Today, Pat Quinn, one of the nation’s most pro-animal welfare governors, relinquished office in Illinois after six years, making way for newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner. But from an animal welfare perspective, Quinn did it with a flourish, vetoing a bill on the eve of his departure today that would have, for the first time in 40 years, opened up a trophy hunting and commercial trapping season for bobcats in that state. In addition to The HSUS, Illinois’s two leading papers, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, had urged Quinn to veto it. The Tribune, noting that “[n]o one eats bobcat steaks,” said “[t]he species is killed only to be mounted as a trophy on some hunter's wall — or for the skinning of its prized fur.” Quinn agreed with that sentiment. “We all have a responsibility to protect and maintain Illinois’ wildlife,” he said in his veto message. “Allowing people to hunt bobcats in Illinois violates that responsibility.”
This veto is just the latest in a series of pro-animal actions that this good man took during his six-year tenure. Quinn signed a bill into law last year to ban the possession, sale, or distribution of shark fins within the state of Illinois.While Illinois does not have a sea coast, it is the nation’s fifth largest state by population. We do not want people selling and consuming shark fins anywhere, including the biggest population centers of Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York City (and it’s now banned in the three states that include these cities).
Quinn’s also been a big advocate for companion animals, and he’s done some heavy lifting on the issue. He supported and signed the Puppy Lemon Law that protects pets and consumers who purchase dogs or cats from pet stores, and holds these stores and their sources accountable if a veterinarian determines the animals were sick or diseased when purchased. He signed the Antifreeze Safety Law, mandating that a bittering agent be added to antifreeze manufactured and sold within the state, to prevent the accidental poisoning of children and animals. He put his stamp on measures to strengthen the Humane Care for Animals Act by providing restrictions on the practice of tethering dogs. And he mandated training for law enforcement officers on handling animals using nonlethal methods.
Finally, he helped us with our efforts to stop private ownership of dangerous exotics, by banning the trade in primates as pets.
Indeed, Quinn is as good an example one can find of the premise that having a pro-animal governor matters, and he’s helped deliver Illinois into the ranks of the top five states for animal welfare policies. While we lament seeing him go, the same cannot be said for another departing governor: Nebraska’s Dave Heineman, who has been one of the nation’s most ardent anti-animal welfare governors. Heineman vetoed a bill, introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers, to stop the trophy hunting of mountain lions – taking exactly the opposite view of Quinn on the killing of inedible wild cats. And Heineman signed on to the lawsuit to invalidate California’s law restricting the sale of eggs from barren battery cages – fortunately, we’ve won the first round in that lawsuit. He’s also been a horrid demagogue in defending factory farming, saying that he was going to “kick HSUS’s ass” out of the state and unapologetically defending battery cages and gestation crates.
Good riddance Governor Heineman. And, Governor Quinn, we thank you, and we’re sorry to see you go.