There’s a lot in the news about Mexico and our border with that populous nation to our south. While that discussion swirls, we continue to make steady progress on animal welfare in Mexico, even though our Humane Society International office there is still in its first year of operation.
This week, Mexico’s Congress took one more major step toward establishing a nationwide ban on dogfighting – with its House and Senate blessing a measure that mandates that the Mexican federation, federal states, and Mexico City all penalize dogfighting within a year. The next key – and final – step will be for the Senate to pass a reform to the federal criminal code so that dogfighting is effectively penalized, and we expect that to happen soon.
Right now, many of Mexico’s 31 states and Mexico City forbid dogfighting, but there had been no national policy. It was only in the last 15 years that the United States established its own strong federal policy on animal fighting. Mexico’s efforts to catch up will greatly improve the prospects for suppression of animal fighting in North America. Cracking down on dogfighting in Mexico can also stop American-based dogfighters from trekking to Mexico to avoid law enforcement here in the United States where, largely due to The HSUS’s work, dogfighting is a felony in every state, and also a federal felony. It’s yet another case – as we see with so many other activities – in which animal abusers go venue shopping to find the spots where cruelty is unregulated.
This is a groundbreaking victory for animals and animal advocates in Mexico, and especially for Humane Society International/Mexico, which launched an anti-dogfighting campaign in the country in July last year, not long after we opened our office in Mexico City. Creating a national policy against dogfighting was not on anyone’s radar before our determined team, led by HSI/Mexico Executive Director Anton Aguilar, began to involve legislators, the media, celebrities, and the general public. When the campaign was launched, it was covered in more than 160 news reports. A petition for legislators circulated by HSI to ban and penalize dogfighting collected more than 200,000 signatures.
I wrote about our first major breakthrough in December, when the House of Representatives passed a reform of the federal criminal code penalizing various activities related to dogfighting, including organizing fights, owning or trading a fighting dog, possessing a property used to hold fights, and attending a fight as a spectator. With Mexico’s Congress enacting the ban this week, we are that much closer to a strong national policy on these barbaric spectacles.
A poll last year found that 99 percent of Mexicans condemn dogfights, and 85 percent believe dogfighters should be penalized. Besides the inherent cruelty against the dogs trapped in this trade – dogfighters sometimes kill losing dogs and even winners can die of their wounds – police often uncover drugs, guns, and even murder in connection with dogfights. In one highly publicized case in Ciudad Juarez in 2013, dogfighters were suspected to have slaughtered an entire family of eight, including three children, because of unpaid dogfighting debts.
This is just the latest of our gains in Mexico. Among our other victories:
- Mexico City’s Constitutional Assembly voted to include article 18 B on animal welfare into the constitutional text the city will adopt in February. The vote was 81 to 0. The article recognizes animals as sentient beings whose welfare must be protected.
- Last year, HSI/Mexico and the Izamal (Yucatan) Municipality ended the Kots Kaal Pato fiesta– the cruel 100-year-old festival in which animals were hung up like piñatas and beaten to death. An agreement was signed in April to continue to collaborate on providing non-cruel alternatives to celebrate the fiesta.
- Alsea, the largest restaurant operator in Latin America and Spain, announced a cage-free-egg policy after several years of talks with HSI. That is just one of many companies that have made similar pledges.
We are excited about all of these wins. And more specifically, we applaud both chambers of Congress in Mexico for passing the anti-dogfighting legislation that saves lives and fortifies the legal framework against cruelty in a vitally important nation. We also thank all of the Mexican citizens who participated in or supported our HSI/Mexico campaign to stop this cruelty.