(July 23, 2007)—In the wake of the Michael Vick indictment, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) notes that U.S. Representatives Jack Kingston (R-Ga./1st) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga./3rd) recently voted against the federal Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act. This legislation upgrades penalties for illegal transportation of fighting dogs—the very crime Vick was charged with—from misdemeanor to felony penalties.
Congress passed this law in March and President Bush signed the measure in May—just after the alleged crimes had occurred with Vick and his co-defendants. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 368 to 39, and then cleared the Senate unanimously.
"The vast majority of members of Congress supported this legislation to put a stop to precisely the type of behavior that Michael Vick was charged with last week—participation in a multi-state network of cruel and degrading dogfighting activities," said Michael Markarian, president of HSLF. "Humane organizations and more than 400 law enforcement agencies supported the federal bill, yet Kingston and Westmoreland showed their true colors by giving dogfighters a free pass."
Vick escaped the imposition of even more felony penalties because the animal fighting allegations against him preceded the new federal law. Federal prosecutors have delivered some felony charges against Vick by invoking the federal Travel Act and conspiracy in their first charge. But the second and third charges in the indictment are misdemeanor charges relating to the federal animal fighting law.
The newly enacted federal law makes interstate transport of animals for fighting purposes a felony offense, with penalties up to three years in prison for each violation. It also bans the interstate and foreign commerce in cockfighting weapons. Currently, 48 states have felony dogfighting laws, and 35 states have felony cockfighting laws.
Dogfighting is a felony in Georgia, although it is the only state where it is legal both to possess dogs for dogfighting and to be a spectator at a dogfight. Legislation to close these loopholes in state law has failed during each of the past two legislative sessions.
Media contact: Heather Sullivan: 301-548-7778, firstname.lastname@example.org
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. On the web at www.hslf.org.
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