This story originally appeared in the Marin Independent Journal on 10/28/19
By Brian Cooley

AB 1254 will ban bobcat trophy hunting in California until at least 2025. (Courtesy of Pixabay)

California is often at the forefront of significant legislation, and when it comes to animal welfare, 2019 will long be remembered as the most important year for reducing animal cruelty in the state. A bevy of laws were passed that will protect animals and set the stage for more states to follow suit. The new laws include the following:

Buying, selling or trading fur products will be made unlawful in California by AB 44, which also makes it illegal to raise animals for their fur. It defers to the federal law with respect to dog and cat fur, which are already regulated. The California law does contain some exceptions, such as used fur products and taxidermy, but Marin Humane and its partners will monitor any claims of violation that are reported once the law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

AB 1260 will make it illegal to import for sale specimens or any parts (including skins) of lizards, hippos, iguanas and several other exotic species as of Jan. 1, 2022. AB 1260 is an amendment to a law that has been in effect for a while, and which already banned the import of specimens or parts of a longer list of exotic animals. AB 1260 is perhaps the least known of the recent animal welfare wins, but is a powerful dovetail with AB 44’s ban on fur.

The use of virtually all animals in circuses is now banned by SB 313, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2020. This is a groundbreaking law and a strong statement by the people of California that the traditional circus is a cruel form of entertainment. It is also a sweeping coda to California’s recent ban on the use of bullhooks on elephants, San Francisco’s ban on circuses and the closing of the Ringling Brothers Circus nationwide — all of which became a snowball running downhill against the abuse of animals for entertainment. Marin Humane has been at the forefront of this movement for a long time, sending staff around the country to provide training and education about the animal abuses which are rampant in the circus industry.

AB 1254 will ban bobcat trophy hunting in California until at least 2025, with an extension of the ban available if a scientific and verifiable management plan is adopted by the state legislature and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. This law caps many years of incremental bobcat protections that started with bans on body traps in 1998 and on hound hunting (treeing) of bobcats and bears in 2013.

As we’ve seen with California’s Prop 2 (2008) and Prop 12 (2018), both of which reduce cruelty to farm animals, abusive practices don’t need to be based in California for the world’s fifth largest economy to weigh in on and curtail them. For example, California is not a major veal-producing state, but Prop 12 requires that veal producers anywhere must make their practices less cruel if they wish to sell the product in California’s vast market. The new bans on fur and exotic animal skins will similarly obstruct purveyors of extreme cruelty located far from our borders, as the new bans on exotic animals in circuses and bobcat hunting will have a direct effect on practices in the state.

A few will decry these cruelty bans as a new era of “nanny state” intrusion on consumer choice, but there is a long tradition of laws banning “choice” when it has a negative effect on consumers, other sentient beings or the environment. All four of these vanguard laws are in keeping with views Marin Humane has long held as part of its formal animal welfare positions — positions that extend well beyond cats and dogs.