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November 22, 2011 > Ohlone Humane Society: Animals and the Oceans Win Big in California

Ohlone Humane Society: Animals and the Oceans Win Big in California

By Nancy Lyon

It was a victorious year for California's animals and the environment thanks to State Legislators and Governor Jerry Brown who signed landmark legislation into law. Critical bills had animal and environmental advocates on pins and needles as they sat on the Governor's desk awaiting his hoped for approval with the clock ticking down to deadline.

The much debated Assembly Bill (AB) 376 by Assemblymembers Paul Fong and Jared Huffman that would prohibit the cruel practice of cutting off shark fins and throwing their mutilated bodies back into the sea was signed by the Governor at what seemed the last minute. With upwards of 73 million sharks world-wide killed yearly for shark fin soup, the future balance of the oceans eco-systems was at stake. When signing, Governor Brown stated "The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans"... "Researchers estimate that some shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent, portending grave threats to our environment and commercial fishing. In the interest of future generations, I have signed this bill."

An unfortunate last minute addition to the Shark Finning Bill, AB 853 was slipped in on the very last day possible with no notice to any of the AB 376 supporters, and with no hearing or testimony. It allows the sale of stockpiled shark fins until July 2013 if they were processed before January 2012. Predictably, this will increase the immediate taking of as many shark fins as possible for the remainder of the year.

On a bright note, also signed into law were two bills that increased the penalties to individuals involved in the cruel blood sport of fighting animals for profit and amusement - Senate Bill (SB) 425 by Senator Ron Calderon established minimum fines for dog/cock fighting and allowed for property forfeitures for cock fighting as is currently provided for dog fighting. Senator Calderon further upped the ante by authoring SB 426 that allows eviction of tenants whose property is used for dog or cock fighting.

Many people have voiced concern over the mandated immunization for rabies and its potential impact on the well-being and even survival of their older or health challenged canine companions. AB 258 by Assemblyman Curt Hangman will now allow exemption of the rabies shot requirement for dogs whose life could be endangered due to disease or other considerations that a veterinarian can verify if the dog received the vaccine, and determined by a licensed veterinarian on an annual basis.

Other pro-animal legislation signed by Governor Brown includes tax check-offs on state personal income tax forms for companion animals and wildlife:

AB 564 by Assemblymembers Cameron Smyth and Cathleen Galiani re-authorizes a voluntary contribution fund to the State tax check-off for spay/neuter to be distributed as grants to a Municipal Shelter Spay/Neuter Fund which would be created by this bill and for the administration of such a fund. The previous fund distributed in excess of $400,000 in grants.

In an important move to continue the protection of Sea Otters, AB 971 by Assemblyman Bill Monning, will extend the Sea Otter tax check-off for five more years to protect sea otters.

The Rare and Endangered Species Program was granted an extension by SB164 by Senator Joe Simitian. The law will extend the tax check-off to 2018.

Going down to defeat and hopefully dead was AB 606 by Assemblyman Mike Gatto. The primary responsibility of the Wildlife Conservation Committee is to select, authorize and allocate funds for the purchase of land and waters suitable for recreation purposes and the preservation, protection and restoration of wildlife habitat. AB 606 was officially designated as hunting legislation, and while mentioning activities such as hiking and bird watching on Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) lands, it was clearly aimed at permitting the California Fish and Game Department to allow hunting and other "wildlife dependent activities" on land under the safe-keeping of the WCB.

2011 saw many pro and anti-animal bills on the floor of the Legislature, with some winning and others beaten or pulled for lack of support.

Our appreciation to the California State Legislators and Governor Brown who made great steps forward this year defending animals and the planet, while often in the face of considerable opposition.

Our gratitude for the continuing support of Virginia Handley who compiles the PawPac California Legislative Action Alert.

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