Lawmakers Go After Animal Fighting in 2008 Sessions

Animal fighting was on the agenda of many state legislatures this year.  No doubt thanks to the publicity surrounding Michael Vick’s notorious dog fighting ring that brought to light the horrendous cruelty and violence of this blood sport that is also characterized by gambling, weapons, illegal drugs, and prostitution.

Many of these bills were part of efforts to strengthen state animal fighting laws, to give law enforcement the tools to catch and prosecute this crime. One key is to make every aspect of animal fighting a crime, including activities leading to the event itself.  Seizure and forfeiture laws along with strong fines and stiff jail sentences are also important.

No less than 10 states made being a spectator at animal fighting a crime or strengthened the penalties for those caught attending one of these blood sports:  Iowa, HF 2381/SF 2203 (made it a felony to attend an animal fight – Learn more about this new law!); Minnesota, H.F. 3132/S.F. 3360 (makes it a felony to attend an animal fight or possess anything that is intended to enhance an animal’s ability); Louisiana H.B. 286 (makes being a spectator at an animal fight a felony) New York,  S. 6466/A. 10092 (makes mere attendance at a dog fight a violation on the first offense and a misdemeanor on second and subsequent offenses); Maryland, S.B. 44/H.B. 719 (increases penalties for being a knowing spectator at an animal fight); Delaware, H.B. 276 (makes it a Class G felony to knowingly attend an animal fight; extends the statute of limitations from 1 year to 5 years); Oregon, S.B. 1072 (makes it a Class C felony to attend a dog fight and also to advertise or offer to sell or possess paraphernalia for fighting purposes – Click here to read more!); Idaho, 1260 ( makes it a crime to be a spectator at a dog fight and click here for other changes in the state’s dog fighting law); Virginia, S.B. 592/H.B. 656 (makes a number of changes in the law including increasing penalties for attendance at dog fights  – click here to read about Virginia’s new animal fighting law); and Georgia, H.B. 301/S.B. 16 (overhauls the state’s dog fighting law including making it illegal to be a spectator at a dog fight – click here to read about this new law).

In addition, Wyoming passed a law making dog and cock fighting felonies on the first offense. Click here for more information.

New Hampshire, S.B. 513, enacted a new law that allows the state to confiscate all animals used or to be used in training, fighting, or baiting, as well as all equipment, paraphernalia, and money involved. The court can now prohibit a person convicted of conducting illegal exhibitions of fighting animals from having custody or control over animals. 

The Congress also moved to strengthen the federal animal fighting law. Though the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act was passed just last session, this 110th Congress passed as part of the Farm Bill amendments that effectively make dog fighting a federal crime. In fact, President George W. Bush vetoed the Farm Bill including this anti-dog fighting measure, but Congress overwhelmingly voted to override the veto. Click here for more information about the new federal legislation targeting dog fighting.

With the assistance of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a number of jurisdictions have set up animal fighting hotlines which people can call to report suspected illegal animal fighting activities. Forsyth county, North Carolina is the latest where the county animal control and a local rescue organization, Furever Friends and other have teamed up to offer a hotline for reporting animal fighting: 336-703-2418.  Callers whose tips or information lead to arrests may be eligible for a cash reward.

Click here for a list of these hotlines and more information on laws that have led to increased investigation, arrests and prosecution of these crimes.