Shots were fired as Mississippi law enforcement authorities and The HSUS raided a dogfight in progress on Easter Sunday, with 200 people present, including some from far reaches of the country. No law enforcement personnel or HSUS staff were wounded, but one dog in a fighting pit was so badly injured, veterinarians determined he had to be euthanized.
In all, the raid resulted in the arrests of multiple alleged dogfighters and spectators, the seizure of 20 dogs, suspected dogfighting paraphernalia, and a large amount of cash. We have moved the dogs to a safe location where they are receiving urgently needed veterinary treatment and care while a judge determines their final disposition. Our dogfighting experts were on scene to assist authorities with identifying and documenting evidence for the case.
Even though there was interstate movement of animals and out-of-state participants, it appears that charges will be brought under state law. The federal law against animal fighting is strong, but it contains a loophole not allowing the arrest of spectators.
It’s precisely for this reason that we are pushing for federal legislation, HR 366, which would close a loophole on spectators in our national animal fighting law.
In almost any dogfight, there are many more spectators than direct participants – though everybody there knows exactly why they’re there. Typically, spectators provide a large share of the funding for the criminal enterprise, and help conceal handlers and organizers who try to blend into the crowd when a bust occurs. Spectators pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling bets, generating the bulk of the revenue for this illegal enterprise. In this case, it appears it was the “spectators” who fired on the brave law enforcement personnel who intervened to shut down the fights.
In 49 states, including Mississippi, it is illegal to be a spectator, and the federal animal fighting law makes it a felony to stage fights, possess or train animals for fighting, or to move animals or cockfighting weapons in interstate commerce for fighting purposes. But there’s no spectator provision, and that undercuts federal enforcement actions in a serious way. Federal authorities who investigate and prosecute large scale, multi-jurisdictional animal fighting rings like the one in Mississippi need the spectator loophole closed. In doing so, we can ensure that the entire cast of characters involved in these spectacles are brought to justice.
Let your U.S. representative and your two U.S. senators know that our nation needs an enhanced federal animal fighting statute. Urge them to cosponsor HR 366. By not acting swiftly on this legislation, the only people they are protecting are those who continue to engage in this horrific, cruel and criminal activity, with some of them taking aim at our nation’s law enforcement professionals.