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April 28, 2009

Animal Fighting Spectators Closer to Facing Felony Penalties in New York

The HSUS Applauds Legislation to Toughen Laws

The Humane Society of the United States

ALBANY, N.Y. — The Humane Society of the United States, on behalf of its more than 800,000 supporters in New York, commends Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn and Sen. Toby Stavisky, D-Flushing, for introducing legislation to strengthen state animal fighting laws. Lentol's bill was passed unanimously in the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

While dogfighting and cockfighting are felonies in New York, possessing animals for the purpose of fighting is only a misdemeanor, and attending an animal fight is just a traffic-ticket style violation.

"Animal fighting spectators, with their admission fees and gambling wagers, fuel these undeniably cruel and criminal industries," said Patrick Kwan, New York state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

A.B. 6287 and S.B. 3926 would make it a felony to be a spectator at a dogfight or a cockfight, punishable by a maximum fine of $25,000 and/or up to four years of imprisonment.

"This bill is about supply and demand: If you take away the demand by making it too risky to patronize these dog fights, then God willing there won't be a reason to supply them anymore," Lentol said. "I ask you, how many people will be willing to risk serious jail time to attend a dog fight?"

Under current law, dogfighters or cockfighters can claim they were only present at an animal fight as spectators, thereby avoiding any meaningful punishment.

"Training animals to maim and kill is not only dangerous to the public, but a violation of the spirit of pet ownership. Dogfighting is a vicious and disgusting practice, which is why I am sponsoring legislation increasing the penalties for all individuals who would participate in this cruel and senseless act," Stavisky said. "I hope that we can finally bring some decency to this issue and eradicate this practice."

Facts

  • New York has the nation's fifth-weakest dogfighting laws, making it a magnet for spectators from surrounding states where penalties on spectators are more severe.
  • According to news reports, in June 2008, authorities raided a Bronx, N.Y., building that housed a dogfighting ring. Seven people were arrested and two additional suspects fled from the scene during the raid. Of the seven who were arrested, four were New Jersey residents. New Jersey is currently ranked as having the nation's strongest dogfighting law, punishing spectators with three to five years of imprisonment and/or a maximum $15,000 fine.
  • Spectators who attend animal fights do not stumble upon them accidentally. These criminal activities take place at clandestine locations, often requiring a password and fee for entrance.
  • New York's law supposedly elevates the offense to misdemeanors for spectators guilty of second offenses – but this existing provision is toothless in light of the fact that first-offense "violations" are not tracked by law enforcement.

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 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. 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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