Seventeen senators are calling on farm bill negotiators to include language making attendance at animal fights illegal.
In advance of the formal kick off of the House-Senate farm bill conference next week, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and 16 colleagues have asked the conferees to accept a provision already backed by the Senate to make it a violation of federal law to be a spectator at an animal fight, an addition to existing laws against operating the fights.
The letter cites a recent multi-state raid of a dog fighting operation that led to 367 dogs being rescued.
Animal fighting, and dog fighting in particular, has long been a matter of interest to the Senate. The late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., delivered a scathing floor speech against the practice responding to the case involving NFL quarterback Michael Vick.
The new letter appears below:
Dear Senate Conferees,
As you proceed to a House-Senate conference committee on the 2013 Farm Bill, to resolve differences between S.954 and H.R.2642, we write to call your attention to important animal fighting spectator prohibition provisions included in both bills.
The multi-state raid announced on August 26, 2013 in which the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation rescued 367 dogs clearly demonstrates the need for stronger prohibitions on activities related to animal fighting. Federal and local officials also seized firearms, drugs, and more than $500,000 in cash from dog fighting gambling activities that took place over the course of the investigation.
When active animal fighting operations are raided, it is a common practice for the organizers, promoters, and animal owners to blend into the crowd in order to shield themselves from law enforcement. Though many states have enacted legislation to make attendance at an animal fight a criminal offense, local and state law enforcement still need a federal statute to appropriately prosecute these individuals and help end these criminal operations for good.
S.954 includes the language of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, a bipartisan bill that the Senate approved twice in the 112th Congress. This bill currently has 24 cosponsors in the Senate and 205 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. The legislation also enjoys broad support from animal welfare groups and approximately 300 law enforcement organizations.
We urge you to ensure that the bipartisan language of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, contained in Section 12209 of S.954, is adopted by the conference committee. This language would apply federal criminal penalties to any individual who knowingly attends or knowingly brings a minor to one of these horrific events. Since H.R.2642 already contains language to establish even stronger federal penalties for animal fighting spectators, the language in S.954 is a reasonable compromise and should be adopted.
Thank you for considering this request. We look forward to working with you.
Niels Lesniewski has covered the Senate for CQ Roll Call since January 2010, and more recently as a staff writer and resident procedure guru for Roll Call. Niels holds degrees in both government and theater but sometimes can't tell the difference between the two. @nielslesniewski
Meredith Shiner has covered Senate leadership, legislation and everything in between for Roll Call since joining in June 2011, having previously covered Congress and national politics for Politico. @meredithshiner