January 14, 2009
Illinois Bill Introduced Assigning Felony Penalties for Animal Fighting Spectators
H.B. 69 Will Address Lenient Law That Allows Animal Fighting Boosters to Get Away with a Slap on the Wrist
CHICAGO — The Humane Society of the United States, on behalf of its 440,000 supporters in Illinois, commends State Rep. Marlow Colvin, D-Chicago, for introducing a bill to strengthen the state's animal fighting laws. While dogfighting and cockfighting are felonies in Illinois, being a spectator at an animal fight is only a misdemeanor. H.B. 69 will make it a felony to be a spectator at a dogfight or a cockfight, with a maximum penalty of a $25,000 fine and/or up to three years of imprisonment.
"Animal fighting spectators, with their admission fees and gambling wagers, fuel these undeniably cruel and criminal industries," said Jordan Matyas, Illinois state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "State Representative Colvin's efforts will help law enforcement crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting."
Spectators attend animal fights primarily to bet on the outcomes of the fights. These spectators often pay an admission fee to attend which makes hosting animal fights a lucrative venture for the organizers.
Under current law, dogfighters or cockfighters can claim they were only present at an animal fight as spectators, thereby avoiding any meaningful punishment. The lower penalties for animal fighting spectators create a loophole that makes it more difficult for law enforcement officials to effectively prosecute animal fighters. Typically, organized animal fights occur with several matches held one after the other. When police raid an animal fight it is extremely difficult to differentiate between spectators and participants who were going to fight their dog or bird in the next match. This loophole allows many animal fighters to avoid meaningful penalties.
"Dogfighting and cockfighting are cruel blood sports that harm not only the animals involved, but the communities in which they exist," Rep. Colvin said. "Cracking down on all dogfighting and cockfighting supporters can also help to curb its associated crimes such as violence, illegal weapons and drugs."
Additional quotes from notable supporters of H.B. 69
State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, chief co-sponsor of H.B. 69: "Although the state of Illinois has strong laws to combat animal fighting, H.B. 69 will close the loophole that can prevent some animal fighters from receiving appropriate punishment for their crime"
Lisa Madigan, Illinois attorney general: "Animal fighting is a cruel, violent crime that occurs far too often in Illinois. We need to give law enforcement the necessary means to target and effectively prosecute these inhumane operations in order to make our communities safer."
Tom Dart, Cook County sheriff: "It's critically important that we create harsher penalties for spectators of dogfights and cockfights, as they ultimately are the ones financially supporting these vicious and inhumane activities. Animal fighting often breeds some of the worst crimes in our communities — that's why I'm so proud to stand with Reps. Colvin and Hernandez in backing a bill that will not only help stop the spread of this cruelty, but will also help make our communities safer."
Broadcast-quality video and high-resolution dogfighting images are available at video.hsus.org.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.