Today, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined animal advocates and law enforcement officials at the West Hartford Animal Control Shelter to call for passage of the bipartisan Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act. This legislation penalizes a knowing spectator of an animal fight with a federal prison sentence or financial penalty. On Monday, Blumenthal and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) offered this legislation as an amendment to the Farm Bill, which is expected to come to the Senate floor for a vote next week.
Currently, federal law against animal fighting has one remaining loophole: Attendance at an animal fight is not a federal crime. This legislation would close that loophole. Spectators of animal fights pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling bets, which allows this blood sport to continue to exist and remain profitable.
Specifically, this legislation would establish a federal prison sentence or financial penalty for spectators who knowingly attend an animal fight. The legislation would also strengthen penalties for those who bring children to an animal fight.
After the Michael Vick case of 2008, Congress strengthened federal laws against animal fighting to make possession and training of fighting animals a felony. Previously, federal law only prohibited the interstate transport of fighting animals and cockfighting instruments. However, instances of animal fighting in Connecticut, including a 2007 raid of a cockfighting operation in Bloomfield, compelled Blumenthal to take further action on this issue.
"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. When animal fighting involves players from a number of different States, local law enforcement simply lacks the power to deal with it and to root out the entire operation," said 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 the worst in the individuals who participate and come to watch it."
"By making it a crime to knowingly attend an animal fight, this bill is consistent with state animal fighting laws and would deny event organizers the revenue that funds future events," said a spokesperson for Kirk. "Just last year in Illinois, authorities made 76 arrests involving a cockfighting ring after being tipped off on one incident. This bipartisan legislation will help prevent events like this from occurring and closes the final loophole to end the inhumane practice of animal fighting."
"Spectators are an integral part of animal fighting as their admission fees and gambling dollars finance these cruel, criminal operations," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "Senator Blumenthal's amendment would give federal law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in cockfighting and dogfighting pits throughout the country."
"As Connecticut's Attorney General, Dick Blumenthal was a leading voice in defense of animals, and he continues to be a champion on animal welfare issues in the United States Senate," said Annie Hornish, Connecticut State Director of the Humane Society of the United States.
The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act has been officially endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States. Blumenthal was joined in West Hartford today by:
* Annie Hornish, Connecticut State Director of the Humane Society of the United States and former State Representative for Connecticut's 62nd District;
* Ray Connors, Supervisor of the Animal Control Division at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture;
* Jo-Ann Ficca, Director of Development at Connecticut Humane Society;
* Jody Macrina, President of Protectors of Animals in Connecticut; and
* Karen Jones, President of the Connecticut Municipal Animal Control Officers Association