SACRAMENTO - Proposed California laws to ban dogs from competitively hunting wild jackrabbits and to force zoos to expand acreage for elephants died this week in legislative committees.

The two measures were among many torpedoed Thursday by legislative appropriations committees, which marked their final hurdle before reaching the Assembly and Senate floors.

Victims included bills to place a death penalty moratorium before voters, impose a recycling fee on household batteries, require all Californians to have health insurance, and mandate advisory elections in counties where an urban casino is proposed.

Few, if any, of the proposals are likely to be revived in other legislation, because rejection by the powerful appropriations committees signals lack of widespread legislative support.

Assembly Bill 2110 would have banned the sport of live field coursing in which greyhounds, whippets, salukis, and other sighthounds compete in capturing and killing wild jackrabbits in rural fields.

Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, proposed AB 2110 after watching TV footage of a Solano County event in which competing dogs played tug-of-war over a jackrabbit carcass.

"Frankly, I have to say the fact that it was controversial killed it," Hancock said. "There was controversy created by people who wouldn't acknowledge that (field coursing) has nothing to with traditional hunting."

Brabyn argued that live field coursing is expressly permitted by state law and is an important element in breeding because it allows owners to identify the most exceptional sighthounds.

The sport hunts only wild jackrabbits in their natural habitat; it mirrors real-life chases by predators, and 90 percent of the jackrabbits chased by sighthounds escape unharmed Brabyn said.

Assembly Bill 3027, known as the Elephant Protection Act, would have required zoos to set aside at least 5 acres of usable habitat for every three elephants, plus an additional half-acre for each additional elephant.

The measure by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, would have affected circuses by banning the use of steel-tipped bull hooks and chains to herd or restrain the popular pachyderms.

"I don't think we have an inherent right to see elephants," Levine said. "If we can't give them the care and respect they deserve, if we can't afford that, then we shouldn't have the privilege of seeing them."

The American Zoo and Aquarium Association charged that the bill sets arbitrary acreage requirements for zoo elephants that are not supported by science.

"We believe that these changes are another attempt by animal rights activists to effectively ban elephants from zoos today and then ban other species, such as giraffes, lions and penguins, from zoos tomorrow," the organization said in a statement while AB 3027 was under debate.

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