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Gov. Brown, a softy for bears -- but not for bats

September 27, 2012|By Carla Hall
  • A California black bear in Alpine County; Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that bans the use by hunters of dogs to hound bears.
A California black bear in Alpine County; Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill… (Los Angeles Times )

A smart and humane piece of legislation has been signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. Senate Bill 1221, by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), bans the use of dogs to hound bears and bobcats. 

More than half of the hunters who track and kill bears do it without the assistance of dogs.  Allowing dogs to hound and tree or corner exhausted and terrified bears is considered cruel and unsporting by animal welfare advocates and is forbidden in 14 other states. And sometimes, instead of going up trees, bears fight the dogs, which can leave the canines injured. So this is good news for bears and dogs -- not as good as if the state had banned bear hunting altogether, but that’s a battle for another day.

Despite the fact that only a tiny fraction of Californians hunt bears, issues about how to hunt them and in what numbers (the state sets a quota for maximum bear kills each year) are the subjects of passionate debates among hunters, animal welfare advocates, biologists and the state’s Fish and Game commissioners. Brown should be commended for not being swayed by hunters into vetoing this controversial piece of legislation.

In keeping with a pattern in the last several days of announcing the signing -- or vetoing -- of batches of bills that are all of a theme (health, education, etc.), the governor’s office noted that several bills affecting animals have been signed. One, by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), prohibits landlords who already allow tenants to have animals from requiring the animals to be declawed or de-vocalized as a condition of occupancy. 

Brown vetoed a bill setting various regulations on trapping animals, contending that the bill would wrongly widen the purview of the Department of Fish and Game to consumer protection issues. And he drew the line at any sympathy for bats, which the bill would have prohibited from trapping except in certain cases. "Homeowners should be allowed to exclude bats from their home at any time," he wrote in his veto message.

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