Good morning, and welcome to Essential California newsletter. Are Friday March 3.
For a growing number of LA’s wealthiest residents, high-tech cameras and smart alarm systems no longer provide adequate security. They opt for a more low-tech form of protection that is already there since ancient times: dogs.
As my colleague Andrea Chang reported this week, protection dogs are on duty at the homes (or yachts) of professional athletes, business magnates, A-list celebrities, and other affluent residents — and are now seen as a status symbol.
They may be low-tech, but the well-trained canines don’t come cheap.
“I thought they might be $10,000 or so,” Andrea told me this week. “(I) definitely didn’t expect to hear $45,000 to $230,000.”
But at those prices, the wealthy don’t get your typical watchdog, she explained:
They are primarily family animals. They have undergone years of specialized training so they are sociable, well-adjusted, good with children and can be taken anywhere – but they are also capable of defending their owners should the need arise.
Concerns about rising crime – inclusive increases in burglaries, hitting and grabbing thefts in luxury stores and “follow-house” robberies – have led to a growing interest in “personal dog bodyguards,” as some are marketed.
“It’s better right now to have the guard dog in case something happens,” a woman who trains her own guard dog told Andrea. “Believe me, (criminals will) want to bite the dog instead of the gunshot.”
To see how these dogs are trained, Andrea visited Delta K9 Academy in North Hollywood, which breeds and trains protection dogs.
“They have dozens of dogs there, from puppies to adults, and the training they undergo to reach protection levels is intense,” she told me this week. “I watched the dogs learn how to correctly perform bite-and-hold maneuvers, jump through windows and out of cars, and fend off aggressors.”
Many of the dogs — typically German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Dobermanns, and Cane Corsos — were bred out of state, and in some cases imported from Europe. Andrea spoke to breeders in Montana and South Carolina who run training complexes and sell their dogs for $150,000 per pup.
Trainers told Andrea that there is a misconception that protection dogs are vicious and uncontrollable.
“On the contrary, the animals are bred for temperament (intelligence and stability are key) and they learn to be compliant and calm under pressure,” she wrote. “The goal is an adaptable, even-keeled animal that can accompany and defend its owner anywhere.”
According to the American Veterinary Medical Assn, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and children are the most common victims. Fatal dog attacks are rare, estimated at several dozen in the US each year.
Watch Andrea’s story and see protection dogs in training.
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Federal Regulators Will Allow Pacific Gas & Electric to Continue to Run Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Beyond 2025, when the facility was initially scheduled to close. Gov. Gavin Newsom claims California still needs the plant, which remains the largest source of electricity for the state. Los Angeles Times
How many people will end up riding California’s long-planned, long-delayed bullet train? Significantly less than previously estimated, the California High-Speed Rail Authority said in a report this week. Officials cited COVID-19’s impact on commuting patterns and low population growth for falling estimates. Fresno bee
CRIME, COURT AND POLICE
LA has become a hub for illegal gambling parlors – and crime pays. Times reporter Matthew Ormseth explores the hidden casitas, where gamblers play electronic games and winnings find their way to the Mexican mafia. Los Angeles Times
Two Bay Area men were sentenced this week to prison for their plot to destroy the Democratic Party headquarters in California. Ian Benjamin Rogers of Napa and Jarrod Copeland of Vallejo were sentenced to nine years and 4½ years respectively. The two men planned a bombing of the Sacramento Building on the day of President Biden’s inauguration, fueled by former President Trump’s false allegations of voter fraud. Los Angeles Times
The police in San Diego want their restored access to hundreds of streetlight cameras and Unpleasant add hundreds more, plus license plate readers, on local streets, which would make it the largest city in the US to roll out surveillance as a single network. Community members will be able to voice their opinions before anything is decided — and it was public outcry that pressured the city to cut off access to the technology in 2020. San Diego Union Tribune
HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT
Thanks to the unusually wet winter weather, more than half of California is no longer drought-free. That’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s assessment in its latest Drought monitor report. About a quarter of the state is still categorized as being in severe drought. Los Angeles Times
Pandemic food benefits end for nearly 3 million California homes. With experts warning that food insecurity will get worse, it’s unclear what Newsom and state lawmakers will do. Los Angeles Times
Are themed restaurants making a comeback? My colleague Todd Martens visited a steampunk chocolate empire with robots (well, people in robot costumes) and explored the history of establishments going all in with a motive. Los Angeles Times
For EV drivers, fear of range is real. The San Francisco Chronicle has created a tool to help road trippers gauge how far Teslas and other electric cars can get between charges. San Francisco Chronicle
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Today California landmark comes from Arthur Litman from Culver City: the hangout of elephant seals along Highway 1, just north of San Simeon.
(It’s) so satisfying to see the elephant seal population recovering and lounging in the sun. I could stand there for hours watching them cover themselves in sand and watch their interactions.
What are the essential California landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special place in California – natural or man-made. Tell us why it is interesting and why it is a symbol of life in the Golden State. Make sure to only include photos taken directly by you. Your submission may be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.
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