In a groundbreaking victory for countless dogs caught up in Mexico’s animal fighting trade, the nation’s Senate has put the final stamp of approval on a comprehensive law that bans all dogfighting in the country and establishes tough penalties, including imprisonment and fines, for anyone involved in dogfighting activities like organizing fights, owning or trading a dog, and attending a fight as a spectator. The practice, put on display years ago in the movie Amores Perros — whose leading actress, Vanessa Bauche, has supported our anti-dogfighting campaign — has been a persistent and widespread animal welfare problem in Mexico, and this new national policy is a signature success for the burgeoning animal protection movement in one of the world’s largest nations and one of America’s biggest trading partners.
The law will go into effect following publication in the country’s federal register. The move is historic in many ways: it is the first time that animal cruelty has been penalized in the Federal Criminal Code.
Last year, soon after opening an office there and under the guidance of executive director Anton Aguilar of Humane Society International/Mexico, we launched a major anti-dogfighting campaign along with local animal protection organizations. The campaign included a petition for legislators to ban and penalize dogfighting, which was signed by more than 200,000 Mexicans eager to see an end to this scourge. We enlisted celebrities, mobilized our growing constituency there, and lobbied lawmakers about the evils and hazards of dogfighting. More than 40 local organizations helped us add and keep up the pressure through letters, tweetstorms, and calls. With their support, we reached out to the media, held six press conferences and dozens of interviews, wrote op-eds, and got hundreds of stories published on the importance of this reform.
In December 2016, Mexico’s 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. In January, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies passed reforms to ban dogfighting and mandated the federation and states to impose penalties on dogfighters within a one-year timeframe. The final – and key — piece of getting dogfighting banned in Mexico was for the Senate to pass the reform to the federal criminal code so that dogfighting is effectively penalized, and that happened yesterday in a unanimous vote.
Right now, many of Mexico’s 31 states and Mexico City forbid dogfighting, but there had been no national policy. As a result, criminal rings that organize and participate in dogfighting have been left untouched by the legal system.
Dogfighters sometimes kill the losing dogs, and even winners may die from their wounds. The criminals involved in these activities do not stop at hurting animals: police often discover drugs, guns, and even murders in connection with these spectacles of violence and voyeurism.
The Mexican law will also have a beneficial impact on our work to stop dogfighters here, in the United States, where we have established a strong federal policy on animal fighting over the last 15 years. But for years, American-based dogfighters have trekked to Mexico to avoid law enforcement in the United States where, largely due to The HSUS’s work, dogfighting is a felony in every state, and also a federal felony. Now there’ll be no refuge in Mexico for these lawbreakers. In coming days, HSI/Mexico will continue to work with states to reform their local criminal codes to penalize dogfighters, and assist authorities in their enforcement efforts through trainings and equipment donation.
Mexico’s lawmakers have sent a clear signal: it’s time to root out animal cruelty and violence from the country, and bring criminals who profit from animal abuse to justice.