their skeletal frames, every day is Halloween if you're an Olsen twin.'

It's not the first time PETA has dissed the twins for wearing fur. In the summer, the animal rights organization issued a statement, which said, in part:

As the Olsen twins prepare to celebrate their 22nd birthday this Friday, they'll be getting some unusual 'gifts' in the mail -- locks of hair from countless young people who object to cruelty to animals.

-- Alice Short

Photo: Evan Agostini / Associated Press

Read more Olsen twins prompt another visit from PETA »

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

2:18 PM, October 23, 2008


From the Associated Press comes the latest on a pig abuse case in Iowa exposed by PETA:

A company said it fired the manager of an Iowa hog farming operation where workers were videotaped abusing pigs and six were charged this week with crimes.

The announcement by Fairmont, Minn.-based MowMar Farms followed a decision by the Greene County sheriff on Wednesday to charge the six employees with animal abuse and neglect. The six farmworkers also are no longer employed by the company, MowMar said.

The company did not release the name of the fired manager, but a MowMar spokeswoman, Julie Becker, said Thursday that the person was not among those who have been charged.

The farm near Bayard, Iowa, supplies Hormel Foods Corp. of Austin, Minn.

A video released by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals a month ago depicts workers hitting sows with metal rods, slamming piglets on a concrete floor and bragging about jamming rods into the anus of sows.

In the statement, company officials “expressed surprise and outrage over the images of animal mistreatment.”

PETA had complained earlier this week that the manager of the farm remained employed.

Abuse of livestock and aiding and abetting the abuse of livestock both carry penalties of up to two years in prison and a $6,250 fine, according to the Iowa attorney general's office. The neglect charge is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $625 fine.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Associated Press

12:12 PM, October 23, 2008

The UCLA Daily Bruin is reporting that university police are investigating a claim that animal rights activists placed unfired shotgun shells in the mufflers of several UCLA commuter vans. Here are some of the details:

The North American Animal Liberation Press Office posted separate claims by the Animal Liberation Front on Oct. 6 and Oct. 17 on its Web site announcing action taken against UCLA, according to a UCLA statement.

“There were two separate releases that the (Animal Liberation Front) distributed based on these anonymous communiques that claimed that shotgun shells had been inserted,” said Phil Hampton, a university spokesman. “The police department has looked into it and found no evidence to support the claims.”

The Animal Liberation Front is an animal rights group that takes “direct action against animal abuses ... usually through the damage and destruction of property,” according to its Web site.

Animal rights activists claimed to have placed the shotgun shells into the tailpipes of commuter vans as part of a continuing campaign against animal experimenters, according to an Animal Liberation Front statement.

8:04 AM, October 16, 2008

From the Associated Press:

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi puppy adopted by an American soldier but was refused a flight to the U.S., is alive, the military said Tuesday, giving hope to an animal rescue group that is trying to take it to the United States.

The case has cast a spotlight on Defense Department rules that prohibit soldiers in the U.S. Central Command, which includes Iraq, from adopting pets or transporting them home.

Sgt_beberg_and_ratchetArmy Sgt. Gwen Beberg, 28, of Minneapolis, left, tried to send Ratchet home with the help of Operation Baghdad Pups earlier this month as she prepared to leave Iraq. But the dog, also at left, was reportedly confiscated by a U.S. officer before it could reach the Baghdad International Airport, raising concern about the animal's fate.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Cmdr. David Russell said in an e-mail that the dog was alive, but he could provide no other details. More than 30,000 people have signed an online petition urging the Army to let the puppy go home with Beberg.

Beberg has been transferred to a staging area to prepare for her departure from Iraq.

Terri Crisp, the coordinator for Operation Baghdad Pups — a rescue program run by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International — planned to travel to Baghdad today to collect six dogs rescued by U.S. troops. Crisp is hopeful Ratchet will be one of them, but she has a substitute dog ready to go in his place if necessary.

"There's a lot of pressure being put on the military right now to allow Ratchet to leave," she said in a telephone interview.

Baghdad Pups has taken more than 50 dogs and cats home for their warrior owners, although the group had to cease its activities over the summer because of the heat.

Last week, Beberg's congressman, Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison, asked the Army to review the case.

Photo: Associated Press

9:54 AM, October 14, 2008

Mi_casa -- Thousands of pet owners whose dogs and cats died after eating pet food contaminated with melamine may be close to reaching a $32-million settlement.

-- Brazen sea lions are commandeering boat landings in Port San Luis near Avila Beach, Calif., piling onto boats, sinking them and even pooping on the vessels. The creature at right, however, was spotted staking a claim to a boat (fittingly named "Mi Casa") in Newport Beach.

-- A man tried to steal an exotic parrot worth $1,300 from a Lake Forest, Calif., pet shop by stuffing it into his jacket. But he was caught when the brightly colored blacked-headed Caique emerged from his jacket, and customers pinned him down until sheriff's deputies arrived.

-- A Virginia animal activist legally changed her name to a URL to protest animal dissections. Jennifer Thornburg now goes by Cutout Dissection.com, which refers to a website opposing dissections. Don't believe it? Check out the court file, or her new driver's license.

-- A new study suggests children are less likely to be obese if they own a dog.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times

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

2:51 PM, October 12, 2008

Thinking of Sarah Palin and her moose-themed fashion statements, here's a report from Monica Corcoran on our All the Rage blog on how she's setting a trend with her love of hunting:

83177389 The rimless glasses. That shimmery copper lipstick and31_multipart3f3_image005 beauty pageant blush. The peep-toe pumps.

When it comes to spawning trends, Sarah Palin has already proven to be the Madonna for middle-aged women in the Midwest.

And now, her latest accessory -- a tote bag that promotes her passion for big guns and killing wildlife -- has hit the market just two days after she was spotted carrying the canvas 8797602v1_350x350_front_2 bag that reads: "Real Women Hunt Moose." Cafe Press has already started selling its own version of the bag for $15.99.

A Cafe Press tee offers an alternative viewpoint.

Photo credits: Getty Images; Cafepress.com

11:30 AM, October 10, 2008


The Obamas are officially adopting a dog, America's dog lovers can rest assured.

Michelle Obama told Entertainment Tonight recently that the family would adopt a rescue dog after the election was over. Michelle and her Democratic presidential candidate husband, Barack, made the promise to their two pre-teen daughters (Malia and Sasha). The couple told the girls (and the press) that their campaign lifestyle wouldn't allow the family to properly train and care for a dog until after Nov. 4.

The announcement comes after summerlong campaigns to persuade the family not to get a goldendoodle, which the Obamas considered because the breed is hypoallergenic. The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to the Obamas saying getting a purebred would be elitist and a petition by the Best Friends Animal Society garnered over 50,000 signatures to persuade the Obamas to adopt a dog instead of having one bred or buying one.

PETA has already responded to the potential first lady's announcement on their blog:

So you can see why we're quite proud of this whole thing and thank everyone who weighed in. We hope that the Obama family really listened to our message, and we hope that Barack, Michelle, and their daughters find a loving mutt who needs a good home.

Now, with the campaign in its final few weeks, might this help the Democratic nominee with the animal set, especially since his Republican rival John McCain beat Obama in a polls of pet owners? In related news, there was the recent endorsement by the Humane Society Legislative Fund of the Obama-Biden ticket.

Either way, though, looks like the White House will have a dog in the next administration.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

8:28 AM, October 10, 2008

Wiggle_waggle_walk_2The Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA will sponsor a fundraiser for animals on Saturday, Oct. 11. About 2,000 people (and their dogs) are expected to take part in the 10th annual Wiggle Waggle Walk, which will begin at 9 a.m. at Brookside Park at the Rose Bowl.

The goal is to raise $300,000 through the event, money that will provide food, shelter and medical care to homeless animals, nearly 11,000 of which are taken in by the humane society every year.

Walkers can select a one-mile or three-mile route around the stadium (and participants don't actually need to bring a dog). The walk will be followed by a fair at the park.

Registration is free, but participants are encouraged to raise money for the animals by creating personal Web pages through the Wiggle Waggle Walk website and asking family and friends for donations. Non-walkers, and those unable to attend the event, can also create fundraising Web pages through the site.

Everyone who raises or donates at least $100 will receive an official T-shirt. The more money that walkers raise, the more "treats" they will earn, including a logo leash, an animal emergency kit and a logo hoodie sweat shirt.

Event day check-in starts at 8 a.m. at the entrance to Brookside Park in Parking Lot I. The walk will begin at 9 a.m.; the fair will take place immediately after the walk and will be open until 2 p.m. The fair will feature Muttley Crew's dog agility show, pet product booths, paw-tapping music and contests, including a best-dressed dog competition, a best-trick contest and a pet-and-owner look-alike contest. For information, call (818) 486-2111 or visit www.wigglewagglewalk.org.

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

10:52 AM, October 8, 2008

Ed Boks, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services

Times Staff Writer Carla Hall reports on the latest controversy involving L.A. Animal Services:

Dozens of frustrated Los Angeles city shelter workers, as well as many volunteer animal welfare advocates, brought their complaints about the shelter system's general manager, Ed Boks, to a public hearing at Van Nuys City Hall on Tuesday night.

"I realize the department is often controversial," said Linda Gordon, a staffer of L.A. Animal Services, the agency that runs the city's municipal shelters.

"We're trouble for you," she told Councilmen Dennis Zine and Tony Cardenas. "But we're here tonight -- workers, volunteers, the humane community. ... How can anyone expect us to move the department forward if we have no confidence or trust in the general manager?"

At least 150 people -- including about 60 employees of Animal Services -- attended the hearing, which was called by the City Council's Personnel Committee. The hearing was convened in the wake of a petition that at least half the staff of Animal Services signed earlier this year stating they had "no confidence" in Boks. The employees and their union leaders first took the petition to the mayor's office. Then, dissatisfied with what they said was a lack of response, they presented it to the City Council. Boks, as head of a city agency, answers only to the mayor. The City Council cannot fire him.

Zine, who chairs the Personnel Committee, listened intently to the speakers. He and Cardenas peppered them with questions. When many employees said they worried about retaliation for speaking against Boks, Zine assured them that he had all their names and he would make sure they did not suffer any adverse action on their jobs for attending the hearing.

Read more L.A. animal shelter workers voice complaints about agency chief »

3:24 PM, October 7, 2008

Leatherback turtle

From the Associated Press:

MOSS LANDING, Calif.—Scientists say endangered leatherback turtles have returned to Monterey Bay to feast on jellyfish after nearly disappearing from the area in recent years.

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories researcher Scott Benson says marine biologists counted more than 300 of the giant endangered turtles in the bay this year.

Benson said a strong upwelling of nutrient-rich cold water this year brought greater stocks of jellyfish, which attracted the turtles.

Poor upwellings in previous years have sent the turtles elsewhere to find food.

The 70-million-year-old leatherback species is the largest of all sea turtles. Benson says the Pacific's leatherback population has declined by 90 to 95 percent in the last 25 years because of egg poaching and turtles getting caught in fishing gear.

Photo: Scott A. Eckert/Widecast

11:59 AM, October 7, 2008


At least 25% of the world's mammal species in the wild are threatened with extinction. This news comes from an international survey released Monday that blames the loss of wildlife habitat as well as hunting and poaching for the steep declines. Times staff writer Ken Weiss reports:

The baiji, or Chinese river dolphin, is teetering on the edge of extinction and may have already joined the list of species that have vanished from Earth. Others are not far behind, such as the vaquita, a small porpoise that has been drowning in fishing nets in the northern part of the Gulf of California; the North Atlantic right whale; and various monkeys and other primates hunted by poachers in Africa.

Scientists have determined that about 25% of the world's 5,487 species of mammals face extinction. The proportion of marine mammals in trouble appears to be higher, with an estimated one-third under serious threat of being wiped out. Many are killed when they are struck by ships or become entangled in fishing gear and drown.

About half the world's remaining species of apes, monkeys and other primates face threats from hunting or deforestation to make way for farming, said Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International.

For a photo gallery of endangered animals, including the black-footed ferret, above, click here.

Photo: Greg Wood / AFP/Getty Images

2:43 PM, October 3, 2008

Cal State Long Beach has a new program to deal with a feral cat population. The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports:

CSULB officials began developing a new feral cat management program this summer after stating that coyotes were being attracted to the campus by the presence of cats and cat food.

Volunteers have long operated numerous feeding stations on campus to care for the cats, while also making an effort to spay and neuter the felines.

The university consulted the caretakers while developing the program, which calls for making food available to the cats only during daytime hours.

The new program "is very close to what the volunteers were hoping to achieve with the care of the feral cat population on campus," said CSULB spokeswoman Toni Beron. "It's not everything they wanted, but they were not necessarily taking into consideration the needs and concerns that were being expressed by others who were also watching the situation."

CSULB will authorize the feeding stations and register volunteers. Unauthorized feeding stations, any after-dark food or any cat shelter will be removed.

Volunteers will be responsible for ensuring the cats are spayed and neutered and for removing socialized cats for adoption or return to owner, if possible, the program states.

But Leslie Abrahams, a cat caretaker, said that the program goes too far by reducing and moving the feeding stations, arguing that it will disrupt the cats' lives. Because cats are territorial, many will continue to return to the location of their original feeding stations, she said.

6:09 PM, October 2, 2008


If you think Americans are the most indulgent pet owners in the world, here's a Reuters story that might change your mind.

AMSTERDAM -- Dutch animal lovers on Tuesday launched a national campaign to establish a public TV channel for animals and their owners. Under the name of Piep!, the group intends to collect 50,000 signatures of support, the number needed to gain access to the public TV network in the Netherlands.

Piep! plans to schedule programs directed to its animal audience. In addition to programs that animals can enjoy, Piep! also wants to broadcast documentaries, youth programs and news shows covering the life and rights of animals.

Karen Soeters, a communications manager from Amsterdam who initiated the plan, estimates that there are about 3 million cats, 2 million dogs and 1 million rabbits that form part of Dutch households. Furthermore, since the last election, a party led by animal-rights activists -- the so-called Partij voor de Dieren -- has two seats in the Dutch parliament.

"Listening to animals can be very inspiring for human beings. They do not cause credit crisis, do not overeat and take care of their environment," Soeters said.

Photo: 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 »

6:38 PM, September 27, 2008

From the Associated Press:

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — A wildlife group has increased its reward for information about 11 pelicans found with intentionally broken wings on a stretch of Southern California’s Bolsa Chica State Beach.

The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach said this week that it was boosting its reward for information that leads to a conviction in the case from $5,000 to $20,000 after other groups added contributions. The birds washed into shore earlier this month with their wings snapped so that their bones were exposed. Only one pelican survived. The female bird is recovering at the center.

1:55 PM, September 25, 2008

Think the days of freaking out over animal dissection are over? Think again. The Orange County Register reports on some goings-on at UC Irvine:

IRVINE -– Animal-rights activists have launched an e-mail campaign aimed at UCI, where they say biology students are forced to pour poison into live rats' brains and cut up living frogs for study.

One day after launching the national campaign, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says 2,000 e-mails have already been sent to University of California, Irvine asking the campus to switch to a computer simulation.

PETA spokesman Justin Goodman said his group contacted UCI after a student complained in July that she was ordered to poison a rat in her biology class, or flunk the lesson.

"According to the student whistleblower, students drill into the heads of healthy rats and drop in poison to damage their brains, and then they staple that the rats' heads closed," a PETA statement reads. "After two weeks, the students poke the rats with blunt sticks in a crude attempt to gauge the brain damage the rats have suffered."

But James Hicks, who heads an oversight committee at UCI, said PETA was not accurately describing how the animals were being treated, and wrongly using inflammatory words like "whistleblower" to portray classroom instruction that had been properly reviewed and approved by campus officials.

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

12:37 PM, September 23, 2008


If you are worried about the planet's bird population, Reuters has a report for you:

Many of the world's most common birds suffered steep population drops over recent decades, a sign of a deteriorating global environment and a biodiversity crisis, BirdLife International said on Monday.

"Birds provide an accurate and easy-to-read environmental barometer, allowing us to see clearly the pressures our current way of life are putting on the world's biodiversity," said Mike Rands, chief executive of the alliance of conservation groups.

Threats to bird populations include intensified industrial-scale agriculture and fishing, the spread of invasive species, logging and the replacement of natural forest with monoculture plantations, the group said in a report released in Buenos Aires.

However, Rands said that over the long term, climate change may pose the most serious stress on birds.

Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

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.

5:39 PM, September 19, 2008

While celebrities walked the red carpet Thursday night at the premiere of the comedy "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," about 20 protesters stood by with signs urging people not to go nuts after they see the movie and impulsively buy a Chihuahua.

"We know the movie is cute," says Kim Sill, who runs the campaign against puppy mills for Last Chance for Animals, the group that organized the protest. "We don't want to say we're against the movie. We're against people going to a pet store after they see the movie.  We want them to go to a shelter, because there are a lot of Chihuahuas there."Salty_the_chihuahua 

Salty, a 4-year-old female Chihuahua, pictured here, is one of those Chihuahuas. She is up for adoption at LA Animal Services' North Central shelter. (ID #A0974811.)

Animal welfare advocates have been concerned for weeks about the impact of the Disney movie -- which opens Oct. 3 -- on Chihuahuas.  In the past, popular movies featuring a dog often cause a run on that breed. "101 Dalmatians" led to an uptick in Dalmatian ownership.  And, according to Sill, the Taco Bell commercials featuring a Chihuahua helped create a Chihuahua craze. But when people realize the dog may not be right for them or their family --Damaltians are difficult and Chihuahuas are not always great with children --"they get dumped," says Sills.

And when a movie is about to open, puppy mills, she contends, gear up to produce more of that breed to supply pet stores. (Many animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of the U.S., contend that most pet stores get their dogs from puppy mills.) "It used to be you would walk into pet stores and see maltipoos and Yorkies. All of a sudden in the last two months, we've seen Chihuahuas infiltrate the pet shops," Sill says.

Los Angeles is already awash in Chihuahuas.  There are more Chihuahuas among registered dogs in Los Angeles County than any other breed, as we reported in July.  And Sill says the shelters already have a high number of Chihuahuas.  Some of the ones at the Carson shelter, run by the Los Angeles County shelter system , are featured in the video that Last Chance for Animals made to drive home its point about not buying Chihuahuas.

Sill says her group wanted Disney to air a public service announcement in theaters before shows telling patrons to think hard before choosing a pet. "We would have happily produced it for them and given it to them," says Sill.

It turns out that several of the Chihuahuas in the film were rescue dogs found in shelters in Los Angeles and Mexico, according to Disney's promotional materials.  The lead dog, known in the movie as Papi --the face of the movie on all the posters around town -- was rescued from the Moreno Valley Animal Shelter and lives with his trainer.

The theme of responsible adoption echoes through the movie -- some of the dogs get adopted as part of the story -- and all the promotional material, says the spokesperson. The movie's website (at the bottom) and the movie itself (at the end before the credits roll) have written messages noting that getting a pet is a serious and lifelong commitment that should be researched first. "We felt this was an important message to visibly relay at the end of the movie," said the spokesperson.

The Disney spokesperson added that the cast of the movie and the trainer of Rusco, the dog who plays Papi, have been talking publicly about animal adoption.

Ed Boks, general manager of LA Animal Services, saw the movie Thursday night.  "I was a bit disappointed," he wrote in an e-mail. "The movie has a strong 'adopt' and 'rescue' message, but no 'spay/neuter' message. In fact, one female dog opined that she longed for a boyfriend who has NOT been 'fixed.'...Disney just does not seem to share our concern over the influence this movie could have on people who will now think of Chihuahuas as cash cows."  Kendra_the_chihuahua_2

Enforcement of L.A.'s mandatory spay/neuter law begins Oct. 1. And if you do want to adopt a Chihuahua, here's another one at LA's North Central shelter.  She is Kendra, a 2-year-old female, ID#A0955495.

--Carla Hall

Photos: LA Animal Services

11:43 AM, September 19, 2008

The Associated Press reports:


The operators of an Iowa farm where an animal rights group captured video of workers abusing pigs said Thursday they are taking steps to ensure they stop mistreating animals.

MowMar LLP of Fairmont, Minn., said in a statement that it's "surprised and outraged" by the actions captured this summer in undercover video by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. MowMar purchased the Greene County, Iowa, farm last month from an Iowa company.

"As a family owned farm operation with over 30 years in the swine business, MowMar farms does not and will not tolerate the mistreatment of any animals under our husbandry and we take these PETA allegations very seriously," the company said.

MowMar officials said they met early Thursday with PETA officials to talk about what actions are being taken to correct the situation.

Among those are:

  • Initiating an investigation of the incidents, policies and personnel that were in place before the acquisition of the farm.
  • Firing employees who are found to have abused animals.
  • Inviting an animal handling expert to the farm to review policies and procedures, and to serve as an independent authority providing additional guidance and best practices.
  • Researching the use of video monitoring equipment as a tool to oversee herd care.

The company promised that any policies and procedures not consistent with generally accepted standards for the treatment of farm animals would be revised and strengthened.

The PETA video, shot by undercover employees from June through this month, graphically depicts workers castrating piglets and cutting their tails off without anesthetic, slamming piglets who aren't deemed healthy enough on the ground to kill them, repeatedly kicking pigs and hitting them with rods. In at least one instance, a pig had paint sprayed into its snout and onto its face. (The video is currently posted on L.A. Unleashed.)

Greene County Sheriff Tom Heater said Thursday that authorities have been interviewing employees at the hog farm near Bayard, about 60 miles west of Des Moines. There are a number of employees who still need to be interviewed, he said, but he hopes to meet soon with prosecutors and have charges filed by the middle of next week.

3:35 PM, September 17, 2008

From the Associated Press:

The government won't immediately try to take gray wolves in the Northern Rockies off the endangered species list, a federal wildlife official said Tuesday.

Gray_wolf_iiEd Bangs, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinator, said the government in the next week expects to withdraw a rule that declared wolves fully recovered. That rule, issued in March, would have allowed public hunting for the region's approximately 1,500 wolves.

Wildlife agencies in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have already started preparations for such hunts. But they had been in doubt since July, when U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy blocked the states from going forward pending resolution of a lawsuit by environmentalists.

"Hopefully, they'll go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan that better protects wolves," said Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold, who had sued on behalf of a dozen environmental groups that argue wolves in the region remain imperiled.

The decision to withdraw the recovery rule is subject to final approval by the Department of Justice. Molloy also would have to sign off before it could take effect.

In his July injunction against the planned hunts, Molloy raised concerns about whether wolves would have enough genetic diversity, through breeding, to sustain their population.

Molloy also questioned Wyoming's lack of regulations on the killing of wolves. Outside Yellowstone National Park and adjacent areas, wolves are classified as predators, allowing them to be shot on sight.

Photo: Associated Press

10:35 AM, September 14, 2008

Prairie_dogThis story might work with the headline "Prairie dog, friend or foe?" Officials for the city of Boulder, Colo., appear to fall in the "foe" camp. The small rodents apparently are living it up on some city-owned property and the city wants to move some of them out ... and euthanize others. Boulder's Daily Camera newspaper reports:

Boulder officials have finalized plans to relocate hundreds of prairie dogs inhabiting four city-owned sites and to euthanize hundreds more.

The plans call for spending as much as $388,400 on removing the rodents, capturing and euthanizing others, fumigating those left behind in their burrows and installing metal barriers so they don’t return....

The city is working to determine when the removals will begin, but several problems still need to be overcome.

The Black Footed Ferret Recovery Program, which is among the places that might accept a bulk amount of prairie dogs — dead or alive — will not accept prairie dogs from Nov. 1 to Jan. 1. City code also restricts relocating prairie dogs during the birthing, nursing and early rearing period of March 1 through June 1. Trapping is also difficult in colder months, officials said.

In the past, the city has paid contractors $66 to $374 per prairie dog for removal.

The city is in the process of obtaining the permits needed for the work.

Photo: Associated Press

11:06 AM, September 11, 2008

Nobu Greenpeace is calling out celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa and actor Robert De Niro, alleging that DNA tests show their Japanese fusion chain Nobu is serving critically endangered bluefin tuna at its London eateries.

Undercover investigators for the environmental group ordered cuts of tuna from three Nobu locations in London and put them through DNA tests that determined several were Atlantic bluefin. The species is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's red list of threatened species for overfishing.

The Telegraph reports:

Nobu does not specify on its menus which species of tuna it serves. Requests for the information by campaigners have been met for several years with a terse "no comment".

Although it is not illegal to serve Atlantic bluefin, also known as northern bluefin, many chefs, including Gordon Ramsay, have dropped it because of concern that fishing is at higher levels than stocks can withstand. At Nobu Berkeley St, which has one Michelin star, investigators asked for Atlantic bluefin (hon maguro in Japanese) but staff told them the restaurant did not stock it.

De_niro_2 However, DNA tests proved that the fish they were given was indeed Atlantic bluefin. At Ubon, Canary Wharf, also owned by Nobu, investigators ordered Atlantic bluefin and were served a dish that did not test conclusively either way.

Greenpeace writes on its blog that co-owner Robert De Niro "seems to be angling for the title of ‘Godfather of ocean destruction’" and compares offering bluefin tuna to "serving up rhino burgers or tiger chops."

-- Tony Barboza

Photos: Top, Nobu Matsuhisa. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times; bottom, Robert De Niro. Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

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

2:19 PM, September 9, 2008


The trip from Oakville, Iowa, to Watkins Glen, N.Y., is about 850 miles, a 14-hour drive for anyone who wants to complete the journey in one long day. Earlier this summer, Mabel and some of her cohorts made the drive in about 15 hours. But it was the pre-trip maneuvering that proved to be newsworthy.

Mabel is one of the pigs rescued during severe flooding this summer in Iowa, animals that were photographed and caught on video as they perched on levees, struggling to stay alive. Conditions were so grim in the farming state (Iowa ranks first in pork production in the U.S.) that the Iowa Department of Agriculture asked volunteer groups to consider a rescue mission. Four rescue agencies raised their hands: the International Fund for Animal Welfare, American Humane Assn., the Animal Rescue League of Boston and Farm Sanctuary. Which brings us back to Watkins Glen, headquarters for Farm Sanctuary and new home for more than 60 pigs plucked from the levees.

If pigs have an emotional life, it seems fairly certain that the Farm Sanctuary sanctuary might seem like an extended vacation after life on a large pig farm. Farm Sanctuary representatives (who campaign vociferously against factory farming and would be thrilled if we all were vegans) say that that the breeding sows like Mabel are housed in crates; other pigs are sold for slaughter after they reach a certain weight.

Mealtime_at_farm_sanctuaryConditions at the sanctuary are, well, different. The facility is about eight miles west of Watkins Glen, 175 acres of rolling hills and assorted barns. The pigs formerly known as Iowans have their own attendants and their own barn and outside yards in which they happily indulge in porcine activities: sleeping, eating and rolling around in mud and other materials we’d rather not contemplate.

Some of those pigs are also indulging in a surprise activity: parenthood.

Read more Pigging out at Farm Sanctuary »

9:40 AM, September 9, 2008
Some of the workers at Los Angeles animal shelters want general manager Ed Boks to be dismissed. Times Staff Writer Carla Hall reports:
Union representatives for Los Angeles animal shelter workers plan to give the City Council a petition today demanding the dismissal of general manager Ed Boks and assistant general manager Linda Barth.

The vote of no confidence, as the petition is called, was signed by more than half of L.A. Animal Services employees and presented to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office in March. Boks answers directly to the mayor....
After several meetings with the mayor's staff, union officials and shelter workers who helped organize the petition effort said they were dissatisfied with the response. So they decided to take their cause to council members even though they have no direct power over Boks.

"Employees are fed up," said Keith Kramer, manager of the West Valley animal shelter and executive board member of the laborers' union's Los Angeles chapter. "We've given the mayor's office every opportunity to do something and they haven't. We're hoping the City Council can convince the mayor's office to act."
Running the city's system of six shelters has never been an easy task. Boks' predecessors had their share of run-ins with critics. In his three years in Los Angeles, Boks has frequently bumped heads with activists, some Los Angeles Board of Animal Services commissioners and some City Council members. Now he's facing employees who say he has sacrificed the health and safety of shelter animals and workers to promote the system as one that is lowering its kill rate.

Read more Los Angeles animal shelter workers turn to council in bid to oust manager »

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.

11:19 AM, September 5, 2008

Looks like the city of Houston may follow in the steps of Los Angeles ... at least when it comes to a spay/neuter law for pets. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Don't look now, but the Houston City Council is starting to sound a lot like Bob Barker.

Goaded into action by community outrage after at least six dogs died from exposure to excessive heat in a city animal care vehicle last week, some council members have embraced the mantra of the retired game show host, who closed every broadcast of The Price is Right by urging viewers to "Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered."

Some, including Mayor Bill White, have floated the possibility of following in the footsteps of Los Angeles, which passed a law in February ordering its 3.8 million citizens to spay and neuter their pets or face repeated fines and criminal charges.

It is an open question whether such a law would be feasible in Houston when the city spends so much less than other areas on animal care and struggles to enforce ordinances dealing with pets already on the books, such as licensing requirements.

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

2:53 PM, September 4, 2008


Last week we blogged about  Chico, the (only) meerkat in residence at the Los Angeles Zoo, and linked to Times Staff Writer Lynn Smith's story, detailing the concerns of many who believe Chico needs company.

Did we say many? We meant it. L.A. Unleashed received scores of comments, some of which we'd like to share:

Meerkats are not solitary animals and do not do well alone. Therefore if this zoo can not provide him the basic of needs then they don't deserve to have him. --Angie

I have personally interacted with Meerkats and know how gregarious, curious and social they are. Chico does not act like a happily socialized Meerkat. --Christine

Lone meerkats exist in only a few, usually dire, circumstances and their instincts lead them to attempt to re-integrate into existing groups because that is where they know they are safest. How difficult it must be to be alone with no opportunity for companionship or shared responsibilities when you have always had companions or family around you. Human interaction is not a replacement for instinct. --Susan

I only pray that our little Chico will make it to fellow earthlings sanctuary ( that i have made a donation to) for reasons like this. message to Chico..........I love you little dude good luck --Ann-Marie

See a trend here?

Here's a link to a video of the little guy.

--Alice Short

Photo: Jamie Pham

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

2:01 PM, August 31, 2008

Laguna Beach animal welfare advocate Judie Mancuso spent a year and a half trying to get the state Legislature to pass a law requiring that pets be sterilized.  A week ago, the bill, AB 1634 -- alternately reviled and cheered -- was finally rejected in the state Senate.

On the tortured road to its death, the bill was amended almost a dozen times, watered down and even name-changed. Breeders and opposition groups howled in protest and said legislators were taking away their rights to handle their animals as they saw fit.

But in the end, says Mancuso, the bill's defeat came down to friction and squabbles in the Legislature and -- the final blow -- what she called a surprise vote a week ago in the Senate, where it was trounced 27 to 5.

"The bill could have said the sky is blue and the ocean is deep, and they would have voted against it," said Mancuso, 45, as she and her husband packed up her Sacramento apartment, the command center for the citizen coalition she spearheaded to convince the public and lawmakers that this was the right thing to do.Judie_mancuso_at_shelter_2

Mancuso, whose voice sounds as though it belongs to a plucky girl cartoon character, had created the original proposal along with Los Angeles city staffers and L.A. Animal Services general manager Ed Boks. Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) became the bill's author and legislative torchbearer. The goal was to stem the euthanasia of hundreds of thousands of animals in the state's shelters annually by mandating people alter their pets. Fewer animals being born meant fewer strays and owner-surrendered pets being housed in the shelters, Mancuso and company contended. "You're just trying to prevent animals coming in the front door," said Mancuso, pictured here smooching a pooch in the Central Valley SPCA shelter in Fresno.             

Despite passing the Assembly last year, the beleaguered bill never had an easy road. Sterilization exemptions for many dogs and cats in the original bill (show dogs, service dogs, etc.) still didn't please opponents. The service dog pictured below that showed up last year in Sacramento with its owner to protest the original bill was actually never in any danger of being altered.


The final version of the bill required sterilization only of pets that were cited for being unlicensed, running loose or impounded, and they had to be guilty of those violations several times.

But Mancuso says the real problem was the backstage battling between some senators and bill author Levine.  Some senators were against any bill from the get-go. (One Democratic senator told Mancuso's people working the Senate that there were folks in his district who ate dogs -- and not to count on his vote.)

Mancuso says she might have been able to persuade more senators to vote for it if she and lobbyists had gotten a heads-up that Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), the Senate manager of the bill, was going to take it up Friday morning a week ago. "Lloyd would have been on the floor to answer questions. The lobbyists would have been working it," she said.

Padilla's chief of staff says Padilla was following Levine's instructions. "To say that Alex took it up at the wrong time -- he was responding to the will of the author," Chief of Staff Bill Mabie said.

And Levine, who was in an Assembly committee meeting when his bill came up in the Senate, says, "It's all confusing. I don't know who talked to whom. The last conversation I had with Alex the day before, I said, 'Go ahead and bring it up.' . . . I don't fault Alex for bringing up the bill. Frankly, the votes weren't there. "

Levine says it costs the state $300 million a year to shelter and euthanize animals. "I'm disappointed the Senate didn't deal with this," Levine said. "Just because breeders say there isn't a problem out there doesn't mean it's not there."

Mancuso, for her part, isn't done trying to get the state to pass a mandatory spay-or-neuter bill. "I've been to all these shelters around the state. I've seen all these dead animals piled up. Barrels and barrels of them. And I'm going to walk away? No way."

There was one victory along the way: the Los Angeles city spay-neuter law. "When we went to the Los Angeles City Council to get their support for the state bill, Richard Alarcon said, 'Why wait for the state? This is a great idea.'  Now, the second-largest city in the country has a mandatory spay-neuter law. "

The L.A. city law went into effect in April.  The grace period on enforcement ends Oct. 1.

Note: Comments that have inaccuracies or unsourced statistics will not be posted. Also, the LA city mandatory-spay neuter law is untested because it has yet to be enforced.

--Carla Hall

Photo of Mancuso: Mohr Productions

Photo of service dog: Brian Baer, the Sacramento Bee

11:33 AM, August 29, 2008

Grizzly_bearAnimal Planet airs its "The Grizzly Man Diaries" tonight at 9 and 9:30 p.m. The Times' Mary McNamara takes a look at a man who broke the bounds for society:

It isn't often you can say that a show on Animal Planet follows a great literary tradition, but "The Grizzly Man Diaries," which follows the adventures of Timothy Treadwell, echoes voices as disparate as Thoreau, Yeats and even Sam Gribley of "My Side of the Mountain." The desire to forsake the drudgery and pressures of civilization for the noble simplicity of the natural world has always tempted and tormented certain people.

But unlike Yeats, who never did arise and go to Innisfree, Treadwell did actually break the bounds of society and for 13 summers lived virtually alone among the grizzlies in Alaska's Katmai National Park -- that is, until he and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were killed in 2003 by a grizzly attack.

Treadwell's death got a lot of attention, partly because he had been a vocal, self-pronounced protector of the bears (despite the fact that the land he camped on was a federal reserve) and partly because his final minutes were recorded on the audio portion of a videotape. Although, mercifully, the tape was never released publicly -- it cannot be found on YouTube, thank heavens -- the sheer awfulness of its existence provided such a coda to Treadwell's life that many who never heard of him suddenly began praising or condemning his actions....

Filmmaker Werner Herzog was moved to document Treadwell's life; his award-winning documentary "Grizzly Man" portrayed a self-aggrandizing, troubled man who, unable to find a place for himself in society, created an alternative existence for himself among the bears.

While "Grizzly Man" is a conscious attempt by Herzog to unravel Treadwell's psyche, "The Grizzly Man Diaries" simply presents excerpts of the 100 hours of videotape Treadwell shot of the bears and himself during his 13 summers in Alaska. The footage is oftentimes astonishing, the bears ferociously beautiful, but still the show is less a treatise on grizzly habit than it is an exploration of a man trying to find a solid center for himself.

Photo: Timothy Treadwell

10:07 AM, August 28, 2008

Are you worried about Chico, the (only) meerkat in residence at the Los Angeles Zoo? Well, some animal activists (inspired by no doubt by "Meerkat Manor") believe he needs company. Times staff writer Lynn Smith reports:

Chico, the meerkat in residence at the Los Angeles Zoo, is alone.

MeerkatWhether that is a tolerable state of affairs is being debated by zoo officials and animal activists whose support and affection for the small mammal has been fueled by cable television's popular “Meerkat Manor.”

As on the Animal Planet series, the meerkat is a highly social creature. The furry mammals forage together, serve as guards and baby sitters for each other, and even strategize about war tactics. And meerkats who violate clan rules suffer a most dire fate -- banishment.

Just as his TV brethren, Chico needs company, contend local activists.

"Kids ask, 'Where are his friends? He needs to have friends.' It's very sad," said Janelle Fisher of Sierra Madre, leader of the Chico Project, which has focused on the lone meerkat since his burrow mate died in January.

A website petition with about 900 signatures is hoping to persuade zoo officials either to get a few roommates for Chico or transfer him to another zoo, where he can make new friends. (It's at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Help-Chico-live-like-a-meerkat-should.)

"They need companionship," said Fisher, who visits Chico every two weeks and likens the 9-year-old mammal's solitary condition to a virtual death sentence.

But zoo officials disagree. Meerkats can be managed as solitary animals with appropriate care, said Jason Jacobs, an L.A. Zoo spokesman. Other institutions, including the Denver Zoo, also tend to lone meerkats.

Jacobs said the zoo had talked with several institutions about relocating Chico, or obtaining other animals to join him, but he declined to name the institutions.

Photo: Heinrich Van Den Berg / Animal Planet

11:38 AM, August 24, 2008

A_killer_whale_at_seaworld_3We know this is hard to believe, but we hear that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants to buy SeaWorld. Yes, SeaWorld, home of sassy sea gulls and dancing killer whales. PETA swears it's not a joke and the San Diego Union-Tribune has the details.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants to buy SeaWorld... The animal rights advocates said they have a donor willing to put up the bucks to buy at least one of the three SeaWorld parks – in Orlando, San Antonio or, of course, San Diego – put the animals in marine sanctuaries and perhaps return some to the wild one day.

The group wouldn't close the joint. Instead, it would replace the killer whales, dolphins, stingrays and other animals with virtual reality exhibits.

PETA is known for staging publicity stunts, including one in Ocean Beach last year where half-naked people put fish hooks in their mouths to protest game fishing, but it swears this is no hoax. Still, the group won't identify the donor. ..

The group saw an opportunity when news broke that SeaWorld's current owner, beer giant Anheuser-Busch, is poised to be swallowed whole by the larger beer giant InBev, a Belgium firm. Experts believe InBev will divest itself of Anheuser-Busch's 10 theme parks and concentrate on beer once the sale is final.

3:33 PM, August 23, 2008

California lawmakers have adopted new protections for animal researchers. Patrick McGreevy reports from Sacramento:

On Friday, three weeks after firebomb attacks on UC Santa Cruz animal researchers and months after vandalism at a UCLA professor's home, state senators unanimously approved an emergency measure to strengthen laws protecting academics against violence and intimidation.

It would create a new misdemeanor charge for entering residential property of an academic researcher with the intent to intimidate or interfere with research.

The measure also would make it a misdemeanor to publish information on the Internet that describes an academic researcher or his or her family members, or gives the location of their residence with the intent that another person use the information to commit violence or make threats.
The home of a UCLA researcher incurred more than $20,000 in damage after being flooded by animal-rights activists who inserted a garden hose into the house. An incendiary device destroyed a car outside the home of a UC Santa Cruz researcher and a firebomb exploded nearby on the front porch of another researcher's home.

The attacks are believed to have been orchestrated by activists who regard the use of animals in research as inhumane. Lawmakers say the targeting of academics in such ways is intolerable.
The bill, AB 2296 by Assemblyman Gene Mullin (D-San Mateo), is subject to final approval in the Assembly before it goes to the governor, whose signature would make it effective immediately.

11:20 AM, August 22, 2008


Federal wildlife monitors spotted nine polar bears in one day swimming in the open ocean off Alaska's northwest coast -- prompting environmental groups to say the sightings are a strong signal that diminished sea ice brought on by global warming has put U.S. bears at risk of drowning or dying from fatigue.

The Associated Press reports:

Summer sea ice last year shrunk to a record low, about 1.65 million square miles in September, nearly 40% less than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000 and most climate modelers predict a continued downward spiral, possibly with an Arctic Ocean that's ice free during summer months by 2030 or sooner.

Conservation groups fear that one consequence of less ice will be more energy-sapping, long-distance swims by polar bears trying to reach feeding, mating or denning areas.

The nine bears were spotted on a flight by a marine contractor, Science Applications International Corp., hired for the Minerals Management Service in advance of future offshore oil development.

The MMS in February leased 2.76 million acres within an offshore area slightly smaller than Pennsylvania.

To catch up on polar bear news around the world and their role in the ongoing controversy over the Endangered Species Act, check out L.A. Unleashed's archives.

--Francisco Vara-Orta


Photo on top; bottom: World Wildlife Fund;Jonathan Hayward/Associated Press

4:36 PM, August 21, 2008


From the Associated Press:

SAN FRANCISCO -- An environmental group sued federal and state agencies Tuesday in their continuing battle to list the mountain-dwelling American pika, or rock-rabbit, as a threatened or endangered species troubled by climate change.

The California Fish and Game Commission voted 4 to 0 in April to deny the petition.

Commissioners agreed the pika's environment of colder elevations in mountain ranges across the West is threatened by rising temperatures, but said they are working on a broader approach to protect all wildlife that could be affected.

The lawsuit seeks a court order designating the pika as endangered or threatened.

"The California Fish and Game Commission's attempt to bury its head in the sand rather than deal with the impact of global warming on wildlife is an embarrassment to our state," said Greg Loarie, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice, which filed the lawsuit.

Earthjustice also filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday in a bid to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act on a similar petition.

Photo: J. MacKenzie / Pikaworks

2:09 PM, August 21, 2008


Jenny the lonely elephant, whose pending move from the Dallas Zoo to Mexico had angered activists, isn't going anywhere after all.

The Dallas Zoo announced Wednesday that the 9,000-pound pachyderm will remain at her home of 22 years and will eventually get a new companion.

The decision to keep the elephant in Dallas "serves Jenny's best interests," said Greg Hudson, the zoo's executive director.

Dallas Zoo officials had planned to ship Jenny to a wildlife park in Mexico after her companion died in May. African elephants become unhappy when left alone.

But activists ripped the plan, saying Jenny is nervous and fears cars and would be miserable at the drive-through park in Mexico where the Dallas Zoo planned to send her. Protests were held in front of the Dallas Zoo last month.

Read more Elephant will remain in Dallas Zoo »

5:55 PM, August 20, 2008

Raw, or unpasteurized, milk is a popular alternative for consumers concerned about the chemicals and hormones used in traditional dairy farming but has its own risks too.

A Del Norte County dairy has ended its raw milk program after more than a dozen people fell ill, including a woman who became partially paralyzed, the Crescent City-based Daily Triplicate reports.

The raw milk came from Alexandre Family EcoDairy Farms, which supplied the product to 115 customers. The county's Department of Public Health suspects at least 15 people were sickened by Campylobacter, a common bacteria found in domesticated animals.

Nicholas Grube of the Triplicate has a thorough take on the story, explaining the challenges of even getting a raw milk program off the ground:

It is illegal to sell raw milk in California, but it is not illegal to get it from your own animal. The Alexandres devised a cow-share program that allowed people to buy stock in an Alexandre cow. That gave them personal ownership of the animal and allowed them to legally take raw milk from Alexandre EcoDairy.

Cow-share customers had keys to a storage area where they could also obtain organic eggs, beef, ice cream and cheese.

Before customers could join the cow-share program and get the raw milk, owners Blake and Stephanie Alexandre gave them a three-ring binder full of information. In the first section are a number of articles relaying the dangers of consuming raw milk.

"I wanted people to be very clear on the risks," Stephanie Alexandre said, adding that many times people would take that chance. "They're realizing that the risks are there and they'll realize that the benefits outweigh the risks and they'll come begging for it."

To join the cow-share program, customers signed an agreement relieving the eco-dairy of liability in case of health problems caused by raw milk.

The raw milk program constituted less than 1% of the company's total organic dairy business.

"We've never done any of this for money," Blake Alexandre said. "This is a thing we were doing for folks who thought they needed access to raw milk."

But as Grube reports, not all the company's raw milk drinkers are left with a sour taste in their mouth:

Christine Mitchell of Crescent City, 42, drank Alexandre's raw milk for almost two years. Before she started the program, she said her joints ached, especially in her knees.

"I started drinking it and about four months later all of my joint pain was gone," Mitchell said. "That was a huge change in my life."

She asked her doctor why raw milk would get rid of her pain, and she said he told her that the enzymes in the product—the ones normally taken out during the pasteurization process—help her body digest the calcium in the milk.

Now Mitchell is struggling to find a new source of raw milk. For nearly two months she hasn't had it and her joints are starting to hurt again. Pasteurized milk, she said, just doesn't compare.

"What's the point of drinking pasteurized milk," she asked, "if you can't use the good stuff that's in there?"

--Francisco Vara-Orta

5:01 PM, August 19, 2008


It seems that a controversial animal rights group that L.A. Unleashed told you about in late March is now in trouble with Japanese authorities.

Japanese police obtained arrest warrants against three activists from the U.S.-based animal rights group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on allegations that they attacked Japanese whaling ships last year, the Kyodo News agency said. The group had been featured on an Animal Planet show this year.

Tokyo District Court approved the arrest warrants, the news agency said. Neither the court nor the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department confirmed the report.

The aim of the warrants was to place the two Americans, ages 41 and 30, and a 28-year-old Briton on an international wanted list, Kyodo said. The names of the three activists have not been released.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Animal Planet

7:22 PM, August 18, 2008

A cattleman accused of housing cows in unsafe living conditions pleaded guilty today to a felony animal abuse charge, the San Bernardino Sun reports:

Albert Buitenhuis, 28, accepted a plea deal in Superior Court in Chino that included a sentence of fines and three years' probation.

Prosecutors say he failed to remove dead cows from a barn at his Chino dairy.

There were six cow carcasses in the barn, including several in a water trough, said Beth Les, humane investigator for the Inland Valley Humane Society.

"I'm glad with what we got" for the sentence, Les said.

It's not the only Chino-based cow case still in the courts.

This year, the largest recall in U.S. history of beef was prompted by an animal rights group investigation of another Chino slaughterhouse where sick cows were being abused.

One of the workers accused of animal cruelty, Daniel Ugarte Navarro, pleaded no contest this summer in San Bernardino County Superior Court in Chino to two felony counts of animal cruelty and two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to downed animals.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Monday and could get up to a year in jail.

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.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

1:30 PM, August 18, 2008

Gwen_in_petas_hot_waterGwyneth Paltrow, the Oscar-winning actress who usually is associated with environmentally friendly trends, is under fire from animal activists after appearing in an ad for Italian designer Tod's draped in fox fur and wearing fur-lined boots.

The U.K.'s Telegraph has the details:

Mark Glover, director of Respect for Animals, said: "Gwyneth Paltrow should be ashamed. I can only assume that Paltrow either is ignorant of the facts or lacks human decency and compassion."

Friends have said that Miss Paltrow's decision will jeopardise her close friendship with Stella McCartney, the designer and the daughter of Sir Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney, the animal rights activist.

Miss McCartney does not use fur or leather in her designs and supports People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

A spokesman for PETA said calls to the actress had been rebuffed.

"We've written to her many times, and sent her videos showing how animals suffer for fur, but have never received a response.

"Apparently her beauty really is only skin deep," said a spokesman, who added: "Gwyneth Paltrow won't be the apple of her daughter's eye if she continues to flaunt fur. It's a terrible example to set for a young child."

Last week, the actress was also criticized in the blogosphere when she allegedly wouldn't mingle at an event in the Hamptons to protest the slaughter of horses, donkeys and mules for dog meat in Mexico. Many attendees paid $2,500 to attend the Amaryllis Farm Equine Rescue Organization event with Paltrow and Madonna -- who didn't show -- as top billing.

Sounds like Paltrow, or at least her rep, has a lot of explaining to do.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

11:30 AM, August 18, 2008


The recent bombings of UC Santa Cruz animal research scientists reverberates once again in today's Times. Frankie Trull, president of the Washington-based Foundation for Biomedical Research, opines on the matter, doling out criticism of law enforcement's lax efforts to protect researchers and animal activists who use violent tactics in their efforts:

These attacks, considered domestic terrorism and attempted homicide, should be a wake-up call to law enforcement. Congress recognized the danger that animal rights militants pose when it passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in 2006. This law gave the FBI additional tools to pursue animal rights extremism and increased penalties for crimes related to it. The FBI has not apprehended anyone since the law was passed. It needs to make these crimes a higher priority.

The Santa Cruz bombings are just the latest instances of animal rights terrorism, a nationwide problem, although there seems to be a particularly active group of extremists in California. The attacks have included firebombs lobbed at homes, letters rigged with razor blades, firecrackers placed in mailboxes and vandalism.

Animal rights groups sensationalize animal research by portraying scientists as violent animal torturers. In fact, researchers who use animals in their quest for new drugs and medical breakthroughs are human beings who dedicate their lives to alleviating the pain and suffering of both people and animals.

Last week, we told you about Times columnist Al Martinez's take on the bombings with a tale of his cat's confrontation with a mouse.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Shmuel Thaler / Associated Press

8:24 AM, August 16, 2008


No, this wildlife expert isn't trying to drown the squirrel. In fact, quite the opposite. This ground squirrel was flooded out of its hole this week at the airport of Per, an area west of Budapest, Hungary, in an effort to save it.

Environmental protection experts resettled some 50 ground squirrels to a nearby national park because the number of squirrels increased too much in the airfield, officials said.

It's an international problem apparently, as evidenced by Santa Monica's repeated efforts -- birth control included -- to rid the city of the rampant ground squirrel population in Palisades Park.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Karoly Guoeri / EPA

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

2:00 PM, August 12, 2008


Times columnist Al Martinez relates his take on the recent bombings of UC Santa Cruz animal research scientists with a tale of his cat's confrontation with a mouse in his latest column:

Our cat Ernie killed a mouse the other night and I was terrified.

It is not the first time he has done in mice that have invaded our home, and now I fear he may be targeted by animal rights activists.

I buried the mouse in the dark of night in an unmarked grave and hope that the masked terrorists who attack homes with firebombs in the name of animal welfare realize that the rodent's death was simply the result of the age-old game of cat and mouse.

But just to make sure, Ernie has been entered into a Federal Feline Protection Program and works as a gardener in the Valley. They call him Gus.

Activists have proven over the years that they are not averse to threatening the lives of other animals, namely humans, to make a point.

Their latest attack involved the firebombing of a home belonging to a biomedical researcher at UC Santa Cruz. The house was occupied by a scientist, his wife and two young children when the attackers hit, forcing them to flee out of a second-story window.

Ironically, the man's research involved mice, fruit flies and other non-primates. If terrorists can threaten the lives of those who experiment on fruit flies to benefit the human condition, you had better be careful the next time you step on a spider or squash an ant.

Read the rest of the column...

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Read more Could cat be next target of animal activist bombings? Times columnist asks »

12:14 PM, August 12, 2008


The Bush administration Monday 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 (such as the bald eagle, pictured above), the Washington Post reports.

The proposal's move to eliminate the independent scientific reviews that have been required for more than three decades has prompted sharp criticism from animal activists, scientists and politicans who have said the Bush administration and Republican establishment have wanted to go soft on the law.

The Post's Juliet Eilperin reports on the see-saw of reaction:

In a telephone call with reporters, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne described the rules as a "narrow regulatory change" that "will provide clarity and certainty to the consultation process under the Endangered Species Act."

But environmentalists and congressional Democrats blasted the proposal as a last-minute attempt by the administration to bring about dramatic changes in the law. For more than a decade, congressional Republicans have been trying unsuccessfully to rewrite the act, which property owners and developers say imposes unreasonable economic costs.

Bob Irvin, senior vice president of conservation programs at the advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife, questioned how some federal agencies could make the assessments, when most do not have wildlife biologists on staff.

"Clearly, that's a case of asking the fox to guard the chicken coop," Irvin said, adding that the original law created "a giant caution light that made federal agencies stop and think about the impacts of their actions. What the Bush administration is telling those agencies is they don't have to think about those impacts anymore."

But Dale Hall, who directs the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the move would not apply to major federal projects and would give his agency more time to focus on the most critically endangered species, rather than conducting reviews of projects that pose little threat.

"We have to have the ability to put our efforts where they're needed," Hall said, adding that individual agencies will have to take responsibility if their projects do harm a protected species. "This really says to the agencies, 'This law belongs to all of us. You're responsible to defend it.' "

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Andrew Vaughan / Associated Press

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"

12:21 PM, August 7, 2008


U.S. swimmer Amanda Beard wasn't going to let anything -- Chinese authorities, the Pacific Ocean or clothes -- get in the way of her making a statement against wearing fur.

On Wednesday, Beard, who will try to repeat her gold-medal 200-meter breaststroke feat of four years ago, unveiled a nude photograph of herself in a PETA campaign urging that women "Don't wear fur." She was just outside the athletes' village in China at the Olympic Games.

She had to move the conference from a nearby Beijing hotel after plainclothes police banned her scheduled news conference there "for our safety," authorities said, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

While holding a poster of a PETA ad that showed her slyly covering the issues in question, Beard denied trying to provoke the Chinese.

"You have concerns," she said. "I'm not out here taking my clothes off. We're doing it in a very positive way.

"I'm not trying to be in everybody's face and be harsh or negative. I want to be calm and yet get my voice out there. I'm doing it for all those animals who don't have a voice."

It isn't Beard's first controversial rendezvous with the naked camera -- she posed for Playboy last year.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Jewel Samad / AFP

12:07 PM, August 5, 2008

Officials are saying the firebombs that struck the home and car of two UC Santa Cruz scientists this weekend were part of an increasingly aggressive campaign by animal rights activists against animal researchers at University of California campuses. Richard C. Paddock and Maria L. LaGanga have an update on the situation in Santa Cruz:

"Acts of violence and intimidation such as these are unacceptable, and they continue a troubling pattern seen at UCLA and other UC campuses that should be repugnant to us all," UC President Mark G. Yudof said Monday. "These acts threaten not only our academic researchers and their families, but the safety and security of neighbors in our communities as well."

City officials joined in harshly condemning the bombings and urged members of the public who might have evidence in the case to contact authorities. They announced a $30,000 reward, including $2,500 donated by the Humane Society of the United States....

Nationwide, incidents of violence by self-described animal rights activists have been on the rise, according to the Foundation for Biomedical Research, which has tracked such attacks since 1981, when there was one.

In 2000 there were 10 such episodes against biomedical research facilities, and in 2006 that figure had grown to 77, according to the group's website. In addition, the type of attacks has changed in recent years.

3:16 PM, August 4, 2008

The FBI is expected to take over the investigation of the Saturday morning firebombings of a home and car belonging to two UC Santa Cruz biomedical researchers who conduct experiments on animals. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports:

Santa Cruz police officials said Sunday the case will be handed to the FBI to investigate as domestic terrorism while local authorities explore additional security measures for the 13 UCSC researchers listed in a threatening animal-rights pamphlet found in a downtown coffee shop last week.

"The FBI has additional resources and intelligence into groups and individuals that might have the proclivity to carry out this kind of activity," police Capt. Steve Clark said. "The FBI has a whole other toolbox of tools for this kind of investigation."

The front porch of a faculty member's home on Village Circle off High Street was hit with a firebomb about 5:40 a.m. Saturday, police said. The bomb ignited the front door of the home and filled the house with smoke, police said. About the same time, a Volvo station wagon parked in a faculty member's on-campus driveway on Dickens Way was destroyed by a firebomb, police said....

No suspects have been identified, Clark said.

UCSC biologist David Feldheim, whose Village Circle home was targeted, performs research on mice to understand how brain connections form during development. Feldheim and his wife and two young children escaped their house on a fire ladder from a second-story window.

5:15 PM, August 1, 2008

From the Associated Press: CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Cheyenne Frontier Days officials met with members of an animal rights group to hear its concerns that certain events at the rodeo are cruel to participating animals.

While nothing definitive came of the meeting Wednesday evening, Frontier Days officials said they are looking into one of the group’s concerns. Both sides described the meeting as cordial.

SHARK, or Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, advocates banning steer roping from rodeo and wants Frontier Days to change its calf roping event by eliminating so-called jerk-downs, in which a calf is pulled straight back when roped around the neck by a rider on horseback.

The Illinois-based activist group earlier this year presented videos showing horses being shocked with hand-held devices to make them buck at the Cheyenne rodeo.

Frontier Days banned the use of the devices before this year’s rodeo, and SHARK officials said they saw no horse shocking over the nine-day rodeo in late July. Mike Kobliska, an investigator with SHARK, said both sides listened to the other’s positions and arguments.

11:08 AM, July 31, 2008

From the Chicago Tribune:

Former game show host Bob Barker wants the Chicago City Council to support a cause he famously ended "The Price of Right" with for decades: getting pets spayed and neutered.

Chicago is considering a proposal to require all dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered by the time they're 6 months old.

Barker told the council Tuesday the measure would reduce the number of unwanted pets. He says a similar law in Santa Cruz County, California, caused a 60 percent drop in cats and dogs placed in shelters in the following decade.

Those against the proposal say animal owners should decide whether to get their pets fixed.

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.

12:29 PM, July 29, 2008

Lizzie_a_goldendoodle_2 It's no big secret that Barack and Michelle Obama have promised their daughters a dog once the presidential campaign is over. But with the family reportedly considering a hypoallergenic goldendoodle (Lizzie, at left, is one), animal groups have been offering loads of advice on what breeds they should buy--or adopt--instead.

The American Kennel Club has asked  Americans to vote on list of five "hypoallergenic" breeds, and the Best Friends Animal Society wants the Obamas to adopt that dog from an animal shelter, saying that to buy an animal from a breeder would be unethical while millions of animals face euthanasia in animal shelters.

The latest to weigh in is Ingrid E. Newkirk, President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who wrote a letter to the Obamas today, urging them to adopt a mutt and saying, "This country is proud to be a melting pot, and there is something deeply wrong and elitist about wanting only a purebred dog."

Obama_family "Millions of Great American Mutts—the dog that should be our national dog—are set to die in our nation’s extremely overcrowded pounds and shelters for lack of good homes," she wrote. "Compassionate people nationwide are choosing to adopt a homeless pound puppy—a grateful refugee from a society that has not always treated the true 'underdog' kindly—rather than cater to special interests who do not have dogs’ interests at heart."

So it looks like PETA is trying to appeal to Obama's pledge to keep special interests--in this case, dog breeders--out of politics. Which is interesting, considering PETA is a special interest itself. We'll probably have to wait until after the election to find out if the group's tactic worked.

The full letter after the jump....

--Tony Barboza

Read more PETA to Obama: wanting a purebred dog is elitist »

5:46 PM, July 28, 2008
  • Two_too_manyA six-legged deer found in northern Georgia has found a home with a woman permitted to keep unique animals in captivity.
  • Police officials in Miami-Dade County, Fla., said their new handbook will include a reminder to respect people's freedom to practice religion when responding to calls about ritual animal sacrifice. The decision comes a year after police in Coral Gables raided and detained people at a home where Santeria practitioners were slaughtering goats, chickens and pigeons.
  • Animal services officers in the Northern California town of Boulder Creek confiscated 38 dogs and puppies from a home over the weekend after finding "more dead dogs than we could count" and dog heads hanging from trees.
  • An animal activist was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for making bomb threats to disrupt animal testing at UC San Diego.
  • And celebrity chef Rachael Ray has started a line of dog food based on recipes she concocted for her pit bull.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Associated Press

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

2:04 PM, July 22, 2008

Sometimes_the_pope_likes_to_wear__2Some animal rights folks have a bone to pick with the pope. Agence France-Presse reports:

One of Italy's leading animal rights groups said Monday it was launching an Internet petition to demand Pope Benedict XVI stop wearing fur during religious ceremonies at the Vatican.

Lorenzo Croce, chairman of the Italian Assn. for the Defence of Animals and the Environment, denied being provocative or wanting to make an antireligious statement.

"We just want to ask him in a message of love and peace to give a strong signal towards the protection of animals and the environment through a small but very significant personal sacrifice," Croce told the Italian news agency ANSA.

Since his election, Pope Benedict has taken to wearing a number of traditional religious garments, including a small red velvet cape with a white ermine border, which he wears in winter along with a hat of the same color.

Photo: Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press

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.

6:04 PM, July 18, 2008

No, it never occurred to us that shooting live pigs was a part of the war on terror ... but what do we know. The Associated Press reports:

HONOLULU--The Army says it's critical to saving the lives of wounded soldiers. Animal-rights activists call the training cruel and outdated.

Despite opposition by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Army proceeded to shoot live pigs and treat their gunshot wounds in a medical trauma exercise Friday at Schofield Barracks for soldiers headed to Iraq.

Maj. Derrick Cheng, spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said the training was conducted as scheduled under a U.S. Department of Agriculture license and the careful supervision of veterinarians and a military Animal Care and Use Committee. "It's to teach Army personnel how to manage critically injured patients within the first few hours of their injury," Cheng said.

The soldiers are learning emergency lifesaving skills needed on the battlefield when there are no medics, doctors or facility nearby, he said.

PETA, however, said there are more advanced and humane options available, including high-tech human simulators. In a letter, PETA urged the Army to end all use of animals, "as the overwhelming majority of North American medical schools have already done."

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.

7:21 AM, July 18, 2008

Roping_a_calf_3As previously noted on L.A. Unleashed, the world's largest outdoor rodeo remains mired in controvery. The Associated Press reports:

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Western heritage runs deep in this high plains city, and nothing typifies the local cowboy and ranching culture more than the 10-day Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration (the photo at left is from last year's event), which boasts the world's largest outdoor rodeo.

Yet, as this year's "Daddy of 'Em All" rodeo gets under way this weekend, the event is fighting off allegations of animal cruelty, which prompted the rock band Matchbox Twenty to cancel a scheduled performance. Animal-rights activists want certain rodeo events banned. Organizers and competitors are calling it an attack on Western tradition.

"I feel like it's like gun control. If you let him take one event, they're going to try to get another. And then, I think, it's just going to snowball from there," said Brian McNamee, a past rodeo competitor from Wyoming.

The culture clash comes amid a national debate on the treatment of sporting animals following the death of a racehorse in the Kentucky Derby. Animal-rights groups have long fought to eliminate cockfighting, dogfighting and game-farm hunts, and have advocated for better treatment of zoo and circus animals. But rodeos are starting to gain more of their attention, and in some cases protests.

Photo: Michael Smith / The Wyoming Tribune Eagle

12:05 PM, July 16, 2008


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed actress Bo Derek to the California Horse Racing Board on Tuesday.

Derek, 51, best known for a cornrow hairstyle and beach run in the 1979 movie "10," is a Republican, an animal rights activist and author of "Riding Lessons: Everything That Matters in Life I Learned From Horses." Here, she is pictured in 2000 riding a horse as she plays a role in the TV series "Reina de Espadas" (Queen of Swords) in Spain. 

She has also served as spokeswoman for the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act and owns a pet care products company called Bless the Beasts, according to Schwarzenegger's announcement.

The seven gubernatorial appointees to the board license nearly 14,000 trainers, jockeys, owners and others involved in a multi-billion-dollar industry.

--Nancy Vogel

Photo: J.M.Vidal/AFP

11:17 AM, July 15, 2008


Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, have promised their young daughters -- Malia, 9, and Sasha, 7 -- that they can have a dog when this hectic campaign is over. Now, two big animal groups want to lend a hand in the search.

First up was the venerable American Kennel Club, keeper of canine pedigrees, which has posted on its website a list of five "hypoallergenic" breeds -- allergies are an issue for the Obama household -- and asked folks to weigh in with their choices: "In the true spirit of doggy democracy, the AKC is asking Americans to vote on the breed they think the Obama family should select."  Chinese_crested

Among  the five choices: the Chinese Crested (pictured right.) Calling the Chinese-African pedigree "exotic," the AKC added that "with its unique appearance, it's certain to turn heads."

The other four choices are the poodle, the miniature Schnauzer, the soft-coated Wheaton Terrier, and the Bichon Frise. The AKC considers Bichons sociable and "likely to get along with just about everyone (including members of Congress, regardless of party affiliation.)"

The AKC suggests voters take into account which dogs would be most child-friendly and suitable for rides on Air Force One. (The last we checked the voting, the poodle was slightly ahead of the Wheaton Terrier.)

But whatever the Obamas choose, the national animal welfare group Best Friends Animal Society wants them to adopt that dog from an animal shelter -- not buy the pooch at a pet store. (The Obamas could also try finding one at various pet adoption events -- like the one, sponsored by Best Friends, pictured at the top of this item.)

"There are thousands of affectionate loyal dogs of all sizes, shapes and colors trapped in the animal control system who need a way out," said Julie Castle of Best Friends. "There are also plenty of purebred dogs that can be adopted from breed rescue organizations, without purchasing one from a pet store." 

Best Friends launched a website, obamafamilydog.com, with an online petition to convince the Obamas of the joys of mutts, as well as the importance of eschewing pet stores: "In a country where millions of dogs are killed each year in shelters, purchasing from a breeder or pet store is not an ethical choice."

However, Malia Obama, according to her father, has already done some research and settled on a goldendoodle, the hypoallergenic cross between a poodle and Golden Retriever.

We have our own suggestion for the Obamas: what about ...

Read more The Obamas get some (unsolicited) advice on their dog search »

7:15 AM, July 15, 2008

Andre_the_twolegged_dog_2Andre the two-legged dog was rescued last winter when a woman noticed the animal trailing blood across a country road. The mutt lost most of the lower half of his left legs after getting caught in an animal trap or snare. Now Andre has become a symbol in Alaska for what pet owners and animal lovers say is a gruesome and growing problem: pets accidentally caught in traps and snares meant for wild animals. Mary Pemberton of the Associated Press reports:

The problem, animal owners and advocates say, is increasing as more people move into and use areas of Alaska that were once wild. But the problem is not new. Tension between dog owners and trappers has been percolating in Alaska for decades, said Cliff Judkins, chairman of the Alaska Board of Game.

“I don’t know what the long-term answer is to it really. The Board of Game is caught in the middle between two groups,” he said. “This thing has been going on for a long, long time.”

Karen McNaught of Palmer, Alaska, nursed Andre back to health, although she initially didn’t think he would make it. “No one had seen a dog with two legs cut off like that,” she said. “The bone was sticking out on both of them. It was horrible.”

Now, Andre bounces around her back yard like a Pogo-Stick. When tired, he leans against the house or the fence. The plan is to fit him with artificial legs.

Read more Two-legged dog is a symbol for problems with traps »

11:55 AM, July 14, 2008

At least two coyotes have been preying on feral cats that live on the Cal State Long Beach campus. But the real clash is between animal activists and university officials, who are at odds over which species should have to go, the Times' Ann Simmons reports:

University officials say the cats are attracting the coyotes, and it is the cats that need to be removed. That has outraged many cat lovers who fear the felines will be killed. They say the coyotes present the danger, so they should be evicted.

On Sunday, a small group of cat lovers lined a curb outside the university, waving handwritten signs with slogans such as "Save The Cats" and chanting their message as motorists hooted and whizzed by.

Cal State Long Beach spokesman Rick Gloady said he hoped that the cats could be "trapped and removed from campus," and that homes could be found for them in shelters.

University officials said in a written statement that the cats had been fed and well cared for. But the felines tend to cluster around the multiple campus feeding stations -- which coyotes had discovered and started visiting, leaving behind several dead cats.

The activists who care for the cats, which have lived on the campus for decades, argue that trapping the coyotes would be easier than rounding up the cats and taking them to shelters where they might be euthanized.

-- Tony Barboza

9:18 AM, July 8, 2008


The annual running of the bulls began in Pamplona this weekend, but The UK'S Guardian reports that anti-bullfighting groups are planning various protests to capitalize on a 2006 Gallup survey that found 72% of Spaniards claim to have no interest in the sport:

In the past, the festival of San Fermin has attracted nude protests from activists. On Saturday animal rights activists. above, wearing banderillas, barbed darts which are stabbed into the bull's neck during bullfights, stage a provocative protest before the start the nine-day San Fermin Festival on Sunday in Pamplona.

But within Spain a radical wing of the anti-bullfighting movement Spanish_protestors_literally_in_the has begun to stage more confrontational demonstrations in the hope of gaining a higher profile.

Two groups, Equanimal and Igualidad Animal, have invaded Spanish bullrings for the first time, in a new tactic that they intend to repeat throughout the bull-fighting season. Previous protests have been limited to placard-waving outside the bullrings.

Demonstrators invaded the ring at Madrid's prestigious Las Ventas during the Festival of San Isidro, the biggest date on the bullfighting calendar. At the El Monumental ring in Barcelona last month four protesters [one of whom is pictured at right] carrying signs saying "Abolition" jumped over the perimeter wall to get into the ring after the bull was killed. Igualidad Animal supporters claimed they were attacked by workers at the ring before police and security could intervene.

The festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, which runs until [Monday], attracts hundreds of willing "runners" from around the world, many inspired by [Ernest] Hemingway's book The Sun Also Rises, which is largely responsible for event's fame. After the bulls run through the narrow streets of Pamplona, they face the matador in the ring.

Anti-bullfighting campaigners say invading bullrings will not lead to violent clashes [or] damage their cause. Jordi Casamitjana of the Anti-Bullfighting Committee said: "I don't think this is heading towards extremism. It is still nonviolent. If you said to Gandhi that he could not stage his protests, where would we be today? This helps keep people aware of this cruelty."

But Luis Corrales, director of the pro-bullfighting Platform for the Defence of the National Festival, said: "If they want to make a point to society about bullfighting, that is up to them, and we have no problem with that. But invading the bullring is pure provocation.'

Bullfighting is a centuries-old staple of Spanish culture that was exported to Latin America, but has been under fire globally in recent years by activists calling it glorified animal cruelty. However, bloodless fights, which started in the United States after activists complained about bulls being harmed during traditional fights, are considered more dangerous for bullfighters because they lack a weapon for defense. The argument continues.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo of nude protest: Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

Photo of bullring protest: Toni Albir/EPA

3:52 PM, July 2, 2008


Remember the fracas over a Laguna Beach artist named Wyland? He was unhappy because the state commissioned his whale tail artwork for license plates but wouldn't give him a cut of the funds for his environmental foundation.

Well, today The Times' editorial board weighs in, saying that the state should hold a competition among California's art students for a new ocean plate, with a $10,000 scholarship for the winner

And this time, the editorial board opines, "make sure the kid signs a written agreement."

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Reed Saxon/Associated Press

11:55 AM, July 1, 2008


The tale of the tiger started last October when local forestry officials in China's Shaanxi province held a news conference and released what they said was a photo of a rare South China tiger in the wild, a sight not seen since the 1960s.

But The Times' Mark Magnier reports that the story and its photos always seemed too good to be true:

This weekend, local authorities revealed after months of delay that the pictures had been staged using a poster cutout. Police also produced a paw made of wood they said had been used to make prints in the snow.

Zhou Zhenglong, 54, a farmer and local guide who took the photographs, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of fraud. And 13 officials in Shaanxi province in central China have been fired or disciplined, the government announced Sunday.

The revelations in the "paper tiger" case were driven by persistent Internet activists who demanded answers from Zhou and local officials. The case has also spurred a heated debate over cover-ups, culpability and corruption, as well as whether Zhou was forced to take the fall for powerful officials.

Zhou was paid $2,915 for the photographs by the local forestry department, which was reportedly trying to start a nature reserve, seeking over $1 million from Beijing in funding and pushing to boost tourism. Zhou, who had acted as a guide for animal protection officials, had originally been led to believe the photos might be worth as much as $140,000.

Looks like Hollywood isn't the only place guilty of doctoring what appears as reality. Local officials in the tiger case said they were "reflecting on their mistakes."

Speaking of tigers in China, a Times editorial today urges the Chinese government to close the country's tiger farms in order to save them from extinction and abuse.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

3:33 PM, June 26, 2008


A day after a prominent marine life artist revoked the state's right to use his whale tail art on specialty license plates, state officials assured drivers Wednesday that similar environmental-themed plates would still be available.

Muralist Wyland, who goes by one name, recently announced the state could no longer use his iconic whale tail painting on vehicle license plates after officials snubbed his request to share 20% of plate profits with his conservation foundation.

He had agreed to let the state use the painting of a whale's flukes in what state officials dubbed a "handshake deal," with part of the money generated by sales of the plate supporting the state Coastal Commission.

Although the commission is "moving forward with a new design . . . it is important for California motorists to know that the program will continue in the meantime," said commission Executive Director Peter Douglas in a statement.

Old whale tail plates will not be recalled, orders for new plates will be accepted, and part of the money will still fund environmental protection efforts, Douglas said.

-- Susannah Rosenblatt

Photo: Reed Saxon / Associated Press

11:48 AM, June 25, 2008


The Laguna Beach artist who created California's whale-tail license plate is making a splash with state coastal officials, revoking the state's right to use his art after they snubbed his request to share profits from the image with his environmental group. The Times' Susannah Rosenblatt reports:

Robert Wyland, the marine muralist whose paintings of ocean life envelop buildings around the world, let the state use his hazy blue image of a whale's flukes for environmentally themed license plates 14 years ago in what state officials describe as a "handshake deal."

The artist approached the Coastal Commission several months ago asking for 20% of the state's annual profits from the plates to fund his nonprofit ocean conservation foundation.

California earns about $3.77 million a year from the plates, but the Coastal Commission receives only a third of the funds: about $15 for each new plate sold. The rest goes to other state environmental programs.

"At the end of the day, the whale tail is my art and my idea, and I own the rights to my intellectual property," Wyland said in an interview Tuesday from his Laguna Beach studio. "I won't be stepped on: I'm sticking up for artists' rights, for the common person. I'm sticking up for the oceans and the coast big-time. We're not going away."

There are an estimated 126,000 whale-tail plates are on California roads, Rosenblatt reports that the battle may end up in court.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Wyland Worldwide LLC

10:58 AM, June 23, 2008

A_lookout_watches_for_marine_mammalAfter years of being tied up by litigation over using sonar that can harm whales, the U.S. Navy finally got what it wanted: a chance for the U.S. Supreme Court to cut the legal legs off these federal environmental cases.

The highest court in the land agreed today to take the case that argues the Navy should step up its safeguards when using sub-hunting sonar in waters fat with whales. Arguments will come in the fall and a decision is likely to follow next year.

The case focuses on training of aircraft carrier battle groups in waters off Southern California. Federal judges in California have sided repeatedly with the Natural Resources Defense Council and other conservation groups that want the Navy to take more precautions when using sonar, which can panic whales, dolphins and other marine mammals.

Although this long-running court fight has gained considerable attention, what's less known is that this legal action only covers a fraction of the Navy's use of sonar in Southern California waters. The fight focuses on the official testing and evaluation needed to certify that an aircraft carrier and its accompanying ships are combat ready. Other warships routinely ping the waters in training missions off Southern California without fanfare.

-- Kenneth R. Weiss

Photo: Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times

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

4:41 PM, June 17, 2008

Jessica_simpson Jessica Simpson was photographed last week at LAX wearing a "Real Girls Eat Meat" T-shirt. Some animal lovers are less than happy, especially the folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The Baltimore Sun's Mutts blog shares some details:

"For a gal who's best known for her less-than-stellar brains (Chicken of the Sea, anyone?) and her ability to proportionately fill out daisy dukes, I'm gonna go on record saying that if anyone had to wear a ridiculous shirt like this, I'm glad it was Jessica — as people are more likely to follow the opposite of her lead," a PETA blogger wrote. Maybe the meat-eaters of the world will be embarrassed to be categorized in the same field as Jessica Simpson."

Simpson family insiders told OK! Magazine that the slogan is a dig at boyfriend Tony Romo’s ex-girlfriend, country superstar Carrie Underwood -- who has twice been named "World’s Sexiest Vegetarian" by PETA.

The PETA blog also lists "the top five reasons that only stupid girls brag about eating meat."

1. Meat increases the risk of breast cancer.

2. Real girls don't support animal abuse.

3. The meat industry is destroying the Earth.

4. Meat will make you fat.

5. Eating meat steals food from starving kids.

-- Alice Short

Photo: Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press

3:46 PM, June 16, 2008


Although she has more than a half-century under her belt, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall doesn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. The 74-year-old is still traveling the world doing acts of environmental good and is working on a new book.

Over the last 22 years, Goodall has traveled tirelessly, staying no more than three weeks in one place as she tries to educate Earth's top primates about environmentalism, inspire hope and get them to save their planet, The Times' Tami Abdollah writes in a Q&A in today's Calendar section:

Abdollah: Is your work still centered around or focused on chimpanzees?

Goodall: Not really. It's very, very important to me that we continue to study, that we do it in the right way, that there's enough money for it, that we try to protect those chimpanzees into the future by working with all the people living in poverty around the park and then hoping more and more of them will enable part of the land to regenerate so the chimps are no longer trapped as they are now; they're surrounded by cultivated fields. In five years, you get a 30-foot tree. So they're coming back, but you know, the villagers if they wanted could cut them down, there's nothing to stop them, except goodwill.

In the photo above, Goodall helps students plant a tree at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at the University of San Diego.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times

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

5:34 PM, June 15, 2008

Several dozen reality TV personalities and their pooches put on the dog at a Beverly Hills mansion Saturday at a benefit for Dogs in Danger, a group that promotes the adoption of canines in shelters.

Kristen Renton, an actress on “Days of Our Lives,” pranced down the red carpet set up on the driveway with Roxy, one of two boxers she has rescued. Jai Rodriguez of the Animal Planet show “Groomer Has It” turned up with his 5-year-old Yorkie, Nemo. Ryan Seacrest was there too -- but with no dog or date in tow.

Maria_and_friendMaria Menounos of “Access Hollywood” (at left) came toting her handicapped poodle, Noelle, in a pet-purse. The aging dog’s back legs are crippled and the front ones are prone to sores, so she wears yellow protective pads made by Menounos’ mom. Though Noelle can’t walk, Menounos said the poodle keeps in shape with daily swims.

Also in the crowd were two local guys about to get their 15 minutes of reality-show fame on a new CBS show, “Greatest American Dog,” which is set to debut July 10. Part “Survivor,” part “American Idol,” the show pits 12 human-dog teams against each other in a competition for $250,000 and the title of America’s greatest dog. Considering that they were cooped up for about 40 days in a house in Agoura Hills with 10 other human-dog pairings during filming, they seemed surprisingly normal.

Ron_and_friendRon Davis, 39 (at right) went on the show with his 3-year-old English bulldog, Tillman. Davis, a construction manager from Oxnard, said the gig came along for him at just the right time -- he was laid off from his job on the first day of the shoot.

Travis_and_friend_2He and Travis Brorsen, 29 (at left), a bartender from Hollywood who went on the show with his boxer, Presley, weren’t allowed to divulge many details about the TV show. But Davis did reveal that there was no behind-the-scenes team keeping up with the doo-doo. The rule on the show, he said, was simple: “You poop, you scoop, and you hope it’s hard.”

-- Julie Makinen

Photos: Cliff Smith

12:09 PM, June 14, 2008

The UCLA Daily Bruin reports that an animal activist group is claiming responsibility for setting a university van on fire:

According to the Irvine Police Department, a van owned by UCLA was on fire near an Irvine recreation center the morning of June 3, and an animal activist group claimed responsibility for the events through an anonymous e-mail.

The Los Angeles Animal Liberation Front sent an anonymous communique to Bite Back Magazine in protest of UCLA’s primate research.

The message, which was posted today on the magazine’s website, protested UCLA’s primate research and said: "It is unacceptable for us to see, hear, and know what is going on in our animal labs without taking action. For all of those affected you have the UCLA primate vivisection program to blame."

Nancy Greenstein, director of community service for University Police, said the department received notice of the message this morning, and a joint investigation with the FBI is underway. The role of the ALF in the van fire has yet to be confirmed.

Earlier this year, authorities investigated a fire caused by a device left at a house owned by a UCLA professor who conducts animal research. It was the second time the house had been targeted in less than four months.

The device was placed on the front porch of a house owned by Edythe London, FBI officials in Los Angeles said. London, a professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences and of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, uses lab monkeys in her research on nicotine addiction.

1:37 PM, June 12, 2008

The_olsen_twinsPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been busy of late, worrying about fried chicken, lobsters and the like. But this week they're worried about Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen., at right. No, it's nothing about their tiny-ness. It's about their fur-wearing ways.

Here's how Us magazine reports it:

In a new ad campaign to be unveiled at the Olsens' Walk of Fame star on Hollywood Boulevard, PETA blasts the 21-year-old star siblings — whom they dub the "Trollsen Twins" — for wearing fur and including it in their collections Elizabeth and James and The Row.

"Thin-twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are about to get some publicity that will have them running away faster than if they'd spotted a calorie," the group said in a snarky statement today. The new ad features the twins above the headline "Fur Is Worn by Beautiful Animals and Ugly People."

Meanwhile, PETA has issued a statement on the affair, which reads in part:

"As the Olsen twins prepare to celebrate their 22nd birthday this Friday, they'll be getting some unusual 'gifts' in the mail -- locks of hair from countless young people who object to cruelty to animals."

The hairy birthday greetings are being sent at the request of Peta2 -- the world's largest youth animal rights organization -- which posted a "mission" on its highly trafficked web site, Peta2.com, urging young people to send the fur-wearing twins snippets of their own hair along with a note that reads, "Please, use my hair instead of the animals'. Happy Birthday."

Some days it doesn't pay to be fur-wearing and famous.

-- Alice Short

Photo: Mark Mainz/Getty Images

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

11:56 AM, June 11, 2008

Things don't look good for purveyors of furs in Portland, Ore. According to a report in the Oregonian, animal-rights activists say they are working to drive downtown Portland's last remaining fur salon out of business:

Saturday protests led by a fledgling group called the Portland Animal Defense League outside Nicholas Ungar Furs have intensified in recent weeks.

Unlike the rancorous 15-month campaign against Portland's Schumacher Furs and Outerwear (now closed), which activists insisted was about education and outreach, the group says the prime objective this time is ridding downtown of "an outdated industry." ....

Unlike Greg and Linda Schumacher, who were eager to confront the protesters and talk to the media about what they saw as an unfair attack on their business on Southwest Morrison Street, Ungar Furs owner Horst Grimm declined to comment.

When the store was contacted, someone calling himself only "the manager" said, "Our general policy is not to make comments."

Sgt. Brian Schmautz, a Portland police spokesman, said he wasn't yet aware of a single disturbance complaint about the protests.

10:45 AM, June 11, 2008

The San Francisco Chronicle reports today that 24 UC Berkeley researchers and seven staffers have been harassed by animal rights activists in recent months.

"What they all have in common is that they all work in animal research," UC Berkeley spokesman Robert Sanders said of the targeted employees.

In several instances, the activists have shown up outside researchers' homes in the middle of the night with bullhorns and chanting, "Animal killers." Sometimes they have scrawled slogans on the sidewalk in chalk.

On more than one occasion, rocks have been thrown through the researchers' windows and their cars have been scratched up. ...

The Chronicle reports that the latest incident happened about 10 days ago in Berkeley; a group of activists showed up outside the home of a researcher who studies the effects of pesticides on mice. Sanders said a rock was thrown through the researcher's window and a window at a neighbor's home.

-- Alice Short

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

2:44 PM, June 5, 2008


The sign on the door of the Barnes & Noble at The Grove proclaims: "NO PETS ALLOWED."  But Baby, a 14-year-old snow-white poodle, sauntered through, wrapped in Jana Kohl's arms, trailed by an entourage and greeted by an eager store official. 

That's because Baby, a puppy mill survivor, was on her way to an autograph-signing for Kohl's new book, "A Rare Breed of Love,"  which has made a cover girl out of the little canine -- who is attractively shaggy and sans that overly manicured poodle cut. 

The fact that Baby has only three legs hobbles her walk but not her presence.  Despite Kohl's fretting over how many people pet her as she takes her on tour, Baby seems relaxed and calm.

Tonight, you can see Kohl and Baby at 7 at Borders in Pasadena at 475 South Lake Ave.

Read more Puppy mill survivor on tour -- tonight at Borders in Pasadena »

1:45 PM, June 5, 2008

It's been a busy week (so far) for PETA.

UPI reports that KFC Canada has bowed to five years of pressure ... from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ... on the way its chickens are slaughtered:

From its headquarters in Norfolk, Va., the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has pressured the global chain since 2003 to end the practice of slaughtering the fowl using electric shocks, the Canwest News Service reported.

After seven months of talks with the food retailer at its headquarters north of Toronto in Vaughn, KFC Canada president Steve Langford said the company had agreed to have its suppliers switch to a system in which oxygen is replaced with other gases to render the birds unconscious before slaughter, the report said.

Lobster_2 In the meantime, those wacky folks of PETA have an idea for folks who are distressed about the concept of boiling and eating lobsters.

PETA would like to turn a century-old county jail in Maine into a “lobster empathy center.” According to MaineToday, the county jail is up for sale as the sheriff, staff and inmates prepare for a move to a new, modern facility this summer.

Eight_belles And finally, PETA is urging prosecutors to bring animal cruelty charges against Eight Belles' trainer, Larry Jones. In the photo at left, Eight Belles is examined after breaking both front ankles at the Kentucky Derby.

--Alice Short

Lobster photo: Karen Tapia/Los Angeles Times

Eight Belles photo: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

11:12 AM, June 4, 2008

Brigitte_bardot_in_court_over_ani_2Brigitte Bardot was convicted Tuesday of provoking discrimination and racial hatred for writing that Muslims are destroying France, the Associated Press reports.

A Paris court also handed down a $23,325 fine against the former screen siren. The court ordered Bardot to pay $1,555 in damages to MRAP, a leading French anti-racism group that filed a lawsuit last year over a letter she sent to then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. The remarks were published in her foundation's quarterly journal.

In the December 2006 letter to Sarkozy, now the French president, Bardot said France is "tired of being led by the nose by this population that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts."

Bardot, 73, an animal rights activist, was referring to a Muslim feast celebrated by slaughtering sheep.

French laws prevent inciting hatred and discrimination on racial or religious grounds.

Bardot had been convicted four times for inciting hatred.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Jacques Brinon/Associated Press

6:40 PM, June 2, 2008


The Humane Society of the United States is hosting the National Conference on Animals in Disaster in Sacramento starting Tuesday. Among the attendees are animal response specialists, emergency managers, vets and volunteers.

Highlights include a talk from FEMA deputy regional administrator Karen Armes and breakout sessions on such topics as "Animal First Aid for Disaster Responders."

The two dogs above were photographed floating on wood after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.

-- Alice Short

Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times

7:32 PM, May 28, 2008

Jane_gooddall_addresses_the_media_2Jane Goodall and other scientists are appealing to the European Union to end animal testing in medical and other scientific research. The Canadian Press reports:

"We need to recognize at the outset that what we do to animals from their perspective certainly, and probably from ours, is morally wrong and unacceptable," Goodall said. Goodall, the world's best-known observer of the behaviour of chimpanzees, is a longtime campaigner for animal rights.

She presented a petition bearing 150,000 names to legislators from the European Parliament. It called on both the parliament and the EU's executive office to find methods of testing that do not involve animals.

Goodall revolutionized research on primates during the 1960s when she studied them at close range in Tanzania.

Photo: Yves Logghe/Associated Press

2:39 PM, May 27, 2008

Los Angeles Times Entertainment Editor Betsy Sharkey is in the process of adopting a greyhound named Riley that used to race at the Caliente racing track in Tijuana. She will periodically post updates on his assimilation into her family here on L.A. Unleashed. Today she writes about sibling rivalry.

Riley_the_greyhound_and_max_take_2Score one for the greyhound. Max, my English setter puppy, who for the first five months of his life with me was an only dog, has gone from thrilled -- "It's a dog! I love dogs! Pant, pant, pant," to uncertain -- "You mean he's going to stay?" -- as we head into Week Two of life with Riley, the 4-year-old retired racing greyhound I adopted from Greyhound Pets of America.

Here's how the day unfolds. Alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m. Max, unfortunately goes off about 5:45, and that means he's walked over and occasionally on top of a snoozing Riley and bounced onto the bed, all smiles, kisses and dog breath. I'm desperately fending off the attention. Meanwhile Riley, who I'm convinced studied with Gandhi, is largely unfazed.

Max bounds, bounces, boings, basically spending as much time as he can airborne. Riley unfolds -- slowly and with great grace. He could be a yoga instructor, his downward-facing dog is a masterpiece in perfect lines.

To keep the peace (I'm following Riley's lead here) and order in the pack, Max gets the first round of ear scratches, fur ruffles and toy-tugging time. Riley hangs back for a few minutes before walking over to say good morning. And that's when it begins.

Read more Riley the greyhound experiences sibling rivalry »

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

11:12 AM, May 26, 2008

So I say to hell with tofu. Pass me the cow.

Columnist Al Martinez muses on a healthy diet, tofu salads, and the joys of a big steak and a martini in today's L.A. Times. And he confesses:

Worrying about my health, the planet, animals and the frightening possibility that PETA's efforts might end up turning the world over to humorless true believers who eat nothing but organically grown lettuce and seaweed put me in a blue funk.

We guess that's what the martini and steak are for ... to cure the blue funk.

In the meantime, PETA offers a "free vegetarian starter kit" on its website.

--Alice Short

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

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

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

9:42 AM, May 16, 2008

Los Angeles Times Entertainment Editor Betsy Sharkey is in the process of adopting a greyhound, Riley, at right, that used to race at the Caliente Racing Track in Tijuana. She will periodically post updates on his assimilation into her family here on L.A. Unleashed. Today she writes about meeting Riley.

Riley_on_adoption_day "I think I've found the perfect dog for you." It was Beverly from Greyhound Pets of America calling about another greyhound for me to consider adopting.

It had been about a week since the wrenching meeting with Bobby, the wily white and red greyhound that I had walked away from. Just too much energy to combine with my English Setter puppy, Max. Perfect was good. But still I hesitated.

After Bobby, I'd decided to hold off any adoption until Max finished another 5 weeks of puppy obedience school. At 8, this grey, Beverly assured me, was much much calmer than Bobby. We could meet at her house then drive over to La Habra Heights, where this dog was in foster care.

And so, late on a Sunday afternoon, I started the journey to find my perfect greyhound again. I hadn't even asked the dog's name -- not a good sign.

As Max and I pulled up to the house, Beverly walked into the front yard with a handsome red and black brindle greyhound who'd just come from the track the day before. Greyhound rescue groups call it "Retirement Day," and they turn it into a celebration of dog washes and naming and placing the new greyhounds into foster homes. Beverly had taken this one.

All the GPA greyhounds who retired on April 19 from Caliente were named in some way after "The Simpsons." This beautiful boy was dubbed Monty, I'm guessing he was named after the classic "Monty Can't Buy Me Love" episode. At least that's the "Simpsons" memory it conjured up for me...

Read more Betsy meets Monty the greyhound -- soon to be renamed Riley »

11:00 AM, May 14, 2008

The king of Nepal drew the ire of an animal rights group this week after sacrificing five animals, including a buffalo, at a shrine outside Kathmandu.

Reuters, reporting on the sacrifice as well as the King Gyanendra's uncertain future, said the king went to the shrine Monday to offer annual prayers to Kali, the Hindu goddess of power. The king faces the abolition of the 239-year-old monarchy because Maoists emerged as the biggest party in assembly elections in April. Reuters reported the contrasting views of the animal sacrifice:

     Earlier at the shrine, the king sat crossed-legged in front of the deity and offered prayers as five animals -- a buffalo, a goat, a lamb, a duck and a rooster -- were sacrificed to goddess Kali, a common practice among Hindus, to please the deity.

     "This is a ritual for peace and prosperity for the self and the family," priest Sekhar Prasad Pandit said after performing the 45-minute ritual. "This is done in the hope to get one’s desires fulfilled."

     As the king arrived driving a black limousine, dozens of people including some royalists cheered and offered him flowers.

     Some animal rights activists were angry. "We must immediately stop sacrificing animals in temples," an animal rights group, Prannath Kalyan Samaj, said in a pamphlet distributed near the temple.

-- Steve Padilla

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

11:42 AM, May 7, 2008

Adelanto’s head animal control officer has resigned as he faces charges in the drowning of nearly 50 kittens, the Associated Press reported today.

Kevin Murphy, 36, was placed on paid leave in March after prosecutors accused him of drowning the kittens over a four-month period. He faces six counts of animal cruelty.

City Manager Jim Hart on Tuesday said Murphy’s resignation was effective May 1. Murphy couldn’t be reached for comment.

Adelanto is about 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

--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

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

9:43 AM, April 24, 2008


Friends and colleagues of an animal trainer killed by a performing bear called it a "freak accident" Wednesday and said the 700-pound grizzly should not be euthanized, Times staff writer David Kelly reports.

"The same thing he was doing I have done a hundred times. We wrestle the bears in a loving way," said Joel Almquist, an animal trainer who has worked extensively with Rocky, the 5-year-old grizzly who killed 39-year-old Stephan Miller, pictured here, on Tuesday with a single bite to the neck.

"This bear has never shown aggression," Almquist said. "It was a flash bite, a real quick . . . bam. Unfortunately, we are built like tissue paper compared to them."

At the same time Wednesday, animal rights advocates said the bear's owner, Stephan Miller's cousin, Randy Miller, had a history of neglecting his cast of exotic movie animals and have called for the bear's retirement from showbiz.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released inspection reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture citing Randy Miller for keeping animals in small enclosures without roofs, keeping them in pens with ripped plywood and improperly storing food.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: AP/DMV

5:21 PM, April 23, 2008


The Animal Liberation Front is claiming responsibility for releasing 40 mink Monday from a fur farm in Jefferson, Ore., and for destroying the farm's breeding records, the Seattle Times reports.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, the animal-rights group said the mink would be better off "to die free" than at the hands of the fur farm.  The sabotage was announced by the North American Animal Liberation Press Office in Los Angeles and attributed to ALF-Cascadia.

Fur Commission USA, which represents fur farms, reported Tuesday that all the mink were recovered and returned to their pens.

But the Animal Liberation Front statement also warned that sabotage would continue unless the owners of the Jefferson Fur Farm shut down their operation.

-Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Steve Ringman/Seattle Times

5:30 PM, April 17, 2008

Goose_4 Is the average American church unaware of animal rights? Is there an inverse correlation between church attendance and support for such rights?

An opinion piece in today's Harvard Crimson attempts to answer those questions. For a different take on religion and animals, read Times staff writer Stephanie Simon's Column One article below.

Photo: Robert Lachman /Los Angeles Times

Read more Inquiring minds ask: Where do animals and religion meet? »

10:26 AM, April 17, 2008

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is urging the Orange County district attorney's office to "vigorously" prosecute a man who took a video of himself abusing rabbits and a dog, then posted it on MySpace, Tony Barboza reports.

Joseph Anthony Deiss, 19, of Yorba Linda was charged last week with three counts of animal cruelty and three charges of animal abuse by a caretaker after allegedly throwing a pug and two rabbits 15 to 30 feet in the air and allowing them to hit the ground. The video was allegedly shot in Deiss' backyard in June 2007.

"They were a little dazed and confused, but it does not appear that any of the pets died as a result of this incident," said Farrah Emami, a district attorney's office spokeswoman, referring to the video.

PETA showed the video to authorities after discovering it last month, prompting investigations by Anaheim police and the district attorney's office.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

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 »