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Farm Bill Would "Fortify" NH Animal-Fighting Laws

PHOTO: The Humane Society of the United States is trying to build support for legislation to make it a crime to attend an animal fight. Photo credit: HSUS
PHOTO: The Humane Society of the United States is trying to build support for legislation to make it a crime to attend an animal fight. Photo credit: HSUS
August 6, 2013

NASHUA, N.H. - No spectators, no fighting. That's the message from animal-welfare groups trying to make it a federal crime, punishable by jail, for being a spectator at an animal fight. Both the U.S. House and Senate versions of the national Farm Bill, under negotiation now, include prohibitions against attending animal fights.

According to John Goodwin, director of animal-cruelty policy for the Humane Society of the United States, spectators are not innocent bystanders, and federal law enforcement should be able to go after them.

"There is one individual in New Hampshire that advertises fighting roosters for sale on a pretty regular basis, even though that's a felony crime in New Hampshire," Goodwin charged. "And he's selling them all over the country."

Dog-fighting is also a felony in New Hampshire, and so is being a spectator at a dog fight.

Goodwin said that, in states where there's little or no penalty for animal-fighting spectators, a raid on a dog fight can lead to handlers abandoning their fighting dogs.

"Many of these guys have discovered that if they abandon their animals at the first sign of a raid they can avoid prosecution," the Humane Society official said. "We want to take that loophole away and ensure the entire cast of characters at animal fights is prosecuted."

New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte is a co-sponsor of the measure.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said the spectator prohibition act would fortify the law in New Hampshire, and hopefully eliminate incentives for dog-fighting and cockfighting across the nation.

It is meant "to crack down on the people who are bringing children to dog fights and cockfights, and for people who are just there to watch and to gamble on the outcome," he said.

The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the Farm Bill. Before Congress broke for its August recess, conferees were trying to work out the differences.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NH