State Representative Jane Cunningham introduced legislation (HB 2416) which would change the laws regarding dog fighting in Missouri. While dog fighting is already illegal in the state of Missouri, many lawmakers across the country have re-visited the issue in response to the attention brought last summer by former NFL star Michael Vick. The steps taken in HB 2416 are a practical and responsible approach to not only keeping more animals from being endangered, but cutting back the financial motivation that fuels these dog fights, which comes in the form of illegal gambling by spectators.
This week members of the House Special Committee on General Laws heard testimony regarding HB 2416. A variety of speakers representing the Humane Society and Animal Control testified in favor of the bill. Casino Watch also took the opportunity to speak and persuade members of the committee to pass this bill because of the influence it will have on curbing the illegal gambling involved with these fights. Rep. Cunningham’s legislation specifies that any person who is found guilty of a second or subsequent dog fighting offense will be guilty of a class D felony. This change directly impacts the spectators of these fights by raising a misdemeanor offense to a felony with more serious penalties.
According to the Humane Society of the United States:
Spectators provide much of the profit associated with dogfighting. The money generated by admission fees and gambling helps keep this “sport” alive. Because dogfights are illegal and therefore not widely publicized, spectators do not merely happen upon a fight; they seek it out. They are willing participants who support a criminal activity through their paid admission and attendance.
Because dogfighting yields such large profits for participants, the minor penalties associated with misdemeanor convictions are not a sufficient deterrent. Dogfighters merely absorb these fines as part of the cost of doing business
It is important for lawmakers to understand that in order to prevent the cruel activity of dog fighting, we must look at the root cause motivation for conducting these fights, and that is simply the money generated by illegal gambling. HB 2416 is a good step in the right direction of curbing this illegal activity.
Below are thoughts and comments from the bill sponsor Rep. Jane Cunningham, concerning HB 2416 and the testimony provided by Casino Watch.