Reports out of California are that state lawmakers are considering an aggressive animal welfare agenda this year. 

Legislation has already been introduced to regulate puppy mills, set harsher penalties for watching dog fights and provide people with tax deductions for adopting pets.

The state Senate has already redefined the former Agriculture Committee – now called the Food and Agriculture Committee. The committee chair is an animal rights supporter, which is particularly bothersome to the agriculture industry as the committee deals with bills that are friendly and unfriendly to the state's No. 1 industry. 

State Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter), is the new chairman and he has a history of tangling with agriculture over food safety, reports the San DiegoUnion Tribune. He intends to conduct an oversight hearing next week to explore livestock welfare issues.

“This is a game-changer,” says Jennifer Fearing, Humane Society of the United States' chief economist. “There was no place in the (state) legislature to have a forum about farm animal welfare.” Fearing says she does not expect immediate changes, but HSUS hopes the committee will eventually take up specific reforms such as methods to make poultry slaughtering more humane.“Virtually anything goes,” she told the San Diego Union Tribune.

Lawmakers and animal rights advocates both point to November's voter approval of Proposition 2 as a sign to be more aggressive this year. “It sent a signal that Californians are ready for and are demanding humane treatment of animals, whether they are farm animals or companion animals,” says Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara).

On the pet side of the equation, a proposed bill would allow taxpayers to  deduct up to $300 worth of adoption expenses starting Jan. 1. Nava also will present a three-bill package to limit dog and cat breeders to 50 animals at one time, make it a felony to attend a dog fight, and require judges to ban those convicted of animal cruelty from keeping pets for up to 15 years.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bills.

Source: San Diego Union Tribune