On Screen: Betty Denny Smith to retire

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July 1996:

HOLLYWOOD–– Betty Denny Smith, 63,
heading the Hollywood office of the American Humane
Association since 1988, has announced she will retire at
the end of 1996, after 27 years in humane work, to
form her own animal protection foundation.
Smith, as director of the Los Angeles County
Department of Animal Care and Control in the 1970s,
was among the first animal control chiefs to abolish
killing by decompression. She later headed the Pet
Assistance Foundation.
The AHA Hollywood office, founded in
1940, monitors the use of animals in films. In 1987,
the year before Smith took over, the office had three
representatives, who monitored 44 movies, 106 TV
productions, and read 147 scripts. In 1995, said
spokesperson Jim Moore, 25 representatives with a
support staff of seven monitored 429 movie and TV productions,
reading nearly 1,000 scripts. “Smith hired a
training officer,” Moore explained, “instituted a field
training curriculum, developed a program for upward
career mobility for representatives, and began an affiliate
program with other humane societies around the
world. She also established an anti-cruelty hotline to
report any abuses of animals used in film.”

The biggest weakness in AHA supervision of
film making now may be that it lacks authority over
documentaries, the area in which abuse may be most
frequent––as recently documented by Mike McPhee and
Jim Carrier of the Denver Post , and by Mindy Sink of
The New York Times. Their high-profile attention to
fake scenes of animals eating and/or fighting each other,
was inspired by a $300,000 judgement rendered January
24 against Wild America cinematographer Marty
Stouffer by a jury in Aspen, Colorado, Stouffer’s home
town, which ruled that Stouffer illegally cut a trail
inside the grounds of the Aspen Center for Environmental
Studies, to gain faster access to a hunting camp.
The case brought forth testimony about
Stouffer’s alleged fakery from rangers and biologists at
Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, and from
Chris Moaklin of Newcastle, Colorado, who said
Stouffer once rented a raccoon from her, then encouraged
the raccoon to attack a tethered rabbit.
PBS responded by suspending broadcast of
Wild Amerca, for which it has paid $18 million since
1977. But ads for one of the most notorious Stauffer
productions, Dangerous Encounters, still run in many
media, promising “Real-Life Horror! The videotape of
wild animals who stalk and attack humans.” This,
reported McPhee and Carrier, “shows a mountain lion
‘attacking’ a Boulder veterinarian who works with
Stouffer, and the mountain lion is tame and playing,
according to Pat Craig, owner of the Rocky Mountain
Wildlife Center in Hudson, Colorado, who used to
work with Stouffer.”
Screen notes
A recently published study of violence
toward animals on TV, done by University of Pennsylvania
communications professor George Gerbner on
commission from the Ark Trust, found such violence
most frequent in Saturday morning, child-oriented programming,
where for every two scenes in which animals
were treated well, there were five in which they
were treated badly. The Ark Trust is best known for
presenting the annual Genesis Awards to the best animal-friendly
screen productions. Among the 1996 winners
were Babe as best feature film; Planet of the Apes
as film classic; the episode “The Ethics of Hope,” from
Chicago Hope, as best TV drama; and In Pursuit of
H o n o r as best TV movie. The 11th annual Genesis
Awards ceremony was aired by the Discovery Channel
on May 25, minus parts of two award-winning film
clips that the Discovery Channel deemed too shocking
for family audiences. One, from the British series
Animal Detectives, showed bile being extracted from
caged bears in China. The other, from Hard Copy,
showed a severe flogging of a horse going to slaughter.
China in April banned the award-winning
film Babe, about a pig who doesn’t want to be slaughtered––possibly
because pigs are the animals most commonly
raised for meat in China. McDonald’s restaurants
took a different view, however, promoting Babe’s
debut on pay-per-view TV with a promotional giveaway
of Babe toys to youngsters who order a “Happy Meal.”

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