Idaho, Wyoming, Georgia, Nevada and Hawaii Ranked Worst
Idaho, Wyoming, Georgia, Nevada and Hawaii have the weakest dogfighting laws on the books, allowing some aspects of the cruel practice to go completely unpunished, and punishing others with little more than a slap on the wrist, according to The Humane Society of the United States, which recently analyzed state dogfighting laws.
The organization, which examined dogfighting laws in each state and in Washington, D.C., is working with legislators to strengthen laws against this cruel activity.
Idaho and Wyoming are last on the list because they remain the only states in the nation that do not consider dogfighting a felony. Worst-ranked Idaho carries misdemeanor penalties with a minimum $100 fine and a maximum six-month jail sentence.
Although they provide felony penalties for dogfighting, Georgia, Nevada, Hawaii and Montana ranked near the bottom of the list. It is legal to possess dogs for fighting in Georgia and Nevada and it is legal to be a spectator at a dogfight in Georgia, Montana and Hawaii.
“Now that the nation has been awakened to the horrors of dogfighting and its prevalence, states with weak dogfighting laws need to step up to the plate,” said John Goodwin, The HSUS’ manager of animal fighting issues. “Strong felony penalties for dogfighting, including being a spectator at a fight, are essential to controlling this criminal, multi-million dollar industry. No one who fights dogs or who is complicit in this horribly cruel activity should be able to escape the law.”
States with strong felony penalties against dogfighting provide stronger deterrence to participants and better tools for law enforcement officials. The five states with the best laws – New Jersey, Alabama, Colorado, Mississippi and Arizona – carry felony penalties for dogfighting, attending a dogfight and possessing fighting dogs.
At the federal level, President Bush signed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act in May 2007. That law strengthened federal penalties from a misdemeanor to a felony for moving animals across state lines to participate in animal fights. This summer, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representatives Betty Sutton (D-OH), Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) have introduced additional legislation in Congress that would further upgrade federal penalties for dogfighting and make it a federal crime to engage in dogfighting, possess dogs for fighting or be a spectator at a dogfight without requiring prosecutors to prove a specific dog was moved across state lines or national borders.
“Lawmakers across the country are aware of the high price that communities pay for weak dogfighting laws,” said Michael Markarian, The HSUS’ executive vice president. “Dogfighting is also associated with other criminal conduct, such as gambling, drug trafficking, illegal firearms use and violence toward people. Dogfighters steal pets to use as bait for training their dogs, and even allow trained fighting dogs to roam neighborhoods and endanger the public. And of course the dogs involved suffer the most when they are forced to inflict serious or fatal injuries on each other or are killed in gruesome ways because they aren’t winning.”
To see a complete HSUS rankings list, go to humanesociety.org/dogfightinglaws.