Closing a loophole in the state’s current dog fighting law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law last week a measure that makes it a crime to possess animal fighting paraphernalia with the intention to violate state law.
The law defines animal fighting paraphernalia as any “equipment, products, or materials that are used, intended for use, or designed for use in the training, preparation, conditioning or furtherance of animal fighting.”
It makes owning, possessing, selling, transferring or manufacturing animal fighting paraphernalia a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 on the first offense. Repeat offenses within five years could carry a one year jail term and a fine of up to $1000.
According to the sponsors, the legislation is aimed at protecting innocent animals from a growing number of animal fighting incidents by giving police and prosecutors new tools to stop dog fighters who, because of the underground nature of their crimes, are hard to catch in the act. Animal fighting is illegal in all 50 states — and even spectators can criminal charges in New York — but cases are hard to prove unless law enforcers witness the actual event.
“By outlawing the possession of fighting equipment, law enforcement officials and prosecutors will be given an extra tool when it comes to catching and punishing offenders,” said state Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-North Country), the bill’s Senate sponsor.
The items banned under certain circumstances include breaking sticks, which are inserted into a dog’s mouth to relieve its hold on some things, and the actual fighitng pits where contests are held.
Ritchie’s Queens collegues joined in support of the measure.
“This legislation closes a major loophole in the existing law in that individuals looking to purchase and use animal fighting paraphernalia will be severely punished,” said Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) in an emailed statement “This will send a clear signal that New York State will not tolerate those who seek to harm and exploit defenseless animals for such sadistic purposes and our legislation reinforces this view.”
“This bill is necessary to protect the rights of animals who are unable to speak up for themselves,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), a cosponsor. “By closing this loophole, we are sending a clear message that not only is the despicable sport of animal fighting illegal, anyone who possesses or deals in animal fighting paraphernalia will also be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said the bill hampers animal fight organizers, “and in some ways will stop them from breeding animals just for sport, just for fighting.”
The law’s prohibition of dog fighting equipment will deny individuals the ability to train the dogs and therefore there will be no incentive for them to breed the dogs for fighting, he explained.
“Specifically banning the sale and possession of animal fighting paraphernalia will close a loophole in the law and make those involved in this illegal activity more accountable for their heinous actions,” explained North Shore Animal League America Senior Vice President of Operations Joanne Yohannan.
Last year Gov. Cuomo signed legislation further criminalizing attendance at animal fighting events; the law upgraded the penalty for spectators from a violation to a misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail and a $500 fine. A second offense can carry a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.