Fur-bearing animals & adopters of shelter/rescue dogs win protections
SACRAMENTO, California––The new animal-related law in California that Governor Gavin Newsom and mass media said least about, to help protect Californians against recklessly rehomed dogs with bite history, may in the end become the most emulated among the raft of bills sent to Newsom’s desk in 2019 by the California state assembly and senate.
Signing into law seven items of animal-related legislation in recent weeks, vetoing two others, Governor Newsom emphasized in accompanying statements that he expects more to come of all nine bills, especially in other states and nations.
“Leadership includes banning the sale of fur”
“California is a leader when it comes to animal welfare and today that leadership includes banning the sale of fur,” Newsom told media on October 12, 2019, at the most publicized of his several bill-signing sessions.
“But we are doing more than that,” Newsom said. “We are making a statement to the world that beautiful wild animals like bears and tigers have no place on trapeze wires or jumping through flames.”
Newsom might have added that California has just made statements to the world, and certainly to other states, about trapping bobcats, trafficking in the pelts and hides of rare species, and selling horses to slaughter.
The statement about rehoming dangerous dogs, however, may affect far more people and animals than wear fur in sunny California, or have attended circuses in California since the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus stopped visiting the state in 2015, two years before going out of business.
New dog law may affect the most people
Most of the beneficiaries of the new California dog law, however, may not realize that they are beneficiaries. Even though more than half a million Californians are injured by dogs each year, and an average of about five a year are killed, for most people the threat of dog attack remains below the threshold of perception until they themselves, or a family member or pet, suffer a mauling.
Details of the fur sales ban
By far the most publicized of the new California laws, AB 44 stipulates that “It is unlawful to sell, offer for sale, display for sale, trade, or otherwise distribute for monetary or non-monetary consideration a fur product,” and also that “It is unlawful to manufacture a fur product in the state for sale.”
AB 44 “applies to clothing, handbags, shoes, slippers, hats or key chains that contain fur — providing a civil penalty for violation,” summarized Sophie Lewis of CBS News. “The law has a few exceptions, including the use of fur products for religious purposes and taxidermy.
The law won’t take effect until January 2023,” allowing furriers three years to dispose of current inventory.
“Hawaii and New York have introduced similar legislation,” Lewis noted. Many individual cities have also banned fur sales, beginning with West Hollywood, California, in 2014.
Recreational & commercial fur trapping banned, too
AB 44 is reinforced by AB 273, prohibiting recreational and commercial fur trapping.
Explains the AB 273 preamble, “It is the intent of the Legislature in adopting this act to ensure that native species of California mammals are not commercially exploited for their fur.
“Historically,” the preamble continues, “fur trapping played a significant role in the extirpation of wolves and wolverines and the severe declines in sea otters, fishers, marten, beaver, and other fur-bearing species in California. Because individual trappers concentrate their operations in limited geographical areas, they can locally deplete populations of the species they target, impairing the ecological functioning of the area and diminishing opportunities for wildlife watching in these areas.”
Fur trapping was subsidized net money-loser
AB 273 goes on to explain that the California Fish & Game Code “requires that the cost of a trapping license must be adjusted by the Fish and Game Commission to fully recover the administrative and implementation costs of the Department of Fish & Wildlife and commission related to the licenses. In 2017, a total of 133 trapping licenses were sold in California for purposes of recreation and commerce in fur. A total of four fur dealer licenses were also sold. The total revenue received by the Department of Fish and Wildlife for the sale of these trapping licenses was $15,544 and for the sale of the fur dealer licenses was $709.
“In 2017, a total of 68 trappers reported killing 1,568 animals in California. Of the 1,568 animals killed, 1,241 were reported sold. Based on average pelt prices, the total income generated by all the pelts trappers reported sold is likely less than $9,000.
“The revenue generated by the sale of trapping licenses would only cover a fraction of the costs of even a single warden. Proper management and enforcement of a fur trapping program would cost far more than the revenue generated by the Department of Fish & Wildlife, resulting in a de facto subsidy of commercial fur trapping. Similarly, the minimal revenue generated by the sale of the furs of the animals killed by trappers is dwarfed by the millions of dollars that non-consumptive wildlife watching generates in California’s economy.
“In light of these findings and declarations,” AB 273 states, “it is the intent of the Legislature to prohibit commercial and recreational trapping of all fur-bearing and non-game mammals in California.”
Further reinforcing the California fur sales ban are two more new laws, AB 1254 and AB 1260.
AB 1254 establishes that “It is unlawful for a person to hunt, trap, or otherwise take a bobcat,” the fur-bearing species native to California whose pelts tend to fetch the highest prices at auction.
Exemptions apply to “The take of a bobcat by a law enforcement officer or licensed veterinarian acting in the course and scope of official duty” and “The take of a bobcat based on a good faith belief that the take was necessary to protect a person from immediate bodily harm from the bobcat.”
The prohibition on hunting bobcats is temporary. AB 1254 further stipulates that “commencing January 1, 2025, the California Fish & Game commission may open a bobcat hunting season in any area determined by the commission to require a hunt.”
However, AB 1254 requires that, “Before opening a bobcat hunting season in any area, the commission shall…Consider the potential impacts of a bobcat hunting season, including the effects on…bobcat populations; bobcats’ wild prey; disease abatement, including, but not limited to, hantavirus; (and) the control of invasive species, especially nutria.”
Many reptiles gain protection too
AB 1260 expands the scope of previously existing legislation establishing that “It is unlawful to import into this state for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell, or to sell within the state, the dead body, or a part or product thereof, of a polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable antelope, wolf (Canis lupus), zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, free-roaming feral horse, dolphin or porpoise (Delphinidae), Spanish lynx, or elephant.”
Added to the list of prohibited species, effective on January 1, 2020, are crocodile and alligator.
Added to the list of prohibited species effect on January 1, 2022, are iguana, skink, caiman, hippopotamus, or a teju [more commonly called a tegu], ring, or Nile lizard.”
Circus Cruelty Prevention Act
As well as the fur sales prohibition, Governor Newsom in his October 12, 2019 media statements spotlighted SB 313, subtitled the Circus Cruelty Prevention Act.
This new law defines a “circus” as “a performance before a live audience in which entertainment consisting of a variety of acts, such as acrobats, aerialists, clowns, jugglers, or stunts, is the primary attraction or principal business,” and exempts rodeos, previously defined in California law as “a performance featuring competition between persons that includes three or more of the following events: bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, or team roping.”
SB 313 goes on to prohibit from circus use “any animal other than a domestic dog, domestic cat, or domesticated horse.”
Comparable legislation already exists in 32 other states and 40 nations, according to Animal Defenders International.
Probably the most controversial of the new California laws pertaining to animals throughout the spring and summer of 2019 was AB 128.
AB 128 was introduced, according to the state assembly legislative analysis, in response to a United States Forest Service scheme “to sell over 100 wild horses being held in California’s Modoc National Forest without any limitation on the future use of those horses,” in evasion of the intent of Proposition 6, a 1998 ballot initiative which sought to prohibit the export of horses from California to slaughter in other states.
AB 128 revises and updates the paperwork tracking requirements for horses sold at auction in California.
Amended to address objections
Opposing AB 128, both the state assembly and state senate legislative analysts acknowledged, were many of the original authors and proponents of Proposition 6, including Sherry DeBoer and John Lovell of Political Animals.
Explained Lovell, “Proposition 6 makes it a felony to be involved in the sale, transportation and slaughtering of horses for food for human consumption. AB 128 attempts to weaken proposition 6 by creating an alternate ‘civil fine’ of $1,000.00.”
AB 128 was eventually amended on the California state senate floor to restate that “The sale of horses in California for slaughter for human consumption is a felony,” to require that notices to this effect be prominently posted at horse auctions, and to clarify that “In addition to any other penalties available under law,” including the felony penalty, “a person who violates this section shall be subject to a civil penalty of one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the first offense and two thousand dollars ($2,000) for the second and each subsequent offense.”
Addressing 17 maulings & two deaths by shelter dogs
AB 588, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 2, 2019, responds to at least 17 known disfiguring maulings and two deaths since 2014 inflicted by dogs rehomed or offered for rehoming by California animal shelters, all but one of those incidents allegedly involving a pit bull with undisclosed bite history.
At least five of the known mauling victims were injured by dogs from Los Angeles Animal Services, which no longer identifies pit bulls by breed on cage cards and in online adoption advertising.
The two deaths were Robert Simonian, 74, killed in 2016 by three pit bulls who were returned to owner Harold Matthews, 70, by Fresno Humane Animal Services, after having been impounded on suspicion of having killed Valente Lopez Aguirre, 59; and three-day-old Sebastian Caban, killed in April 2016 by a pit bull adopted by his parents six months earlier from the San Diego Humane Society & SPCA.
AB 588 would not have saved Simonian, but might have prevented the death of Caban.
Bite history must be disclosed in writing
AB 588 applies to any “public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group,” defined as “a for-profit or not-for-profit entity or a collaboration of individuals that removes dogs from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, or humane shelter, or rehomes a dog that has been previously owned by any person other than the original breeder of that dog.”
Requires AB 588, “If an animal shelter or rescue group knows, to the best of the knowledge of the shelter or rescue group, that a dog, at the age of four months or older, bit a person and broke that person’s skin, thus requiring a state-mandated bite quarantine, the animal shelter or rescue group shall, before selling, giving away, or otherwise releasing the dog, do both of the following:
“(1) Disclose in writing to the person to whom the dog is sold, given away, or transferred, the dog’s known bite history and the circumstances related to the bite.
“(2) Obtain a signed acknowledgment from the person to whom the dog is sold, given away, or transferred that the person has been provided information about the dog as required by this section.”
Violations “shall be punished by a civil fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500), imposed by the city or county in which the animal shelter or rescue group is located.”
California law follows Virginia
AB 588 parallels a similar law passed in Virginia in May 2018, after two women were killed by pit bulls with undisclosed bite history.
Both AB 588 and the Virginia law follow recommendations offered by ANIMALS 24-7 in January 2017, except that ANIMALS 24-7 also recommended making disclosure of probable breed identification mandatory, with strict penalties for obfuscating or falsifying breed identity in cases where the obfuscation or falsification contributes to a human death or disfigurement.
Newsom vetoed dog blood bank law update
California Governor Newsom also signed into law AB 415, pertaining to compensation of victims of domestic crime, which adds to the list of compensable expenses “the costs of temporary housing for any pets belonging to the victim upon immediate relocation.”
Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 202, which would have revised California law governing the operation of animal blood banks.
Said Newsom in an explanatory statement, “I am supportive of changing California’s law governing animal blood donation. However, this bill does not go far enough. I ask that the Legislature send me legislation that effectively leads to the phasing out of ‘closed colonies,’ where dogs are kept in cages for months and years to harvest their blood for sale. The legislation should provide for the safe and humane treatment of donor animals, the welfare of the recipients and adequate oversight and enforcement of this program.”
Bill was opposed by California Veterinary Medical Association
Assessed Los Angeles Times staff writer Melody Gutierrez, “Under Senate Bill 202 by state senator Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), California would have joined the rest of the country in allowing dog owners to volunteer their pets to donate blood, while continuing to allow closed colonies to operate. With the veto, the state will continue to require that veterinarians purchase blood products solely from companies that house donor animals for the purpose of drawing their blood every 10 to 14 days.
“SB 202 also would have rolled back sweeping public records exemptions that have allowed private animal blood companies in the state to operate colonies of caged donor dogs under a cloak of secrecy. SB 202 would have made public annual inspection reports by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, information that has been shielded from disclosure since the state first began examining the facilities in 2002.
SB 202 was opposed by animal advocates who “wanted legislation allowing voluntary pet donations while phasing out the use of dogs housed as blood suppliers, but a bill to do so died amid opposition from the California Veterinary Medical Association,” Gutierrez wrote.
The California Veterinary Medical Association, said Gutierrez, “argued that eliminating the use of company-owned donor dogs could create a massive blood shortage that would put the injured and sick animals they care for at risk.”
Finding alternative to fish use in toxicity test “would cost too much”
Newsom also vetoed AB 733, which would have required the California Department of Toxic Substances Control “to include an optional alternative acute aquatic toxicity test for hazardous waste identification that does not use live vertebrate fish, should a test be found suitable,” Newsom summarized in his explanatory statement.
“While updating the state’s aquatic toxicity test for hazardous waste is laudable and should be explored,” Newsom said, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control “estimates that this bill would require $4.9 million to implement. As the Hazardous Waste Control Account has a structural deficit,” Newsom finished, “the account and the department cannot support this additional activity and expense until the fiscal deficiencies have been addressed.”