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October 12, 2009

In Midnight Hour Schwarzenegger Signs, Terminates Bills

Last night at midnight was the deadline for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign, veto, or ignore 700 bills passed this session by the California State Legislature—and seven of them were animal protection measures, including tremendously important measures to ban tail docking of dairy cows, crack down on puppy mills, halt roadside sale of animals, and to strengthen penalties for dogfighting. It was historic output on animal protection for the Legislature, and these reforms came as a direct result of the momentum from the landslide passage of Proposition 2 last November, focused lobbying and organizing by The HSUS and its allies to strengthen policies in America's largest and most diverse state, and determined efforts by animal protection leaders in the Legislature, most notably Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez and Assemblyman Pedro Nava.

Regrettably, Gov. Schwarzenegger continued his schizophrenic record on animal protection, by signing four measures and vetoing three—all of which had strong bipartisan support. An opponent of Proposition 2 last fall, he has shown that he is no advocate of animal protection, and he has worked to hold back our progress in the state during his two terms. Most disappointing, he vetoed a measure to crack down on abusive puppy mills, A.B. 241, which sought to impose a cap of 50 adult unsterilized breeding animals confined in any large-scale dog-breeding factory. Breeding dogs in puppy mills typically suffer lifelong confinement in squalid cages, and the public has only contempt for these operations. Six states this year passed laws to crack down on these factory farms for dogs, and two-thirds of Sacramento lawmakers voted to do the same. Gov. Schwarzenegger stands alone among state executives in protecting this despicable industry. A.B. 241 was one of two bills carried by Assemblyman Nava and vetoed by the governor. The other was A.B. 243, which sought to bar felons convicted of animal abuse from possessing animals. The veto of that latter bill is particularly mystifying.

2009 California Legislation

Signed by the governor:

A.B. 242 (Increases penalties for being a spectator at a dogfight.)

A.B. 708 (Increases penalties for illegal poaching.)

S.B. 135 (Bans tail docking of cows.)

S.B. 318 (Allows for forfeiture of property connected with dogfighting.)

S.B. 428 (Protects seals in La Jolla.)

Vetoed by the governor:

A.B. 241 (Limits number of intact animals a person can maintain.)

A.B. 243 (Prohibits a person convicted of animal cruelty from owning an animal.)

A.B. 1122 (Prohibits the roadside sale of live animals.)

The most encouraging news from yesterday, however, was the signing of S.B. 135, a measure by Sen. Florez to ban the painful and unnecessary practice of tail docking of dairy cows. California is the number one dairy state in the nation, with 1.8 million cows, and tens of thousands of cows in the state are subjected to this archaic procedure, which the California Farm Bureau and California Cattlemen's Association agreed was unneeded. It is the first state ban on tail docking of cows, and it is a reform that other dairy-producing states should adopt. There's no science to support continuing this procedure, and we hope that Sen. Florez's groundbreaking success is the beginning of the end of this practice.

California upgraded penalties for dogfighting in the form of two bills, A.B. 242 by Assemblyman Nava to increase penalties for being a spectator at dogfights and S.B. 318 by Sen. Ron Calderon to allow for forfeiture of assets and equipment used during dogfights. Since the Michael Vick case came to light The HSUS has been determined to channel the anger and awareness generated by the case into productive outcomes and we've helped to pass 27 new laws against animal fighting.

We were also pleased that the governor signed A.B. 708, legislation by Assemblyman Jared Huffman to increase penalties for the poaching of California wildlife—a huge and growing problem. And he had previously signed S.B. 428, by Sen. Christine Kehoe, giving the city of San Diego the authority to protect seals on a La Jolla Beach. But we were disappointed that he vetoed a bill to ban the sale of animals in parking lots and other roadside venues—A.B. 1122, by Assemblyman Ted Lieu. These settings provide an entirely unregulated outlet for unscrupulous vendors to sell countless puppies, kittens, and other animals to unwitting consumers, and are ripe for abuse.

With the governor signing five of these measures, there have been 115 measures enacted into law this year by the states—eclipsing last year's record-setting year of 93 new laws. But it would have been 118 animal protection laws passed this year had it not been for Schwarzenegger's obstinance. The three measures he jettisoned are, as a practical matter, the first three animal protection bills vetoed by any governor in the nation this year. But I guess we should not feel entirely singled out, since Schwarzenegger vetoed 229 bills out of 700 that the Legislature presented to him. His desk is a dead-end for a wide variety of reforms to improve society.

No social reform movement marches ahead without interruption, including our own. The expression two steps forward, one step back comes to mind. But this legislative session in California it was five steps forward, with three steps thwarted. We didn't take any steps back since the vetoing of the three bills leaves current law in place—it's just a set of lost opportunities, and we were so tantalizingly close to progress. As they did with the campaign to pass Proposition 2, California animal advocates engaged in the civic process and the strong bipartisan support the legislature showed for all these measures is a direct reflection of that. Our forward momentum is evident despite the roadblocks that the likes of Schwarzenegger and similar-minded people throw in the way.

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