Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Codes Committee Chairman Joseph Lentol announced passage of a bill yesterday that would crack down on animal fighting by increasing the penalties for those who knowingly attend these fights as spectators.
The bill (A.4407-A/Lentol) would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in prison and a $500 fine for knowingly being a spectator at an animal fight. A second offense would carry up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
"Animal fighting is extremely cruel and inhumane and we must do everything possible to make sure it does not occur in our communities," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "This legislation will give law enforcement officials the tools they need to truly disrupt and dismantle these criminal enterprises."
"Spectators are central to animal fighting rings and by creating meaningful penalties for those who participate in this unconscionable practice, we are protecting innocent animals from a lifetime of torture and suffering," said Lentol (D-Brooklyn). "We are also ensuring that a practice which often brings other kinds of crime into our communities is stopped before it can spread further."
"This is a bill that would give law enforcement and judges the tools to take action against those who would abuse animals," said Joe Panz, founding member of Rescue Ink, a non-profit animal rescue organization that was featured in a reality TV series. "Statistics show that animal abuse is a 'bridge crime' that leads to more serious crimes against women and children. If this bill is signed into law it will be a major deterrent to those who intend to impose their ill will over the innocent and helpless."
Organizing animal fighting and breeding dogs and other animals to fight is already illegal. Under current law, a knowing spectator is charged with a violation, which carries a significantly lower penalty and does not allow police from different counties to track repeat offenders. Law enforcement officials also sometimes have difficulty charging organizers and breeders because they often claim to be merely spectators when fights are busted.