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Friday, May 30, 2008

Uniting to Take Down Animal Fighting

I was delighted this week to see that a group of middle schoolers from my hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., was honored for the anti-dogfighting rap song they entered in The Humane Society of the United States’ Hip Hop for Hounds contest. The young rappers are part of the Erie County SPCA’s innovative Teaching Love and Compassion (TLC) program, and they were asked to perform their song at a meeting of Erie County legislators and the Buffalo School Board. 

184x263_ny_rap_kids_2 The rap they created, “Unite,” is a testament to the power of young people to spread the message of compassion, and the interconnectivity between how we treat animals and how we treat other members of our communities. You can listen to the song, or watch them perform it.

In fact, rallying cries against animal fighting are being sung not only at county councils and school boards, but also in the halls of state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. Just look at what has happened in the first five months of 2008.

The Farm Bill passed by Congress includes a provision that puts more teeth into the federal law to combat dogfighting and cockfighting. It upgrades the penalties from three years to five years in prison, and bans the training and possession of fighting animals nationwide.

Eight states have enacted laws this year to crack down on animal fighting. Idaho and Wyoming made dogfighting a felony, the last two states to do so. Virginia and Wyoming made cockfighting a felony, and Virginia also authorized the use of racketeering charges to break up dogfighting rings. Iowa, Maryland, and Oregon toughened the penalties for the spectators who finance dogfights. Georgia closed its loophole that allowed people to possess fighting dogs, and Mississippi continued its prohibition on hog-dog fighting.

Lawmakers in three other states have passed bills that just await the governor’s signature. The Louisiana and Minnesota laws will upgrade penalties for attending dogfights, and the New Hampshire law will allow the confiscation of fighting animals and prevent animal fighters from owning animals in the future.

Five other bills have passed one chamber of their respective state legislatures, and some of them could become law this year if they are approved by the other body. Bills in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, and New York would upgrade the statutes dealing with spectators at dogfights, and a bill in Ohio which passed the House this week would make cockfighting a felony.

Every single one of these new laws brings us one big step closer to eradicating the dogfighting and cockfighting industries, and that goal cannot be achieved too soon. The Humane Society Legislative Fund will continue its march in the halls and corridors—from Augusta to Honolulu, from Juneau to Tallahassee—until we rid all of our communities of this terrible scourge.

The support of America’s young people is crucial for success. As the Buffalo students put it: “Don’t fight. Unite. 'Cause we gotta make it right.”

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