Congress passes ban on interstate transport of animals for fighting

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2007:

WASHINGTON D.C.–The U.S. Senate on April 10, 2007
unanimously passed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act,
H.R. 137, approved by the House of Representatives on March 25,
368-39. Sent to the White House to be signed into law, the Act
creates a felony penalty for transporting animals across state
lines–including foreign export– to be used in fights.
Cockfighters and breeders mobilized to urge President George
W. Bush to veto H.R. 137, but Humane Society of the U.S. president
Wayne Pacelle was unconcerned. “We have it on good word that it will
be signed,” Pacelle told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
The Act is expected to help in apprehending and prosecuting
dogfighters and cockfighters. Dogfighting is already illegal in all
50 states. Cockfighting is illegal in 49 states plus nine of the 64
parishes of Louisiana, the last state to allow it.

However, enforcing laws against animal fighting usually
requires catching the offenders in the act of staging a fight. The
Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act enables law enforcement
to intercept participants in high-stakes dogfights and cockfights on
their way to events, before any fighting actually occurs.
The most frequent application of the Act is expected to be in
cases where law enforcement personnel stop vehicles for routine
traffic violations or suspicion of intoxicated drivers, and discover
suspected fighting dogs, gamecocks, and/or animal fighting
paraphernalia in the vehicles.
“The passage of the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement
Act is expected to impact dogfighting and cockfighting in the U.S.
territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Pegasus
Foundation director Anne Ostberg told fellow members of the Caribbean
Animal Welfare online forum.
It will also enable U.S. agencies to help thwart a growing
commerce in exporting fighting dogs to parts of the world where
dogfighting was until recently almost unknown.
Interstate involvement in animal fighting was illustrated
especially clearly on April 24, 2007, while the Animal Fighting
Prohibition Enforcement Act awaited White House attention.
As the ANIMAL PEOPLE deadline loomed, Louisiana SPCA
executive director Laura Maloney e-mailed that a multi-agency raid on
suspected dogfighters had seized 42 pit bull terriers “with extensive
scarring and some with fresh wounds” from a site in Pass Christian,
Mississippi, and had impounded six more dogs from a location in St.
Bernard Parish, Louisiana.
“Five dead dogs will be exhumed for evaluation in
Mississippi, with multiple burial locations remaining on the
property. In addition to the scarred dogs,” Maloney added, “the
sites are loaded with fighting paraphernalia, including scales for
weighing before a match, breed stands used to mate aggressive dogs,
treadmills used to prepare dogs for matches, copies of the
underground dogfighting magazine Sporting Dog Journal and
dogfighting-related books, and extensive records noting successes
and losses in dogfights.”
Other participating agencies, Maloney said, included the
St. Charles Parish Humane Society and animal control department, and
the Humane Society of South Mississippi. The American SPCA sent
forensic veterinarian Melinda Merck to document the medical condition
of the animals.
“The Harrison County Sheriff’s Department is charging the
Mississippi accused with felony dogfighting,” Maloney reported,
adding that felony charges were under consideration in St. Bernard
Interstate involvement in cockfighting was demonstrated on
March 30, 2007, when Louisiana state police raided the Sunrise Game
Club near Logansport in north Louisiana and the Milk Dairy Game Club
in Tickfaw, 50 miles northwest of New Orleans. The cockfighting
clubs were located in Sabine and DeSoto parishes, respectively, two
of those that prohibit cockfights.
“Sunrise Game Club owner James Butler, 38, of Martinsville,
Texas, was led away in handcuffs. He was booked into the DeSoto
Parish Detention Center on charges of illegal gambling, contributing
to the delinquency of juveniles, racketeering, and money
laundering,” reported Vickie Wellborn of the Shreveport Times.
Texas authorities simultaneously conducted a raid of Butler’s
home, Louisiana state police spokesperson Doug Pierrelee said.
Two other cockfight participants “were booked into jail on
drug charges after authorities found methamphetamine and marijuana in
their possession,” Wellborn wrote.
“Five men were cited for contributing to the delinquency of
juveniles for allegedly having children at the fight with them,”
added Associated Press.
Sergeant Steve Rachal of the Louisiana state police gaming division
told Wellborn that undercover investigators had monitored the club
for almost a year, observing gambling turnover of up to $50,000 on
Friday and Saturday nights.
Several other recent cockfighting raids have exposed significant
interstate involvement. The Kentucky State Police in February 2007
promised to investigate the Sally Gap Game Club in Whitley County,
after four HSUS investigators produced videotape documenting an
all-day series of fights attended by about 400 people. HSUS deputy
manager of animal fighting issues John Goodwin told Lexington
Herald-Leader staff writer Bill Estep that participants came from as
far as Michigan and South Carolina.
“The investigators estimated that hundreds of thousands of
dollars in entry fees and bets changed hands,” wrote Estep.
Two weeks earlier, sheriff’s deputies arrested 122 people at
a cockfight in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Department of
Homeland Security officers arrested 22 more, “including suspected
gang members who are facing deportation,” Mecklenburg County Sheriff
Danny Fox told reporters.
About three-fourths of the arrestees gave North Carolina addresses.
“The culmination of a seven-month investigation, the raid
included about 130 local, state and federal law-enforcement
officials, and 25 animal control officers,” reported Richmond
Times-Dispatch staff writer Jamie Ruff. “Animal control officials
seized 126 birds,” Ruff said.
Louisiana agriculture commissioner Bob Odom on April 16,
2007 told Doug Simpson of Associated Press that he is now willing to
endorse a phased ban of cockfighting. “In years past, Odom has
argued against outlawing cockfighting,” Simpson recalled, “saying a
ban would merely drive the practice underground, making state
inspections of gamecocks impossible and creating a greater chance
that poultry diseases will spread.
“Odom, a Democrat running for re-election, is in his seventh
term as chief of the state agriculture department,” Simpson
continued. “Odom’s support of a phase-out ban puts him at odds with
Representative Mike Strain, who is running against Odom for the post.
Strain, a Republican, has introduced legislation to ban
cockfighting immediately.”
A similar bill has been introduced by Senator Art Lentini
(R-Metairie), who has pushed bills to ban cockfighting before. This
year will be Lentini’s last opportunity to win a cockfighting ban,
due to term limits.

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