Today, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and David Vitter (R-LA) hailed the Senate's final passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240), which included the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act (S. 1947) as an amendment. The legislation, also referred to as the farm bill, passed the Senate today by a vote of 64-35.
Currently, federal law against animal fighting has one remaining loophole: Attendance at an animal fight is not a federal crime. The amendment would close that loophole by establishing a federal prison sentence or fine for spectators who knowingly attend or bring children to an animal fight. Spectators of animal fights pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling bets, which allows the blood sport to continue to exist and remain profitable.
Blumenthal and Kirk introduced the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act last December. Instances of animal fighting in Connecticut, including a 2007 raid of a cockfighting operation in Bloomfield, compelled Blumenthal to introduce the legislation.
Last week, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act was offered as an amendment to the farm bill. Yesterday, the Senate approved the legislation as an amendment to the farm bill by a vote of 88-11.
The Senate will now send the farm bill to the House, which is currently drafting its own version of the legislation.
"I am grateful that an overwhelming bipartisan Senate majority has now barred spectators, including any who bring children, from animal fighting -- ending this last remaining loophole in federal law," said Blumenthal. "Animal fighting is the spectator sport of criminals -- a hub of illegal gambling, drug dealing, extortion, and prosecution. The sport exists because it is fueled by thousands of dollars from spectators who are participants and enablers -- not innocent bystanders. Animal fighting is a blood sport -- inhumane and intolerable -- that encourages the worst in the human condition, and today Senators from both sides of the aisle were vocal in their commitment to putting an end to it."
"By making it a crime to knowingly attend an animal fight, this bill is consistent with state animal fighting laws and will 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. The passage of this bipartisan legislation helps prevent events like this from occurring and closes the final loophole to end the inhumane practice of animal fighting."
"Raising dogs and other animals to fight, maim and kill each other is reprehensible. It is already illegal for animal owners to force their animals to fight, and it only makes sense that those who financially support animal fighting should also be held accountable," said Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "I'd like to thank all of those who helped me pass this important amendment as a part of my 2012 Farm Bill."
"This amendment gives local law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on illegal animal fighting," said Cantwell. "I was proud to cosponsor this bipartisan amendment, and to work with Senators Blumenthal and Vitter to ensure its passage. Enacting tough penalties is an important step to ending the cruel practice of animal fighting."
"We've made great strides in outlawing the cruel abuse of animal fighting, but I'm honored to have worked with Senators Blumenthal and Kirk to also make it much more difficult to attend these garish spectacles -- especially with a minor," said Vitter.
"Spectators are participants and accomplices who enable the crime of animal fighting, make the enterprise profitable through admission fees and wagering, and help conceal protect the handlers and organizers," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "Federal investigators that raid large-scale animal fighting operations may soon be able to indict the entire cast of characters that sustain dogfighting and cockfighting."