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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Montana: The Nation’s Safe Haven for Dogfighting Boosters

In 49 states all across America, it’s a crime to attend a dogfight. Our federal law also includes penalties for spectators who finance dogfights with their gambling wagers and admission fees.

There is a consensus in our country that animal fighting statutes should punish the entire cast of characters involved in the criminal enterprise, including the spectators who make it profitable.

Pit-bulledited
Frank Loftus/The HSUS

Which state is the one outlier? Montana. The Big Sky State is now the Big Dogfighting Spectator State.

Lawmakers there had an opportunity to close the dogfighting spectator loophole this year and bring Montana’s animal fighting laws into line with those of the rest of the nation.

The bipartisan legislation had passed the House by a vote of 74 to 25, but it failed yesterday—20 to 27—when the Senate took up the issue.

It’s shameful that 27 senators and 25 representatives voted to give dogfighting participants carte blanche.

They sided with criminals and with the nation’s most despicable form of cruelty.

Some of the opponents of this legislation raised the specter that penalties for dogfighting spectators could magically mutate into penalties for people who attend rodeos. Never mind that every other state in the West, where rodeo is popular, punishes people who attend dogfights. 

Most of them—like Colorado, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming—have penalties for cockfighting spectators, too. None of those state laws have ever impacted rodeo, or anything other than illegal animal fights. Their argument is worse than folly.

The Billings Gazette was one of many papers that had demanded that legislators act and eliminate the state’s outlier status on this issue: 

Being a spectator at a dogfight also is illegal in 49 states. Montana is the only state that has failed to close this loophole that allows people to profit from horrendous violence against dogs…

The present statute already makes clear that “causing animals to fight” doesn’t include accepted husbandry practices in raising livestock or poultry, normal rodeo events or hunting.

Spectators provide much of the profit associated with dogfighting. The money generated by admission fees and gambling helps keep this “sport” alive. Because dogfights are illegal and therefore not widely publicized, spectators do not merely happen upon a fight; they seek it out. They are willing participants who support a criminal activity through their paid admission and attendance.

“If you don’t have a penalty for being a spectator, everyone becomes a spectator,” said the bill sponsor, Rep. Tom Richmond, R-Billings. “It’s like a kegger where everyone scatters.”

If you live in Montana, see how your senators and representatives voted on the bill. If they voted “yea,” they were on the side of cracking down on dogfighting and rooting this vicious cruelty out from our communities. If they voted “nay,” they sided with criminal dogfighters, and the bloodthirsty degenerates who enjoy watching these helpless animals forced into a pit to fight each other and slowly die of their injuries.

These legislators gave dogfighting enthusiasts a free pass, and they shouldn’t get a free pass from their constituents. 

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