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October 19, 2012

The Empire (State) Strikes Back – Against Animal Fighting

New York officially closes a major loophole in its animal fighting laws this week, and it comes months after The HSUS and our friends at the New York State Humane Association partnered to enact legislation to strip animal fighters of the necessary tools for their sickening enterprise. In effect now, the new law provides misdemeanor penalties for violators with imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000 for the possession, use, and trafficking of animal fighting paraphernalia such as specially designed, razor-sharp knives known as “slashers” that are affixed to the heels of roosters in cockfights.

Rooster seized from suspected cockfighting operation in New York
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
At a cockfighting rescue in New York in 2011.

This is the latest victory in The HSUS’s effort to combat the cruel and criminal enterprise of animal fighting on every front—from lobbying for stronger laws to crack down on animal fighters, to rescuing animals, to educating youth, to providing support and training prosecuting attorneys, judges, and other law enforcement.

It is the second upgrade of the New York’s law in two years. The HSUS led a four-year effort to increase penalties—from a traffic ticket-style violation to a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine—for animal fight spectators. Signed into law by Gov. Cuomo in 2011, it was the first major upgrade in New York’s animal fighting laws in nearly 30 years.

As the tougher law took effect, we conducted a training on investigating animal fighting and cruelty and to highlight the new law at the New York State Sheriffs’ Association Institute’s 10th annual “Law Enforcement Supervisors' Training Conference” for dozens of top New York law enforcement professionals from more than 30 counties.

Meanwhile, in Congress, we have legislation to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. The Senate approved this measure as an amendment to the farm bill by a vote of 88 to 11, and the House Agriculture Committee backed a similar amendment. We are hoping to complete the job in the lame-duck session of Congress, which resumes on Nov. 13. The underlying House bill has 226 cosponsors—more than half the membership of the U.S. House.

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