Local Commentary

Jim Moran

As a pet owner and someone who takes a great interest in animal protection issues, I am pleased to report that the House passed legislation this week to ban the barbaric practice of animal fighting.

Despite state laws banning dog fighting in 50 states and cock fighting in 49 states, animal fighting is alive and well in the America. The misdemeanors that are handed out are just a cost of business for most handlers. To truly crack down on this illegal, cruel and inhumane practice, we need strong federal laws making it a felony to train animals to kill one another.

The animal fighting industry is cruel and inhumane. Dogs and roosters are purposely drugged before matches to make them hyper-aggressive and immune to pain. This allows them to fight through appalling injuries, literally to the death. Pets are often the victims, stolen from their owners to serve as bait for training.

Animals aren’t the only ones affected by the animal fighting industry. In general, animal fighting is a doorway to countless illegal activities including illegal gambling, narcotics trafficking, public corruption and gang activity. Where animal fighting takes place, these illegal activities often follow leading to the infiltration of criminal activities into nearby neighborhoods and communities.

The public’s health safety is an additional reason to be concerned about animal fighting. With concerns about a possible avian flu pandemic, the World Health Organization has reported that at least nine confirmed human cases of avian influenza in Thailand and Vietnam may have been contracted through cockfighting activity. Close contact between humans and birds — especially where blood is spilled — can greatly increase the risk of spreading bird to human viruses. The economic consequences of a bird flu pandemic are staggering – the World Bank projects worldwide losses from $1.5 to $2 trillion. We must do all we can to prevent a pandemic. Banning animal fighting is one obvious, easy step.

With these concerns in mind, the House debated and passed H.R. 137, the “Animal Fighting Prohibition Act of 2007” on Monday. This legislation, with over 300 cosponsors, support from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the poultry industry, the U.S. Humane Society and the National Sheriffs’ Association would increase penalties for animal fighting by authorizing felony-level jail time for animal fighting.

With so much bipartisan support, including the backing of agricultural interests and animal rights organizations, the prospects for Senate passage and the bill eventually being signed into law are promising. Most of the dogs and roosters being forced to fight are not aggressive by nature. Mistreatment at the hands of humans has caused them to become killers. The animal fighting industry is immoral, cruel and hazardous to communities’ well-being. With this legislation I am hopeful we can put it out of business for good.