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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

Try to Get This Law Off the Books

July 05, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

A few months have gone by since Julie Boldizar looked outside on a Sunday morning and found Richard standing there in her yard.

She knew he was lost.

She called the Sheriff's Department, but the cops said there wasn't a whole lot they could do.

They referred her to some other authorities, who told Boldizar that if nobody came to claim Richard in the next 30 days, she could keep him.

But that was a bum steer.

Because a day later, Boldizar was contacted by state officials, who told her that Richard would have to go with them.

The law was quite specific.

If he couldn't be returned to his rightful home, the state had no choice but to come out to Boldizar's place to take Richard away.

And have him killed.

*

Julie and Greg Boldizar have an acre or so of unincorporated land in the vicinity of Perris, just south of Riverside.

The last couple of months have been particularly exasperating for Julie, and not just because she doesn't have Richard anymore.

She's been accused of stealing.

She's been threatened with arrest for obstruction of justice.

And she has been ignored and rejected, simply for trying to get an obsolete California law off the books.

She says, "I just want the public to know that I'm still trying my damnedest to get this law changed for good."

Not only for Richard's sake, but for others like him, big or small.

Oh, the answers she gets, though.

"The last politician's office I called, I was told, 'If you send us this, we'll just throw it in the trash.'

"I'm telling you, this experience is going to make me run for office before it's over. Whatever happened to serving the people?"

And to think it all began just because Richard wandered away one day and wound up in her yard.

It was such a nice cow.

Boldizar did what she could to locate the rightful owner. She made calls. She put an ad in the paper.

Then a state official phoned to inform her of a little-known 1890 law, regarding . . . rustling.

"We'll impound the animal," she was told, "and auction it off for the beef."

On every level, Boldizar was offended. As a vegetarian. As a believer in animal rights. And as a woman who had just taken in a stray and even given it a name (a male name, even though it was a cow).

She didn't even mind the damage Richard had done to her fence. All she wanted to know was, "Why can't we adopt him?"

Sorry, the state official said.

"If you try to interfere, we'll have you arrested for obstruction of justice."

All because she found a cow.

Luckily, the real owner showed up. He had a farm not far away. Boldizar says he was very understanding.

"He said, 'You tried to hide it.'

"I said, 'What?'

"He said, 'You tried to steal it.' "

Letting the matter drop right there was a pretty appealing idea. Except the more she thought about it, the more Boldizar resented that a poor creature could be treated that way just for getting lost.

An assemblyman had an idea. He suggested that a person such as Boldizar could just buy the cow, at, say, $1 a pound.

Which, in a cow's case, is a lot of pounds.

Some idea.

"And guess who would get the money," Boldizar says. "The state."

She tried a judge, tried a university law professor, tried calling the governor's office looking for a legal way that a lost animal could be adopted, as opposed to killed.

Another politician did offer to help. On one condition: "I don't want you to tell anybody I'm doing this."

A cow law. How embarrassing.

*

Boldizar thinks they just don't get it. "It's not an animal rights issue," she says. "It's a person issue."

And it isn't a cow thing.

If Little Bo Peep lost a sheep in California, it would be sold for mutton.

And poor Mary and her little lamb.

There's been only one consolation for Julie Boldizar so far in all this. A man heard about what happened with Richard, and he gave her a replacement cow. She named this one Baxter.

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or phone (213) 237-7366.

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