Dogfighting and cockfighting are illegal in New York State and so is going to such events. Now, punishment for spectators at these venues may increase on the federal level, much to the satisfaction of animal rights advocates.
Under the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act of 2011 introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), any person who attends an animal fighting event would be subject to a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to one year for each violation.
In addition, anyone who takes a minor to such a venture would be fined up to $250,000 and could get up to three years for each violation. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on Dec. 6.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) supports the bill, according to her spokesman, Glen Caplin. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) did not respond to an email request for comment by press time.
A companion bill in the House was introduced by Tom Marino (R-Penn.) on July 11. It has 189 cosponsors including Congressmen Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau) and Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica). The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on Aug. 25.
Organizing dogfighting and cockfighting is a felony in New York State, and attending a match is punishable by up to three months in prison and a $500 fine, or one year in prison and a $1,000 fine for a second offense.
“Animal fighting is an extremely cruel, but lucrative, underground business,” Bill Ketzer, an ASPCA spokesman, said in a prepared statement. “It is often associated with a host of other dangerous and illegal activity, including drugs, weapons and gambling, all of which pose serious threats to public safety.”
Lori Carpino of Heavenly Angels Animal Rescue in East Elmhurst is one area activist who supports the legislation, stating that if there is no one spending money to watch these “sports,” they will likely decline.
Carpino knows the horrible effects of dogfighting firsthand. About three years ago Heavenly Angels received a badly injured pit bull believed to be used in dog fighting.
“He was pretty beaten up,” Carpino said. “His tail was broken, his ears were injured and he had bites all over. He was so emaciated, he only weighed about 20 pounds.”
Carpino helped rehabilitate the still friendly pooch, named him Bogey and adopted him out into a loving home.
“Now he weighs 75 pounds,” Carpino said. “He’s beautiful. He looks nothing like the dog that came to us a few years ago.”
Bobbi Giordano, owner of Bobbi and the Strays, a no-kill animal rescue group, with an adoption center in Glendale and a shelter on Long Island, also expressed support for the bill.
“People who go to these things are just as bad,” Giordano said. “They enjoy watching violence. It’s horrible.”
Sonia Saakias of the Strays said the group has helped several dogfight victims, including a 3-year-old pit bull named Chance.
“He had scars all over his face and he was all black and blue and bloody,” she said. “But he had the sweetest demeanor. He would come up to you and wag his tail and lick your face.”
Saakias also recalled another pit bull named Penny who had been used as a bait dog during these events and was brought to Bobbi and the Strays after Animal Care and Control found her hanging upside down in an apartment.
“She was scared of everything,” Saakias recalled. “A paper bag would fly by and she would cower.” Both Chance and Penny have since been adopted.
During a dogfight, two specially trained, bred and conditioned canines, usually pit bulls, are placed in a pit where they attack each for an average of one to two hours, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The dogs often die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion or infection.
“People who do this and go to these dogfights need to be punished,” Saakias said. “It’s really disgusting.”
In a cockfight, two roosters battle to the death. The birds typically have razor blades strapped to their legs, which can cause injuries such as punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes, according to the HSUS.
There have been two animal fighting cases in Queens in recent years, according to Pet-Abuse.com. More than 30 birds allegedly used in cockfighting were seized from a shed in Richmond Hill on June 11, 2008. Three dogs were injured and one was found dead from alleged dogfighting in St. Albans on Oct. 25 2007. A spokesman for the ASPCA said it has not handled any such cases in the city in two years.