California’s push to crack down on livestock theft has been signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
According to the Sierra Sun Times, now that it has been signed, the bill (Assembly Bill 924) will become law next year.
“In California, there has been a rise in livestock theft resulting in significant costs to California’s ranchers. AB 924 is intended to discourage criminals from these costly crimes,” said Republican Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, author of the bill. “AB 924 ensures that criminals will be prosecuted and the roadmap to prosecution is the law is violated. This bill is a win for rural California and California’s Agricultural Industry.”
AB 924 establishes a fine of up to $5,000 for anyone convicted of livestock theft. It also allows local officials to track statistics of those convicted of stealing livestock. All proceeds collected from the fine will go to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Bureau of Livestock Identification to help bring closure to current open cases and to help combat future livestock theft.
Bigelow ‘s initial bill included a provision that would have allowed prosecutors to seek jail time for repeat offenders, but state lawmakers quickly water-down the bill. However, even without potential jail time, Justin Oldfield, the California Cattlemen's Association Vice President of Government Relations, believes that the bill still “does do something very beneficial.”
"The Bureau of Livestock Identification is fee-based," he said. "This would be an additional resource they can use. Even if it's only $50,000 a year, that's still money in their pockets for them to go out and investigate cases of theft. Ultimately, the bureau works with law enforcement on this stuff."
Last year, more than 1,000 head of cattle were stolen from the state’s farms and ranches, and in July, more than two dozen Jersey calves were stolen from a Stanislaus County, Calif., dairy. Click here to read more.