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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

California Scores

Since California’s overwhelming passage of Proposition 2 in 2008 underscored the clear sentiment of voters that all animals deserve humane treatment, including animals raised for food, state lawmakers in Sacramento have advanced a number of policy reforms to stop cruelty and abuse. HSLF has been charting the progress of these efforts on behalf of animals in the state, and has just released the California Humane Scorecard for the 2009 state legislative session.

If you live in California, I hope you’ll take a look at the scorecard, which provides an easy way for constituents to assess how their lawmakers acted on animal protection issues. Legislators were scored based on their votes on eight bills during the session: restricting large-scale puppy mills, increasing penalties for dogfighting spectators, prohibiting convicted animal abusers from owning animals, upgrading laws to combat wildlife poaching, banning the roadside sale of animals, prohibiting the painful and unnecessary tail docking of dairy cows, allowing property to be seized from dogfighters, and establishing a marine mammal sanctuary to protect San Diego’s seals. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed five of the bills into law, on poaching, tail docking, the seal sanctuary, and both dogfighting bills. But he vetoed the three bills on puppy mills, animal abuse felons, and roadside sales.

While the governor’s record was mixed, legislators generally performed very well on animal issues: Of the 118 members of the legislature, 58 received perfect 100 percent scores—indicating support for all eight scored bills (13 members of the Senate and 45 members of the Assembly). Five lawmakers—Assemblymembers Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), and Senators Dean Florez (D-Shafter) and Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego)—received more than 100 percent, reflecting their support for all eight bills, as well as primary leadership on at least one animal issue. The scorecard also notes that a bipartisan group of 24 lawmakers are members of the California Animal Protection Caucus.

We need that strong leadership as more animal welfare policies are on the agenda this year in California. Already in 2010, the state Assembly has passed legislation to require labeling of fur-trimmed garments, and the state Senate has passed a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to ban the export of horses to slaughter. In addition, the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee has rejected two bills: one to expand contest hunts where a prize or other inducement is offered as a reward for killing an animal, and another to prohibit ballot measures on wildlife issues. Another pending bill will increase penalties for animal neglect.

Senator Leland Yee leads a rally at the state capitol
opposing the high-tech trophy hunting of bears.

There are regulatory issues, too. Carla Hall reported today in the Los Angeles Times that the California Fish and Game Commission is considering a proposal to dramatically expand the high-tech trophy hunting of black bears in the state. The plan, which is expected to be voted on tomorrow, could increase the number of bears killed each year by as much as 50 percent, and allow hound hunters to use unsportsmanlike GPS devices and “tip switches” to make it easier to shoot helpless, treed bears at point-blank range. Eighteen state legislators, led by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), wrote to commissioners urging them to reject the proposal.

California is charging forward for animals, but we need your active participation if you live in the state. Use the California Humane Scorecard as a tool to find out how your legislators performed: Please thank them if they did well, and encourage them to do better if they need improvement. And be sure to ask them to support critical animal protection policies that are now pending.


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