California animal transport exemption leaves livestock to cook
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2006:
SACRAMENTO–The California legislature on August 14, 2006
sent to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill to criminalize leaving
pets unattended in weather that puts the animals’ health at risk–but
specifically exempted “horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry or
other agricultural animals in motor vehicles designed to transport
such animals,” a clause excluding from protection more than 99.9% of
all the animals who die in transit from either excessive heat or cold.
Violators of the California bill could be punished by fines
of up to $500 and up to six months in jail. The bill specifically
empowers animal control officers to break into cars to rescue animals
But Virginia Handley of Animal Switchboard, the senior
animal advocacy lobbyist in California, did not join other humane
leaders in claiming an apparent victory. She pointed out that many
California agencies have already successfully prosecuted people who
left pets in hot cars under the state anti-cruelty statute–which
permits stiffer penalties.
The livestock exemption, however, most concerned her.
Wrote Handley to state senator Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), the bill
author, “It is preferable to not include something rather than to
exempt it. The agricultural lobby is very strong, and could have
killed SB 1806. I am not advocating the inclusion of livestock
because of the political reality. But rather than exempt livestock,
SB 1806 should limit itself to companion animals. The exemption
gives the incorrect impression that if the animals are transported in
vehicles ‘designed to transport’ them, they are fine.
“If we cannot do anything to help farm animals in transport
under SB 1806, the bill should be silent on the subject,” Handley
judged. “While other states exempt farm animals from their
anti-cruelty laws, California does not, and we should resist every
effort to specifically separate them.”
The Figueroa bill moved toward passage while the Peninsula
Humane Society, of San Mateo, sought cruelty charges against
Northwest Airlines and possibly also the Fresno turkey hatchery Zacky
Farms and Air Canada.
“Hybrid Turkeys, a commercial breeder in Canada, shipped
11,520 turkey chicks on Northwest from Detroit. The chicks, a few
weeks old, were to be picked up at the San Francisco airport by
Zacky Farms,” explained Hong Dao Nguyen of the San Jose Mercury News.
“Hybrid instructed Northwest to divide the birds between two
flights to California,” Peninsula Humane Society spokesperson Scott
Delucchi told Nguyen. “Instead, Northwest stuffed all 144 boxes of
fowl onto one four-and-a-half-hour flight,” leaving more birds
competing for oxygen in the airliner hold.
“Nearly 2,000 chicks made it to Fresno,” Nguyen continued, “but a
day later,” on July 14, “Northwest called Peninsula Humane to pick
up 168 others who were left at the airport. All but 40 of them died.
Less than a week later, Hybrid shipped 9,360 chicks to San
Francisco, this time via three Air Canada flights. “When one
plane made a pit stop in Las Vegas, the chicks were unloaded in
“Zacky Farms left boxes containing an estimated 3,240 dead
and dying birds at the San Francisco airport,” said Farm Sanctuary,
picking up the account. “By the time the Peninsula Humane Society
arrived, Northwest Airlines cargo workers had already thrown 26 of
the 28 boxes into a trash compactor. In the two remaining boxes,
investigators found 22 of 62 chicks still alive. Sadly, however,
all but one died.”
The Farm Sanctuary facility at Orlands, California, took in
11 of the turkeys who survived the earlier incident.
“Such deaths are routine but seldom publicized,” said United
Poultry Concerns founder Karen Davis. “Newborn birds are shipped by
the U.S. Postal Service and the airlines as ‘perishable matter’ and
treated like luggage. Millions of baby birds are delivered dead and
dying each year, and postal workers who find boxes of suffering
birds are forbidden by law from intervening. Northwest Airlines
announced in 2001 that it would no longer carry chicks as mail, but
the hatcheries persuaded Congress to force airlines to carry birds as
mail, and Senate Bill 2395,” pending, “would force the U.S. Postal
Service to continue carrying birds through connecting flights in
temperatures between zero and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.”