LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - The Texas state House is taking up legislation to vastly expand law enforcement's powers to combat illegal dog fights. State senators already approved the bill, which originated in East Texas.
The proposed law would not just give severe penalties for the people fighting dogs, but also those who prepare these animals to die. The images are disturbing, but harder than catching dog fights in progress is catching those who train them to fight.
"You come across a lot of what we call the dog fighting paraphernalia," said Jackie Lynch, an animal control officer. "But, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it under the law."
Under current law, possession of dog training facilities and fighting paraphernalia is legal.
"You can not seize dog fighting equipment unless you find dogs engaged in combat at that time and its very difficult," said Kelly Heitkamp, an attorney. "The problem is even if you find materials you know to be used in training dogs to fight , there's nothing you can do. It's not against the law, right now."
But, Heitkamp has proposed House Bill 1147, to punish those who train fighting dogs.
"It's so horrible to deal with when we see it and we're basically helpless," said the lawyer.
Tracks, rings and treadmills are indicators that training is going on, and if passed the bill would put training into an organized crime category with severe punishment.
"It also would allow law enforcement to seize all assets real estate homes, personal property such as automobiles, [and] cash on your person," said Heitkamp.
The goal is to make training far to risky for the punishment.
"It's almost like these criminals are taunting law enforcement and that's going to stop now the joke is on them," she said.