Have you seen those heartbreaking commercials for the ASPCA (short for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) featuring pictures of abandoned cats and dogs as Sarah McLachlan sings "In The Arms of An Angel?" Makes you want to whip out that checkbook and send them a donation, doesn't it?

Well, go ahead. It's a very worthy organization. But if you think any of that money is going to filter down to local animals, think again.

That's because the ASPCA, despite the "American" in its title, is simply the New York society. It gets to put "American" before the name because it was the first SPCA in the country. It is not -- repeat, not -- an umbrella organization for SPCAs all over the country, including the East Bay SPCA.

If you send the ASPCA a donation you'll help some very deserving cats and dogs in New York. But if you want your dough to go to animals closer to home, you'll have to contribute to a local organization.

Same for the HSUS, the Humane Society of the United States. It's a lobbying organization in Washington, D.C., that operates no shelters of its own. And it has no -- repeat, no -- connection to humane societies across the country that do operate shelters, such as the Berkeley Humane Society. Again, if you want your money to do some good here, you'll have to contribute directly to a local organization.

So what's the difference between an SPCA and a humane society? Answer: nothing. They're both private adoption agencies for homeless cats and dogs that cooperate closely with their respective city shelters.


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They are supplemented by local rescue groups, such as Island Cat Resources & Adoption, Fix Our Ferals, Hopalong, Muttville, Home At Last, Furry Friends Rescue, Community Concerned For Cats, Rocket Dog Rescue, San Francisco Bay Area Dog Rescue and Adopt A Dog, as well as breed-specific dog- and cat-rescue groups. These organizations deserve our support, too.

"Maverick" memories: Finally, a fond farewell to James Garner, television's first anti-hero. In an era when westerns dominated the airwaves and every other actor was trying to be John Wayne-light, his character, Brett Maverick, was a charming rogue who did everything he could to avoid getting into a fistfight, let alone a shootout. In the stolid, button-down 1950s, that was a breath of fresh air.

I still remember the dilemma I faced every Sunday night: should I watch "Maverick" on ABC or Ed Sullivan on CBS?

Solution: I tuned in to the first 30 seconds of" Maverick" to see if that week's episode was going to be about Brett (Garner) or his brother Bart (Jack Kelly). If it was Brett, I watched "Maverick." If it was Bart, I would groan and immediately switch over to Sullivan.

Garner played variations on that character for the rest of his career, most notably on "The Rockford Files" and in two World War II movies -- "The Great Escape," in which he played the scrounger, of course, and "The Americanization of Emily," which paired him hilariously with Julie Andrews at her earnest do-gooder best.

He was also one of the greatest Raiders fans of all time. I can't remember a game during the team's heyday in the 1970s when he wasn't on the sidelines cheering them on.

Reach Martin Snapp at catman@sunset.net.