The new year will bring three much-needed new laws (and bring us one year closer to two others) that further protect and promote the rights of animals in California.

Starting tomorrow:

  1. Dogs, cats, and other animal companions will be treated like family, rather than property in divorce cases. California courts will now consider the best interest of those animals in awarding custody. “As more divorcing couples fight over who gets to keep their pets, a new law will allow judges to treat those conflicts more like child custody battles…” Courts “would be allowed to make custody decisions based on who walks a dog, takes a cat to the vet or grooms a horse. Courts will also be authorized to order one spouse to provide food, shelter and medical care for a pet before a final ruling.”
  2. It will be illegal for pet stores to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from “puppy mills” and other commercial breeding operations. They will only be allowed to partner with shelters, humane societies, and rescue groups to place animals. Not only will the law help increase adoptions, it will decrease abuse. Commercial mills fuel inbreeding, provide minimal to no veterinary care, lack of adequate food and shelter, lack of human socialization, overcrowded cages, and cause neglect, abuse, and the killing of animals when they are no longer profitable.
  3. Hospitals and healthcare institutions (such as skilled nursing facilities) will be required to offer a plant-based (vegan) option at every meal. According to the law’s Senate sponsor, everyone “deserve[s] to have healthy and ethical meal choices.” The innocent animals deserve much more.

California also passed two more laws but they won’t go into effect until the end of the new year. By that time:

  1. It will be illegal to sell eggs in California unless the chickens have at least 1 square foot of floor space. [“The law also requires them to be cage-free entirely (with accommodations including scratching posts, nests, and perches) by the end of the year 2021.”] That doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t, but this will give animals a little less misery than they are currently subjected to. Right now, the average stocking density for egg laying chickens is as low as 67 sq. inches. In some cases, it is lower. The law would increase that to 144 sq. inches (1 sq. foot) at the end of the year and 1.5 sq. ft. per hen after 2021.
  2. It will be illegal to sell cosmetics and hygiene products, such as deodorant and shampoo, that are tested on animals or have ingredients tested on animals. As the largest consumer market in the U.S., companies wanting to sell their products in California — including Proctor & Gamble, Gillette, and others — will have to stop torturing animals. As such, where California goes, so eventually goes the nation.

Happy new year to dogs, cats, rabbits, cows, chickens, pigs, guinea pigs, mice, and many, many others.

And happy new year to you.

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