Real Efforts Made to Stop Cockfighting

While Michael Vick has returned to playing professional football and even starred in his own reality show, state governments have continued to build during sessions in 2009 and 2010 on 2008 gains in giving law enforcement the tools needed to deter or stop animal fighting crimes like his.

Maybe producers should consider a reality show for those law enforcement, prosecutors, animal control, legislators and animal welfare advocates that have made animal fighting a priority. Stopping it, that is. They are the stars here.

For example, building on gains made in improving animal fighting laws in 2008 and early in 2009, a number of bills were introduced and some passed to stamp down, in particular, on cockfighting. 

For more on these, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.

Bills in New York and Ohio remained pending in 2010. New Jersey animal fighting bills remain pending in 2011.

Ohio’s bill, H.B. 108, passed the state House of Representatives by a vote of 79-19 and is pending in the state Senate Agriculture Committee.  H.B. 108 would have made cockfighting a felony in the 5th degree and a 3rd degree felony on second and subsequent offenses. The bill would have required the confiscation of any equipment or devices used for cockfighting or for training for cockfighting.  The bill also applied procedures and requirements in current law governing the seizure, impoundment, and disposition of dogs involved in dogfighting to roosters involved in cockfighting.

Under this bill any cash or equipment confiscated and forfeited that was then sold would have been used to pay the costs of impounding and caring for roosters. Any funds left over would have been used "for educational purposes designed to eliminate cockfighting.  (Update: Ohio H.B. 108 did not pass before the end of the legislative session in 2010.) 

Update July 9: The Arizona bill described below, S.B. 1115, has passed the legislature and was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer. Go here for more information. The Tennessee bills failed to pass. 

RoosterUpdate June 9:  The Kansas bill was signed by the governor as described below. The Nevada and Illinois legislatures have adjourned and both bills described below have passed.

The Texas, Hawaii, and Alabama bills failed to pass before the legislature adjourned. The Maine bill is dead. 

The other bills discussed below remain pending. Also, a New York bill, A8444, has been introduced that would combine some provisions in the bills described below.

This bill, introduced by Rep. Jim Tedisco, would make it a felony to own, possess or keep an animal for fighting which could mean 4 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. I would also be a felony in New York if this bill passes to be a spectator at an animal fight. This would be punishable by a 2 year prison sentence and a fine up to $10,000.

This bill would also  increase the maximum prison sentence from four to sixyears, and the possible fine from $25,000 to $30,000 for the felonies of causing, training, breeding, selling, offering for sale any animal for fighting, allowing property to be used for these activities, and owning, possessing or keeping an animal on property for fighting. (Update: This bill did not pass during the 2010 session.)

Original report: Several states are considering bills to expand the activities related to cock fighting that could be charged as crimes. Many of these bills also make cockfighting and related activities a felony for the first time or otherwise increase the penalties. 

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius signed H.B. 2060 into law. This law makes cockfighting a felony. The crimes of unlawful possession of cockfighting paraphernalia or attendance at a cockfight would be misdemeanors. K.S.A. § 21-4319 (Update: This bill is now law!)

Oregon SB 280 raises the penalties for cockfighting activities to a Class C felony which can mean up to 5 years in prison and a $125,000 fine. Cockfighting crimes includes attending or paying admission to see a cockfight, and also manufacturing, buying, selling, bartering, exchanging, possessing, advertising or offering to sell equipment" for training, handling or enhancing a bird fight.

The bill also raises the penalties for animal fighting to a Class C felony and that includes promoting or participating in a cockfight, agreeing to allow property one owns or controls for a fight, or owning or training birds to fight. (Update: This bill has passed and is now law.)

Nevada AB 199 has passed the House and is now before the Senate Natural Resources committee.  This bill prohibits a person from owning, possessing, keeping, training, promoting, selling or purchasing an animal for fighting. 

Violators would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor for a first offense, a category E felony for a second offense and a category D felony for a third or subsequent offense. (Update: AB 199 passed the Senate unanimously and is now law.) 

Maine LD 186 has passed the House and is currently being considered by the Senate. This bill increases the penalties for viewing animal fighting. It also makes it a crime to manufacture, sale, shipment, transport, delivery and possession of a gaff, slasher or other implement that is attached to a bird’s leg to enhance fighting ability. It would also be a crime with respect to any other equipment used to train or condition an animal for fighting.

rooster(Update: This Maine bill is now dead for this session.) 

Hawaii bill, S.B. 1194, has already passed the Senate.

This bill would make activities related to cockfighting a crime. It would be illegal under this bill to "manufacture, buy, sell, barter, exchange, or have …gaffs or slashers, or any other sharp instrument designed to be attached in place of or to the natural spur of a gamecock or other fighting fowl". Violators would be subject to fines, community service and required to complete "an animal cruelty education or prevention program".

(Update: This bill, Hawaii S.B. 1194, did not pass the House before adjournment of the legislature in 2009 and was not taken up in 2010.)

Delaware, H.B. 2 This bill increases the penalties for animal fighting, baiting, and attendance from a class F felony to a class E felony, and increases the penalties for being present during preparations for a fight or baiting from a class G felony to a class F felony.

This bill also expands the penalty provisions to allow a court to order persons convicted of these animal fighting crimes to attend mandatory counseling or psychological treatment, and to pay the costs. 

This bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee(Update: This bill did not pass.)

Illinois HB 69 would raise the penalties for animal fighting including cock fighting activities to a felony. If this bill passes, it would be a felony in Illinois to attend an animal fight. It would also be a felony to manufacture, sell or offer to sell, move, deliver, own or possess equipment to be used for animal fighting. It would be a felony to allow animal fighting to occur on premises under one’s control.

This bill has already passed the Illinois House and is in the state Senate. (Update: This bill has passed the state legislature.) 

In Alabama a bill that would strengthen the state’s cock fighting law has passed a state Senate committee and is now up for a vote in the Senate.

This bill, S.B. 146, would make cockfighting a felony but also owning, training,or possessing birds for fighting and advertising or promoting a fight. It would be a misdemeanor to be a spectator. Authorities could seized the birds and also obtain forfeiture of profits and property associated with cock fighting.

(Update: This bill, S.B. 146 and its House counterpart, H.B. 245 did not pass before the legislature adjourned.) 

Texas bill, H.B. 1320,  would make it a felony not only to "cause[] a cock to fight with another cock", but also to (1) participate in the earnings of or operate a facility used for cockfighting;(2) use or permit another to use any real estate, building, room, tent, arena, or other property for cockfighting;(3)own or train a cock with the intent that the cock be used in an exhibition of cockfighting; (4) manufactures, buys, sells, barters, exchanges, possesses, advertises, or otherwise offers a gaff, slasher, or other sharp implement designed for attachment to a cock with the intent that the implement be used in cockfighting; or (5) attend as a spectator an exhibition of cockfighting.

Under this bill all of these activities would be felonies except owning or training a cock for fighting and attending a cock fight: These crimes would be Class A misdemeanors.

The bill would also allow authorities to seize and obtain by forfeiture cock fighting equipment.

This would include profits from fighting, "equipment used for training or handling" a fighting cock; any vehicle intended to be used as a vehicle for transporting a fighting cock; equipment used to promote or advertise an exhibition of cockfighting, including a printing press or similar equipment, paper, ink, or photography equipment. In other words, people who fight cocks could lose their money, homes or other real estate, cars and trucks and any other equipment obtained or used in any way in this animal cruelty. (Update: This bill failed to pass.)

Tennessee bill, HB 1123/SB 879 would increase penalties for cockfighting to a Class E felony.

SB 537/HB 627 is also pending in Tennessee’s legislature. 

This bill would raise the penalties for being a spectator or present for preparations for any animal fight, baiting or injuring of an animal.  The penalty would be a Class A misdemeanor. 

(Update: These bills failed to pass.)

Arizona’s legislature is considering, H.B. 2150/S.B. 1115, which would make cockfighting, hog dog fighting and all other animal fighting a Class 5 felony and being a spectator at one of these events a Class 6 felony. It would be a Class 6 felony to steal a bird or any animal for fighting.  (Update: S.B. 1115 passed!  Go here for more information.)

H.B. 3227 pending in South Carolina’s legislature would make cockfighting a felony, including possessing a bird for fighting which was not previously a crime. (Update: This bill did not pass.)

Georgia bill, H.B. 109, would make cockfighting a felony as well as some associated activities like owning, possessing, keeping, or training cocks for fighting or allowing these activities to occur on premises one owns or controls. This can mean imprisonment from 1 to 5 years and a $5000 fine. For a second or subsequent conviction, it can mean 1 to 10 years in prison and a minimum $15,000 fine.

RoosterThe Georgia bill, H.B. 109, would make it an aggravated misdemeanor for anyone to be present at a cock fight. This means a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 and jail from 3 to 13 months. It would be a misdemeanor for anyone to be present when preparations are being made for a fight. 

(This GA bill failed to pass during 2009 and was not taken up during 2010.)

New Jersey A 822/S 1194 ( numbered S. 1991/AB 2980 in 2009) would increase penalties for organizing, gambling, providing a premises and possessing animals for animal fights including cockfights.  (Update: This bill remains pending.)

New York has just a few bills pending that address animal fighting including cockfighting.

S3926/A6287 is a bill pending in the New York state legislature would increase penalties for anyone "owning, possessing or keeping of any animal" for fighting or who is a spectator. The crimes would be a felony with possible prison time up to 4 years and a fine as much as $25,000.

These bills are now both in the Committees on Codes.

S 3517 would make being a spectator at an animal fight a crime even if there was no wager. The bill would increase penalties for a second offense within 5 years by raising the fine from $1000 to $2000.  Jail time would still be up to a year.

A6684  is a bill that would set up a database for animal fighting as well as animal cruelty crimes.  

A 3168/S 3155 would require hearings to determine whether a security bond should be posted by the person from whom animals are seized because of fighting or cruelty. (Update: A 3168 passed the House in 2009 but was not taken up in 2010.)

The security would enable agencies and organizations caring for the animals to obtain restitution for the costs of care. One of the greatest challenges in pursuing these crimes is arranging for the housing and care of the animals. Many organizations and agencies are being forced, for economic reasons, to decline assistance to law enforcement in these cases because of the enormous financial burden of caring for a large number of animals for an extended time with no assurance of reimbursement. As a result, where there are no resources to care for the animals once they are seized, law enforcement is less likely to conduct the seizures in the first place. 

Currently, security posting is discretionary. Also, shelters often do not seek security posting because they are unaware of the option.  By making security bond hearings mandatory, this bill would assure for the care of these abused animals and a revenue stream to reimburse the care giving shelters. 

(Update: None of these NY bill passed.)


Go here for more on bills that focus only on people who fight dogs.