Animal advocates in California can breathe a bit easier. Assembly Bill 87 (AB 87), which once threatened to undermine an existing state law that helped protect wildlife, has been modified. API worked actively to challenge this bill and reduce its potential harm to animals.
On January 6, 2005, shortly after the California Legislature convened, Assemblymember Rudy Bermudez introduced — for the third time — harmful wildlife legislation. This legislation, AB 87, would have undermined existing state law by releasing “nuisance” or “pest” control operators from fundamental competency requirements that included taking an examination, and obtaining a trapping license from the Department of Fish & Game (DFG) in order to trap certain mammals.
During the course of the Legislative Session, however, AB 87 was modified dramatically. It now provides basic protections to five animal species that are frequently trapped or poisoned as “nuisance” animals. Animal advocates, including API staff and members of our Action Alert Team, played a key role in transforming this bill.
“Nuisance” Animals and the Law
Existing California law requires that trappers pass a competency and proficiency exam and obtain a Fish & Game license in order to provide “nuisance” wildlife trapping services of certain species.
As originally drafted, AB 87 would have allowed “pest” control operators licensed by the state Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB) or the state Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to avoid meeting the requirements of that existing law. The net result of AB 87 would have been to leave thousands of animals that came into conflict with humans — animals such as skunks and opossums — to the mercy of individuals, many of whom had received no training in the handling or trapping of these animals. The bill would have also posed serious enforcement challenges.
As a result of persistent campaigning, AB 87 has undergone extensive revisions. The bill in its current form will still allow “pest” control operators who hold specific SPCB or DPR licenses to avoid obtaining a trapping license from DFG. However, the bill does establish the following:
- SPCB and DPR must work with the state DFG to finalize regulations that govern the trapping of gophers, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, and opossums.
- These regulations must include rules specifying how the “pest” control operators will identify the species to be captured; alternatives to the use of trapping; the humane treatment of the captured animals; and notification to consumers (in advance of the capture) of the fate of the animals to be trapped.
- Licensed “pest” control operators will undergo mandatory training and examination on the use of traps as well as on the state laws governing the use of traps.
- “Pest” control operators will be required to report basic data about the five animal species they trap on an annual basis.
API’s hope is that AB 87, as rewritten, will lead to stronger, more effective enforcement and greater protection of the thousands of animals captured annually in California as “nuisances.”
Over the last year and a half, API has led the process of challenging AB 87, galvanizing other groups, as well as countless individuals. During that time, API met with numerous legislators and their staff members, and provided testimony at several Senate and Assembly hearings. API has kept its supporters, and particularly members of our Action Alert Team, apprised of the twists and turns associated with this legislation and urged caring people to take action. Those efforts have paid off and, on behalf of the animals, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who took action.
API will keep our members updated on the next steps for AB 87. At press time, the bill still had to pass through the Senate Appropriations committee and be passed by the full Senate. Stay tuned as this transformed bill nears the end of the legislative process!
What is “Nuisance” Wildlife Control?
“Nuisance” wildlife control (also known as “pest” control or animal damage control) is a growing industry — and often a deadly and under-regulated one.
Wildlife Control Operators, or WCOs, who number in the tens of thousands in the U.S., are people in the business of removing “nuisance” wildlife, such as skunks, raccoons, and opossums, from private homes, businesses, and other areas where they are not wanted. WCOs often charge hundreds of dollars to trap and kill an animal who could easily be evicted by the homeowner using a kinder, non-lethal method.
As urban sprawl increases, so do interactions between humans and wild animals. This has led to greater demand for WCO services, despite the fact that many conflicts between people and wildlife can be mitigated by simple changes in human behavior.
Oversight of wildlife damage control businesses has lagged behind the industry’s growth. State agencies have been hesitant to regulate the business practices of an industry they see as largely commercial in nature, although the wildlife control operators affect hundreds of thousands of wild animals annually.
As a result, many states have almost no regulations providing proper oversight or defining humane care and handling of wildlife impacted by this trade. Many states, for example, do not regulate how animals causing property damage are killed, and therefore allow inhumane methods such as drowning and injection of chemical solvents including acetone (which is essentially nail-polish remover and is commonly used to kill skunks).
Clearly, current state laws and regulations are woefully deficient. Few wildlife agencies have proactively sought policy reform to regulate this trade adequately. That’s why the transformation of AB 87 in California into a bill that has the potential to provide reforms to the treatment of “nuisance” wildlife is so critical.
In addition to working through legislative channels to regulate WCOs, API works to educate individuals, businesses, and communities about how to live in harmony with our wild neighbors. Our “Living with Wildlife” brochures are a great resource for those interested in learning how to co-exist peacefully with wildlife. Free downloads of these brochures are available through our Catalog. Or order a printed copy through our Catalog or call us at 1-800-348-7387.
Be Part of Our Team!
Members of API’s Action Alert Team were instrumental in transforming AB 87 from a harmful bill into a potentially helpful one. API used Action Alerts to notify Team members about opportunities to speak out about this — and it paid off! Legislators do listen when their constituents speak up.
Want to help make a difference for animals? Then join API’s Action Alert Team! Through the Team, API offers caring people the opportunity to become involved in key animal protection issues in their state and local community. We contact Action Alert Team activists when the need arises and ask them to take specific actions such as writing and calling public officials and businesses, petitioning, or planning and attending special events.
To be a part of the Team, just send your name, mailing address, email address, and phone and/or fax number, along with a message saying you want to join the Action Alert Team, to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join online or by giving us a call at 1-800-348-7387 x216.