Victory for Animal Fighting Victims: The U.S. Sentencing Commission Gets Tough!
Today in D.C., the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to make federal animal fighting sentences the strongest they’ve ever been. Fifty thousand incredible ASPCA supporters raised their voices to tell the Commission that animal fighting is a serious, violent crime. That’s the largest public response the Commission has ever experienced on any single issue. Today we send the Commission a huge thank you for signaling that the worst animal fighting offenders should be sentenced accordingly.
Animal fighting happens in every community. In the past 10 days alone, the ASPCA has assisted local, state and federal agencies in four dog fighting cases spanning five states and 17 crime scenes, resulting in the seizure of more than 150 dogs, including the most recent federal case yesterday in Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, where 64 dogs were seized. Even though the Department of Justice reports this crime is on the rise, typical prison sentences for federal animal fighting convictions average about six months—and most offenders receive only probation. Thanks to the Commission, the upgraded federal sentencing guidelines will mean tougher sentences for the most dangerous, cruel, and sophisticated animal fighting offenders.
The guidelines raise the recommended sentencing range for animal fighting from 6-12 months to 21-27 months jail time—that’s a 250% increase in the minimum recommended sentence. The Commission also created a recommended sentencing range of 6-12 months for the new federal crime of bringing a child to an animal fight. Lastly, the revised guidelines explicitly state that causing harm to a large number of animals and performing acts of extraordinary cruelty to animals are grounds for imposing longer sentences.
Although Congress has increased the penalties for federal animal fighting several times over the past decade, the suffering of countless animal fighting victims continues. Thanks to the Commission’s decision to give prosecutors and judges tougher sentencing guidelines, we have moved a step closer to wiping out this vicious crime.