March 18, 2010
The HSUS Responds to the Sentencing of NY and NJ Dogfighters
New York needs to strengthen lenient law against animal fighting boosters
Patrick Kwan, New York state director for The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement in response to this week's sentencing of Alexander Estephane of New York and Juan Toledo of New Jersey, on felony charges related to a Bronx, N.Y., animal fighting operation:
"Animal fighting is barbaric and inhumane. We commend the law enforcement agencies involved for exhibiting a zero-tolerance policy for this heinous cruelty. Although a total of seven men were arrested in this case, these are the only two who are facing justice. The others were charged as spectators, but charges were dismissed because of weakness in the law. Until New York passes currently pending legislation in Albany to strengthen our laws, we will remain a destination for animal fighters like Juan Toledo from other states with stronger anti-animal fighting laws."
Estephane was sentenced to 16 months to 4 years imprisonment and fined $15,000, and Toledo was sentenced to one year imprisonment and fined $25,000 for charges relating to dogfighting by the Bronx State Supreme Court.
Under current New York 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.
- The HSUS will be holding the New York State Humane Lobby Day on March 24 at the state Capitol in Albany in support of stronger animal fighting laws and other animal protection bills. For more information, please visit humanesociety.org.
- New York bills A. 6287a and S. 3926 would increase penalties for possessing animals for the purpose of fighting and being a spectator at an animal fight to a felony.
- The crime occurred on June 14, 2008 in the basement of Estephane's home. Authorities seized 16 dogs and two roosters.
- Dogfighting is a highly-organized criminal industry; more than 250,000 dogs are placed in dogfighting pits each year.
- The HSUS estimates that 40,000 people are involved in organized dogfighting and an additional 100,000 are street-level fighters who meet in alleys, abandoned buildings or street corners.
- A Chicago Police Department study showed that 65 percent of people charged with animal abuse crimes — including dogfighting — were also charged with violent crimes against people.
- Law enforcement raids across the country have revealed that cockfights, which are frequently attended by children, often involve firearms and other weapons due to of the large amounts of cash present for gambling.
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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.