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Legislators form new animal-rights caucus

January 26, 2010 |  1:32 pm

Lawmakers in Sacramento gather themselves into countless numbers of sub-groups. There are ethnic groupings such as the Latino, black and Asian/Pacific Islander caucuses. There are ideological groupings such as the Moderate Democratic Caucus. And now, apparently, there’s a new bipartisan caucus -- the Animal Protection Caucus.

Forget the state budget -- fights over animal rights can be among the most controversial and most publicized inside the Capitol. Bills covering a variety of subjects, foie gras as well as cow’s tails and mandatory spaying and neutering, have come through the Capitol in recent years.

Now, at the urging of the Humane Society of the United States, two Democrats and two Republicans have agreed to co-chair the new Animal Protection Caucus to shine a light on animal issues. Jennifer Fearing, state director for the Humane Society, said the caucus is beginning with four co-chairs but hopes to grow its numbers soon. “We are reaching out to every office in the Capitol,” she said.

The four initial members are Sens. Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) and Dean Florez (D-Shafter), and Assembly members Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) and Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita).

“In 2009, California legislators passed landmark bipartisan legislation to upgrade penalties for dog fighting, protect La Jolla’s harbor-seal habitat, prohibit the cruel and unnecessary docking of cow’s tails, and increase fines for poaching of our state’s wildlife,” said Fearing. “With the formation of this new caucus, we hope to build on these successes and see even more accomplishments for animals brokered in the least contentious ways possible.”

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

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