Congressman Jim Moran, Northern Virginia Democrat, today joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act of 2013 (H.R. 366) to apply federal criminal penalties to any individual who knowingly attends or knowingly brings a minor to an animal fight. Also introducing the bill are Representatives Tom Marino (R-PA), James McGovern (D-MA), and John Campbell (R-CA).
"Nothing is more intentionally cruel than animal fighting," said Rep. Moran. "Critical to this illicit industry are spectators who pay to watch and gamble on the outcome of these barbaric contests. By outlawing spectators at animal fights, this legislation will cut off the revenue stream that allows this vile activity to thrive."
Animal fighting is illegal in all 50 states, but continues in part because of the revenue from attendance fees and gambling activity. To discourage attendance at these events, the legislation would change federal law to impose misdemeanor penalties on spectators at animal fights and felony penalties on those who bring minors to animal fights. The bill will also ensure that the organizers of animal fights face proper prosecution by charging all individuals knowingly attending animal fights. When active animal fighting operations are raided, it is a common practice for organizers, promoters, and animal owners to blend into the crowd of spectators to avoid law enforcement.
"As a former state and federal prosecutor, I've seen first-hand the criminal culture that surrounds animal fighting events and the damaging influence this environment has on our children," said Rep. Marino. "It is an honor to join with several of my colleagues, in a bipartisan manner, to make sure that law enforcement has all of the tools necessary to deprive the organizers and profiteers of these horrific events from receiving the support they need to continue this activity."
"I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to end the scourge of animal fighting," Rep. McGovern said. "We must give our law enforcement officials the tools they need to bring those responsible for animal fighting to justice."
An animal fighting event is a violent contest between animals purely for spectators' entertainment and gambling that often only ends when one of the animals physically cannot continue. Animals used for fighting are often drugged to heighten their aggression and forced to keep fighting even after they've suffered grievous injuries such as broken bones, deep gashes, punctured lungs, and pierced eyes.
"The first step toward eliminating the cruel and heinous practice of animal fighting is to ensure that those who seek to perpetrate this brutality have no audience and support structure," stated Rep. Campbell. "Criminalizing the act of attending an animal fight not only removes incentives for the organizers, it severely restricts the illicit profit that these fights generate. This legislation is an imperative part of eradicating animal fighting completely."
The legislation enjoys broad public support from animal welfare groups and approximately 300 law enforcement organizations. A similar bill was introduced in the 112th Congress. It passed the Senate by a voice vote on December 4, 2012.