California State and Local Election Results Hold Promise for Farm, Companion Animals

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Voters in California last Tuesday spoke in favor of defining specific parameters for humane containment of livestock. Meanwhile, residents of San Bernardino chose a mayoral candidate who has pledged to work with local companion animal advocates to reform the city’s shelter.

Proposition 12, a controversial measure with supporters and detractors on both sides of the political fence, was resoundingly approved with 61.1% of the vote. Supporters lauded the measure as an adjunct to Proposition 2, passed in 2008, which established the need for certain farm animals to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.

Under the new measure, egg-laying hens will be completely cage-free by the year 2022. Provisions will also be in place to increase breathing space for calves and pigs and to outlaw the use of gestation crates for sows.

The Humane Society-sponsored coalition, Prevent Cruelty California, had collected more than 450,000 signatures to put the measure on the November ballot. Opponents included an unlikely mix of egg producers and animal rights organizations. Producers contended that free-range chickens would have a higher mortality rate and produce fewer eggs leading to shortages and higher prices. PETA asserted that the measure did not go far enough to protect hen welfare and that it will propagate public misinformation about what “cage-free” really means.

In the Inland Empire region of Southern California, residents of the City of San Bernardino elected John Valdivia as its new mayor. Valdivia received enthusiastic support from a coalition of companion animal advocates after pledging to reform conditions and make upgrades to the city’s animal shelter. Valdivia narrowly defeated incumbent, Carrey Davis, by a final count of 10,816 (51.2%) to 10,308 (48.8%).

San Bernardino’s city shelter has come under intense scrutiny in recent months for erecting opaque fencing around the facility’s perimeter, restricting or outright barring networkers’ access to “isolation” and “receiving” kennels and reportedly increasing the euthanasia of companion animals with treatable conditions.

These moves by the San Bernardino Police Department - which has operated the shelter since the city filed for bankruptcy in 2012 - bolstered fears that the shelter was being groomed to become a “holding facility.” Last June, companion animal advocates thwarted a bid by Riverside’s city shelter - a known “holding facility” with one of the highest euthanasia rates in the country - to take over San Bernardino’s shelter.

A compassionate electorate has spoken. Now, it’s time for state and local governments to see beyond their complex bureaucracies and make good on simple promises.