This article was previously published in Bird Breeder magazine and is reprinted here with permission of the author.
Proposed Legislation In California
by Laurella Desborough
Update on AB409
Assembly Bill 409 was introduced by Assemblyman Mike Machado on February 20, 1997 and was designed to permit the taking (loss) of endangered species if the loss of them happened during the repair of levees damaged during the floods of 1997. Levee repair was eventually handled by another bill, and AB 409 was changed to become legislation dealing with the possession of ferrets in California. On June 22, 1998, the Department of Fish and Game placed a series of proposed amendments to state law regulating animals. Under the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, AB 409 is now concerned with "Restricted animals: importation, transportation, and sheltering." The amended bill covers all non-native species and places full responsibility for their regulation under the jurisdiction of the Department of Fish and Game. Previously, both the Department and the Legislature made rulings regarding non-native wildlife. The bill has passed the Assembly and was expected to be heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Wildlife Committee yesterday at 9:30 AM.
Why Is AB 409 Important to Bird Breeders?
A critical aspect of this bill is that animals, birds and reptiles that are proposed for the restricted list by the Department of Fish and Game must be proven not to be a threat to a) native wildlife, b) agriculture and c) human health and safety. The burden of this proof is placed on those who want the animal to be legal in California, not on the Department. It is extremely difficult, if not next to impossible, to prove the negative.
Basically, AB 409 has the potential of listing any non-native animal/bird/reptile as restricted. The new Section 2118 (a) states: "It is unlawful to import, transport, possess, or release alive into this State a restricted animal except under regulations adopted by the commission in cooperation with the Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Health Services. The regulations shall list all animals designated as restricted by the commission. Authorization to import, transport, possess, or release a restricted animal alive into this state shall be based on a finding that no damage or detriment will be caused to agriculture, native wildlife, the public health and safety, or the welfare of the animal as a result of its importation, transportation, possession or release." This proposed bill would change the criteria under which animals are listed, forcing one to prove the negative, i.e., to scientifically prove that a species can be demonstrated to be incapable of causing any harm under any circumstances.
Stopping AB 409
Presently, California bird breeders and owners are sending faxes and letters to the legislators. Thirty-eight of us attended the Senate committee meeting on July 1. Many more plan to attend the upcoming hearing. You can view the bill on the Internet at at http://www.sen.ca.gov and click Legislation, then click California Codes, Statutes, and Prior Session Bill Documents, click 97-98 (Current Session) Bill Documents, click the AB link, then click FROM0400, then finally click AB0409. The bill is presented in multiple parts.
Assemblyman Machado's phone number is (916) 445-7931, fax (916) 319-2117. Chairman Tom Hayden's number is (916) 445-1353, fax (916) 324-4823, and the Department of Fish and Game's number is (916) 653-4633, (916) 653-9890. It is important that bird breeders persuade this Senate Committee not to approve AB 409. If it passes this committee, it will next go to the Senate Appropriations Committee, then to the Senate floor, then back to the authorizing committee and then to the Assembly floor. Since time is short, call your assemblymen and state senators. Send letters, faxes or make phone calls. It is extremely important that all contacts be made very politely, respectfully and persuasively, never aggressively or rudely.