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Assemblyman Pedro Nava, others call on Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign animal-welfare bills

October 1, 2009 |  8:50 pm

Navacolor In a Sacramento news conference Thursday, Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, and representatives from animal protection agencies joined to call on Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign a raft of legislation designed to help California's animals. 

Nava introduced three animal-related bills that passed state Senate and Assembly votes in the legislative session that recently drew to a close.

The first, A.B. 241 (also known as "The Responsible Breeder Act of 2009"), would impose a limit -- no more than 50 unsterilized dogs and cats -- on individual breeders and large-scale businesses that sell animals for the pet market. The legislation would not affect the ability of shelters and rescue groups, veterinary facilities, boarding kennels or organizations that breed service or police dogs to have more than 50 unsterilized animals.

The second, A.B. 242, calls for stiffer penalties for those found guilty of attending dogfights.  "Unfortunately, California ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of dog-fighting enforcement, due, primarily, to weak penalties for being a spectator at a dogfight," said Eric Sakach of the Humane Society of the United States explained, adding that giving teeth (no pun intended) to the laws against dog fighting would help the state to crack down on the illegal blood sport.

The third, A.B. 243, would prevent those convicted of certain animal-abuse crimes from being able to own or care for other animals.  "Recent studies have shown that the recidivism rate for animal cruelty and neglect crimes is virtually 100%," Deputy Dist. Atty. Deborah Knaan, who oversees all of the district attorney's prosecutions for animal abuse, said of the proposed legislation. "This bill will provide me with the ability to ask the courts to impose a no-ownership penalty for those that are convicted of animal abuse. I am hopeful that this will prevent further acts of animal cruelty and neglect in the future."

The Times' editorial board announced its support of the three Nava bills, as well as a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) that would outlaw the docking of cows' tails, after the close of the legislative session last month.  "Some opponents of these bills favor improving the lives of pets and livestock but suspect a hidden agenda by the U.S. Humane Society, which backs them: First comes kindness to cows, these critics worry, and next, a mandatory diet of wheat germ and water. That fear shouldn't stop the state from doing what is right," the editorial read in part. "These bills are small steps toward improved animal welfare, but they move California in the right direction."

The Nava bills and the tail-docking bill -- in addition to several other animal-related bills that won passage in the Senate and Assembly, one of which would outlaw roadside and parking-lot sales of animals and one that would authorize the seizure of property and profits from convicted dog fighters -- must be signed by the governor by Oct. 11 in order to become law.

"Now is the time for the governor to join us and prevent further suffering," Nava told those assembled at the press conference. (The group included, oddly, actress Elaine Hendrix of the 1998 "The Parent Trap" remake fame.  Hendrix, an animal activist, seized the opportunity to refer to puppies born in puppy mills as "the ultimate 'Parent Trap' " because their parents will likely spend the entirety of their lives confined in substandard puppy mill conditions.) "The governor has an opportunity to make our state safer by signing these measures."

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Assemblyman Nava, courtesy of his office.

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