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March 12, 2008 > Ohlone Humane Society: Does your legislator make the grade?

Ohlone Humane Society: Does your legislator make the grade?

By Virginia Handley - Guest Columnist, PawPAC

Many movements are born at kitchen tables. A few friends of like mind gather together and give birth to new ideas and efforts. So it was with PawPAC. This love child is now twenty-eight years old and still frisky as a kitten with a ball of yarn called politics. Around the table sat decades of legislative experience; among them Gladys Sargent, part owner of the Oakland Raiders, who had been lobbying for animals since 1947, Gretchen Wyler, Broadway star and animal activist since 1960, and me, who had been lobbying on behalf of author Cleveland Amory since 1970. We wanted to tell other animal people how their California legislators supported or opposed humane legislation.

Since then we have passed laws to make animal cruelty a felony, prohibited painful animal experiments in elementary, high schools and science fairs, provided emergency veterinary care for injured strays, required lost and found lists and banned inhumane killing of animals in shelters, half price licensing for spayed or neutered dogs, banned canned hunts (where animals can't escape), protected wild horses, elephants, sea turtles, baby seals and kangaroos from California markets, and mandated humane treatment of animals in pet shops.

These and many other animal protection laws have made California a model for legislation in other states. But it's not enough to pass good bills. We have to kill bad bills. We kept greyhound racing out of California, and defeated other bills that hurt animals, both wild and domestic. One of the many challenges of protecting animals in the Capitol Building is to expect the unexpected, be it banning alligator farms and cutting off of elk antlers in velvet or the hunting of animals by internet.

And our work has just begun.

Since 1980 PawPAC has published annual charts of Voting Records - a report card - of the California State Legislature on bills affecting animals and the environment. The 2007 Voting Record is now available. While there are other bills of interest and importance, the Voting Chart concentrates on bills whose votes reflect significant support and opposition.
AB 821 by Assemblyman Pedro Nava prohibits lead shot in condor habitat. While we ban lead in paint and toys, the state allow hunters to spread it all over the countryside in their ammunition, poisoning our wildlife. It's known to have killed condors who eat the carcasses of animals hunters leave behind. Tremendous efforts have been made to rehabilitate and release sickened condors only to have them poisoned again. Lead shot should be banned throughout the state but the gun lobby opposes any such effort. AB 821 passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor, who ironically removed a Fish and Game Commissioner because of the Commissioner's opposition to lead shot.

AB 828 by Assemblyman Ira Ruskin would have required our state's Wildlife Conservation Board to determine and protect important wildlife corridors. With ever increasing encroachment and destruction of habitat by housing developments and freeways, wildlife continues to lose the ability to move from one area to another exposing them to isolation, starvation, and danger. Unfortunately, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 828.

AB 1477 by Assemblywoman Nell Soto would have required licensed wildlife trappers to have continuing education, release non-target animals, and inform clients of non-lethal options. Wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, opossums, coyotes, and bats often conflict with people who want to get them out of their attics and yards. So they hire trappers at considerable expense to get rid of them. These trappers often tell customers the animals will be released elsewhere when in actuality they kill them, sometimes by inhumane means such as clubbing or drowning. The tragedy is that so often it is not necessary when simple efforts can be made to keep unwanted wildlife out. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1477.

AB 1614 by Assemblywoman Audra Strickland expands the coverage of existing law requiring rodeos to have a veterinarian either on site or on call to treat injured horses, cattle and calves. This expansion includes Charreadas which are Mexican style rodeos. All rodeos are rough on animals. The least we can do is to prevent their pain and suffering when injured. AB 1614 passed. We need to encourage our humane societies and animal control agencies to enforce it.

AB 1634 by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine requires the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats unless they are service or show animals. Pet overpopulation costs millions of lives and dollars. Opposition from breeders stopped AB 1634 halfway through the Legislature but is expected to be brought up again in 2008.

SB 63 by Senator Carole Midgen would have required products from cloned farm animals to be labeled as such. Customers want and have a right to know the origin of animals they eat. SB 63 was vetoed.

SB 880 by Senator Ron Calderon repealed a prohibition against the importation of kangaroo products into California. For over thirty years we have protected kangaroos from the California market much to the distress of Adidas who wants to make sport shoes out of them. These kangaroos, much like the baby seals, are horribly killed. We don't allow baby seal products in California and we should have the right to prohibit kangaroo products for the same reason. SB 880 passed. Expect to see some exotic boots in the Capitol.

In 2007, 57 legislators earned an "A" while 35 rated an "F." Governor Schwarzenegger got a "D." Eleven legislators received "Special Thanks" while eight got a "No Thanks." "Thanks" are given to those who authored pro-animal legislation and "No Thanks" are given to those who authored anti-animal legislation or particularly helped an anti-animal bill.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava is PawPAC's Legislator of the Year, not only because of his outspoken support for animal protection, but for his authoring of AB 821 to prohibit deadly lead ammunition in condor habitat.

We are lucky in the Bay Area to have some very good environmental and animal protection legislators. Senator Ellen Corbett from San Leandro (510/413-5960) scores an "A" as she did when she was in the Assembly. She now chairs the important Senate Judiciary Committee where many animal bills go, such as SB 685 by San Francisco Senator Leland Yee, which unanimously (a rare occurrence in partisan politics) passed her Committee in January.

It strengthens pet trusts to make sure animals are properly cared for according to people's wills. Assemblyman Alberto Torrico from Fremont (510/440-9030) also scored an "A" for his votes on the bills listed above. We look forward to his continued tenure and advocacy. Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi from Hayward (510/583-8818) is a welcome addition to the Legislature as she also scores an "A." Senator Don Perata from Oakland and Assemblywoman Loni Hancock from Berkeley enjoy "A" grades.

PawPAC is non-partisan. Grades are based on performance, not politics, and are determined mathematically. It would be wonderful to give every legislator an "A" because it would mean animal protection is supported by everyone as it should be.

PawPAC will publish its endorsements before the June 2008 State Primary. To receive our Voting Chart contact us at 415/646-0224, PO Box 475012, San Francisco 94147 You may also sign up for e-mail legislative alerts. We host legislative meetings in Sacramento for animal people to which you are invited to share your information, opinion and expertise.

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