Animal welfare advocates and those on the other side of the spectrum are gearing up to go head to head with a host of new California legislation set to be voted on. Several bills that would effect everyone from private pet owners to factory farmers could change the way animal issues are treated under the law.
San Diego Assemblyman Brian Maienschein says “People care passionately about issues involving animals,” and as the only Republican member of the “Legislative Animal Protection Caucus” for lawmakers, he believes that animal welfare and laws governing the topic are highly important to citizens of California. “I love animals. I care about how they are treated,” Maienschein says. “It’s important for me to influence policy to make sure the animals in California are cared for and protected,”
Here is a look at some of the major measures that will be decided in the near future:
• Ammunition ban: If Assembly Bill 711 were to pass it, beginning July 1, 2016, it would outlaw lead ammunition when hunting any game anywhere in the state. There is currently a similar prohibition, enacted in 2008 for condor ranges which expanded upon a 1991 federal law banning the use of lead ammunition while hunting waterfowl. The policy behind the bill is that rare condors and other birds may suffer lead poisoning when feeding on carcasses left behind by hunters in the field.
Jennifer Fearing, California State Director of the Humane Society of the United States says “We have taken lead out of gasoline, paint and pipes, there is no good reason to allow the dispersal of a known toxin into the environment. Ethical hunters get that.”
On the opposing side however, Senator Jim Nielsen, R-Woodland suggests that the animal activists have an ulterior motive with this bill and classifies the argument as “specious” suggesting that “This is just another attempt to get rid of hunting in California,” and it is “not about poisoning animals with lead.”
Activists propose a copper-based ammunition as an alternative, although it can be more expensive for hunters.
• Whistle-blowers and animal cruelty: Assembly Bill 343 would require that employees that work at livestock processing plants report any acts of animal cruelty as well as turn over any evidence to substantiate the reports within 48 hours. There are already existing whistle blower laws in place to protect those employees that come forward from retaliation.
There is some controversy surrounding this bill however. Fearing says that forcing people to come forward within 48 hours of the cruelty will allow for a quick clean up of any bad behavior. “You would never tell a detective you have 48 hours to make your case,” she says.
• Pet meds tax break: An interesting spin on tax breaks could come with Senate Bill 688 which would exclude the sales tax on medicines charged to veterinarians, animal shelters and other nonprofit rescue groups. With many Americans hard-pressed to afford their own healthcare and prescriptions this would amount to an annual savings of about $10 million. Since cheaper internet based companies are able to provide a much lower rate than most veterinary offices, veterinarians are pleased with this proposal.
• Dog parks: I personally am not a fan of off leash dog parks, not because of the pets but mainy due to bad experiences I have had with irresponsible owners. Assembly Bill 265 would grant governmental immunity to local governments that own or operate dog parks in the event someone injured on the premises.
• Hunting bears with hounds: Unfortunately, Assembly Bill 1230 would overturn an existing law that bars hunters from using dogs while bear hunting. Many critics of this bill find the practice inhumane not only to the bears, but also dangerous to the hunting dogs. Fortunately the democrats have the majority in California, so this Republican proposed bill is unlikely to pass.
• Foie Gras: If you don’t follow animal welfare causes here in California or elsewhere you may not be aware of the debate surrounding the inhumane conditions in which Foie Gras is prepared. Senate Bill 675 would require the Department of Food and Agriculture to develop some standards for animal welfare. Currently there is a ban on force-feeding ducks and geese (the process by which foie gras is prepared) but activists fear passage of this bill will slowly chip away at this regulation and eventually overturn the current legislation.
• Swap meet sales: There would be a ban on the sale of live animals at flea markets or swap meets if Assembly Bill 339 passes. Sidewalk and roadside sales were recently banned, but swap meets are still exempt for the time being.
• Bobcats: Assembly Bill 1213 would ban trapping, importing or exporting bobcat parts or pelts.
Known for his wisdom and kindness, Ghandi once said "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” and I think truer words have never been spoken. I can only hope our congressmen are compassionate and think long and hard before casting their votes in the upcoming legislative assembly, animals and advocates alike depend on it.
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