Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a modified Farm Bill that will affect animals in two distinct ways. On the plus side, the bill contains an important provision to strengthen laws against animal fighting. The provision, included through the leadership of Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Tom Marino (R-PA), would make attending an animal fight a federal offense and impose additional penalties for bringing a child to an animal fight. This provision is similar to the Animal Fighting SpectatorProhibition Act (S. 666/H.R. 366), standalone legislation with strong bipartisan support from 154 cosponsors in the House.
The ASPCA applauds Representatives McGovern and Marino for their continued leadership in strengthening laws to combat animal fighting and protect public safety.
On the negative side, the House-passed Farm Bill includes a provision introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would weaken state animal cruelty laws across the country. This dangerous provision would prevent states from passing their own laws regarding the production of “agricultural products”—a term so broad that it could include farm animals and dogs in puppy mills. As a result, improved animal welfare standards at the state level could be negated if this provision is enacted.
The House Farm Bill must now be reconciled with the Senate-passed version. The Senate bill, passed last month, contains similar animal fighting language but does not contain the dangerous King provision. The ASPCA continues to work with Congress to make sure that the final Farm Bill eventually presented to the President includes the best possible protections for animals. Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to learn how you can help!
These dogs’ lives were very different just one year ago. On June 21, 2012, we found them living in the dark, dirty basement of a six-story apartment building complete with a makeshift fighting arena, dog treadmills and a shopping cart full of raw chicken parts.
For months, ASPCA responders provided the dogs with extensive socialization, a healthy diet, medical care and exercise at a temporary shelter. Our goal was to prepare the dogs for adoption into loving homes, and give them a second chance to enjoy the rest of their lives free of pain and suffering. We’ve told you some of their stories. Watch the whole story and an interview with Unicorn’s adoring pet parents:
The Bronx dogs’ owner, Raul Sanchez, who pleaded guilty to dog fighting earlier this year, was sentenced to one to three years for animal fighting, one year for animal cruelty and one year for criminal possession of a weapon.
In March, the ASPCA assisted local law enforcement, the FBI and the Missouri State Highway Patrol in a multistate dog fighting investigation that resulted in the seizure of nearly 100 animals from multiple locations in Missouri, Kansas and Texas. Since then, an ASPCA team has been working around the clock to care for the rescued animals. We’ve also been fighting for justice.
That’s why we’re pleased that yesterday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, Pete Davis Jr., 38, and Melvin Robinson, 42, each pleaded guilty to one count of transporting dogs to participate in animal fighting. The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 9. Charges for a defendant in Texas are pending.
As a result of the hearing, dogs seized from the defendants’ properties in Missouri will be signed over to the ASPCA. We will explore placement options with various rescue groups. Dogs placed with ASPCA response partner shelters after this hearing will be the second group from the case to be placed for adoption.
Late last night, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee approved an amendment to the House Farm Bill to strengthen our nation’s laws against animal fighting. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), would make attending an organized animal fight a federal offense and impose additional penalties for bringing a child to an animal fight. This amendment is similar to the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, standalone legislation with strong bipartisan support from 147 cosponsors introduced by Reps. Tom Marino (R-PA), John Campbell (R-CA), Jim Moran (D-VA) and McGovern.
“Animal fights are cruel and gruesome spectacles 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 culture of animal fighting, as well as its associated illegal activities such as drugs, weapons and gambling. The ASPCA applauds Representative McGovern and all our Congressional leaders for their continued leadership in strengthening laws to combat animal fighting and protect public safety.”
While clearing the House Agriculture Committee is a major success, we can’t declare victory just yet. The U.S. Senate’s version of the Farm Bill also includes the anti-animal fighting provisions, but both bills still must pass in their chambers of origin. Once that is achieved, the House and Senate have to reconcile any language differences prior to full passage.
We’d like to thank all the representatives on the House Agriculture Committee who voted to include the animal fighting spectator prohibition language in the House Farm Bill. If you see your rep in the list below, tell him or her thank you! You can find your rep’s contact info here.
Michelle Lujan Grisham
Ann McLane Kuster
Sean Patrick Maloney
Please be a voice for animals—join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade and we’ll let you know when it’s time to contact members of Congress about this and other important animal-related bills.