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ASPCA Hails Federal Efforts to Crack Down On Animal Fighting

Sens. Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirk (R-Ill.), Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Vitter (R-La.) reintroduce Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act to criminalize attendance at animal fights
April 9, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and David Vitter (R-La.) 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 imprisonment and fines for attending an animal fight, and up to three years imprisonment and fines for bringing a minor to an animal fight.  

"Animal fights are cruel and gruesome spectacles conducted solely for profit and entertainment," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "A host of other dangerous and illegal activities are frequently associated with animal fighting, including drugs, weapons, and gambling, and this measure would help law enforcement pursue the spectators who drive the market for animal fighting. The ASPCA applauds Senators Blumenthal and Kirk for their persistent 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.

"Despite efforts by Congress to put an end to animal fighting, this blood sport continues to exist throughout the country, and is financed by thousands of dollars from spectators who contribute to it," said Sen. Blumenthal. "When animal fighting involves players from a number of different states, local law enforcement simply lacks the power to deal with it and to root out the entire operation. This legislation would prohibit knowingly attending an animal fight, and extend stricter penalties for any individual who knowingly brings a child to an animal fight–closing a final key loophole in federal animal fighting legislation. These crimes are a federal matter and the federal response ought to be as strong as possible. Animal fighting encourages the worst in the human condition, and members from both sides of the aisle have been vocal in their commitment to putting an end to this inhumane activity."

"By making it a crime to knowingly attend an animal fight, this bill is consistent with state animal fighting laws and will deny event organizers the revenue that funds future events," said Sen. Kirk. "This bipartisan legislation achieved unanimous approval in the Senate last year. I hope to push for this success again so we can close the loophole that has allowed animal fighting to continue its vicious cycle."

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. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House earlier this year by U.S. Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), John Campbell (R-Calif.), and Jim Moran (D-Va.). The measure is broadly supported by animal welfare groups and approximately 300 law enforcement organizations.

Last month, at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the United States Attorney’s Office, the ASPCA, in conjunction with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and Henry County Sheriff’s Office, assisted in a multi-state, federal dog fighting raid in Missouri, Kansas and Texas. The ASPCA managed the removal and transport of nearly 100 dogs involved in the investigation, and is overseeing forensic evidence collection, as well as the dogs' veterinary care and sheltering.

For more information on the ASPCA’s efforts to tackle animal fighting and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org.