Update June 5, 2008: Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has signed this bill into law!
At the same time the Governor signed SB 26 which makes dog fighting a rackeetering activity that could mean charges under Virginia’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or RICO. This will help law enforcement prosecute dog fighting rings.
Update March 3, 2008: The dog fighting bill hasÂ passed the Senate by a vote of 40-0!
In fact, the law will cover all animal fighting. It will now be illegal to give any animal a substance or use any device to enhance fighting or hurt an animal. This will cover dog and cock fighting equipment and paraphernalia.
It will also now be illegal to attend an animal fight or involve minors in animal fighting.
Significantly, generally, involvement in any animal fighting, including cock fighting and hog dog fighting, will now be a Class 6 felony instead of a Class 3 misdemeanor. The punishment for a Class 6 felony is 1-5 years in prison though a jury or judge can limit imprisonment to one year, and also a fine up to $2500. Va. Code § 18.2-10
Those caught attending an animal fight or involving a minor in this activity can be charged with a felony as well if they are also involved in animal fighting in some other way such as, for example, gambling on a fight. Otherwise these crimes are Class 1 misdemeanors punishable in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $ 2,500, either or both. Va. Code §18.2-11
Violators can also be required to pay for the costs of caring for and euthanizing the animals used in fighting.
The new law is not likely to apply to Michael Vick and his cohorts involved in the dog fighting ring in Surrey County. Vick and his partners face trial beginning April 2 on state charges related to dog fighting. Vick is currently in prison on federal charges brought as a result of his admitted involvement in dog fighting, including gambling on fights and brutally killing dogs that did not perform well enough. Click here for more information about the federal case against Vick and the upcoming state trial.
The new law will also allow seizure of animal fighting equipment and the animals and forfeiture if there is good cause, the owner fails to contest forfeiture or a bond is not posted to cover cost of care. This provision will prevent dogs from remaining in or returning to the owner’s custody where many times the animals are then simply moved to the next city or county for more fighting.