Congress combats cockfighting, dogfighting in U.S. territories with new bill

FILE PHOTO: A chicken is on display at William S. Hart Regional Park in Newhall on Saturday. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Following a trend of legislation to protect animals, the House of Representatives introduced the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act this week to bridge a gap in the law concerning dogfighting and cockfighting.

With the co-sponsorship of Representative Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) and other legislators, the bill removes the loophole that allows animal fighting in U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

“This bill eliminates ambiguity about the laws application to U.S. territories,” Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States said.

Current law in the United States makes it a felony for people to stage fights, own animals with the intent of having them fight or bring a minor to a fight and a misdemeanor to attend a fight, Pacelle said.

The bill follows the largest cockfighting bust in United States history in May when over 7,000 birds were seized from unincorporated Val Verde.

“Dogfighting, cockfighting and other forms of animal cruelty not only subject animals to immense amounts of suffering, but these practices also degrade the moral fabric of our communities,” Knight said in a statement.

“Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department displayed incredible professionalism and skill in dismantling this organization. However, it is clear that more action must be taken by Congress to better enforce laws preventing this type of activity.”

In the last 15 years, Congress has changed federal law against animal fighting four times, according to The Humane Society.

This bill follows other recent legislative efforts to protect animals, such as the recent California Assembly Bill 485 that prohibited the sale of dogs, cats or rabbits bred in puppy mills.

There are currently 30 bills in Congress that relate to animal protection, Pacelle cited.

Efforts to combat animal cruelty are happening outside of legislation as well, including Gucci no longer using fur in their products.

Pacelle encourages community members to use the “if you see something, say something” mantra and report any animal mistreatment and animal fighting to The Humane Society or local police.

“Law enforcement recognizes that this a barbaric form of animal cruelty,” Pacelle said.

Often, animal mistreatment is linked to other forms of crime, such as narcotics use, gambling and violence, Pacelle said. About three-fourths of those who commit animal cruelty are also culprits of child and spousal abuse, according to Pacelle.

“What we find is that animal cruelty is often related to other harmful practices in society,” he said.

Additionally, cockfighting contributes to the spread of Newcastle disease, negatively affecting the poultry industry by rendering all affected birds useless, Pacelle said.

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