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September 13, 2011

Tougher Animal Fighting Law Takes Effect as The HSUS Conducts Training at N.Y. State Sheriffs’ Association Conference

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- In New York, anyone who knowingly attends a dogfight or cockfight will now be charged with a misdemeanor crime 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. The new law will be highlighted this week at the New York State Sheriffs’ Association and New York State Sheriffs’ Association Institute’s 10th annual “Law Enforcement Supervisors' Training Conference” during a workshop conducted by Sgt. Michael Gabrielson of Ohio’s Kettering Police Department on behalf of The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization.

“Animal fighting is closely associated with other violent crimes and criminal activities such as gangs, drugs, and illegal weapons possession,” says Patrick Kwan, New York state director for The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States is grateful to the New York State Sheriffs’ Association for the opportunity to share our knowledge and resources to aid in the anti-crime and anti-cruelty efforts of Empire state’s top law enforcement officers.” 

While dogfighting and cockfighting are felonies in New York, the spectators who fuel the economy of animal fighting with their admission fees and gambling wagers faced only a traffic-ticket style violation. Signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August and taking effect this month, S.3237a/A.4407a passed unanimously in the legislature and was championed by Sen. Kenneth LaValle, R-Port Jefferson and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn with 70 total state legislators as co-sponsors. Introduced at the urging of The HSUS, the bill raised penalties against animal fighting spectators and closed a major loophole that allowed some dogfighters and cockfighters to escape punishment by masquerading as spectators.

“Animal fighting is a serious crime, and new legislation in New York will give police officers more tools to prevent these terrible incidents,” said Thomas Mitchell, counsel to the New York State Sheriffs’ Association. “We know that there is often a close connection between animal abuse and other very serious crimes, and want to make sure that our Sheriffs and their law enforcement supervisors know about this new law.  That is why we asked The Humane Society of the United States to speak at our annual training conference this week.”

To assist law enforcement efforts, The HSUS offers rewards of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in illegal animal fighting. The HSUS asks anyone with information about animal fighting criminals to call 1-877-TIP-HSUS (1-877-847-4787). Tipsters' identities are protected. Learn more at humanesociety.org/rewards. 

Animal fighting facts:

  • 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. Spectators provide cover for animal fighters, who weave into crowds to evade prosecution at the first sign of a police raid.
  • 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 which would amend the federal animal fighting law to include spectators. This would allow for cases prosecuted in federal court to include the entire cast of characters that participate in animal fighting ventures.
  • 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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