California Ecosystems Protection Act – AB 1788
Protecting California’s Wildlife from Harmful Poisons
Update: While AB 1788 will not advance in 2019, California has a two year legislative session. The significant progress we made on AB 1788 this session will continue next year. We are working behind the scenes to fine-tune the bill language to ensure that it best protects California’s wildlife. Stay tuned for more information in January 2020.
Rodenticides (rat poisons) designed to kill rodents are poisoning California’s native wildlife. These persistent poisons are first consumed by rats, who in turn are consumed by other wildlife, resulting in secondary poisoning and contamination of the food chain. Poisoned animals frequently suffer slow and very painful deaths.
A 2018 analysis of 11 studies revealed that more than 85% of California mountain lions, bobcats, and Pacific fishers have been exposed to rodenticides. In addition to harming wildlife, children and companion animals are also vulnerable to rodenticides, accidentally consuming the poison intended for rodents.
California Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Raptors Are the Solution (RATS) are sponsoring AB 1788, the California Ecosystems Protection Act, which would ban the use of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) throughout the state, except for agricultural use or by special permit.
While all anticoagulant rodenticides have a harmful impact on wildlife, SGARs are particularly dangerous because they have higher potency than prior generations of poisons. A single dose has a half-life of more than 100 days in a rat’s liver! Considering the harmful impact of SGARs on ecosystems, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation banned the use of SGARs by consumers, limiting their use to just professional pest control applicators, in 2014. But the impact of SGARs on wildlife has not decreased since then, meaning further action is urgently needed.
AB 1788 also would ban the use of first generation anticoagulant rodenticides (FGARs) on all state-owned land. If enacted, California will become the first state to prohibit these cruel products.
We will need your help to enact AB 1788, the California Ecosystems Protection Act. Keep an eye on this page and follow our Facebook page for the latest news. Sign up for our action alerts to ensure you are notified when we need you to contact legislators.
When you’re gathering support for this bill, it’s important to be able to answer fellow Californian’s questions. Review these talking point to help explain why California needs this legislation.
With limited exceptions, the bill would ban the use of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) throughout the state and first generation anticoagulant rodenticides (FGARs) on any state-owned property.
- Anticoagulant rodenticides disrupt normal blood clotting by interfering with the vitamin K cycle. Animals who consume FGARs or SGARs suffer from uncontrolled bleeding and ultimately may die. FGARs require rodents to consume the bait for several consecutive feedings before receiving a fatal dose. SGARs are more potent – a rat can die after just one feeding. But both generations of rodenticides pose a serious danger to children, wild animals, and companion animals.
- Warfarin, chlorophacinone, and diphacinone are first generation anticoagulant rodenticides.
- Difenacoum, brodifacoum, bromadiolone, and difethialone are second generation anticoagulant rodenticides.
Anticoagulant poisoning has been documented in numerous California wildlife species, including: coyotes, San Joaquin kit foxes, black bears, raccoon, mountain lions, bald eagles, great-horned owls, skunks, and bobcats. There is no way to determine the exact number of animals who have been killed, in part because animals typically retreat to dens or other hiding places in the final hours of their lives.
- The California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s analysis of 11 wildlife studies determined these poisons were documented in 88% of tested bobcats, more than 90% of tested mountain lions, and 40% of tested barred owls.
- The California Environmental Protection Agency documented rodenticide residues in 27 avian species and 17 mammalian species
- In 2014, California banned consumer use of SGARs. But mountain lions are still dying. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s database of mountain lion deaths reveals anticoagulant rodenticides were found in the livers of 63 out of 68 deceased mountain lions between 2015 and 2016.
- Some of the impacted animals are endangered or threatened.
- The analysis from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation also found seven out of ten threatened Northern spotted owls and more than 85% of Pacific Fishers were exposed.
- A study of endangered San Joaquin kit foxes in Bakersfield, California determined a high incidence of exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides.
- Additional studies on the impact of rodenticides on wildlife are available here.
Many California communities have already taken steps to protect both their residents and animals from the harmful effect of these poisons.
- 29 California cities passed resolutions discouraging stores from selling rodenticides.
- Additionally, the cities of Moorpark, Calabasas, and Malibu have stopped using anticoagulant rodenticides in their city-owned parks and facilities.
- In 2014, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks phased out the use of SGARs after concluding their use “compromised” the city’s objective of maintaining “healthy and safe parks.”
Children and companion animals are particularly vulnerable to rodenticide poisoning.
- Young children routinely consume poison intended for rodents, confusing the bait for food. Similarly companion animals either consume the bait directly or consume poisoned rodents.
- Between 1999 and 2009, the American Association of Poison Control Centers received reports of an average of 17,000 humans exposed to rodenticides annually. The vast majority, roughly 15,000, of these exposures involved children younger than six.
- The AAPCC reported more than 50,000 dog poisonings from rodenticides in 2014
There are safer and less expensive alternatives to anticoagulant rodenticides.
- Exclusion and sanitation is the best approach to managing rodents. Sealing buildings, eliminating food and water sources, and trimming foliage and tree limbs from the sides and roofs of houses are important steps to reduce the presence of rodents.
- For more information on rodenticide’s impact on wildlife, children, and companion animals, as well as ideas on to how to manage rodents without poisons, please visit Safe Rodent Control.
These links are for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement from the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The Animal Legal Defense Fund does not support the lethal control of animals.