Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act
The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, H.R. 366 and S. 666, will better protect our communities from the cruelty and violence of animal fighting and its associated crimes by extending the law to include those who are a driving force behind these criminal operations: the spectators.
Animal fighting is barbaric. It is a violent crime that causes immense suffering to countless numbers of innocent animals. It threatens our communities in many other ways as well. There is a strong connection between animal fighting and other forms of violence, and animal fighting is frequently associated with gangs, drugs, gambling, money laundering, illegal guns, and other offenses—even homicide. Reporting on the sentencing of the kingpin of a drug trafficking ring in Louisiana, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency described him as “an avid pit bull and cock fighter [who] utilized these illegal events as a networking tool to recruit members to transport and sell marijuana and cocaine for his organization.”
The Animal Legal and Historical Center at the Michigan State University College of Law describes dog fighting in these stark terms:
The notion that dog fighting is simply an animal welfare issue is clearly erroneous…. The magnitude of criminal activity concurrently taking place at the average dogfight is of such a scope as to warrant the involvement of a wide range of agencies,including local, regional, and federal law enforcement agencies and their specialized divisions such as organized crime units, SWAT teams, and vice squads, as well as animal control agencies and child protective services.
In the last few years, the federal government has increased coverage of and penalties for animal fighting activities under the Animal Welfare Act, but it is still lacking in one area: the spectator. Spectators are not innocent bystanders; through their admission fees and wagers, they are active participants in and enablers of these cruel criminal enterprises and should be treated accordingly. Moreover, when a fight is raided, the organizers, promoters, trainers, and owners are able to disperse and blend into the crowd to escape arrest.
The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act (H.R. 366 and S. 666) will close this loophole. These bills make knowingly attending an animal fight punishable by fines and up to a year in prison. Also, recognizing that exposure to animal cruelty—especially the egregious brutality of animal fighting—can desensitize children to violence at an early age, the bills make it a separate offense, with even higher penalties, to knowingly bring a minor to such an event. This common-sense legislation will improve efforts to rid our communities of this cruel and dangerous crime.
H.R. 366/S. 666 will not ensnare individuals who genuinely are unaware they are present at an animal fight; the legislation requires that a person is knowingly a spectator. These operations are illegal everywhere. They are highly clandestine, with locations divulged through secret networks; passwords are often required and sizable entrance fees must be paid, so it is highly unlikely that a person would be present unwittingly.
Similar legislation in the 112th Congress had 228 House cosponsors and the House Agriculture Committee approved the legislation by a vote of 26-19 as an amendment to the Farm Bill in July; the full Senate passed the legislation twice. It was also endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and hundreds of sheriffs and police departments across the country.