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November 13, 2012 > Ohlone Humane Society: Political Animals

Ohlone Humane Society: Political Animals

By Virginia Handley

As the election dust settles, campaign ads have mercifully disappeared and the 2012 state legislative session adjourns until January. Because of the election there will be many new legislators. Due to term limits, we are losing very good legislators such as San Mateo's Senator Joe Simitian. It's time to look back on the bills that passed or failed. As the Legislative Advisor to OHS and a member of Paw PAC, California's Political Action for Animals, we monitored 50 pieces of legislation affecting animals. Among those that were supported and passed:

Assembly Bill (AB) 2402 authored by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (who is going to Congress) changes the name of the California Department of Fish and Game to Department of Fish and Wildlife. It establishes an independent scientific advisory panel, authorized partnerships with non-profit organizations, and creates an "environmental crime task force." This new law will reflect the broad responsibilities the Department has to all wildlife and their habitats, not just "game." Next year Governor Jerry Brown has an opportunity to appoint at least two Fish and Game Commissioners who oversee the Department. The Commission has always been dominated by hunters. It's time for more environmentalists.

Senate Bill (SB) 1145 authored by Senator Bill Emmerson raises the maximum fines for animal fighting from $5,000 to $10,000 and from $1,000 to $5,000 for spectators. Dog fighting and cock fighting are among the cruelest abuse of animals for entertainment and gambling. The penalties have to be high to be meaningful and encourage enforcement.

SB 1221 authored by Senator Ted Lieu bans the hunting of bears and bobcats with dogs with the exception of pursuing them under a depredation permit or for research purposes. SB 1221 was the most controversial and contested bill in the Capitol Building, filling the halls and hearing rooms with hundreds of hunters and animal advocates. Hound hunting, as it's called, entails dogs pursuing bears or bobcats sometimes for hours until the bear or bobcat is too exhausted to continue and climbs a tree to escape. The hunter then comes and shoots him/her at close range until the animal falls out of the tree. The majority of the legislators and animal advocates do not consider this "fair chase."

SB 1229 authored by Senator Fran Pavley prohibits landlords from requiring the de-clawing of cats or de-barking of dogs as a condition of rentals. De-clawing is a form of amputation and completely unnecessary as is de-barking. While rentals may be temporary, these procedures are permanent.

SB 1500 authored by Senator Ted Lieu amends and improves law enforcement procedures in dealing with "owners" of seized or abandoned animals to be sure the animals can be cared for properly. It does the animals no good to be returned to abusive or neglectful people.

The California Fish and Game Commission passed amended regulations to improve the inspections of facilities where captive exotic animals are kept, including circuses. This is the result of a successful law suit by animal advocates, I am among them, that maintained the Department was violating existing law by allowing permittees to have their own paid veterinarians conduct inspections, a conflict of interest. The Commission also accepted a petition by wolf defenders asking them to protect a lone wolf, OR7, who wandered into California from Oregon. Fortunately, the Commission will once again consider banning the importation of frogs and turtles for live animal markets and the pet trade. Many are diseased and released in California where they are killing our native wildlife.

While good bills were passed, others failed. Among them:

AB 298 authored by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (who is going to Congress) would have phased out plastic bags that have a onetime use and require stores to make reusable bags available for sale. Plastic bags are a major source of litter often killing wildlife who mistake them for food.

SB 969 authored by Senator Juan Vargas would have set up a California Pet Grooming Council to certify trained groomers and set standards in housing and handling. It would have been a voluntary certification program. This was the second unsuccessful attempt to protect animals from injuries by untrained groomers and unsafe handling.

SB 1480 authored by Alameda County's Senator Ellen Corbett was vetoed by the Governor and is probably the most disappointing loss to animals this year. It would have established a special license for people who trap wildlife, often called "nuisance wildlife trappers." Under current law the animals must have damaged property, but often they are trapped and killed just because they are considered a nuisance. SB 1480 would have banned cruel killing methods such as drowning, crushing chests, or injecting chemicals and would have required trappers to give information to their customers about current laws. Many people assume or are told that the animals will be released to the wild. But that is against the Fish and Game Code. If you have a wildlife problem, call a wildlife rehabilitation center for suggestions.

SB 1523 authored by Senator Tony Strickland would have provided money from fines and fees to go into the "Retired California Race Horses Fund" for the retirement, rehabilitation, and re-training of race horses. Many race horses end up going to slaughterhouses. These animals have won money for their "owners" and deserve a humane retirement instead of being treated with neglect, abuse, and greed.

Virginia Handley has advocated for animals at the State and local levels for more than 30 years. She is President of Paw PAC founded in 1980, and currently heads up the Animal Switchboard. Copies of the bills, the votes, and legislative analyses are available at For more information on PawPAC contact Virginia at (510) 222-2236 or

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