ANIMAL WATCH - California claims to be the capital of humaneness to animals, but no creatures are more victimized by political ambition and election ploys than dogs and cats; and AB 1881, introduced by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, is just the latest example, following in the footsteps of Councilman Paul Koretz’ disastrous pet shop ban in Los Angeles.
Koretz “feel-good” legislation, passed in L.A. in 2012, caused the shutdown of eleven legal, highly regulated, pet stores licensed in the City, and ultimately robbed purebred puppies and kittens and of the strict protections of the statewide Lockyer, Polanco-Farr Act.
It resulted in the City of Los Angeles going from only 308 breeding permits issued to dog owners who wanted the option to breed in 2017 to 1,876 issued in 2021. These “backyard breeders” can produce and sell unlimited puppies from home or on the internet in Los Angeles with no inspection or regulation, no sales or income tax and no oversight of care, safety or health of the animals by any governmental agency.
A pet shop ban was later passed by the State (A.B. 485.)
“DOG AND CAT BILL OF RIGHTS” IS A WISHLIST
AB 1881, called the “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights,” introduced by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago is unenforceable because it is merely a list of “wishes” to be placed on the walls at animal shelters. There is no instruction as to where it is to be placed, but there is a civil penalty for not doing so.
So, who will pay the cost of State officers looking for posters in shelters—posters that cite unenforceable “rights” for animals--unless they are cruelty or neglect issues, which are already covered under State of CA Penal Code Section 597. (See a fairly complete list of animal cruelty laws here.) And which CA District Attorney has time or interest in prosecuting violations of it?
This pathetic and embarrassing example of our Sacramento tax dollar at work claims to eliminate “selfish” uses of animals, but is, itself, just the latest in a long list exploitation by termed-out and/or election-seeking politicians who need an animal bill in their campaign bucket list.
It is probable that it, like its predecessor (AB 702) will end up on the legislative analysts’ floor cutting-room floor. However, politicians and their campaign managers know that most voters don’t follow their successes or failures but gauge their performance by headlines and media-releases.
Before a legislator sets standards for animal welfare, a history of familiarity with, and abhorrence of, any cruelty must be established. Otherwise—as in the case of AB 1881—there is the strong appearance of an election ploy. Santiago will be termed out on December 5, 2022, and undoubtedly seeking a new well-paying seat in the Senate. It always helps to have a recent “animal bill” on your bucket list to further a political career.
WHERE WAS MIGUEL SANTIAGO DURING THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE PROTEST?
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago’s District No. 53 includes Los Angeles areas and the City of Vernon, where the Farmer John slaughterhouse/meat packing plant is in full operation. The plant is a major revenue and job (and potential vote) creator in the community and reportedly the source of L.A.’s popular Dodger Dogs.
Animal-rights activists displayed 7,000 paper hearts in front of the Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon on Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, to honor the 7,000 pigs they estimate are killed at the facility each day and alleged unnecessary cruelty. Santiago made no public comment.
Then, in June 2021, a herd of cows escaped from the slaughterhouse and ran through nearby neighborhoods in an effort to escape their confinement and impending deaths. It would not have been necessary for Assemblyman Santiago to take sides on this issue in his District; however, does his silence then and sudden interest now in AB 1881 imply
he is interested in the fear, pain and stress of dogs and cats but not other animals?
THE PROPOSED “BILL OF RIGHTS” CANNOT BE ENFORCED
Below are items listed in this proposed “Bill of Rights,” but first the legal definition of “rights” is that they are reserved for groups of humans that are mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.
Dogs and cats are not among these, and therefore any sets of “rights” imparted by the California legislature is merely a waste of taxpayers’ money that went into creating and publicizing it and the hours that will be spent by Capital attorneys reviewing and analyzing it. It is especially egregious when funding for animal law-enforcement has dwindled in CA in favor or just not picking up lost and stray dogs and cats and leaving them in the streets. (This is a “animal right” that should be enforced because it is the key to safety and the reason we pay for animal shelters.)
The bill purports, without evidence, that, “Prioritizing the mental and emotional well-being of dogs and cats can increase the animal-human bond, increase companion animal retention, reduce neglect and cruelty, and can contribute towards a more humane and compassionate society.”
This is nice poetry, but CA does not have enough animal control and humane officers to adequately address violent acts of animal cruelty and blatant neglect,
The bill also does not address what agency is going to inspect and enforce the posting of this declaration in shelters, as well as what source will reimburse shelters for this unfunded mandate.
THOUGHTS ON THE PROPOSAL
The Dog and Cat Bill of Rights would add section 31801 to the Food and Agriculture Code:
(a) Dogs and cats have the right to be free from exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse.
CA PC 597 addresses cruelty, neglect and abuse with criminal charges. “Exploitation” is much more complex and is not defined in the Bill. (See discussion below.)
(b) Dogs and cats have the right to a life of comfort, free of fear and anxiety.
Many pets suffer fear of anything new and feel anxiety when their owner goes to work or leaves them at doggy day care, and when taken to a vet’s office or for a bath. A life of comfort sounds great—where can I get this?
(c) Dogs and cats have the right to daily mental stimulation and appropriate exercise.
How do we “mentally stimulate” an animal and determine that we have not just triggered a basic instinct, rather than a thought process? And a “couch potato” may find walking around the yard twice a day adequate exercise but be dragged for blocks—often in heat—by an owner who competes in marathons and believes miles of running is “appropriate” or required by this law.
(d) Dogs and cats have the right to nutritious food, sanitary water, and shelter in an appropriate and safe environment.
This is blatantly disingenuous, because major organizations and activists involved in cat Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) claim that it is perfectly acceptable to leave cats outside to fend for themselves, be injured or eaten by predators, hit by cars and poisoned by humans who want to stop the nuisance and defecation in yards and near businesses. They often are forced to drink from street drainage, and they must search for shelter that also offers some degree of safety.
(e) Dogs and cats have the right to preventive and therapeutic health care.
Most U.S. shelters, in an effort to become “No Kill,” are now promoting leaving lost and stray animals—dogs, cats--in the streets, without impounding them for vaccines, veterinary examinations and safety. Most TNR cats receive only one set of shots during their lifespan. This bill must include a mandated “right” for all unwanted, abandoned, lost and stray animals to be taken in by animal shelters.
(f) Dogs and cats have the right to be properly identified through tags, microchips, or other humane means.
CA law states that dogs must be vaccinated for rabies by four months of age and wear a visible tag on a collar or harness at all times for visual verification. There is no legal requirement in CA State law for cats to be identifiable, and many groups/individuals oppose putting collars on cats because it poses a risk being hanged.
(g) Dogs and cats have the right to be spayed and neutered to prevent unwanted litters.
What poll was conducted to affirm this is what animals want? Humans impose this to stop pet dog and cat sexual behavior and the resultant problematic and tragic overpopulation.
HOW THE “DOG AND CAT BILL OF RIGHTS” COULD END EXPLOITATION:
- Stop Hollywood filming of animals in money-making motion pictures, even those showing them as loved pets.
- No more TV ads using dogs or cats to sell products, because this is clearly aimed at profit.
- No more political campaign family photos including pet dogs and cats belonging candidates could be used to influence voters.
- An end to fundraising by “non-profit” animal organizations in CA. See the IRS statistics here showing that certain major humane groups begging for money in CA pay their executive staffs over $3-million dollars per year. That misrepresents the presumption that every dollar is spent on animals and would need to be disclosed in any ad or fundraising by any group.
- HSUS asks us to “Be Their Hero,” as a sad puppy peers at us, and ‘Triple Your Impact’ by becoming a member. It also promises, “Your gift goes straight to work saving animals’ lives around the country.” Can that be verified for each donor?
- An end to the mournful sounds of Sarah McLachlan as the ASPCA promises California late-night TV viewers that their $19-a-month donation will be used to feed and house the heart-wrenching animals shown, unless the organization can prove that is literally true.
- No California fundraising by Best Friends Animal Society in advertisements with any animals used by private companies “to help boost their sales,” such as the Squatters Craft Beers’ announcement with a picture of a Bully-mix dog on its can and in an article, stating ‘Squatters Craft Beers has teamed up with Best Friends Animal Society in announcing their latest brew, ‘Chasing Tail Orange Golden Ale gets a citrus fruit finish and higher alcohol content at 5.2% ABV in this fresh-line extension. (See here.)
- No more social media pleas by small animal rescue groups, asking for donations to provide care for a displayed animal (unless they prove they have that particular animal and are prepared to provide receipts.) They would be limited to receiving only the amount actually spent on that individual animal.
SACRAMENTO BEE GOT IT RIGHT
It is hard to improve on the op-ed by Josh Gohlke in the Sacramento Bee, “California could give dogs and cats a bill of rights. They may be better off with a treat,” On February 19, he summarizes this entire travesty in light of the frenetic cat-and-dog fight in the California legislature to become the state’s champion for rights—any kind of “rights.”
He states, “A California legislator recently introduced a “Dog and Cat Bill of Rights,” which could be taken to mean the state has solved all its human problems.” He explains it is actually not a bill of rights at all, but only “a list of aspirational principles to be displayed in the state’s animal shelters.”
Gohlke then explains how it would be added among a string of codified amendments by CA lawmakers, such as, a “Student Athlete Bill of Rights, a Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights and a Residential Property Insurance Bill of Rights.” Don’t miss this if you love to laugh at Sacramento.
But we should also be crying over this waste of our tax dollars and the continual blatant political and economic exploitation of California’s animals at all levels of government and by those who are supposed to be their friends.
How ironic that this bill—yet another political exploitation of animals—claims to end “exploitation” of animals.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a contributor to CityWatch and a former Los Angeles City employee.)