Michigan attorney general Nessel & California governor Newsom kept their pit bull history behind closed doors
LANSING, SACRAMENTO––Pit bull attacks, as ANIMALS 24-7 pointed out on November 6, 2018, were the “divisive” issue that was omitted from the Election Day 2018 political discussion, but not because pit bull advocates had not hoped to reinforce opposition to breed-specific legislation to protect public safety.
Hermaphroditic (& invisible) pit bull named Cody
Endorsed by the Humane Society Legislative Fund, gay rights attorney Dana Nessel, a Democrat, was elected Michigan attorney general with just 48.8% of the vote.
Nessel in February 2016 won a brief burst of “puff piece” publicity, after adopting a hermaphroditic pit bull named Cody from Detroit Dog Rescue, and was expected to campaign with Cody in tow.
Instead, repeated searches of NewsLibrary.com and Google suggest that Cody may not have made a public appearance in 32 months.
Pledged to create prosecutorial task force
“Nessel will become just the second attorney general to create a dedicated task force to assist prosecutors in cracking down on animal cruelty,” exulted the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
But the Humane Society Legislative Fund, an arm of the ardently pro-pit bull Humane Society of the U.S., also appears to have never mentioned Cody during the 2018 campaign.
Whatever the back story, Nessel and the Humane Society Legislative Fund apparently decided pushing awareness of Cody would not be a vote-winning strategy in Michigan, a state which has had 22 pit bull fatalities since 1986, 18 of them just since 2004.
Acted, then flip-flopped
California governor-elect Gavin Newsom meanwhile sidestepped addressing dog attacks in general, pit bulls in specific, after coming under social media attack from pit bull advocates in May 2018 over his response to the June 5, 2005 fatal mauling of 12-year-old Nicholas Faibish in an apartment across the street from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The park had recently been the scene of several other pit bull attacks in which pets were killed, a police horse was injured, and people including an eight-year-old girl and a police officer were injured.
Newsom, then mayor of San Francisco, within days appointed a committee to recommend legislative responses to the attacks, one of which originated with a pit bull who was being walked by a San Francisco SPCA volunteer.
Option to mandate pit bull s/n resulted
The committee recommended a bill eventually passed by the California state legislature which in original draft form would have required that pit bulls be spayed/neutered out of existence.
Indeed, this is the only surefire way to eradicate the combination of physical and behavioral traits bred into pit bulls during more than 500 years of effort by dogfighters to produce dogs who attack without provocation or warning, bite and shake their victims without releasing, and do so with bone-crushing strength, ignoring both pain and commands to release.
As diluted by the legislature and eventually signed into law by then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who was quick to veto any law he considered unnecessary or likely to be ineffective, the law only enabled California cities to mandate sterilizing pit bulls. San Francisco soon did.
Schwarzenegger took the heat; Newsom took a powder
The ordinance reduced San Francisco shelter intakes of pit bulls by two-thirds in two years, and brought San Francisco the lowest volume of pit bull killing in shelters of any major U.S. city. Newsom, however, did not position himself to claim credit for the accomplishment.
On the contrary, as the only California gubernatorial candidate to issue a platform statement on animal issues, Newsom said he “knows that dog breed-specific laws are ineffective at enhancing public safety and jeopardize the welfare of dogs identified as belonging to specific breeds”––which directly contradicts his own experience and the experience of every jurisdiction to make a serious effort to enforce authentic breed-specific legislation.
Opposes drift nets & trophy hunting
The rest of Newsom’s platform statement on animal issues including pledging to “ensure that all of the California communities have the resources they need to meet the state’s goal that no healthy or treatable dog or cat is euthanized in an animal shelter.”
Newom said he “is troubled that California is the only state allowing mile-long drift gillnets that entangle iconic ocean marine life,” and that he “opposes trophy hunting of bears, bobcats, and endangered species, the recreational and largely unregulated killing of coyotes and foxes, and the use of super-toxic rodenticides that kill non-target wildlife.”
Newsom also said he “knows our state’s fish, wildlife, and habitats are facing critical threats from climate change, expanded human development, and lack of stable state funding,” and that he “is committed to addressing these threats head-on,” though he gave no details about how.
Does he or doesn’t he understand DNA?
“Concern for the welfare of animals is in Gavin’s DNA,” the Newsom statement continued, even as Newsom denied the influence of DNA on dog breed characteristics. “His father Bill Newsom served as president of the Mountain Lion Foundation, which spearheaded the campaign that ended sport hunting of mountain lions.”
Newsom reminded voters that he had supported California legislation including “the phase-out of toxic lead hunting ammunition, the ban on using dogs to harass bears and bobcats, the end of cruel bullhooks used with elephants in entertainment, the prohibition of trade in shark fins, elephant tusks, and rhinoceros horns, and ending the extreme confinement of egg-laying hens, veal calves and breeding pigs,” meaning Proposition 2 in 2008, which failed to achieve those goals, and Proposition 2012, passed on November 6, 2018 with similar promises but also with similar loopholes.
Newsom was one of “10 new green governors elected” on November 6, 2018, in the assessment of the League of Conservation Voters. None were actually Green Party candidates.
Of perhaps greater note, two of the state governors with the worst records on animal and habitat issues left office.
Maine governor elect Janet Mills, a Democrat who was previously the state attorney general, succeeds Republican climate denier and hunting enthusiast Paul LePage, who was forced out by term limits.
Three-term Wisconsin governor and climate change skeptic Scott Walker, once mentioned as a possible U.S. presidential contender, was narrowly defeated by Democrat Tony Evers, “who campaigned against Walker’s poor environmental record,” noted John R. Platt, editor of the “Extinction Countdown” column for the Center for Biodiversity news web site The Revelator.
42 new pro-environment Representatives
The League of Conservation voters welcomed “42 new pro-environment representatives elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Most can be expected to defend the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act from continuing attempts by the Donald Trump administration and the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate to dilute the legislation and weaken enforcement.
“Dirty Dozens” took a bath
The League of Conservation Voters also exulted that “Eight out of 13 Dirty Dozen candidates were defeated in the House, eight out of 12 in the Senate, and 10 out of 12 Dirty Dozen in the States candidates.”
Formed in 1969, the League of Conservation Voters annually names the “Dirty Dozen” legislations it believes to have the worst environmental records. While the “Dirty Dozen” list initially focused on legislators favoring polluting industries, the League of Conservation Voters has gradually moved toward considering the broad spectrum of habitat issues. Including protection of wildlife habitat.
Split results for Florida habitat
Assessed Platt, meanwhile, “The biggest environmental win that happened through the ballot initiative process came from Florida,” where Amendment 9 banned offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters and banned the use of electronic cigarettes in workplaces.
“The drilling ban,” Platt wrote, “was supported by environmental interests as well as the tourism industry, both of which would like to keep Florida’s waters and beaches clean.”
But Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who campaigned heavily on habitat issues, lost narrowly to climate change denier Ron DeSantis.
Alaska re-elects Don Young
Also defeated, by a margin of 61% to just 31%, was Measure 1 on the Alaska ballot, which sought to reinforce protection of wild salmon habitat, but was crushed by opposition from the oil, gas, and mining industries.
Further bad news from Alaska, albeit expected, was the re-election of former fur trapper Don Young to the House of Representatives. Young has already served 44 years in office as the sole House member from Alaska, aggressively promoting the hunting, trapping, commercial fishing, logging, and mineral exploitation industries.
Better results from South Carolina & New Mexico
On the plus side, wrote Platt, “For the first time in more than 30 years, Democrats flipped a House seat in South Carolina. Former ocean engineer Joe Cunningham won an upset victory over Republican Kate Arrington,” campaigning “on a platform opposing offshore drilling and seismic testing.”
Both offshore drilling and seismic testing, done to locate oil to drill for, have been recognized since 2005 by the International Whaling Commission as existential threats to northern Atlantic right whales, among other marine mammal species.
Also, Platt noted, “The House Natural Resources Committee — currently chaired by Republican Rob Bishop of Utah, who consistently votes against endangered species and public lands — is likely to have a new chair, re-elected Arizona Democrat Raúl Grijalva.”
Grijalva, with a long positive record on behalf of animals and habitat, has been particularly skeptical of schemes to help one species by killing another, pronouncing, for instance, that “The killing of sea lions is not a silver bullet for a salmon recovery.”
Wins in the Senate
Continued Platt, “In one of the few bright spots in the Senate, Nevada elected Democrat Jacky Rosen, who campaigned on issues related to protecting public lands. She defeated Dean Heller, a foe of wilderness and national monuments.
“New Mexico, meanwhile, elected Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has spoken out against President Trump’s attacks on public lands. She defeated Steve Pearce, who advocated for transferring ownership of federal lands to the states,” Platt recounted.
New York Voters for Animal Rights
The New York organization Voters for Animal Rights appeared to be the most active pro-animal organization at the state and local level of any nationwide.
Altogether Voters for Animal Rights endorsed 17 New York state senate candidates, four New York state assembly candidates, and three ballot proposals, none of which had a direct bearing on animal issues.
“We evaluated the candidates with a questionnaire, interview, recommendations and background research,” Voters for Animal rights explained to members. “Our statewide legislative priorities include creating an animal protection caucus in the state legislature, passing a Consolidated Animal Crimes Bill to increase penalties for crimes committed against animals, ending the cruel practice of cat declawing, banning the sale of animals in pet stores unless they come from a rescue or shelter, and cracking down on storefront slaughterhouses.”
Winning candidates endorsed by Voters for Animal Rights included Letitia James, the first African-American female to be elected New York Attorney General, and 14 state legislators.
Congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley and seven candidates for the New York state legislature who were endorsed by Voters for Animal Rights lost.
All three recommended ballot proposals passed.