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Federal legislation introduced to combat animal fighting in the U.S. territories

WASHINGTON, DC (November 1, 2017)—Today a bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced legislation to upgrade the federal law against dogfighting and cockfighting to clarify that the territories of the United States are not exempt from a series of legal prohibitions against animal fighting. Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Steve Knight, R-Calif., Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., introduced the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, H.R. 4202, today, clarifying that the federal prohibitions against animal fighting apply everywhere in the United States, including U.S. territories.

Congress has upgraded the federal law against animal fighting four times in the last 15 years. Under current federal law, it is a felony crime to sponsor or exhibit an animal in a fighting venture; to buy, sell, deliver, possess, train or transport an animal for fighting purposes; to use the Postal Service or other interstate means to promote animal fighting; to buy, sell, deliver or transport cockfighting implements; and to bring a minor to an animal fight. It is a federal misdemeanor to be a spectator at an animal fighting spectacle. The prohibitions include any animal fighting activity that affects interstate or foreign commerce.

There were dozens of cockfighting arenas in Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and other states before citizens and state and federal lawmakers cracked down on these activities by passing anti-animal fighting statutes. Some animal fighting occurs in Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but the presence of animal fighting spectacles in these U.S. territories is precisely the reason additional federal action is needed.

This past June, a poll of 1,000 registered voters in Puerto Rico, conducted by Remington Research on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States, revealed that among resident with a definite view of cockfighting, there was a two to one majority favoring a ban on the practice. Dogfighting is a felony in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. HSUS is the lead disaster responder for animals in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and for three years has conducted an extensive program, called Humane Puerto Rico, to help the animals and people of the Commonwealth.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States and executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said: “We shouldn’t have one set of rules against animal cruelty for all 50 states and a different set of rules for U.S. territories. Dogfighting and cockfighting are barbaric practices, more widely criminalized than any other form of animal cruelty in the world, and the prohibitions should apply to every part of the country.”

Rep. Roskam said: "Cruelty to animals is not a form of entertainment; it's a criminal act that puts both animals and humans at risk and is often associated with other criminal activities. Our treatment of animals is a reflection of who we are and we have a responsibility to treat animals in a humane manner. Strengthening the law against cockfighting and other forms of animal fighting allows us to better protect animals from this type of violence as we move to end the cruelty of animal fighting."

Rep. Blumenauer, a lead sponsor of several of the prior upgrades in the law, said: “Congress enacted federal animal fighting laws to protect animals from needless cruelty, and communities from associated crimes such as illegal drug dealing and human violence. Animals used for fighting are often drugged to heighten their aggression and forced to keep fighting even after they’ve suffered grievous injuries such as broken bones, deep gashes, punctured lungs and pierced eyes.”

Rep. Davis said: “The United States has long prohibited animal fighting and this bill simply ensures there is no ambiguity in the law and that it applies to all U.S. territories. In addition to preventing animal cruelty, strengthening the law against cockfighting helps safeguard against the spread of diseases in poultry such as avian flu, since birds used in cockfighting are particularly vulnerable. After a 2002 outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease in the U.S., which cost taxpayers nearly $200 million and the poultry industry many millions more, the USDA implicated cockfighting as a culprit in spreading the disease.”

Rep. Nolan said: “As a society, we have an obligation to protect those without a voice, including animals who are cruelly forced to fight one another. This legislation affirms and ensures that animal fighting has no place in any jurisdiction within the United States, and it will help safeguard our human communities."

Rep. Cárdenas said: “It has long been the policy of the United States to deter and discourage dogfighting and cockfighting, which are inhumane spectacles of cruelty. With this upgrade of the law, we advance that policy in a consistent way in every part of our nation.”

Rep. Knight said: “I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation that will help enforce our laws and defend our values. The PACE Act recertifies America’s commitment to the humane treatment of animals. Dogfighting, cockfighting, and other forms of animal cruelty not only subject animals to immense amounts of suffering, but these practices also degrade the moral fabric of our communities. This bill came to fruition after an incident near my district that revealed a massive underground cockfighting ring. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department displayed incredible professionalism and skill in dismantling this organization. However, it is clear that more action must be taken by Congress to better enforce laws preventing this type of activity. I look forward to working with my colleagues to push forward this bipartisan legislation.”

Rep. Sherman said: “I have long fought to eradicate dogfighting and cockfighting throughout the United States. Earlier this year, in Los Angeles, law enforcement conducted one of the largest raids ever of a cockfighting stable. We must remain vigilant and strengthen laws against this form of animal cruelty.”

Rep. Buchanan said: “Stopping animal cruelty and preventing animal fighting should be a bipartisan issue important to all of us. I look forward to working with Congressman Roskam and my colleagues in the House to advance this common-sense measure.”

Media contact:
Thaisi Da Silva: 202-578-6767; tdasilva@humanesociety.org

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The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at hslf.org, on our blog at animalsandpolitics.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/humanelegislation and on Twitter at twitter.com/HSLegFund.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated the most effective by its peers. Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. We rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but our primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs. We're there for all animals, across America and around the world. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- on the Web at humanesociety.org. Subscribe to Wayne Pacelle’s blog, A Humane Nation. Join The HSUS on Facebook. Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “Humane TV” app.