For much of 2012, issues like taxes and schools dominated the
discussion in California's state Capitol. But lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown
also spent considerable attention on the animal kingdom.
advocates celebrated one success after another in Sacramento -- the latest
example of a continuing trend in which new laws to prohibit certain types of
hunting, increase penalties for animal cruelty and boost other animal
protections are gaining momentum in California, often with bipartisan support.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill banning the use of dogs in hunting
bears and bobcats. The measure, which made California the 15th state to prohibit
the practice of chasing bears up trees with packs of hounds, gained widespread
attention, following hearings in which hundreds of passionate hunters and
supporters of the bill squared off.
But Brown -- who continued to sign
and veto hundreds of bills Friday as a Sunday deadline for his actions loomed --
signed roughly a dozen other animal welfare bills this year as well, often with
much less fanfare.
"It was a fairly extraordinary year," said Jennifer
Fearing, California state director of the Humane Society of the United States.
Among the top measures Brown signed:
SB1145, by state Sen. Bill
Emmerson, R-Riverside, which doubled the fine for anyone convicted of
cockfighting from a maximum of $5,000 to $10,000. The bill also increased fines
for dogfighting Advertisement and other types of animal fighting and increased
punishments for spectators who are arrested at animal fights to $5,000 and as
much as six months in jail.
A bill to prohibit landlords from requiring
that tenants declaw their cats and other pets. The measure, SB1229, by Sen. Fran
Pavley, D-Santa Monica, addressed a practice that animal welfare groups say is
painful and leaves cats defenseless.
A measure that makes it more
difficult for people who are charged with animal cruelty to regain custody of
their animals and tightens rules requiring them to pay the full costs and
veterinary bills when the animals are confiscated. The bill, AB1500, by state
Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Redondo Beach, was opposed by the California Federation of Dog
Clubs and other breeding groups, which said it was an assault on the rights of
Two bills that affect the state's Fish and Game operations.
One, AB 2402, by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, changes the name of
the agency to "Department of Fish and Wildlife," which downplays hunting.
Another, AB2609, by Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, requires that members of
the Fish and Game Commission have wildlife backgrounds and that the commission's
president be elected by other commission members.
The bill was in
response to a controversy earlier this year in which the president of the
commission, real estate agent Dan Richards, was photographed with a mountain
lion he killed in Idaho. The photo sparked a controversy because mountain lion
hunting is illegal in California, and Richards became president of the
commission based on seniority, not a majority vote.
Last year, Brown also
signed a landmark bill banning the trade and sale of shark fins, which wildlife
groups cheered and owners of some Chinese restaurants that serve shark fin soup
opposed. And four years ago, voters overwhelming passed Proposition 2, which
banned veal fattening pens and small crates used to confine chickens laying
eggs. That measure passed easily despite $10 million spent by farm groups to
"The message was that all animals, including those raised for
food, deserve humane treatment. The public wants that," said Fearing. "Where
laws are out of sync with public opinion, we've been trying to true that up."
Hunting groups are nervous. Much of the success has come since the Humane
Society hired Fearing as a full-time lobbyist in Sacramento three years ago.
"On bills about cockfighting or humane treatment of dogs and cats, I don't
have a problem with that," said Bill Gaines, president of the California Outdoor
Heritage Association, a hunting group. "Hell, I have two dogs and cats at home.
But when it comes to hunting, it's a whole different ballgame. They are chipping
away, little by little."
Many of the bills, particularly on animal
cruelty, have had Republicans joining Democrats.
"You'd be hard-pressed
to find a member of the Legislature who doesn't have a dog or cat or had one as
a kid," said Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita. "They treat them like a
member of their family."