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October 28, 2009 > 2009 California animal legislation... the good and not-so-good news

2009 California animal legislation... the good and not-so-good news

By Virginia Handley, OHS Advisor & Legislative Director for Paw PAC

Nothing is more powerful than the written word, especially if it is written in a law book. Paw PAC, California's political action committee for animals, has been active in the California Legislature since 1980. We publish an annual Voting Chart grading the legislators. Our 2009 Chart will be available soon. We also put out an e-mail alert giving the latest information on pending legislation, host monthly meetings in Sacramento, and endorse candidates for state Assembly and Senate seats. Activists are welcome to join us.

The legislative session for 2009 is over until 2010. It was not as good for animals as it should have been.

Among the good bills that made it through the Legislature and were signed by the Governor:

AB 242 by Assemblyman Pedro Nava increases the penalty for dog fighting spectators. They may get up to a year in county jail and up to a $5,000 fine. There are no innocent spectators

AB 708 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman increases the penalty for poaching wildlife. They may get a minimum fine of $5,000 to a maximum of $40,000. Poaching is big business; small fines are considered the cost of doing that business.

SB 135 by Senator Dean Florez prohibits the painful practice of tail docking cows. Some dairies remove the tail to keep the cow's back end cleaner, but it is considered by veterinarians an unnecessary mutilation; cows need their tails to swat flies.

SB 318 by Senator Ron Calderon authorizes the forfeiture of assets gained through dog fighting by trainers, organizers, property owners and people who steal pets to be used as bait for training dogs to kill. It would have been great if this law applied to Michael Vick who used his property for training and fighting.

SB 448 by Senator Fran Pavley establishes the Safe Harbor Program to encourage land owners to conserve their property to benefit endangered and threatened wildlife. With all the efforts being made to open private property for hunting, it is refreshing to see a law passed to protect wildlife.

Included among bad bills that passed:

AB 1423 by Assemblyman Tom Berryhill provides incentives for land owners to allow hunting by joining SHARE (Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement). One might assume that means wildlife and bird watching but the only watching is through the scope of a gun.

AB 1442 by the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee is an omnibus bill that includes some good provisions but among its bad provisions is a requirement that the California Wildlife Conservation Board must allow hunting on any property it leases. A provision to allow hunting contests was successfully removed from the bill. In spite of the fact that only 1% of Californians hunt, the hunting/gun lobby is very successful influencing the Legislature and the Fish & Game Department. All Fish & Game Commissioners are hunters.

SB 609 by Senator Dennis Hollingsworth postpones a ban on the importation of alligator and crocodile products until 2015. I would expect the introduction of another bill closer to 2015 to postpone or repeal the ban. Alligator farms, which are banned in California, are overcrowded and cruel and make it harder to protect endangered reptiles whose skins are similar.

SB 762 by Senator Sam Aanestad prohibits cities and counties from passing ordinances on "healing arts." The purpose of the bill is to stop any local ordinances (such as passed in West Hollywood) to prohibit the de-clawing of cats. The California Veterinary Association knows they have more influence on the state level than they do locally and adamantly support de-clawing which brings in money.

Among the good bills vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger:

AB 241 by Assemblyman Pedro Nava would have limited the number of adult unneutered dogs and cats to 50 for sale or breeding. No responsible breeder needs more than 50 dogs or cats. The bill was intended to address overcrowding and deprivation that results in places such as puppy mills.

AB 243 by Assemblyman Pedro Nava would have mandated the court to prohibit people convicted of cruelty to own or care for animals as part of their probation. We certainly don't allow people who abuse children to work in a day care center. Most people convicted of such crimes are repeat offenders.

AB 1122 by Assemblyman Ted Lieu would have prohibited the sale of animals, with some exemptions, on streets, highways, and parking lots. Many puppy mill puppies are smuggled into California from Mexico under terrible conditions. It is very difficult to enforce or follow up laws on people who are constantly moving.

Among good animals bills that didn't make it through the Legislature to the Governor this year but may try again in 2010:

AB 233 by Assemblyman Cameron Smyth would have allowed deductions of pet adoption costs up to $100 for animals from shelters and rescue groups.

AB 1224 by Assemblyman Mike Eng would have required motorists who hit pets or livestock to notify authorities, such as animal control. Many injured animals could be saved if action is taken quickly.

AB 1437 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman would have prohibited the importation of eggs from out-of-state factory farms that don't comply with California law (Proposition 2) requiring enough space for hens to spread their wings.

SB 250 by Senator Dean Florez would have required the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats. Even though the bill provided numerous exemptions it was still heavily opposed.

SB 416 by Senator Dean Florez would have encouraged schools not to serve meat products treated with antibiotics.

Animal advocates are welcome to join Paw PAC. We can be reached at Paw PAC, PO Box 475012, San Francisco, California 94147; (415) 646-0622. Our website is and email address is

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