Governor Brown Signs Law Barring Use of Dogs to Hunt Bears and Bobcats

Governor Brown signed a bill into law that generally makes it unlawful to permit or allow a dog to pursue a bear or bobcat at any time. The bill, introduced as SB 1221 by State Senator Ted Lieu, is intended to curb the use of dogs to hunt bears or bobcats.  Debate over the bill divided both houses of the California legislature.  David Siders reported that "[t]he legislation pitted wildlife advocates against hunters at the California Capitol – the former raising concerns about the humane treatment of animals, the latter about urban elitism" (Sacramento Bee, Sept. 27, 2012).

The bill to ban use of dogs was introduced in the aftermath of a controversy involving Dan Richards, a member of the California Fish and Game Commission.  The Commission is composed of members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.  It manages California's fish and wildlife resources by, among other things, regulating fishing and hunting and making decisions whether to list species as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.

In early 2012, it came to light that Commission Richards, who was at the time serving as the Commission's President, killed a mountain lion on a hunting trip in Idaho.  The action was legal in Idaho, though California prohibits sports hunting of mountain lions within its borders.  In response to the revelation, there was a substantial outcry for Commission Richards to resign but also a counter response in defense of his conduct.  Columnist Dan Walters covered the controversy at the time (The Modesto Bee, Feb. 29, 2012).  Richards remains a member of the Commission though he is no longer President.

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