The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund "applauded" the US Senate for approving an animal fighting amendment to the Farm Bill, introduced by Senator David Vitter, R-La., which closes loopholes in the federal animal fighting law related to attendance at dogfights and cockfights. The amendment, approved by a vote of 88 to 11, prohibits attendance at organized animal fights with additional penalties being imposed for bringing a child. The federal animal fighting law previous in place already made it illegal to organize fights, and to possess, train or transport animals within the United States for the purposes of fighting.
While Congress has stiffened the penalties for, and closed significant loopholes in, the federal law regarding all forms of animal fighting over the past ten years, it has not addressed the issue of spectators at these types of events. This amendment addresses such a gap in legislation.
"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 Humane Society of the United States. "Federal investigators that raid large-scale animal fighting operations may soon be able to prosecute the entire cast of characters who sustain dogfighting and cockfighting."
Although Congress has made the effort to put an end to animal fighting, it still exists throughout the United States, being largely financed by spectators. With many different states involved, local authorities simply don't have the means to put an end to it.
It is illegal in 49 states to be a willful spectator at an animal fight, with 29 of those states making it a felony. This amendment will impose a misdemeanor penalty to those who knowingly attend an animal fight, and a felony penalty to those who bring a child. This legislation will not affect "innocent bystanders," as organized animal fighting is a highly calculated activity done in secret locations with admissions fees and gambling bets; therefore, no one just happens upon one by accident.
Without spectators betting on the outcome, there would be no fights. They are the ones who pay the admissions fees and gambling bets, generating the bulk of the cash flow. In addition, spectators are often participants as well. This has made it difficult in the past for police officers to determine who to arrest when raiding a fight. According to a 3 year study by the Chicago Police Department, 70 percent of animal offenders have been arrested for other types of felonies, leading to the conclusion that animal fighting is also closely associated with other forms of criminal activity. It's no wonder that this type of legislation is endorsed by more than 150 law enforcement agencies across the country.
Photo credit: Kevin McCoy