Legislating Animals

LEGISLATING ANIMALS:  Since before a New York court decided Pierson v. Post, animals have been a source of interest in legal circles because they provide sport, companionship … and food.  As a staff member for an Oregon legislator, I heard all about the childless constituent who was lobbying desperately to stop the ban on the ownership of exotic pets.  The photos of her and her capuchin monkey were pretty cute, but ultimately, the legislature directed the Department of Agriculture to not issue any additional permits.

Every now and then, we here at Legislative Intent Service, Inc. get to research fascinating and emotionally-charged animal legislation.  Here are just a few animal-related laws (and here is the Wikipedia summary of Pierson v. Post in case it is too late in the week to read an opinion from 1805).

CAGED CHICKENS: California made national news a few years ago with Proposition 2 of 2008.  The initiative applied to calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs, and provided that they have cages that allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.

SHARK FINS!  On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed the Shark and Fishery Conservation Act of 2010 into law.   Part of the law amended the ten-year-old Shark Finning Prohibition Act (SFPA).  The SFPA forbade finning by any vessels up to 200 nautical miles offshore the United States and possession of fins by U.S.-Flagged vessels.  Shark finning typically involves slicing off the fin and dumping the rest of the shark back in the ocean, where it meets an untimely end due to its inability to swim normally.  An estimate from 2002 placed the estimated “harvest” of sharks at 80 to 150 million sharks a year.

A year after President Obama signed the Shark and Fishery Conservation Act, California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, signed two bills which banned the possession and sale of fins in California, but allowed existing stock to be sold until January 1, 2013.  Both bills were carried by Assembly member Paul Fong and supported by high-profile Chinese like former NBA star Yao Ming (see page 3).  According to Assembly member Fong, “I’m proud of my Chinese roots, and our culture will live and survive without sharks’ fins.”

BAN ON SELLING PETS IN PUBLIC: Earlier in 2011 in California, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 917, which enacted new Penal Code section 597.4, which banned the selling or giving away of pets as part of a commercial transaction, “on any street, highway, public right-of-way, parking lot, carnival, or boardwalk.”  I’ve heard of people buying dogs from backyard breeders out of the backs of pick-up trucks … hopefully this will cur-tail that practice!

WACKY ANIMAL LAWS: For a quick review of recently enacted laws, see the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s “Top 10 Wacky Animal Laws of 2014.”