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LS PUPPY STORE 3(2).JPGA controversial animal cruelty bill was killed today, just hours before it was scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Committee on Agriculture.

Assembly Bill 343 by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, would have required any person who willfully or knowingly documents animal cruelty to provide a copy of the evidence to law enforcement within 120 hours.

The proposed legislation, however, was seen as an attempt to make it harder for animal welfare advocates to investigate abuses in undercover food safety cases.

"My intention with this bill was - and remains to be - the prevention of animal cruelty," Patterson said in a statement. "The Chair of the Agriculture Committee, myself and the California Cattlemen's Association have agreed to hold a hearing in the future to discuss how we can move forward our goals of a safe food supply, strong agricultural industry and the humane treatment of livestock."

"We appreciate Mr. Patterson avoiding the glare of a hearing where a lot of concerns would have been voiced from a wide range of stakeholders," said the Humane Society's Jennifer Fearing. "Our biggest concern was that it seemed clearly aimed at stifling the documentation of animal cruelty and not stopping animal cruelty itself."

There were many amendments to the bill leading up to it being pulled, including one that exempted journalists. Another amendment drew particular interest from Fearing. It said the law "does not apply to the inadvertent capture of an image ... through the use of video surveillance, security systems, or other imagine systems."

"In other words, the people closest to the facility and most likely to witness abuses are exempt," Fearing said Friday.

Patterson's office said the intent of that amendment was for it to apply to footage captured, but not reviewed.

PHOTO CREDIT: A two-month-old lab puppy sticks his nose through the kennel at the SPCA in 2003. Lezlie Sterling / The Sacramento Bee



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