House Passes Bill to Ban Cockfighting and Dogfighting

In a landslide vote yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan bill strengthening the nation's laws against cockfighting and dogfighting.

The bill makes it a felony to transport fighting animals across state or international borders and outlaws the sale of cockfighting weapons.

One of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., says he expects the president to sign the bill if it reaches him.


Animal rights activists say the bill will deter people from engaging in the cruel blood sport and that felony penalties match the crime of participating in the cruel blood sport.

"This bill brings us one big step closer to eradicating the dogfighting and cockfighting industries, and that goal cannot be achieved too soon," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. 

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The House was expected to vote on the animal fighting bill last Wednesday, but the bill was pulled from the calendar when the National Rifle Association and its allied lobbyists for the cockfighting industry raised objections about the bill, according to the HSUS.   

Yesterday, House members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the measure, by a margin of 368 to 39. 

Critics of the bill say it will only drive the cockfighting and dogfighting industries underground but will not cut down on the sport.

The bill now awaits action on the Senate floor, where similar legislation has been unanimously approved three times since 2001.

ABC News reported that lobbyists spent over $250,000 in 2001 to prevent a similar bill from passing the House that would make transport of birds for fighting over state and national lines illegal, the charge being a federal misdemeanor.

Supporters of the bill said then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., was instrumental in preventing it from going to vote by arguing that the states alone should handle the issue.

Resistance to the measure has stayed strong. After working on this bill for five-and-a-half years,  Rep. Blumenauer tells ABC News he is amazed at the power of cockfighting supporters to thwart popular and important legislation.

When legislation was introduced to increase the penalty to a felony last year, then-House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., blocked its consideration on the House floor, even though three-fourths of the House had signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, according to the HSUS.  He, like Lott, argued that the states should decide the penalty. 

Animal fighting is a billion-dollar industry, and hundreds of thousands of dollars can change hands at a cockfight, according to the HSUS.

Dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states, and cockfighting is illegal in all states but Louisiana. 

New Mexico outlawed cockfighting earlier this month.

Louisiana is expected to vote on a bill to outlaw cockfighting in April. Gov. Kathleen Blanco said in a statement the same day New Mexico outlawed the violent sport that she would support banning cockfighting.

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