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November 7, 2007 > OHS


Carrots and a Stick for the Governor

By Nancy Lyon

The halls of the California State Legislature are relatively quiet during the yearly adjournment in the fall. Lingering are the echoes of the passions of people who came to either support or fight proposed bills that would impact their personal view of what is right...or wrong.

This year saw some much needed animal welfare legislation passed into law. Included were minimum standards for animal care in pet shops, added legal protection for animals who may be in harm's way from domestic abuse, and protections for wildlife and rodeo animals.

On the downside, attempts to require the Wildlife Conservation Board to target and provide vitally needed wildlife corridors; insure that licensed animal trappers have continuing education, release or take injured/sick non-targeted animals to a vet, shelter or wildlife rehab center...were shot down. A controversial mandatory spay/neuter bill that generated high passions on both sides of the issue was withdrawn very possibly to rise again as a stronger piece of legislation in the future.

Animal related bills that did make it to the Governor's desk placed him in a position of trying to please both pro and anti-animal advocates. Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law three bills that drew both kudos and boos from the animal protection community.

Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of bill sponsor Eric Mills, coordinator of Action for Animals (and OHS Community Relations Director), all rodeo animals in California have protection under the law. The governor signed the Rodeo Animal Protection Bill that extends equal protection to animals used in Mexican-style rodeos, or charreadas, exactly as those currently mandated for American-style rodeo animals. Included are an on-site or on-call veterinarian, treatment and a conveyance for injured or dying animals, and banned usage of electric prods.

And in a surprising move, the Governor did not buckle to the tremendous pressure from the hunting and gun lobby and signed the Condor Preservation Act. California law now prohibits the use of lead shot by big game and coyote hunters in current and historical Condor habitat. Poisoning from ingesting an animal carcass killed with lead ammunition and left behind by hunters has been documented, and presented a major threat to the survival and recovery of the California Condor, an endangered species.

Unfortunately, the governor caved to the pressure of commercial interests like Adidas, and signed the Kangaroo Bill overturning a 1970 law that banned the importation of kangaroo skins and meat. Thanks to this move, kangaroos face imminent danger now that their skins can legally be sold in California.

Millions of kangaroos are shot for their skins every year in Australia. According to Australian government code, orphaned joeys and wounded adults should be killed by being decapitated or hit sharply on the head "to destroy the brain." When hunters kill a mother kangaroo with a baby in her pouch, the baby is often yanked from the mother's lifeless body and stomped to death or left to die horribly.

With a now increased market for trinkets and baubles manufactured from the slaughter, the future of the species' existence is in question. Australian government statistics show that kangaroo populations have been dwindling and are now the lowest that they have been in more than a decade. Since hunters usually kill kangaroos at night, it is virtually impossible for them to check that the kangaroos aren't a protected species before shooting them. An increased demand for any kangaroo skin will further jeopardize Australia's kangaroo populations.

Politicians have many masters and financial needs. Governor Schwarzenegger, with aspirations to become California's next U.S. Senator, is no different. A record of two out of three isn't bad - unless you're a kangaroo.

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