January 17, 2002
CALIFORNIA'S ANIMAL ABANDONMENT LAW
By: Joseph Holstead, Research Analyst
You asked for information about California's Senate Bill 237 on animal abandonment. Specifically, you wanted details about this measure, its implementation, and cost.
California SB 237, passed in September 2001, requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to place roadside signs saying it is illegal to abandon animals on state highways. It also requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to include language in the California Driver's Handbook about animal abandonment, as well as one question on some driver's license tests about animal abandonment.
Sponsored by a humane organization, the bill was bolstered by California Highway Patrol statistics showing 38,828 injuries and fatalities to drivers and passengers between 1990-1999 for animal— caused accidents (including wild and abandoned animals).
California's Legislative Analyst's Office considers the cost and fiscal impact to be minimal. To save money, however, the driver's manual will not be updated now, but at the next scheduled reprinting.
SB 237 (ANIMAL ABANDONMENT)
The bill requires:
1. California's Driver's Handbook to include language about the problem of and punishment for animal abandonment at its next reprinting or revision;
2. the DOT to include on a rotating basis at least one question on at least 20% of its driver's tests to test applicants' understanding of the animal abandonment law, emphasizing that it is a criminal offense that can create severe traffic safety hazard; and
3. the DOT to place and maintain signs on each major highway within 500 feet of the state line that address animal abandonment. The signs will state that the abandonment or dumping of any animal is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or confinement in a county jail of up to six months, or both.
Attachment 1 is a copy of SB 237.
During the 1990s, the California Highway Patrol found that animals, including abandoned animals, caused 38,828 driver and passenger injuries and fatalities. Various humane and driving groups and members of the public lobbied for the bill, including Animal Issues Movement, the bill's sponsor.
Rotating the animal abandonment questions instead of mandating a question on every exam, as SB 237 did in an earlier form, is necessary because it allows the Department of Motor Vehicle's test focus to remain on driving and safety in general. That is, rotating the questions avoids a precedent that might have adversely impacted the DMV's ability to limit the number and scope of questions on its exams.
As stated above, the driver's manual will be updated at the next scheduled reprinting to save money.