The U.S. Senate is making animal fighting a federal crime. A provision of a Senate-approved farm bill would impose a sentence of up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine for attending a cockfight or dogfight and a maximum of three years in jail and a $250,000 fine for bringing along a child.
Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell is one of the backers of the bill, which closes loopholes in the federal animal fighting law related to attendance at dogfights and cockfights.
The federal animal fighting law already makes it a felony to stage fights, possess or train animals for fighting, or to move animals or cockfighting implements in interstate commerce for fighting purposes.
The amendment introduced by Sen. David Vitter, R-La. prohibits attendance at organized animal fights and imposes additional penalties for bringing a child to the bloody spectacles.
“Spectators are participants and accomplices who enable the crime of animal fighting, make the enterprise profitable through admission fees and wagering, and help conceal and protect the handlers and organizers,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “Federal investigators who raid large-scale animal fighting operations may soon be able to prosecute the entire cast of characters who sustain dogfighting and cockfighting.”
Cantwelll said the amendment gives local law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on illegal animal fighting.
“I was proud to cosponsor this bipartisan amendment and to work with Senators Blumenthal and Vitter to ensure its passage. Enacting tough penalties is an important step to ending the cruel practice of animal fighting," she said.
Animal Fighting Facts from the Humane Society of the United States:
• Spectators pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling bets, generating the bulk of the revenue for this illegal enterprise. The fights would not occur without the crowd betting on the outcome and enjoying the bloodletting.
• Often spectators are themselves participants in animal fights, waiting their turn at a typical organized animal fight, with several rounds during an event or derby. When police raid an animal fight, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between spectators and participants who were going to fight their dog or bird in the next match.
• Animal fighting is also closely associated with other criminal activities such as gangs, narcotics, illegal weapons possession, public corruption and various violent crimes. A three-year study by the Chicago Police Department found that 70 percent of animal offenders had also been arrested for other felonies, including domestic and aggravated battery, illegal drug trafficking and sex crimes.
• The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and more than 150 law enforcement agencies from across the country.