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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Governor Brown Steps Up to Stop Animal Cruelty

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed two important animal protection bills into law this week, filling gaps in the law and marking more measurable progress for animals in the Golden State.

Senate Bill 917, introduced by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, prohibits the sale of animals in parking lots, alongside roads, at carnivals or boardwalks, and also increases the state’s criminal penalties for animal neglect. Animals sold at these unregulated, outdoor venues may live in unsanitary, crowded cages, without food or water, and without protection from extreme heat or cold. Some of the animals are so ill they die shortly after purchase, representing a problem for consumers as well as animal welfare.

Senate Bill 426, authored by Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, strengthens the state law against animal fighting, by allowing landlords to evict tenants who engage in the public nuisance of dogfighting or cockfighting activities on their property. California has weak penalties for cockfighting crimes, especially compared to neighboring states such as Arizona and Oregon, and it's become a magnet for animal fighters who want to evade the tougher penalties elsewhere. Just this past weekend, Madera County officials arrested nine people, including two juveniles, and seized 45 roosters at a property that borders a school and has been used repeatedly for cockfighting.

Sutter Brown, the governor's dog, getting a belly rub from a Boy Scout troop<br />photo: Jennifer Fearing
Sutter Brown, the governor's dog, getting a belly rub
from a Boy Scout troop.
photo: Jennifer Fearing

The bills on roadside sales and animal neglect, in fact, had passed the legislature before, but were vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had a schizophrenic record on animal welfare issues. The new governor’s signing of these common-sense policy reforms demonstrates just what a difference a single election can make and the importance of having humane-minded lawmakers elected to public office. The governor’s Welsh corgi, Sutter Brown, is not only a familiar tail wagging around the Capitol, but the governor’s support for animal welfare policies is getting noticed by animal advocates, too.

“Governor Brown’s signing of these bills signals his desire to enact meaningful reforms protecting animals in the Golden State,” said Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for The HSUS. “With two strokes of his pen, Governor Brown brings us closer to stopping cruel animal fighting, unscrupulous peddling of animals on roads, and heartwrenching animal neglect. We are grateful for his humane leadership.”

The two California measures bring us up to 82 new laws for animal protection passed in the states so far in 2011. Some of the major highlights include Mississippi becoming the 47th state to establish felony-level penalties for animal cruelty, Oregon and Washington banning the sale of shark fins, Hawaii making it a felony to be a spectator at a dogfight, Texas cracking down on cockfighting and puppy mills, and a number of states strengthening the penalties for wildlife poaching and requiring the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze and engine coolant to prevent poisoning of pets and wildlife.

A few state legislatures are still in session, and we could see another record year for animal protection lawmaking as 2011 comes to a close. Please find out about the pending animal welfare bills in your state, as well as the federal bills in Congress, and let your elected officials know these public policies are important to you as a constituent. 


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