Lawmakers in Costa Rica, in the final session, passed a bill that would permanently ban dog fighting and ‘all events that could cause aggression, abuse or injury to dogs.’
It is now waiting to be signed into law by the President.
Not only does the new ban clarify and categorize dog fighting as a true criminal act, but it also imposes stiffer penalties for convictions. These include prison terms of up to three years for a first offense, plus steep fines.
The bill also introduces an “offender’s list” for those found guilty of organizing dog fights. They would be required to register with the Animal Health Service in Costa Rica, with the goal of making it more difficult for them to obtain aggressive dogs.
Under current laws, dog fighting organizers and participants have only had dogs confiscated, but there were no other punishments or imprisonment. Last year a man received a $200 fine upon being found guilty of hosting dog fights on his property. It was the first fine ever levied for this offense in Costa Rica.
The dog-fighting ban bill was worked on for almost two years by the Humane Society International-Latin America.
The American Stafford Association was a supporter and also the major force behind the inclusion of a ban especially on events where dogs are forced to do “weight pulling,” or engage in “pole jumping.”
‘Pole jumping’ is the act of stringing up a piece of meat to the top of a pole, then encouraging a dog—usually a pit bull--to jump up and bite into it, and hold on for as long as possible. “It’s a sport that is utilized to train dogs to fight,” said Hector Valverde, a representative of The Stafford Association.
“It entices dogs and makes them nervous and jumpy. It can cause joint problems,” said Valverde. The dogs are also often injured when they fall to the ground.
Another progressive step taken in this legislation is the introduction of an “offenders list” for those found to be organizers of dog fights. They would be required to register with the Animal Health Service in Costa Rica, hopefully making it more difficult for them to get their hands on aggressive dogs.
Current president, Laura Chinchilla, could sign the bill into law at any time. If she does not, the job will fall to Luis Guillermo Solis, her successor, as of the 8th of May 2014.
Solis is an avid supporter of animal welfare. It was a large part of his running platform, and got a mention in his acceptance speech. His party, The Citizen Action Party, sponsored the bill.