Wednesday, February 24, 2010

California Legislation

Last Friday marked the last day for legislators in California to introduce bills for the second of a 2-year session.

There are 2,760 assembly bills and 1,476 senate bills. Some have already failed or passed, while others are active. I can see why people get tired of government, though, 4,000 pieces of legislation is a lot! And that does not even include the special budget bills!

Here's a list of bills affecting animals and their guardians/owners. I think SB 1277 will be the big animal bill of the year (in terms of controversy).

AB 233 - Assemblymember Smyth - Tax deduction for adoption
People who adopt animals would be able to deduct costs associated with that adoption, up to $100. It is a carryover bill, so it may be a couple of months before it's heard by the appropriations committee. I think it's a nice, small incentive to adopt animals.

AB 1980 - Assemblymember Hayashi - Animal control agents and first aid
Animal control officers would be able to provide first aid to animals, provided they receive appropriate training. I look forward to the analysis to see why this is even being proposed.

AB 2000 - Assemblymember Hagman - Rabies vaccine exemption
State law requires all dogs older than four months of age to receive a rabies vaccine at minimum, once a year. This law would add a clause exempting dogs who a veterinarian determines would have a lethal reaction to the vaccine. Guardians/owners would have to renew the exemption annually, so in areas where people can get a 3-yr license, those exempted would have to get a 1-yr license. I fully support this legislation, unless convinced otherwise.

AB 2411 - Assemblymember Jones - Regulation of pet insurance industry
This is the state's attempt to regulate the pet insurance industry by adding it to the state's Insurance Code. It would prohibit pet insurance agencies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions for a period of six months following the effective date. A pre-existing condition clause could apply to conditions that were diagnosed by a veterinarian during the six months prior to the effective date of coverage. Those insurance companies that do not have a pre-existing condition clause must limit their waiting/affiliation period to 30 days before coverage begins. I'll save my opinion until I see the first committee analysis.

AB 2716 - Assemblymember Mendoza - Licensing reduction for puppies
This bill would reduce the fee for the licensing of puppies under the age of 8 months by half. I am curious about the rationale for this bill in a state with severely underfunded animal control agencies. Granted, licensing rates in the US are offensively low*, around 10% in many regions of California. Does the author think this will increase the rate of licensing because more people will license their animals if the fee is cheaper? I am not sure. I will also wait for the analysis before formulating a firm opinion on this one.

SB 1185 - Senator Maldonado - Tax deduction for adopted animals
People who adopt animals would be able to deduct up to $250 in food and supplies associated with the cost of that animal. It would be applicable for the taxable year in which a person adopted an animal.

SB 1277 - Senator Florez - Animal abuser internet registry
This bill has already created a lot of buzz in the animal welfare community. Senatore Florez is not shy when it comes to controversy or trying to help animals. Last year, he successfully lobbied the passage of a bill to ban tail-docking of cattle in the state, introduced legislation to try and regulate antibiotics fed to livestock (it failed), and perhaps most notoriously, revived the mandatory spay/neuter debate with SB 250 (which is in the Assembly for a vote, at some point). SB 1277 would create an internet registry of convicted animal abusers (felons, specifically). It would require the person's photo, physical address, name, identifying features. They would have to register annually and failure to do so would be a misdemeanor. Creatively, Florez includes a way to pay for the proposal through a surcharge on pet food (that is, consumers pay slightly more for their animals' feed).  Here's my take on the bill. I look forward to the analysis on this one. I think this will be the most controversial animal bill of the session.

These are not all the bills affecting animals. There are several hunting/wildlife bills. No farmed animal bills. I figured most of you are interested in companion animals.

*As an aside, in New Zealand, all the councils complain about their licensing rates too. Perhaps Americans could commiserate. Alas, New Zealand has a 90% compliance rate, so even with a strong licensing rate, government officials still complain!

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