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January 6, 2009

Massachusetts Increases Animal Fighting Penalties

The Humane Society of the United States

Massachusetts lawmakers have enacted a new measure that will help law enforcement crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting. Today, Gov. Deval Patrick signed H. 1527, increasing the penalties for aiding or attending an animal fight.

"Spectators finance animal fights through admission fees and gambling," said Joanne Bourbeau, New England regional director for The Humane Society of the United States. "We thank Massachusetts lawmakers and Gov. Patrick for taking a great step forward to crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting."

Before the new law, animal fighting spectators faced a fine of up to $250 and/or one year of imprisonment. Animal fighting spectators in Massachusetts will now face a $1,000 fine and/or two and a half to five years in prison. H. 1527 was sponsored by Rep. Louis Kafka, D-Stoughton. Rep. Kafka is the recipient of The Humane Society of the United States' 2007 Legislative Achievement Award for his efforts on this bill.

Spectators at animal fights are there primarily to bet on the outcomes. They are knowing participants who often pay admission fees to attend, making animal fights lucrative for the organizers.

Previously, the lower penalties for animal fighting spectators created a loophole that made 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 allowed many animal fighters to avoid prosecution, or be subject to minimal penalties.

The new animal fighting law follows the passage of Question 3 in November. Voters approved a ballot measure to ban greyhound racing in the commonwealth.

Broadcast-quality video and high-resolution dogfighting images are available at video.hsus.org.

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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.

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