Speaking in front of a newly renovated Santa Barbara Animal Shelter on March 6, State Assemblymember Pedro Nava took the opportunity to gain support for three Assembly bills he’s authored to help animals: a responsible breeder bill, a dog fighting bill, and an animal abuse bill.
Nava stated, “Recent events around the country brought to our consciousness the brutality of puppy mills, dog fighting, and animal cruelty. California must take the lead in setting an example for the humane treatment for what most of us consider our family pet. We must take action now to prevent further suffering. I am proud to be supported by the public safety community, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Social Compassion in Legislation on these measures.”
Here is a list of Assemblymember Nava’s proposed bills that I’m urging Pet Chat readers to support:
AB241-Responsible Breeder Bill
This bill would make it a misdemeanor for an individual or business that buys or sells dogs or cats to have more than a combined total of 50 dogs and cats without having them spayed or neutered. This does not apply to animal control facilities or animal shelters, veterinary facilities, pet stores, or research institutions.
Existing legitimate breeders who have more than 50 animals will need to immediately reduce the number of intact dogs or cats in order to comply with this provision. Those same breeders will also be required to either spay or neuter the excess animals or relinquish the animals to area animal control, rescue groups, or other licensed organizations. The bill also provides guidelines for peace, humane society, or animal control officers in investigating and inspecting breeding operations.
Nava stated that this is essentially an anti-puppy mill bill. If you haven’t heard of puppy mills, they are breeding kennels that are notorious for their unsanitary and cramped conditions where continuous breeding of purebred animals takes place. Unfortunately, puppy mill breeders are concerned more about the profit they make from puppies than the health and welfare of the animals. I’ve witnessed these puppy mills first hand and it’s devastating. It’s a horrible way for any animal to live. Although most puppy mills are found in the Midwest, this bill will allow California to lead the way opposing puppy mills, similar to how we’ve led the way with humane treatment of farm animals by passing Proposition 2.
AB 242-Dog fighting
Existing California law states that the crime of dog fighting could be considered a felony or misdemeanor and the crime of being a spectator at a dog fight is a misdemeanor. This bill would instead call dog fighting a felony punishable by imprisonment in a state prison for two to four years and the crime of being a spectator at a dog fight would also be a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months to three years.
According to a press release by Pedro Nava’s office: “Dog fighting is currently illegal in all 50 states, and in 48 states it is illegal to be a spectator. Spectators provide most of the profits associated with dog fighting. The money generated by admission fees and gambling helps keep this illegal sport alive. Because dogfights are illegal and therefore not widely publicized, spectators do not merely happen upon a fight-they seek it out. Currently, 29 states have made it a felony to be a spectator; however, California is not one of them.”
The implications of this bill are huge. In several cases when I was working at the Michigan Humane Society in Detroit, law enforcement officials would lack evidence to charge those they arrested at dog fights with “dog fighting” but they could always charge them with “participation as a spectator.” Since spectatorship was a felony in Michigan, these individuals would get much more than a slap on the wrist, which is all they get in the states where spectatorship is either legal or only a misdemeanor.
AB243-Animal Abuse Penalties
Currently, California law states that if a person is charged with animal abuse, the court may decide to prevent that person from owning an animal in the future. This bill would instead require that a person charged with animal abuse be prevented from owning an animal in the future.
Said Debra Knaan, deputy district attorney, Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, “Owning an animal is a responsibility and a privilege. Those who have mistreated an animal have violated that responsibility and abused the privilege. This bill will einsure that someone convicted of abusing an animal will not have the opportunity to do so again for a good long time.”
This bill also applies to animal collectors or hoarders. A hoarder is someone who is discovered living in filthy conditions with sometimes hundreds of animals mostly all in poor condition. I’ve discussed the hoarder case I was involved with in previous columns where 300 cats were rescued from an 800-square-foot home in Detroit (televised on Animal Planet, in an episode of Animal Cops Detroit titled “House of Cats”). Unfortunately, I recently heard that the suspect was re-visited and 50 more cats were found in his home.
According to Nava’s press release: “Animal hoarding is recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a form of mental illness exhibited by an addictive/compulsive personality. By requiring courts to impose a ‘no ownership’ order there will be a dramatic reduction or elimination of repeated acts of animal cruelty and neglect in California.”
To support AB241, AB242, and AB243:
Fax a letter of support to Assemblymember Pedro Nava’s office: (916) 319-2135. Visit assembly.ca.gov to comment on the bills. (They have only recently been introduced, so as of March 12, they hadn’t been listed. Keep checking!)
Once a committee has been selected to vote on the bill, you can send your support by emailing the committee members. According to Nava’s office, the Committee on Public Safety will most likely be the one chosen: assembly.ca.gov/acs/newcomframeset.asp?committee=57
For more information on any of these bills, visit AssemblymemberPedro Nava’s Web site at democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a35