U.S. Congress Gives Final Approval to Legislation to Knock Out Organized Animal Fighting in the United States HSUS Now Asks President to Sign Landmark Anti-Cruelty Measure WASHINGTON (April 10, 2007) – After an almost six-year battle, the U.S. Congress has passed tough new legislation to crack down on organized dogfighting and cockfighting. Tonight, the U.S. Senate approved by unanimous consent a bill, H.R. 137, providing felony-level penalties for interstate and foreign animal fighting activities, and outlawing commerce in cockfighting weapons. The House passed the measure on March 26 by a vote of 368-39. The bill will now be sent to President Bush for his signature.
The original Senate bill, S. 261, was introduced by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and it was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 15.
“With the passage of this landmark anti-cruelty legislation, law enforcement agencies now have the tools to dismantle the vast underground network of dogfighting and cockfighting syndicates that operate throughout the country,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.
“Staged animal fights spawn not just malicious animal cruelty, but also drug trafficking, illegal gambling, public corruption, and even murder. We are fortunate to have had an extraordinary team of legislative champions to craft and pass a powerful law that will go a long way toward eradicating these sickening forms of animal cruelty.” “We’ve waited six years to see this legislation signed into law. With this law, we can clamp down on these cruel, inhumane practices,” stated Sen. Maria Cantwell, primary author of the Senate legislation.
“Our nation should have a zero tolerance policy for this cruelty and I hope the president will sign this bill immediately.” Nearly every week there are reports of illegal dogfighting and cockfighting crimes in the United States. In March alone, raids in Ohio and California yielded dozens of arrests, the seizure of 64 dogs, 300 birds, $30,000 dollars in illegal gambling proceeds, guns and an explosive device. Two major cockfights pits in Louisiana were raided because they were operating as illegal gambling houses; the raids also resulted in charges being brought against organizers for possessing methamphetamines and contributing to the delinquency of minors. In the same month, a man was fatally shot at a cockfight in Hawaii. In addition to such public safety concerns, lawmakers have expressed concern about the role of the worldwide trade in fighting birds and the spread of avian flu.
The HSUS recognized Sens. Cantwell, Ensign, Specter, Feinstein, Wayne Allard (R-Col.), David Vitter (R-La.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for their leadership on the issue in the Senate. The organization also expressed its thanks to Reps. Elton Gallegly (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) – the prime sponsors of H.R.137 – and Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (R-Va.), Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), Subcommittee Ranking Member Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) for their shepherding of the legislation through the House.
The bill now awaits signature by President Bush, and will take effect immediately once it is signed into law.
S. 261 had the bipartisan support of 39 cosponsors, and its House companion, H.R. 137, had 304 cosponsors.
More than 500 groups have endorsed this legislation, including all major humane organizations, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Chicken Council, the National Sheriffs' Association, and more than 400 local law enforcement agencies covering all 50 states.
The legislation establishes a felony-level penalty of up to three years of jail time for any interstate or foreign transport of animals for fighting purposes.
Currently, moving animals across state lines or national borders for the purpose of fighting them is a misdemeanor. The bill also makes it a crime to move cockfighting weapons (razor-sharp knives and ice pick-like gaffs attached to the birds’ legs) in interstate or foreign commerce.
Dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states. Cockfighting is illegal in 49 states, with Governor Bill Richardson signing a bill to ban cockfighting in New Mexico last month. Only Louisiana allows legal cockfighting.
Lawmakers across the country are trying to strengthen anti-animal fighting laws; legislators in Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas are considering bills.
April 10, 2007 – Senate unanimously approves H.R. 137 and sends to the president for his signature.
March 26, 2007 – House overwhelmingly approves H.R. 137 by a vote of 368-39.
March 15, 2007 – Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approves S. 261 by voice vote.
March 1, 2007 – House Judiciary Committee files reports on H.R. 137 and House Agriculture Committee waives jurisdiction, preparing for floor action.
February 6, 2007 – House Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee holds hearing on H.R. 137, and approves bill following hearing.
December, 2006 – H.R. 817/S. 382 dies as House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner blocks floor consideration, despite bipartisan support of 324 cosponsors (more than any other pending bill in the 109th Congress).
May 18, 2006 – House Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee holds hearing on H.R. 817.
April 29, 2005 – Senate approves S. 382 by unanimous voice vote.
September 30, 2004 – House Judiciary Committee approves H.R. 4264 by vote of 18-8.
October 30, 2003 – Senate unanimously approves S. 736 as Ensign amendment to Healthy Forests bill (H.R. 1904), but it is later removed in conference with House Agriculture Committee.
May 1, 2002 – House Agriculture Committee conferees remove felony animal fighting provisions from Farm Bill (H.R. 2646).
February 13, 2002 – Senate approves Farm Bill (S.1731) containing felony animal fighting language, along with provisions to close loopholes on interstate movement of birds for cockfighting and export of any animals for fighting.
October 4, 2001 – House unanimously approves felony animal fighting amendment offered by Reps. Blumenauer and Tancredo during floor debate on Farm Bill, along with amendment to close loopholes on interstate movement of birds for cockfighting (H.R. 1155) and export of any animals for fighting.
March 2, 2000 – Senate Agriculture Committee approves S. 345 to close loopholes on interstate movement of birds for cockfighting, but it doesn’t reach Senate floor.
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