The House of Representatives, on a 368-39 vote, today passed a bipartisan bill by Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties) that makes violations of federal animal fighting law a felony punishable by up to three years in prison, makes it a felony to transport an animal across state or international borders for the purpose of animal fighting, and prohibits the interstate and foreign commerce in knives and gaffs designed for use in cockfighting.
A companion bill to Gallegly's Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007 has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee as well.
"Local police and sheriffs are increasingly concerned about animal fighting, not only because of the animal cruelty involved, but also because of the other crimes that often go hand-in-hand, including illegal gambling, drug trafficking, and acts of human violence," Gallegly said.
"In recent months, we've seen a marked rise in the frequency of animal fighting arrests in communities across the country. In the last six months, virtually every reported arrest at an animal fight also led to additional arrests for at least one of these criminal activities."
Furthermore, Gallegly noted, there is an inherent danger for the children of animal fighters to be close to these animals. Children are often brought to the gruesome spectacles. Some dog fighters steal pets to use as bait for training their dogs; some allow trained fighting dogs to roam neighborhoods and endanger the public.
In addition, cockfighting has been identified as a major contributor to the spread of avian flu throughout Thailand and other parts of Asia, where the strain originated. Many of the humans who contracted avian flu and died from it contracted it from fighting birds.
Roosters smuggled into the United States for the express purpose of cockfighting could likely carry the disease, like cockfighting roosters brought Newcastle disease to California in 2002 and 2003, which devastated the U.S. poultry industry.
The Senate is expected to pass the bill in the next few weeks.
Gallegly's bill has 303 cosponsors.