By Troy Morris - AFC President
California Hawking Club (CHC) had received numerous complaints from members regarding the administrative searches of falconers by law enforcement. Many have heard that these searches were not authorized in law and wanted the CHC to address the matter. The CHC President asked club member and attorney Ryan English to write an opinion on the matter from a legal perspective. This paper was completed and submitted by Glenn Stewart to California Fish & Wildlife law enforcement Chief who then forwarded it to their legal department.
It came as a pleasant surprise to hear that the CF&W attorney for law enforcement phoned Mr. English to say he absolutely agreed with the analysis provided in the opinion letter. The call was friendly and he stated that his advice to the Chief of the division was they can't perform the inspections. He also said that the Fish & Game Commission has just recently been assigned their own lawyer this week and it would be best for English to contact him once he is settled in. In closing he said the regulations are going back to the Commission soon so it would be an appropriate time to address the same in official objections. Weeks later the attorney changed his position and claims he never meant what he said. The LE department now claims that they cannot change this Administrative Search provisions even if they wanted to because it is a requirement of Federal falconry regulations.
The mix of California law and Federal regulation seemed to be in conflict with one another creating a rather complex issue. Some weeks back I received a phone call from CHC Vice President Adam Chavez seeking advice on this issue and we discussed it several times. I suggested that the first step to resolve the matter would be to file a Petition for Regulatory Change with the Fish and Game Commission. This would be an opportunity for all concerned to discuss the legality as it relates to the California law without taking it to court. Due to the complexity of the issue Adam suggested that this would best be handled by the American Falconry Conservancy.
Our falconry regulations in California are in the process of revision and we had our first round of meetings with the Commission June 23, 2016. The Commissioners are mostly all new to their positions and we had a good showing with about 40 falconers in attendance.