U.S. House Committee Votes to Strengthen Animal Fighting Laws

ASPCA commends House Agriculture Committee for approving amendment to criminalize attendance at animal fights
July 12, 2012

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends the House Agriculture Committee for approving an amendment to the House Farm Bill to strengthen laws against animal fighting. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), makes attending an animal fight a federal offense and imposes additional penalties for bringing a child to a dog or cockfight. The McGovern amendment was approved by the Committee by a bipartisan vote of 26-19.  This amendment is similar to the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, standalone legislation with strong bipartisan support from 199 cosponsors introduced by Reps. Tom Marino (R-PA) and Betty Sutton (D-OH).

“Animal fights are cruel and gruesome spectacles conducted for profit and entertainment,” 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 like drugs, weapons, and gambling. The ASPCA applauds Representatives McGovern, Marino, and Sutton for their continued leadership in strengthening laws to combat animal fighting.” 

Spectators at animal fights are not there accidentally; they intentionally seek out the criminal activity at secret locations for the entertainment of watching two 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 inpiduals from enabling animal fights with their attendance and ensures that organizers cannot easily hide in the crowd when law enforcement officials arrive.

“I’m very proud of the Agriculture Committee for supporting this amendment in a bipartisan way,” said Rep. McGovern.  “Animal fights are violent, gory, criminal spectacles, and the loophole for so-called ‘spectators’ needs to be closed.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that this language becomes the law of the land.”

In 2010, the ASPCA established its Blood Sports unit to train law enforcement and investigate dog fighting and cockfighting across the country.  The legislation approved by the House Agriculture Committee will allow law enforcement agencies nationwide to pursue and punish the spectators who drive the market for animal fighting. 

The Senate included the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act in their version of the Farm Bill last month by approving an amendment offered by Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The House Farm Bill (Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act - H.R. 6083), must now be considered by the full chamber for passage. For more information on the ASPCA’s efforts to tackle animal fighting and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org