Blood Sports: Animal-Fighting Spectators Targeted Under Proposed Federal Law


Over the past decade, the U.S. Congress has strengthened penalties in the federal law prohibiting dog fighting, cockfighting, and other brutal forms of animal fighting, but one major factor that has enabled these barbaric activities to continue—spectators—has been unaddressed.

Last week the U.S. Senate approved S. 1947, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, by a voice vote. This bipartisan legislation closes loopholes in the federal animal-fighting law related to attendance at dogfights and cockfights. The Humane Society of the United States is urging the House to take swift and positive action and also pass this bill before the end of the legislative session.

It is already a felony under federal law to stage animal fights, possess or train animals for fighting, or move animals or cockfighting implements in interstate commerce for fighting purposes. The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act would prohibit attendance at organized animal fights, cracking down on the spectators who finance animal fights with their admission fees and gambling bets.

“Spectators enable the crime of animal fighting, make the enterprise profitable through admission fees and wagering, and help conceal and protect the handlers and organizers,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society of the United States.

“Despite efforts by Congress to put an end to animal fighting, this cruel sport continues to exist throughout the country, and is financed by thousands of dollars from spectators who contribute to this blood sport. When animal fighting involves players from a number of different States, local law enforcement simply lacks the power to deal with it and to root out the entire operation,”said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

I’m proud to have been a leader on this important piece of animal welfare legislation,” said Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass. “This bipartisan measure will close a loophole and give law enforcement the tools they need to end the heinous practice of animal fighting.”


S. 1947 also imposes stronger penalties for bringing a child to these bloody and illegal spectacles, a practice which grooms the next generation of animal fighters by desensitizing youngsters to the pain and suffering of animals.

It is illegal in 49 states to be a knowing spectator at an animal fight. A majority – 29 states – impose felony-level penalties on spectators. Stopping illegal animal fighting has importance beyond the obvious humane reasons. Wherever these events are held, an element of bloodthirsty criminals is attracted into unsuspecting communities. This can subject local families and their homes to an influx of unsavory spectators, who are there to watch and gamble on animals forced to wound and kill each other in horrifying staged fights.

John Goodwin, Director of Animal-Cruelty Policy for HSUS states,“Some large-scale animal fighting events bring in hundreds of cockfighters or dogfighters and involve individuals from several states.

“A local sheriff's department is not going to have the resources, or the jurisdiction, to go to a neighboring state to interview witnesses. In those cases federal intervention is warranted and this legislation will ensure that the entire cast of characters that sustain animal fighting will be prosecuted.”

Read S. 1947:



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