Congress has passed a federal anti-animal-fighting law that ascribes felony-level penalties for activities in interstate or foreign commerce that facilitate or promote animal fighting.
The Senate passed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act by unanimous consent April 10; the measure cleared the House by a 368-39 vote on March 26. The proposal now awaits the signature of President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law.
"With this law, we can clamp down on these cruel, inhumane practices," said Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the sponsor of the Senate bill. Elton Gallegly of California introduced the House version.
Dogfighting is banned throughout the United States and is currently a felony in 48 states. Cockfighting is a felony in 33 states and legal only in Louisiana. Many anti-animal-fighting laws carry a punishment of no more than a year in jail.
Violators of the federal law would face felony-level penalties and up to three years in prison for knowingly buying, selling, or transporting animals across state or international borders for the purpose of fighting. It would also make it a felony to knowingly sponsor or exhibit an animal fight, or to buy, sell, or transport knives, gaffs, and other weapons used in cockfighting.
Numerous organizations have long supported stronger penalties on blood sports such as dogfighting and cockfighting.
"Increasing the penalty for animal fighting to a felony offense at the federal level is another good step toward putting an end to this inhumane practice," said Dr. Angela J. Demaree, assistant director of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C.