CA livestock theft legislation gains traction

Jun 21, 2013

California assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, was successful in getting his livestock theft penalty legislation, Assembly Bill 924, out of the Assembly unanimously at the end of May. While the bill was slightly watered down, AB 924 now moves on for consideration by the Senate.

With over 1,000 head of cattle stolen last year, stronger penalties need to be in place for cattle rustling, according to Bigelow.

“With the passage of AB 924, California is one step closer to ensuring that people convicted of crime are properly punished,” Bigelow said.

“AB 924 is a small but important step to help protect farmers and livestock owners from theft and would help ensure that when theft does occur, those cases are closed in a reasonable timeframe.”

AB 924 would establish a fine of up to $5,000 for anyone convicted of livestock theft. Proceeds collected from the fine would 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.

California is not the only state to see a rise in cattle thefts; several others are also seeking stricter punishments.

In Dallas, TX, the county sheriff says his department is working to become more proactive in an effort to stop a rise in cattle thefts. Sheriff Mike Rackley told local reporters his deputies will look for vehicles that could haul cattle, especially those on the road at odd hours, with plans to pull them over.

In Alabama, the newly developed Agriculture and Rural Crimes Unit (ARCU) is investigating a number of recent cattle thefts. ARCU was authorized as part of a law enforcement consolidation bill the Alabama Legislature passed this spring, following budget cuts in the Department of Agriculture.

Gene Wiggins, who leads ARCU, told reporters that investigators are assisting sheriff’s departments with a number of cases, believed to be related.

In May, in Barry, MO, 13 head were stolen. Missouri University (MU) Extension shared pointers to ranchers to prevent rustling.

“Don’t let your guard down and not keep close tabs on your cattle. Also, note suspicious vehicles and persons in your neighborhood who seem interested in cattle along the road. Of course, unless they’re in a 2000 reddish Ford Taurus, which could be me. I’ve been known to drive slowly by pastures and do some windshield evaluation of cattle, pastures, weeds, bale rings, mineral feeders, etc. I’ve even had my camera out taking pictures on occasion,” MU extension agent Eldon Cole partially joked. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor