The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

December 23, 2012

An open letter to Lucas on animal-fighting

While Oklahoma may have been one of the last states to ban cockfighting, one of our very own is in position to decide if the federal animal-fighting law will be effective or filled with loopholes.

Congressman Frank Lucas, whose district covers nearly half of Oklahoma, is chairman of the House Agriculture committee. There is legislation before his committee that would close a loophole in the federal animal fighting law by prohibiting attendance at animal fights and providing elevated penalties for bringing a child to an animal fight. The bill is called the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, and it is championed by Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Betty Sutton, D-Ohio,  as well as Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Mass., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Scott Brown, R-Mass., David Vitter, R-La., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

We encourage Congressman Lucas to join the 228 House co-sponsors, 300 law enforcement agencies and numerous animal lovers that strongly support this legislation.

Spectators finance illegal animal fights with their admission fees. It is the large sums of money that spectators gamble away at dog fights and cockfights that attract this criminal element to the pits that litter our communities. Spectators are the key component of a profitable dogfighting pit. Worse, children are all too often brought to witness the cruelty. The message these children receive is that laws don’t matter, cruelty is acceptable and that animal life is expendable for something as frivolous as a cheap bet between friends.

Under Oklahoma state law, it is illegal to attend an animal fight. Most animal-fighting raids are handled by local law enforcement, and that is how it should be. Yet there are a handful of cases that are handled by federal law enforcement, usually the USDA. Some animal fighting rings are multi-jurisdictional, operating across numerous state lines. Your local sheriff cannot drive into Texas and start interviewing witnesses.

In those cases, federal intervention is warranted and federal prosecutors deserve the same sort of animal-fighting law that Oklahoma district attorney’s enjoy.

The thought of dogs ripping at each other’s necks in a bloody fight to the death, or a rooster with a razor-sharp knife tied to his leg slicing through his opponent’s chest, has led to passionate opposition to animal fighting among most of the general public. Because so many of these criminal animal-fighting rings operate in an interstate manner was the reason a federal animal-fighting law was passed in 1976.

Yet what we have seen when the federal law has been used is that dogfighters and cockfighters abandon their animals at the first sign of a raid. They claim to be spectators so as to avoid prosecution. It is time to close that loophole and ensure that the entire cast of characters at animal fights is prosecuted.

No more loopholes. Congressman Lucas, the ball is in your court. Make us proud and help get this done before year-end.

Grantz is executive director of Enid SPCA.

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