Reports are now surfacing that last week, local authorities discovered evidence of a dog fighting ring operated out of a home in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The operators ran the animal fighting operation, tortured and killed dogs, and hosted fights in a home where they also raised 5 children. At least one of the operators is also suspected to be involved in drug dealing activities. According to published reports and a police affidavit, the operators had planned to turn the dog fighting operation into "a family business."
Discovery of this animal fighting operation is further evidence of the need for Congress to act and pass the proposed Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Marino (PA-10) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, makes it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight and imposes additional penalties for taking minors to such events. The Senate acted last week to pass the measure but the bill remains pending before the House Agriculture Committee, despite wide bipartisan support in the House. Without prompt action before the end of the year, two years of legislative progress will be erased.
On Thursday, Rep. Patrick Meehan (PA-7), a cosponsor of the bill, joined with Rep. Marino in calling for enactment of the bill:
"As former prosecutors we know how critical it is for law enforcement to have all of the tools necessary to deprive the organizers of these horrific events from receiving the financial rewards they need to continue the criminal enterprises. With passage of this bill, we can give federal prosecutors more ability to crack down on animal fighting and the criminal culture that typically surrounds animal fighting events," Meehan and Marino stated. "It is a tragedy that 5 children were being raised in a home so ingrained in crime. We are proud that the bill includes serious consequences for those adults who take impressionable children to animal fights where they witness heinous acts."
Animal fighting is closely associated with other criminal activities such as gangs, narcotics, illegal weapons possession, public corruption and various violent crimes. A three-year study by the Chicago Police Department found that 70 percent of animal offenders had also been arrested for other felonies, including domestic and aggravated battery, illegal drug trafficking and sex crimes.
Rep. Jim Gerlach (PA-6) is also a co-sponsor of Marino's bill and has worked on bipartisan legislation to eliminate the inhumane treatment of dogs by cracking down on puppy mill breeders during his tenure in the House.
"Brutalizing dogs for sport and for profit, whether it is in basement battle pits or row after row of cramped cages inside puppy mills, cannot be tolerated," Gerlach said. "I applaud Chester County law enforcement officials for shutting down this shockingly barbaric dog fighting ring and appreciate the continued efforts of my colleagues from Pennsylvania to give police and prosecutors additional tools to put these blood sport operations out of business for good."
The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act was agreed to in the Senate by voice vote on December 4, 2012 and is currently pending before the House Agriculture Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.