Climb Into the Rhino Pit or the Grizzly Enclosure, Go to Jail

Entering an animal enclosure at a zoo without permission would be a misdemeanor under legislation introduced January 21.

The 11-paragraph measure appears is in reaction to an incident at the San Francisco Zoo on September 26 when a 21-year-old homeless man climbed into the grizzly bear enclosure.

Kenneth Herron pled not guilty to two misdemeanors – trespassing and disturbing a wild and dangerous animal. But a Superior Court judge tossed out the charges when Herron’s public defender said his client wasn’t trespassing because he didn’t intend to stay in the enclosure.

San Francisco’s City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee is scheduled to meet January 25 to vote on local legislation to increase penalties for unauthorized entry into animal enclosures.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd introduced the proposed ordinance after the grizzly bear incident.

Elsbernd’s ordinance would strengthen an existing prohibition against entering habitats and enclosures – including the bison paddock in Golden Gate Park. The maximum fine would double to $1,000, among other changes.

The statewide bill by Assemblyman Curt Hagman, a Diamond Bar Republican, is similar.

“Every zoo is vulnerable to this loophole in the trespassing law,” said Mike Spence, Hagman’s chief of staff. 

Hagman’s bill reads:

“Every person, other than an employee of the zoo acting within the course of his or her employment, or a public officer acting within the course and scope of his or her employment in performance of a duty imposed by law, who enters into an animal enclosure at a zoo, where signs prohibiting entrance into the zoo’s animal enclosures have been posted either at the zoo’s entrance or on the animal enclosure itself, without the consent of the zoo’s governing authority, or a representative of the zoo authorized by the zoo’s governing authority, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

A zoo is defined as a “permanent or semi-permanent collection of living animals kept in enclosures for the purpose of displaying the animals to the public.”

A misdemeanor trespassing conviction carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and a maximum jail stay of six months.

No hearing has been set for the measure, AB 1675, by the Assembly Public Safety Committee. 



  1. Could we leave just a little loophole in there?

    Like making it permissible to throw elected officials who fail to perform into the lions’ den?

    Oh, never mind… I wouldn’t want to give the critters an upset stomach.

    Comment by NoOneInParticular — 1.25.2010 @ 8:49 am

  2. Do you think Hagman would consider amending the bill to expand the definition of a “zoo” to include the State Capitol? Ask Anthony Adams or Abel Maldonado about what happens when tagged as a “RINO.”

    Comment by Gus Turdlock — 1.25.2010 @ 2:48 pm

  3. Is this the same Mike Spence who may be under investigation by the FPPC for not claiming over $50k in donations and not claiming his leadership position in the organization. Is this the same Mike Spence who has taken money from various organizations he controls to pay for vacations and pay for him to travel?

    Is this the same Mike Spence who has voted to keep positions in the school district he represents for a program moved to another agency? Spence is in the pocket of CSEA as those are the positions he voted to keep.

    Is this the same Mike Spence who thinks laws keeping people from smoking are wrong, but supports this type of law?

    Comment by SpenceARINO — 5.13.2010 @ 1:42 pm

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