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Humane Society's Wayne Pacelle: Schwarzenegger "acting like a demagogue and a bully" in scoffing at tail-docking bill

July 2, 2009 |  8:25 pm

"Instead of working on budget, the Legislature is about to debate whether cows can keep their tails while we're in a fiscal crisis," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fumed on Twitter, referring to Senate Bill 135. But the media-savvy Schwarzenegger didn't stop at Twitter -- he also had a video produced to illustrate his point. 

S.B. 135 was introduced by California state Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) in February and, if passed, would ban the practice of docking dairy cows' tails except in extreme circumstances.  It's been championed by the Humane Society of the United States, and naturally Humane Society president  Wayne Pacelle had something to say about the governor's vocal opposition to the debate on the measure.

"Everybody knows that California’s budget situation is dire and urgent, but that’s no excuse for grandstanding by the governor and picking on the vulnerable," Pacelle said in statement, adding that  passage of S.B. 135 would have "absolutely no fiscal impact on the state."

Schwarzenegger's record on animal protection issues is "pitiful," Pacelle added, citing as evidence the governor's proposal to cut the state-mandated hold period for stray pets in animal shelters and a plan to tax veterinary care.  "[In] panning this legislation, he's not helping California make tough choices – he's just acting like a demagogue and a bully."

To deal with the growing tension between Schwarzenegger and the Democratic-majority legislature, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer has proposed some unorthodox ideas, including hiring a professional mediator to help bridge the idealogical gap. Our colleague Tony Pierce ponders on the Comments Blog, "Is this a legislature that is intentionally dragging its feet to force the state to close down? Does the governor have a point?"

The budget impasse has affected other animal issues as well: A planned committee hearing on Assembly Bill 241, which would address puppy mills and large-scale breeders, was postponed indefinitely this week when Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) ordered that all hearings on legislation not related to the budget be canceled.

What do you think -- is Schwarzenegger right to cry foul at cow-tail debate when the state's in crisis?  Or do legislators have a responsibility to address issues of animal welfare regardless of the political climate?

-- Lindsay Barnett

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