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ASPCA Applauds Federal Efforts to Strengthen Animal Fighting Laws

Reps. Marino (R-Pa.), McGovern (D-Mass.), Campbell (R-Calif.) and Moran (D-Va.) reintroduce Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act to criminalize attendance at animal fights
January 23, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends U.S. Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), John Campbell (R-Calif.), and Jim Moran (D-Va.) for reintroducing legislation to strengthen laws against animal fighting.  The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act would make it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight and would impose additional penalties for bringing a minor to an animal fight.  The bill will apply federal criminal penalties of up to one year in prison and fines for attending an animal fight and up to three years in jail and fines for forcing a minor to attend.

"Animal fighting is a brutal form of abuse where animals are exploited and forced to fight as their owners profit from their torture," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "Children need protection from the dangerous and illegal activity associated with animal fighting, including drugs, weapons, and gambling, and this measure would help law enforcement by allowing them to pursue the spectators who drive the market for animal fighting, keeping it alive. The ASPCA thanks the original cosponsors of this bill for their leadership in strengthening laws to combat animal fighting and protect public safety."

Spectators at animal fights are not there accidentally; they intentionally seek out the criminal activity at secret locations, often travelling long distances and crossing state lines for the entertainment of watching animals fight to the death and the opportunity to gamble on the barbaric event. When animal fighting operations are raided, it is a common practice for the organizers, promoters, and animal owners to blend into the crowd of spectators in order to escape law enforcement. This legislation discourages individuals from enabling animal fights with their attendance and ensures that organizers cannot easily hide in the crowd when law enforcement officials arrive.

"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," said Rep. Marino.  "It is an honor to join with several of my colleagues, in a bipartisan manner, 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.  I look forward to building on the momentum we gained during the last Congress and seeing that this important legislation is signed into law."

"I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to end the scourge of animal fighting," said Rep. McGovern. "We must give our law enforcement officials the tools they need to bring those responsible for animal fighting to justice."

In the 112th Congress, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act gained strong bipartisan support in both the U.S. House and Senate and passed the Senate by a voice vote on Dec. 4, 2012. Similar language was also included in the Farm Bill in both the House and Senate last Congress, but efforts to pass a final Farm Bill stalled. Additionally, the legislation is broadly supported by animal welfare groups and approximately 300 law enforcement organizations.

The ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team has rescued countless animals from animal fighting investigations across the nation and launched its Blood Sports unit to investigate dog fighting and cockfighting in December 2010. Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For more information on the ASPCA’s efforts to tackle animal fighting and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org.