A bill seeking to protect the threatened southern sea otter population was introduced to the state Assembly last week. The brainchild of Democratic Assemblymembers from Santa Cruz and Sacramento, the proposed legislation aims to cut down on the levels of Toxoplasma gondii – a fatal parasite found in cat feces and kitty litter that often winds up in the ocean. Nearly 52 percent of dead otters found on the beach and 38 percent of live otters have tested positive for the destructive parasite since 1998. The bill also calls for a warning label on kitty litter packages urging pet owners not to flush it down the toilet and increased fines for killing an otter. The shellfish-munching mammal – which has been banned from local waters since the 1980s – has been the subject of local controversy recently, as federal officials consider whether or not to welcome otters back to the Santa Barbara Channel

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