Canine News from Near and Far, June 2010

Big Blaze at Berkeley Humane

In the wee hours of the morning on May 20, a fire destroyed a large section of Berkeley East Bay Humane Society’s facility at 2700 Ninth Street. Tragically, 15 cats lost their lives; all canine residents of the shelter survived. The organization’s offices and laundry area were destroyed, and in the immediate aftermath of the event, it had no water, electricity, or phone service.

Friends of Berkeley Humane immediately spread the word, encouraging animal lovers in the greater Bay Area to make monetary donations, volunteer in the clean-up and repair effort, and provide foster care for dogs and cats who would need lodging while the building was brought back from the ashes. Dog lovers immediately began planning fundraisers, determined to help get the 80+-year-old organization back on its feet as quickly as possible.

At press time, the fire was breaking news. As you read this, some progress will have been made. Still, it takes a long and concerted effort for an animal care facility to recover from this type of disaster. Visit today to see how you can help out.


Barking boosts Funds in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to enforce a local ordinance that makes it an offense to own a dog whose barking bothers the neighbors. The fine will be $100, more for repeat offenders. Last year, the city’s animal services officers gave warnings to nearly 20,000 people who violated the law, but there was no financial penalty. Apparently, the city could use an extra $2 million. Hopefully, the windfall will benefit the city’s shelter animals.


Supreme Court Overturns Animal Cruelty Act of 1999

In late April, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law against selling videos or photos of animals being illegally wounded or killed, on grounds that such images were protected by the first amendment’s free speech provisions. The 8-1 decision overturned the conviction of a man who had been convicted of selling dog-fighting videos to federal agents. He appealed the decision on constitutional grounds. 

The law in question was the Animal Cruelty Act passed by Congress in 1999, which outlawed commercial trafficking of depictions of animal cruelty, except those with “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.” The law was defended by government lawyers in the case on grounds that photos of animals being tortured had little value and had a grave impact on society. The same argument is used in the banning of child pornography.

The one dissenting justice, Samuel Alito, spoke out against overturning “in its entirety a valuable statute that was enacted not to suppress speech, but to prevent horrific acts of animal cruelty –  and in particular, the creation and commercial exploitation of ‘crush videos,’ a form of depraved entertainment that has no social value.” The Humane Society of the U.S. – which led an investigation into crush videos – decried the high court’s decision, as did many other animal advocacy groups. The day after the Court issued its ruling, U.S. Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and a bipartisan group of 55 other Representatives introduced H.R. 5092, which would outlaw the sale of crush videos. To read the text of the bill or follow its progress, visit


Pet Fur Finds a Purpose

As of press time, a non-profit environmental group in San Francisco called Matter of Trust was spearheading an international campaign to collect animal fur and other natural fibers to be made into mats and “hair sausages” that could soak up oil from the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The group’s website called on “Anyone and everyone: salons, groomers, wool farmers and individuals” to sign up to donate hair, fur, waste wool, as well as nylon stockings,) for its Hair for Oil Spills program. 

Learn more about the campaign by visiting