Yesterday, the big news was the setback delivered by the U.S. Supreme Court in ruling against our position in a constitutional challenge to the federal Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act, which over the last decade went a long way in causing the purveyors of animal crush videos to crawl into their dark holes. The news of the Court’s opinion against the law was reported in all major media outlets throughout the nation. Today, a bipartisan group of more than 50 lawmakers introduced a new, narrowly crafted bill that we believe will comply with the Court’s ruling. The bill is H.R. 5092, and The HSUS is fully backing this effort. You can call your representative at 202-225-3121 and urge him or her to cosponsor this important legislation.
But there was much action on other fronts, and I wanted to mention four important advances this week, in the midst of the Supreme Court ruling. Yesterday, Virginia authorities announced state indictments against two alleged sellers of cockfighting roosters in the state. The raid actually happened in March, with the assistance of The HSUS, but the case and the indictments were announced yesterday. Several hundred birds were seized, and all of this comes after we succeeded in 2008 in passing strong felony-level penalties for illegal animal fighting and possession of fighting animals. It sends an unmistakable signal to cockfighters throughout Virginia that it is not business as usual.
And late last night, the director of the California Department of Fish and Game announced that the agency was withdrawing its recommendation to have a dramatic expansion of black bear hunting in the state. California already allows hound hunting of bears, and hunters kill 1,700 or so bears each fall. But the department had recommended to the Fish and Game Commission that it authorize an expansion of bear hunting in a number of large areas in the state, an elimination of the cap on the total number of bears killed, and an allowance of GPS tracking devices on the dogs so that hunters could more easily track the dogs and find the bears. It amounted to a reckless plan, in a state with very little data on how many bears are in the state. Today, the commission formally voted to table action on the proposals and, for now at least, will not implement these new destructive changes. The core problem of hound hunting remains in California, but last night’s action was an important one in buffering the bears from an even more extreme plan of exploitation.
Yesterday, House and Senate conferees in the Hawaii legislature approved a bill prohibiting the sale, possession, trade or distribution of shark fins and fin products. By prohibiting the possession of shark fins, SB 2169 also prevents the landing or taking of any species of shark in Hawaii and Hawaii waters, with only a single exemption for bona fide state research or education. Final floor votes in the Senate and the House will take place Friday and the bill would then go to Gov. Linda Lingle for her approval.
And this weekend, Alaska state lawmakers passed H.B. 6, HSUS-backed legislation that will make the most egregious acts of cruelty to animals a felony on the first offense and also prohibit the sexual abuse of animals. Alaska lawmakers have worked for years to impose felony-level penalties for the worst forms of animal abuse the first time a perpetrator is convicted and this bill represents a much-needed upgrade to the state's anti-cruelty law.