Anti-Animal Fighting Bill Blocked - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Anti-Animal Fighting Bill Blocked

   As Congress returned for its lame-duck session this week, it found one piece of legislation that had overwhelming support. The Senate had already passed it unanimously. And it had 324 co-sponsors in the House, 155 Republicans and 169 Democrats. That was almost 75 percent of the House already on record in support of it. But the bill stood virtually no chance of becoming law.

The reason? One powerful committee chairman blocked it.

It is the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act. It would increase penalties for interstate shipment of animals - cocks and dogs - so they can be pitted against each other in fights. Most states have already prohibited animal fighting. The new bill would make it a federal felony punishable by up to two years in prison.

The Judiciary Committee Chairman, James Sensenbrenner, has refused to move the bill to the House floor for a vote. In a written statement he said, "Animal fighting is an abhorrent practice but is best handled by those already working to combat its practice - state and local officials."

The chairman said both Congress and the FBI have better things to do with their time than " ... worrying about breaking up a cockfight that could be handled by local law enforcement."

Sensenbrenner is a Wisconsin Republican. So is Rep. Mark Green, who introduced the bill. It also has the backing of the Wisconsin Sheriff's and Deputy Sheriffs' Association.

Nationwide Support

Nationwide, it has support from the National Sheriffs' Association, the National Chicken Council, American Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, said "Animal fighting is a cruel and barbaric practice. Dogs and roosters are drugged to make them hyperaggressive and forced to keep fighting even after suffering severe injuries such as punctured eyes and pierced lungs."

According to Pacelle, there are more than 100,000 active animal fighters in the United States, though there is no independent verification of that. The Humane Society and other opponents of animal fighting said it's done for both gambling and entertainment, and that children are often present. Supporters of the bill say state and local laws are too often not enforced, and that only the federal government can stop the practice.

They point to a raid on a cockfighting pit in Del Rio, Tenn., last year. The FBI and a federal SWAT team, with help from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, raided the fight because they suspected illegal gambling. Because the raid was part of a crackdown on organized crime, the FBI said it had legal authority. Agents said they saw more than $1 million changing hands.

Terrible Discovery

Agents also said they found scores of dead roosters. The federal government confiscated the 25-acre lot as the site of an illegal gambling operation. One hundred and forty three people were cited on misdemeanor charges for watching a cockfight. Federal authorities are investigating local law enforcement officials and others for what could be more serious charges.

Supporters of the federal bill said the raid would never have happened if it were left up to local authorities. The Del Rio pit, actually a complex that could seat 500 people, had been an open secret for 60 years, reported the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Cockfighting enthusiasts, such as Carroll Ibele, said a new federal law is unnecessary.

He said he has "owned game roosters all my life." He raises and "fights" them in D'Iberville, Miss. He told ABC News that cockfighting is not cruel because fighting is part of their nature. "If you put these roosters together, they will all go to fighting.

"Fighting roosters are going to fight anyway," he said, "so why not enjoy this noble sport?"

Just Like Jaywalking

Mississippi is one of the states where cockfighting is illegal. Ibele said that does not stop him, because it is a misdemeanor. "It is kind of like jaywalking in the middle of the street, or spitting in the street. May not be legal, but you don't really have to worry about it, you know," he figured.

Ibele is heading a fundraising drive for the United Gamefowl Breeders Association. The association said it is raising money "to help defeat this bill and to pay for a registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C."

Ibele said the purpose is to defeat federal laws cracking down on gamefighting. He is not worried for the moment, though.

A spokesman for Sensenbrenner's committee said there are no plans to take action on the bill during the brief lame-duck session later this month.

The life of the 109th Congress expires at the end of the year, and Sensenbrenner will lose his chairmanship when the new Congress convenes in January. The bill to protect animals will also die. Advocates hope the legislation will be resurrected for the 110th Congress to consider.

Source:ABC NewsOne

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