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August 4, 2011

New York Cracks Down on Dogfighting and Cockfighting

Governor Cuomo Signs Animal Fighting Bill Passed Unanimously by Legislature

The Humane Society of the United States, on behalf of its more than 800,000 supporters in New York, applauds Gov. Andrew Cuomo for signing legislation to strengthen current state laws to combat animal fighting. Introduced by Sen. Kenneth LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn, – with 70 total state legislators as co-sponsors – the bill, S.3237a/A.4407a, closes a major loophole in New York’s animal fighting laws that currently allows some dogfighters and cockfighters to escape punishment by masquerading as spectators.

“Throughout New York, animals are forced to fight to the death and tear each other apart,” said Patrick Kwan, New York state director for The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States commends Sen. LaValle and Assemblyman Lentol for championing this anti-crime and anti-cruelty bill and thanks Gov. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Skelos and Assembly Speaker Silver for their leadership in bringing us one major step closer to stopping this gruesome bloodsport.”

While dogfighting and cockfighting are felonies in New York, attending an animal fight is only a traffic-ticket style violation. The new law upgrades the penalty for the spectators who fuel the economy of animal fighting with their admission fees and gambling wagers to a more meaningful misdemeanor crime. It also stops dogfighters from escaping prosecution by blending into the crowd and pretending to be spectators when raided. Under the new law, knowingly attending animal fights will be punishable by up to three months in prison and a $500 fine. A second offense will carry up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. 

“Causing animals to fight and betting on the outcome is inhumane,” said Sen. LaValle. "This legislation will provide law enforcement and prosecutors with a stronger tool with which to combat these terrible acts." 

"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. I ask you, how many people will be willing to risk serious jail time to attend a dog fight?" said Assm. Lentol.

In the 2009/2010 New York state legislative session, the bill also passed unanimously in the Senate under the sponsorship and leadership of Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, D-Whitestone, but did not pass the Assembly before the session ended. The Assembly unanimously passed the bill in June of 2011. The HSUS extends special appreciation to Sen. Stavisky and other legislators, including Assemblymembers Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, Jim Tedisco, R-Schenectady, and Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Sens. John DeFrancisco R-Syracuse, Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, and Suzi Oppenheimer, D-Mamaroneck, for their efforts to strengthen New York’s laws against animal fighting.   

Animal fighting facts

  • Ranked 48th in the nation, loopholes in New York’s anti-dogfighting laws make it a magnet for criminals from surrounding states where penalties on spectators are significantly more severe.
  • Spectators pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling bets, generating the bulk of the revenue for this illegal enterprise. The fights would not occur without the crowd betting on the outcome and enjoying the bloodletting.
  • 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.
  • The United States Congress is considering H.R. 2492, legislation that would amend the federal animal fighting ban to make attending animal fights a misdemeanor, with elevated penalties for bringing a child to an animal fight.
  • In 28 states, it is a felony to be a spectator at an animal fight.

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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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