From Lagger to Leader
The Michael Vick case continues to have a major tail against both dogfighters and cockfighters. Lawmakers in Idaho and Wyoming have passed bills to make dogfighting a felony—and now all 50 states have felony-level penalties. Legislation passed in Oregon makes that state the twentieth to punish spectators at dogfights with felony penalties, and bills to crack down on the spectators who fuel dogfights with admission fees and gambling profits are making their way through legislatures in Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, and other states.
And today, influenced by the home-state cruelty on Moonlight Road in Surry County brought to light in the Vick case—including accounts of hanging and electrocuting poor-performing dogs—the Virginia legislature gave final approval to legislation that dramatically upgrades the state's laws against dogfighting and cockfighting.
© The HSUS/Guzy
A Virginia cockfighting pit, raided in 2007.
The strengthening of Virginia's anti-dogfighting law—to crack down on spectators and ban possession of fighting dogs—was not unexpected. But the upgrade in the laws against cockfighting was perhaps the most important and long-sought reform here. The HSUS had rated Virginia's anti-cockfighting law as the second-worst in the nation—in fact, cockfighting was legal as long as the activity involved no gambling. Virginia's cockfighting enthusiasts have long bullied lawmakers to back off of reforms, and major cockfighting pits operate throughout the state. This year, the cockfighters hired heavyweight lobbying firms, but their influence was overwhelmed by The HSUS's own efforts and the growing animus toward staged animal fights.
The campaign got a major boost from Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, a stalwart and active supporter of the legislation. Governor Tim Kaine also endorsed the legislation, and is expected to sign it in short order. All of the state's major papers called for the enactment of the comprehensive animal fighting legislation. Our thanks go to the bill authors—House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith and Sen. Tommy Norment—who helped give the legislation the lift it needed.
In my mind, this is one of the most significant legislative wins in the nation this year. About a dozen major cockfighting pits will now have to be shut down, or face the law.