L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
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Category: Law & Government

Tea Partiers barking mad over puppy-mill humane measure in Missouri


The state of Missouri is known throughout the humane community as "puppy mill central," a state which by some reckonings is home to nearly a third of the nation's wretched breeding factories that churn out litter after litter of puppies that can be high-priced and sometimes less than healthy, from mothers that are kept like brood sows and wind up exhausted and ailing after delivering endless litters -- I know; I've adopted one or two of such poor exploited ladies.

Dog-loving groups have been hopeful that Missouri's Prop. B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, would help to put a stop to some of this, by requiring commercial breeders with more than 10 breeding females who produce puppies for the pet trade give those dogs clean facilities, enough food and water and exercise, and what I would call decent intervals between pregnancies.

Simple, right?

Well, not according to some. As reported on Talking Points Memo, Tea Partiers are claiming that this is a manifestation of the Humane Society's sinister plan. Some, including people who either can't read or won't read -- to paraphrase Mark Twain, the latter has the same disadvantage as the former -- are applying Tea Party politics to this, declaring that the Missouri measure saving animals from misery and exploitation is part of a "radical" agenda.

The group calls itself the Alliance for Truth -- don't you love the grandiose labels these groups bestow on themselves? -- and one member, astonishingly, told the TPM site that Prop. B supporters "don't like animals."

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Schwarzenegger vetoes landlord-renter declawing-debarking bill


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have made it illegal in California for landlords to require pet owners to declaw or devocalize their animals as a condition of tenancy. 

In his veto statement, the governor said, "I support the goal of this bill, which would preclude landlords from making inappropriate medical decisions as a condition of occupancy. However, I cannot sign a measure that contains findings and declarations by the Legislature that are unsupported by science. In addition, this measure suggests that declawing should be prohibited for any 'non-therapeutic' reason, which would include the legitimate medical needs of a pet owner. Regrettably, this bill goes too far in attempting to deal with inappropriate demands by landlords."

Declawing is a surgical procedure in which the claws and last bones of an animal's toes are removed to prevent the animal from scratching. Devocalizing, or debarking, involves surgically cutting an animal's vocal cords to reduce barking or other vocalizations.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), the author of AB 2743, said via e-mail: 'I am very disappointed that the Governor vetoed my bill. Declawing and devocalization are complex surgeries that can have severe complications for animals, and emotional and financial consequences for pet owners. Cats often change their behavior in unacceptable ways after being declawed and some dogs develop scar tissue that interferes with their ability to eat. Sometimes these procedures are performed routinely."

Dr. Dean Henricks, president of the California Veterinary Medical Assn., which represents more than 6,000 veterinary medical professionals, said his group was "pleased" with the governor's action and he applauded him for taking a stand on it. In a Sept. 2 letter to Schwarzenegger asking him to veto the bill, CVMA wrote that the organization supported the goal of the bill but had concerns with language in it that it deemed "unnecessary and problematic."

This language included a statement that declawing has been associated with ...

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Bills about fur labeling, declawing, pet insurance and animal neglect are approved by California lawmakers

Dog and cat

Several bills affecting animals have made their way through the California Legislature in recent months and are poised to become law if they are signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here's a roundup of recent legislative efforts to help animals in California.

Pet insurance: AB 2411 would require greater disclosure to policyholders by pet insurance providers. The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), was approved by the state Assembly earlier this year. The state Senate amended it before passing it, requiring a second vote from the Assembly, where it passed again this week.

AB 2411 would require pet insurance providers to disclose to consumers any coverage limits; exclusions of coverage based on a pet's preexisting condition; or reduction of coverage or premium increase based on prior claims. It would apply only to insurance policies issued on or after July 1, 2011. (Read the full text of the bill in PDF format.)

Declawing and devocalization: AB 2743, introduced by Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), would prohibit landlords in California from requiring pet owners to declaw or devocalize their pets as a condition of tenancy. The bill would also prevent landlords from giving preferential treatment to tenants with declawed or "debarked" pets or phrasing advertising for their rental properties in a way that would discourage tenants with pets that aren't declawed or devocalized from applying for tenancy.

AB 2743 passed an Assembly vote in May; the state Senate amended it before passing it, and the Assembly passed it with the Senate's changes this week. (Read the full text of the bill in PDF format.)

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Text warning drivers about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars to be added to California driver's manual

Dog in a hot car

Despite all the warnings against leaving animals in hot cars, we still hear all too often the horror stories of dogs that suffered or even died after being left in vehicles as temperatures inside soared.

One local assemblyman -- Democrat Anthony Portantino of the 44th District, who represents cities including Pasadena, South Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge -- decided to do something about it. When one of his constituents, Phyllis Daugherty of Highland Park, contacted Portantino with her concerns about the ongoing problem of dogs left in hot cars, Portantino began working with California's Department of Motor Vehicles to add a warning to the California Driver Handbook.

As a result, California will become the first state to add language warning drivers about the dangers of leaving dogs unattended in their vehicles with the publication of the 2011 handbook. The warning will point out that leaving a dog in a parked car is not only illegal, but carries a penalty of up to $500 in fines and six months in jail if the dog in question is injured or dies as a result.

"I am especially pleased that we were able to work out these changes without having to impose legislation," Portantino said. "The DMV understood the need for providing animal safety information just as they provide educational information on leaving unattended children in vehicles."

Advocacy group United Animal Nations applauded the move; the group's president and Chief Executive Nicole Forsyth said there's "no doubt many animal lives will be saved" as a result of the new handbook language. Last year, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office launched a campaign to warn pet owners and distributed posters that showed a dog inside an oven alongside the text "Hot Oven, Hot Car ... It's the Same Thing."

Microchip helps San Diego dog find his way home five years after disappearance
USDA licenses first-ever canine influenza vaccine

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A Riverside County animal control officer works to rescue a dog locked in a parked car in 2004. (The dog was later taken to an animal shelter.) Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

San Francisco commission puts proposed pet-sales ban on the back burner


SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco commission has put off a vote on a proposal to ban pet sales to consider an alternate idea that would require pet owners to be licensed.

The Commission of Animal Control and Welfare decided after more than three hours of debate at its meeting on Thursday to postpone the vote at least until January.

Commissioner Philip Gerrie says he doesn't think the commission should rush the vote.

Gerrie proposed the ban in the spring. It would apply to dogs, cats and also small animals such as hamsters and rats.

It would need the approval of city supervisors before it could take effect.

The alternative proposal would require potential pet owners to take a class on animal care and obtain a license in order to adopt a pet.

New law banning devocalization of dogs and cats to go into effect in Massachusetts
Georgia lawmakers weigh a ban of gas chambers as a means of euthanizing shelter pets

-- Associated Press

Photo: San Francisco Animal Care and Control volunteer Penny Eggen holds a guinea pig at the city-county animal shelter on July 24. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Fur flies over proposed ban on the sale of most pets in San Francisco


Animal lovers all over the country are watching San Francisco to see what action, if any, city officials will take on a proposal to ban the sales of most pets. The idea started out simply enough when Philip Gerrie of the city's Animal Control & Welfare Commission suggested San Francisco join West Hollywood and South Lake Tahoe in prohibiting most puppy and kitten sales in pet stores. Only one store in the city sells puppies on a regular basis, but according to Gerrie, "large pet stores were considering moving into the city that do sell puppies."

Gerrie's plan took on a life of its own when others suggested the ban be expanded to include other animals he hadn't initially considered, like birds and so-called "pocket pets" like hamsters and rats. (Rabbit sales are already verboten. Reptiles, amphibians and fish probably wouldn't be covered by the ban.) According to Rebecca Katz, head of the city's animal control department, hamsters are euthanized at a higher rate than any other type of animal the department takes in. Birds were added to the list because of "their sensitivity and inappropriateness as pets; they are wild animals," Gerrie said.

So far, public opinion seems to be divided on the proposal, which hasn't yet been formally written and won't be voted on by the Animal Control & Welfare Commission next month. (If it gets the commission's stamp of approval, it'll move on to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors.) Some rescuers love the idea, which, after all, is aimed at keeping pets out of animal shelters. A group of pet-store owners, naturally, staunchly opposes it.

Even Humane Society of the United States leader Wayne Pacelle hasn't leapt on board. "I think the best thing would be to start with [banning] the sale of dogs and cats from these pet stores," he said. "I think [with a ban affecting more species] you attract a set of additional opponents that sink an otherwise achievable goal."

Learn more about the proposal in reporter Maria La Ganga's recent story in The Times.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A bird at a pet store in San Francisco. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

House approves bill that would ban sale of 'crush videos' and other obscene depictions of animal cruelty


The House of Representatives has passed a bill that, if enacted, will prohibit the sale of "crush videos" and other filmed acts of animal cruelty including burning, suffocating, drowning and impaling live animals. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), passed by a margin of 416 to 3. It now goes to the Senate, which is expected to pass it.

In April, the Supreme Court overturned a Virginia man's conviction for selling videos that depicted dogfighting on free-speech grounds. Chief Justice John Roberts said the existing law that criminalized the sale of such videos was too broad and could be used to prosecute sellers of hunting videos.

Gallegly responded by crafting a narrowly written law designed specifically to prohibit the sale or distribution of obscene visual depictions of animal cruelty. He became involved in the issue in 1999, when a local district attorney had difficulty prosecuting a Thousand Oaks man for selling a video depicting animal cruelty over the Internet.

"Violence is not a 1st Amendment issue; it is a law enforcement issue," Gallegly said in a statement. "Ted Bundy and Ted Kaczynski tortured or killed animals before killing people. The FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice consider animal cruelty to be one of the early warning signs of potential violence by youths. This bill is one step toward ending this cycle of violence."

Learn more about the bill in reporter Richard Simon's recent story in The Times.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Megan via Your Scene

New law banning devocalization of dogs and cats to go into effect in Massachusetts

Barking Dogs

Massachusetts on Wednesday will become the first state to ban the surgery that devocalizes dogs and cats, which many animal rights advocates see as a cruel and unnecessary procedure.

Under the new law, anyone in the state who cuts or removes an animal's vocal cords for nonmedical reasons may be punished by fines and up to five years in prison.

The law, signed by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick in April, is dubbed Logan's Law after a dog that underwent the controversial surgery but was later abandoned.

"To take the voice of an animal would be the equivalent of taking a person's voice or a person's ability to communicate," Brian Adams, spokesman for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), told Reuters.

Supporters of the new measure say it is more important for pet owners to understand the needs and motivations behind their pets' making noise.

The silencing surgery may suit the needs of the owner, but not the health and welfare of the animal.

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Gov. Schwarzenegger signs bill to require out-of-state egg producers to comply with Proposition 2 space requirements for egg-laying hens


Beginning in 2015, all whole eggs sold in the state of California -- even those shipped in from other states -- must come from chickens that are housed in a way that complies with the requirements set out in Proposition 2, the farm-animal welfare bill approved by California voters in 2008.

On Tuesday, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill mandating that all whole eggs intended for human consumption in the state be produced by chickens that are able to fully extend their limbs, stand up, lie down and spread their wings without touching the side of their enclosure or other birds.

"In other words: California will become a cage-free state," Humane Society of the United States president and CEO Wayne Pacelle, whose group heavily supported the move, wrote on his blog.

The bill, A.B. 1437, was authored by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael); it received the support of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sierra Club California and the Center for Food Safety, among other groups, in addition to the Humane Society.

On its way through the state legislature, A.B. 1437 sparked a flap from the Assn. of California Egg Farmers, which said at one point that it would oppose its passage unless it was modified to spell out exactly how much space was required by Proposition 2.

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San Bernardino County weighs mandatory spay/neuter for pit bulls and pit bull mixes

Pit bull

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has approved a measure that would require all pit bulls and pit bull mixes in the county to be spayed or neutered. Owners who refuse to alter their pets would face fines.

Dealing with the county's pit bulls specifically, rather than all dogs regardless of breed, was "an imminent issue that we felt had to be addressed because of the recent attacks," Supervisor Neil Derry said, referring to the deaths of two San Bernardino County children in separate incidents involving pit bulls this year. Four county residents have been killed in incidents involving pit bulls over the last five years.

A final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for July, and it is expected to pass handily. When it goes into effect, pit bulls and pit mixes over 4 months of age will be required to be spayed or neutered. The county will give vouchers to low-income dog owners to subsidize the cost of sterilization surgery. Owners who ignore the ordinance will face a $100 fine for the first offense, with subsequent offenses drawing a stiffer penalty.

Derry, who co-sponsored the measure, said he views legislation requiring pit bulls to be altered as a preliminary step toward ultimately implementing spay/neuter requirements for all San Bernardino County dogs. Such a requirement is already on the books in the nearby city of Los Angeles.

Learn more about the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors' efforts to mandate the altering of pit bulls at The Times' local news blog, L.A. Now.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times


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