Assemblymember Pedro Nava held a press conference today with Eric Sakach, West Coast Director for the Humane Society of the United States at the state capitol to announce legislation he is introducing which would change the California penal code to make it a felony “for any person who is knowingly present as a spectator at any place, building or tenement where preparations are being made for an exhibition of fighting dogs or is knowingly present at that exhibition.” The same crime is currently a misdemeanor in California.
In a statement, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States called dogfighting a “despicable and indefensible practice: Spectators finance dogfights through admission fees and gambling, and California’s law is deficient in handling these people who cheer and enable this cruelty,” Pacelle said. “The Humane Society of the United States strongly backs Assemblyman Nava’s efforts to crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in dogfighting.”
Since 2005, more than 450 cases of dogfighting have been reported in the United States, according to pet-abuse.com, a website tracking dogfighting citations. Dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states, and it is illegal to be a spectator in 48. the site estimates that more than 40,000 people are involved in organized dogfighting, and that more than 250,000 dogs die annual from the cruel sport.
The spectacle rose to a more visible level last year when star Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick was arrested for hosting and overseeing a dogfighting operation. Vick pled guilty to charges and is in the midst of serving a 23-month sentence for criminal conspiracy resulting from felonious dogfighting. He is also facing state felony charges. “Recent events around the country brought to our consciousness this brutal and inhumane sport,” Nava said in a statement, noting that 19 other states have made the crime a felony. “I look forward to working with the Humane Society to get this measure to the Governor’s desk to address this brutal sport.”