Apr 19, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon
Animal Rights

Humane Society Rips U.S. Rep. Steve King's Stance on Dogfighting

The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization, called out U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, for his ridiculous reasons for opposing a federal bill to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting.  King has issued a series of statements within the last week that have only fueled public concerns about positions opposing this anti-crime and anti-cruelty legislation.

There is a strong, bipartisan effort in Congress to strengthen the federal law against animal fighting by making it a crime for an adult to bring a child to an animal fight or for anyone to attend one of these spectacles.  The amendment King opposed in the House Agriculture Committee in July is based on House and Senate bills, H.R. 2492 and S. 1947, which have broad bipartisan support and endorsements from more than 200 law enforcement agencies, including 33 county sheriffs and police chiefs in Iowa alone. 

“Dogfighting and cockfighting are barbaric and inhumane, and they are the last sorts of activities our children should be exposed to,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “Animal fighting is often tied to narcotics trafficking, illegal gambling, gang activity and other criminal behavior, and these enterprises commonly cross state lines and require a federal capacity to crack down on them.”

H.R. 2492 was introduced by Republican Rep. Tom Marino, a former state and federal prosecutor, and his bill has 208 cosponsors in the House, including Republican Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa.  The Senate bill came up as an amendment to the Farm Bill and was approved 88 to 11, with 37 Republican Senators supporting it.  U.S.  Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin, and both South Dakota Senators, John Thune and Tim Johnson, voted in favor of the legislation.

“Steve King stands alone among Iowa’s federally elected officials in opposing this sensible legislation,” adds Carol Griglione, Iowa state director of The HSUS.  “Animal fighting is one of the most indefensible forms of cruelty, and Steve King should not be standing in the way of efforts to make our communities safer by tackling this problem. “

Spectators finance animal fights with their admission fees and gambling wagers, and they provide cover to animal fighters who blend into the crowd during a law enforcement raid. It is illegal in 49 states to be a knowing spectator at an animal fight (49 cover dogfighting, 43 cover cockfighting).  A majority of states – now 28 (with others currently pending in their state legislatures) – impose felony-level penalties on spectators.  This bill will give federal agencies similar tools to what local agencies have at their disposal.

Rep. Steve King was also one of just 39 members of the House to vote against an upgrade of penalties for transporting fighting animals across state lines in 2007, which President Bush signed just days after Michael Vick’s interstate dogfighting network was discovered on a property in southern Virginia.  All members of the Iowa congressional delegation also supported that upgrade in the law except for Steve King.  The Senate vote in favor of that bill was unanimous.

Last week, in responding to a question at a press conference in Des Moines, Rep. Steve King said he does not think there is any federal nexus with animal fighting. But there have been a series of animal fighting incidents in Iowa, including an Iowa high school teacher who was prosecuted in 2009 for taking part in a organized dogfighting network that stretched across Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and other states.  It’s already a federal crime to organize animal fights, and if federal officials are going to use their resources to bust animal fighting rings, they should have the tools to crack down on the entire cast of characters involved.

Wayne Pacelle will be in Sioux City and Des Moines today, and in Ames tomorrow night.


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