Schwarzenegger Sides with Animal Abusers, Vetoes Critical Pro-Animal Legislation

Posted by Stephan Otto, ALDF's Director of Legislative Affairs on October 19, 2009

Now It’s Time to Push for a Veto Override

Late in the evening of October 11, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger opted to veto AB 243, a bill that provides broader forfeiture options for animals seized in animal abuse cases, as well as mandating post-conviction possession ban orders (no owning, maintaining, having custody of, residing with, or caring for any animal) for people convicted of animal cruelty, neglect or abandonment. Such laws are already in effect in several other states. Schwarzenegger also vetoed two other pro-animal bills (AB 241, SB 1122), and signed into law three others (SB 135, SB 318, AB 242). For more information on these bills see this earlier post.

In his veto statement regarding AB 243, Schwarzenegger tried to justify his action by stating that making such a ban "mandatory could unjustly impact individuals who make a living working with or caring for animals." Yet, the final bill passed by the Legislature specifically provides that those whose livelihoods involved livestock could be fully exempted from any such restrictions, and contains another provision which allows defendants to petition the court for a reduction in the duration of any ordered ban upon meeting certain requirements. In other words, AB 243 provides the courts with plenty of discretion on the imposition and length of any possession ban ordered.

AB 243 also has the real possibility of having a significant impact on the fiscal crises facing shelters and communities throughout the state. By helping to break the costly cycle of repeat offenders – this is especially problematic in animal hoarding cases, where recidivism rates near 100% – AB 243 offers economic relief where it is desperately needed.

What is perhaps most striking about Schwarzenegger’s decision to veto is that AB 243 was sponsored by law enforcement (the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office) and received overwhelming bi-partisan support in both chambers of the Legislature, illustrated by the final votes of 74-0 in the Assembly and 28-4 in the Senate.

Taking the Governor at his word, what his veto suggests is a shocking lack of understanding, or just plain ignorance, of the actual language of the bill. But whether through ignorance or intent, Schwarzenegger’s decision to side with the interests of convicted animal abusers over the interests of California’s abused animals (and the constituents who love them) is certainly reproachable.

How You Can Help
The Legislature has one more chance to fix Schwarzenegger’s blunder – by overriding his veto. While the California Legislature has not overridden a veto since 1979, there are many compelling reasons for them to do so with AB 243 (along with overrides of AB 241 and SB 1122) when they return to session in January 2010. Two-thirds of each chamber must vote to override a veto, so it is vitally important for Californians to contact their legislators and ask them to fix Schwarzenegger’s senseless actions. Remind them that justice for abused animals is what is important, and that while animals don’t vote, those who love them definitely do.