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Old 10-11-2005
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Default WI Bill intended to deter illegal animal fighting

A representative from the Humane Society of the United States visited Wisconsin to garner support for legislation that would further curb illegal animal fighting activities.

John P. Goodwin said it's currently illegal to transport animals over state lines or ship them to other countries for the purposes of fighting. However, it is only a misdemeanor.

”People can win tens of thousands of dollars (in these fights),“ Goodwin said. ”A misdemeanor doesn't act as a enough of a deterrent.“

The new legislation, H.R. 817, the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, which already passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate, would make the practice a felony and would also ban the transportation of cockfighting implements, such as specially designed knives which are attached to the animal's leg so the fight is more vicious.

The legislation would, in short, hit where it hurts - stiffer jail sentences and heavier fines.

”Felonies get more attention from law enforcement and prosecutors,“ Goodwin said. ”Felonies also get more attention from criminals.“

Goodwin explained much of the money is made not from winning fights, but from selling ”champion“ animals in demand for their blood line. A stiffer penalty would make breeders think twice about transporting the animals.

”This would help federal law enforcement target some of the top breeders of fighting animals,“ Goodwin said.

Currently, dog fighting is a felony in 48 states; in Idaho and Wyoming it is a misdemeanor.

Cockfighting is a felony in 32 states, including Wisconsin, a misdemeanor in 16 states and legal in Louisiana and New Mexico.

Animal fighting is more common than people think; it just happens in a clandestine fashion because of the illegality.

”Dog fighting is a growing problem,“ Goodwin said. ”It's particularly popular in the inner city.“

Goodwin said a lot of gangs are involved in dog fighting and the practice is being glorified in rap music and videos. As far as cockfighting, the practice is more widespread in the south and in states where it's a misdemeanor.

”Anyone that cares about dogs would hate to see the end result of a dog fight,“ Goodwin said. ”These are animals that lost pints of blood, (had their) muzzles shredded, forelimbs broken in half. These injuries are very real and very painful.“

As for the injuries from cockfighting, Goodwin pointed out the fact that roosters have knives attached to them paints a vivid picture.

Besides causing the animal pain, the practice of animal fighting breeds other vices, including drug trafficking and money laundering. Cockfighting birds are also known carriers of diseases that threaten agriculture, according to a Humane Society release.

The legislation does not expire until the end of 2006, though Goodwin said he would like to see it passed as early as the fall session.

Goodwin said Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl sponsored the bill in the Senate. Now, it's in the House Judiciary Committee, which Wisconsin's 5th District Congressman James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Menomonee Falls, chairs. It's up to him to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote.

”Last year he was supportive,“ Goodwin said, adding that he hopes that opinion hasn't changed.

Goodwin traveled to Wisconsin because sponsors of the bill reside here and because the chairman of the committee in which the bill currently resides is from Wisconsin.

H.R. 817 was also introduced by Wisconsin 8th District Congressman Mark Green R-Oneida.

”What people can do to help is contact their U.S. representative and ask him or her to support H.R. 817,“ Goodwin said.
-- A. Gianotto

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