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Protecting California's animals

The Legislature approved measures aimed at breeding, dogfighting, ownership and tail docking. These deserve to be law.

September 15, 2009

The prosecution and conviction of NFL quarterback Michael Vick for his involvement in interstate dogfighting has done more to heighten national concern about cruelty to animals than any stunt ever pulled by a paint-throwing, pie-wielding PETA activist. In the two years since the public learned of the horrific torment of dogs at Bad Newz Kennels, anti-dogfighting statutes have been enacted in 25 states. California is poised to join them. A package of animal welfare bills that includes stiffer penalties for dogfighting was sponsored by Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara). It enjoyed strong bipartisan support, easily passing in both the Assembly and state Senate, and awaits Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature.

AB 241 limits the number of adult breeding dogs and cats confined in large-scale operations to 50; AB 242 upgrades penalties for attending a dogfight from a misdemeanor to a felony, with the goal of cracking down on gamblers who fuel the industry. Although dogfighting is a felony in every state, according to the Humane Society, an estimated 40,000 people participate in organized dogfighting and another 100,000 engage in street-level contests. And http://heep:// 3AnimalCrueltyfactsheet.pdf prohibits people convicted of animal abuse from owning other animals in the future. These all deserve the governor's support.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, September 18, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 28 Editorial pages Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Proposition 2: A Tuesday editorial said Proposition 2 made it illegal to confine hens in cages. The measure, which takes effect in 2015, required that cages for hens, veal calves and pregnant pigs provide enough room for the animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around.

A separate animal welfare measure, SB 135, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter), would make it illegal to dock, or cut off, the tails of cattle except for medical necessity. It is already illegal in California to dock horses' tails, and the new legislation would add the words "and cattle" to the existing law. Schwarzenegger has gently mocked legislative focus on this bill in light of the state's budget crisis, but he should sign it too.

Californians have amply demonstrated a desire to diminish cruelty toward animals where possible and within reason. Proposition 2, which made it illegal to confine hens in cages, passed in November with more votes than any other measure in the state's history. (This page opposed Proposition 2, but we shared the uneasiness of many Californians toward the treatment of chickens in the egg industry; our opposition was rooted in the concern that the measure would be easily circumvented.)

Some opponents of these bills favor improving the lives of pets and livestock but suspect a hidden agenda by the U.S. Humane Society, which backs them: First comes kindness to cows, these critics worry, and next, a mandatory diet of wheat germ and water. That fear shouldn't stop the state from doing what is right. These bills are small steps toward improved animal welfare, but they move California in the right direction.

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