Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a new law, SB 83, on June 10, which makes cockfighting a felony on the first offense in the state, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.
This is an upgrade to the existing state law, and Nevada now becomes the 37th State that has enacted this tough penalty for first-time conviction for cockfighting. Three other states have felony penalties for repeat offenses, and 10 other states only have misdemeanor penalties, including Utah.
Making cockfighting a felony for the first offense is critical to stopping this brutal “blood sport,” which is too often tolerated as just a cultural tradition or a benign pastime. Cockfighting is not limited to any ethnicity or income group and it combines animal cruelty with gambling. Most people do not realize the prevalence of this illegal activity in their own or a nearby community.
“Cockfighters are drawn to states with the weakest laws to carry out their abusive practices”, says John Goodwin of HSUS, which is urging the Utah legislature to strengthen cockfighting penalties to bring the crime in line with dog fighting.
Utah, which borders Nevada, has one of the nation’s weakest cockfighting laws—it is just a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum penalty of up to $1,000. That’s a minor cost of doing business for cockfighters, who gamble large sums at these cruel events. “Utah needs to send a message that it is no refuge for this blood sport,” Goodwin says.
FEDERAL COCKFIGHTING LAWS
Cockfighting is illegal in every state, and all animal fighting that affects interstate commerce is punishable as a federal felony under the Animal Welfare Act.
Congress is considering legislation—the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act—to further strengthen the federal animal fighting law by making it a crime to be a spectator at a dogfight or cockfight, with additional penalties for bringing a child to the fight.