U.S. Senate Votes to Strengthen Animal Fighting Laws

ASPCA commends Senate for approving amendment to criminalize attendance at animal fights
June 21, 2012

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends the U.S. Senate for approving a measure originally introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Scott Brown (R-MA) to strengthen laws against animal fighting. The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which would make it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight and would impose additional penalties for bringing a minor to a dog- or cockfight, was approved as an amendment offered by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) to the Senate’s Farm Bill on a vote of 88 to 11.

"Children need protection from the dangerous and illegal activity associated with animal fighting, including drugs, weapons, and gambling," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "This measure would help law enforcement by allowing them to pursue and punish the spectators who drive the market for animal fighting, keeping it alive. The ASPCA applauds Senators Blumenthal and Vitter for their continued 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 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 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 cruel sport continues to exist throughout the country, and is financed by thousands of dollars from spectators who contribute to this blood sport," said Sen. Blumenthal. "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."

"We've made great strides in outlawing the cruel abuse of animal fighting, but I'm honored to have worked with Senators Blumenthal and Kirk to also make it much more difficult to attend these garish spectacles as well–especially with a minor," said Sen. Vitter.

The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of its Farm Bill this week. The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act must also be passed by the U.S. House, which is still drafting its version of the Farm Bill. The standalone House legislation (H.R. 2492) currently enjoys strong bipartisan support with 194 cosponsors. For more information on the ASPCA’s efforts to tackle animal fighting and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org.