Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More on the Series of Animal Protection Bills Signed in California that Attempt to Curb Some Animal Abuse

We wrote about these great (and surprising) steps last week - http://geari.blogspot.com/2006/09/in-addition-to-tethering-law.html

This piece discusses the bills passed yet adds some political assessment to it. Worthwhile reading.


October 2, 2006

Series of Laws Toughen Animal Protection in California


SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 1 — Of all the constituents Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hoped to please in a recent marathon bout of bill signing, he only petted one. And he had four legs.

The object of the governor’s attention — not a voter, unfortunately — was a golden retriever named Tucker, who panted loudly as the governor patted his head.

“I’m going to sign a bill for you,” said the governor, beaming. “What do you say?”
The bill in question was just one of a series protecting animals and pets signed over the last two weeks by a governor who counts two dogs among his closest friends (a yellow Labrador named Spunky, and a white cockapoo that answers to Sarge).

Among the new laws is one forbidding the tethering of a dog unattended for more than three hours, one of the first in the country to set a rigid rule on the amount of time an animal can wait on a leash as a master runs errands.

Mr. Schwarzenegger also recently signed a bill that makes it a crime to leave animals unattended in vehicles in hot or cold weather, or without adequate ventilation, food or water. Violators of the law, which also allows the police to break windows and take animals away to safety, face fines and up to six months in jail.

And taking his lead from several neighboring states, the governor recently stiffened the penalties for those engaged in illegal animal fights like cockfighting, which animal rights advocates say is a common underground activity around the state.

While all of this no doubt pleases anyone with a tail, fur or a beak, it probably pleases the governor’s pollsters even more.

“It sends a signal to the moderate and swing voters that he’s a different kind of Republican,” said Mark Baldassare, the director of research at the Public Policy Institute of California. “And people involved in animal rights issues tend to be more left of center, so it again demonstrates that he’s politically flexible.”

It seems to be working. According to a Field Poll released Wednesday, Mr. Schwarzenegger holds a 10-point lead over his Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides, less than six weeks before Election Day.

The governor dominated the campaign spotlight last week, signing hundreds of new laws before Saturday’s deadline. He packed his schedule with a number of high-profile events, including Wednesday’s signing of a law curbing greenhouse emissions (with a satellite-linked appearance by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain) and a star-studded ceremony alongside George Clooney concerning pension divestment from Sudan.

But few of those issues draw anywhere near the kind of across-the-aisle support that pet-friendly laws can, animal rights advocates say.

“By and large, these are popular bipartisan issues,” said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a hawk or a dove, you can care about animal welfare.”

They can also make for strange legislative bedfellows, like Senators Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Richard J. Durbin, the Democratic whip from Illinois, co-authors of a bill this year increasing oversight of so-called puppy mills.

Mr. Markarian said animal care was also politically popular lately because of Hurricane Katrina, during which many pet owners were forced by the authorities to leave their animals behind. In August, the Senate unanimously passed a bill requiring emergency agencies to draw up plans for pet evacuations, care and shelter, and on Sept. 20, the House of Representatives sent it on to President Bush by a vote of 349 to 24. Mr. Schwarzenegger signed a similar bill for California on Friday.

The state’s new cockfighting law, meanwhile, comes after several neighboring states passed tougher measures, driving the illegal fights into California, which had previously doled out only light sentences for offenders. Under the new law, a second conviction can be a felony, resulting in prison time or a $25,000 fine.

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