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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Taking the Profit Out of Animal Fighting

Over the last decade, The HSUS and HSLF have worked with Congress several times to strengthen the federal law to combat dogfighting and cockfighting, closing loopholes on commerce in fighting birds and weapons attached to them, upgrading the penalties for all animal fighting to a felony offense, and barring the possession and training of fighting animals. But there is still one particular deficiency in the federal law: While 49 states (all but Montana) make it a crime to attend an animal fight, with 27 having felony penalties for spectators, there is no federal prohibition to address the people who allow this criminal enterprise to thrive with their admission fees and gambling wagers.

Dogsfighting We hope that will soon change, as U.S. Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, this week introduced H.R. 2492, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, to close this gaping loophole and stop the cruel people who fuel this criminal industry. Their bill would prohibit knowing attendance at organized animal fights and impose additional penalties for causing a minor to attend such events. Just last night, CBS 42 aired exclusive undercover video footage of cockfights in Central Alabama, showing young children ringside and illustrating what a problem this is.

Like any underground crime, dogfighting and cockfighting only thrive because people spend money on it. And these individuals don’t walk into a bar on Main Street and accidentally stumble across a dogfight. They knowingly seek out the criminal activity at clandestine locations, and they often quietly whisper secret passwords to enter. They pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling bets, generating the bulk of the revenue for this illegal enterprise. And they provide cover for dogfighters and cockfighters, who blend into crowds at the first sign of a police raid to evade prosecution.

As Rep. Marino said in introducing the bill, “As a former state and federal prosecutor, I’ve seen first-hand the criminal culture that surrounds animal fighting events and the damaging influence this environment has on our children. We try to protect our kids from criminal violence and yet there is no safeguard for those adults who take impressionable children to animal fights where they can witness these heinous acts in person. I introduced this legislation to make sure that law enforcement has all of the tools necessary to deprive the organizers and profiteers of these horrific events from receiving the support they need to continue this activity.”

Rep. Sutton added, “Animal fighting is a horrible and barbaric activity, and by making it a federal crime for individuals to knowingly attend these events or bring minors to them, we will make tremendous strides in putting an end to it once and for all. I am proud to stand with Members from both sides of the aisle and look forward to passing this common-sense, humane legislation.”
 
Congress should act swiftly to pass this bill and crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting. The spectators are not innocent bystanders—they are willing participants in organized crime who are there for their own amusement and gambling profits and because they are titillated by the bloodletting. Take away the spectators and you take away the profit. Our laws should be tough enough to stop people from financing the torture of animals.

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