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April 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Big Bang to Stop Horse Slaughter

A bipartisan team of lawmakers today introduced federal legislation to stop the butchering of America’s companion horses and the peddling of their doped up meat to foreign consumers.

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The HSUS

For the past two fiscal years, Congress has rightly stopped the use of tax dollars for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct horse slaughter inspections, preventing the plants from opening here.

But the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 1942)—which was introduced by Reps. Frank Guinta, R-N.H.; Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.; Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.; Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.; and a bipartisan group of original cosponsors—would completely ban horse slaughter operations in the U.S.

It would also stop the export of American horses for the purpose of slaughter in other countries such as Canada and Mexico.

Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, star of CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” is helping The HSUS spread the word about the cruelty of horse slaughter and urging Congress to pass the SAFE Act. You can watch her PSA here.


Kaley said, “As a horse owner, I know firsthand the unique bond we share with horses, and I am passionate about protecting them from cruelty. To force any horse to endure the horror of slaughter is a betrayal of their trust and loyalty. I hope my PSA will focus attention on this important issue and bring an end to the slaughter of American horses.”

Horses suffer in long-distance transport and in the slaughter process. Rounded up from random sources, these are former racehorses, show ponies, working animals, and backyard pets who meet a terrible fate.

The animals were also never intended for human consumption, so they’ve been given drugs and medications throughout their lifetimes that are prohibited from being introduced into the human food supply. The European Commission, in fact, has suspended horsemeat imports from Mexico where most of those slaughtered horses originated in the U.S.

The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. It doesn’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: scurrilous players buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan.

It’s time for Congress to close gaps in the law and stop treating these American icons as nothing more than meat on the hoof. Please ask your representative to cosponsor the SAFE Act today.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

See No Evil: Dogfighting Spectator Law Already Making a Difference

I’m pleased to report that the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which we worked with Congress to enact last year, is now having a tangible impact in the field and helping to crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting. This week, eight people were convicted under federal law for attending a dogfight in Akron, Ohio.

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The HSUS

Last November, police raided what the Cleveland Plain Dealer called a nationwide dogfighting ring. Forty-seven people were arrested. Ten were charged in federal court, and the rest are being prosecuted in state court.

The spectators who had crossed state lines to attend the match were charged federally, along with the two chief organizers of the fights that were held that night.

Eight dogs were seized in the raid, including two who were already bloodied and were fighting in a 16-by-16-foot pit when law enforcement descended on the property.

Animal fighting routinely goes hand in hand with other crimes, and this was no exception. Narcotics and $52,000 in gambling cash were confiscated. One convicted felon was charged with being in possession of a firearm.This was a highly organized operation, and fight organizers even sold concessions and dogfighting paraphernalia to attendees.

These latest convictions show that while much of our work involves passing laws to protect animals, it’s equally important that those laws be properly enforced. Thanks to the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, it’s now a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight.

This was the fourth upgrade of the federal animal fighting statute since 2002, as we’ve worked to close gaps in the legal framework and strengthen the penalties for dogfights and cockfights.

With the FBI now tracking animal cruelty crimes in the Uniform Crime Reporting database, and agencies like the National Sheriffs’ Association speaking out forcefully against animal cruelty, we should see more enforcement of all animal cruelty laws. Animal fighting crimes are particularly well suited for federal prosecution because animal fighting almost always involves interstate activity.

In another high-profile example, federal investigators closed down a major cockfighting pit in Pikeville, Kentucky, last year and found that participants in that operation came from dozens of states.

Those out of state attendees even included members of organized criminal gangs like the Mexican Mafia. The evidence is clear. Animal fighting is a lose-lose endeavor for the animals as well as for the communities where the crimes are staged.

It also demonstrates why strong federal and state laws are both needed and complementary in the effort to crack down on animal fighting. Sometimes the fights are multi-state and multi-jurisdictional, and participants might be charged under federal law, or state law, or both. We are grateful to the lawmakers who helped shepherd through this new spectator animal fighting provision in the last Congress, thus providing one more important tool for law enforcement.

Of course, much more needs to be done across the country. The Tennessee House of Representatives may vote this week on a bill that would strengthen the state’s animal fighting law. The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has written to every member of the Tennessee House, urging them to support efforts to stiffen the penalties for animal fighting.

It’s far too early to declare victory over dogfighting and cockfighting. Some states maintain absurdly low penalties for cockfighting. And dogfighting is still pervasive in some quarters—just two weeks ago Montana lawmakers rejected an effort to criminalize being a spectator at a dogfight.

But we can take heart in the fact that animal fighting laws are getting tougher, law enforcement is paying attention, and a growing chorus of voices is saying that this cruelty must end.

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.

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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. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Animal Fighting Suffers a Knockdown

It’s been a big week in our major campaign to crack down on the brutal bloodsport of animal fighting.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill into law on Monday establishing felony penalties for repeat cockfighting offenders. Utah was previously the only state in the west without a felony cockfighting law, making it a magnet for animal fighters seeking to escape tougher punishment in neighboring states. Similar bills to fortify the law were blocked in the legislature for the past two years, but now Utah is the 42nd state with a felony cockfighting law.

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The HSUS

In Tennessee—one of only eight remaining states where cockfighting is a misdemeanor, and in the heart of the “cockfighting corridor”—the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee yesterday passed a bill to strengthen the penalties for attending or bringing a child to an animal fight.

The legislation had previously passed the state Senate by a landslide vote of 24 to 1, and we are urging the full House to approve it swiftly.

Over the weekend, The Humane Society of the United States assisted law enforcement in Marlboro County, South Carolina, in breaking up an active cockfight, resulting in the arrest of 27 suspected cockfighters and the rescue of 122 gamefowl and one emaciated pit bull with 10 puppies. Remarkably, the mother dog, Nina Louise, had been stolen from her home more than a year ago and was reunited with her owner, who had seen the news coverage of the cockfighting bust.

The Post and Courier in Charleston in an editorial yesterday called on South Carolina lawmakers to get tougher on cockfighting, quoting Marlboro County Sheriff Fred Knight: “The fights themselves are inhumane for the animals involved, but so many crimes come about at these events.” The paper reported that three children were present at the Marlboro raid.

Legislation advanced in the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to close the loophole that made that state the last one in the Union where it’s legal to attend a dogfight. It had previously passed the House by a vote of 74 to 25.

We are very close to having a national policy whose purpose, as the Billings Gazette wrote in an editorial, “is to discourage animal fights, and to ensure that, if fights are held, the instigators will be held accountable.”

These are long-term battles, and we are marching state by state to close the gaps in the legal framework on animal fighting. Other state legislatures in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Vermont are working to fortify their already strong animal fighting statutes this year.

In the mid-1980s, only a dozen states had felony dogfighting statutes and a half dozen still permitted legal cockfighting. Our movement lobbied state legislatures, and passed ballot measures against cockfighting in Arizona, Missouri, and Oklahoma, to make cockfighting illegal in every state and dogfighting a felony in every state.

We also worked with the U.S. Congress to upgrade the federal animal fighting statute four times in the last 12 years, making it a federal felony to fight animals, possess them for fighting, or to bring a child to an animal fighting spectacle.

There is a growing consensus in society that it’s wrong to force two animals into a pit to fight to the death, often pumped full of drugs to heighten their aggression, and with razor-sharp knives and weapons strapped to their legs, just to place gambling bets and entertain people who are titillated by the violence and bloodletting.

Even Matt Bevin, who as a U.S. Senate candidate last year spoke at a rally to legalize cockfighting in Kentucky, now says that cockfighting should be a felony in the state. These political changes are bringing us closer to eradicating dogfighting and cockfighting in the U.S., a day that cannot come soon enough.

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