INTRODUCTION OF THE ANIMAL PROHIBITION ACT OF 2007
* Mr. GALLEGLY. Madam Speaker, today I reintroduce the Animal Fighting Prohibition Act to address the brutal, inhumane practice of animal fighting, something I have been trying to federally criminalize for the past several Congresses.
* A few years ago, Congress enacted legislation to tighten federal law and close some loopholes that were allowing the barbaric practices of animal fighting to thrive nationwide, in spite of bans in virtually every state.
* But Congress didn't finish the job. We left in place weak penalties that have proven ineffective. Misdemeanor penalties simply don't provide a meaningful deterrent. Those involved in animal fighting ventures--where thousands of dollars typically change hands in the associated gambling activity--consider misdemeanor penalties a ``slap on the wrist' or merely a ``cost of doing business.' Moreover, we've heard from U.S. Attorneys that they are reluctant to pursue animal fighting cases with just a misdemeanor penalty.
* In recent years, we've seen a marked rise in the frequency of animal fighting busts in communities across the country. 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. Furthermore, there is an inherent danger for the children of animal fighters to be close to these animals.
* There is the additional concern that cockfighters spread diseases that jeopardize poultry flocks and even public health. We in California experienced this first-hand, when cockfighters spread exotic Newcastle disease, which was so devastating to many of our poultry producers in 2002 and 2003. That outbreak cost U.S. taxpayers ``nearly $200 million to eradicate, and cost the U.S. poultry industry many millions more in lost export markets,' according to former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. Cockfighting has been identified as the major contributor of 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. Experts say it's just a matter of time before it reaches our shores.
* It is time Congress finishes the job and helps state and local law enforcement officials who have requested a strengthening of federal laws to rid animal fighting from communities that do not want it.
* This legislation 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.
* In the past, this legislation has been endorsed by nearly 400 law enforcement organizations, 110 animal control and humane organizations, and a number of industry organizations as well, and I expect to have their support again. The Animal Fighting Prohibition Act of 2006 had 324 cosponsors and was passed through the Senate by unanimous consent. I ask my colleagues to support this legislation so we can end the deplorable practice of animal fighting and all of the destructive behavior associated with it.