NJ Assembly Proposes a Bill to Increase the Penalties for Dog Fighting – Is This Needed? [POLL]
Recently Michael Vick was seen at a local PetSmart buying his daughter a dog. This amidst the howls of the dog loving public that he should never own another.
Added to that, he’s had to cancel his recently announced book tour due to death threats allegedly made by the more vocal supporters of animal rights.
Over the top? Yes.
However, in the wake of all this comes a proposal by members of the New Jersey Assembly to increase the penalties for dog fighting in New Jersey.
(This is not to say that Vick’s daughter’s dog has anything to do with that. They’re just coincidental.)
In an effort to stop the blood sport in New Jersey, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson (D -37) and Assemblywoman Nancy F. Munoz (R - 21) establishes new crimes for dog fighting and leading a dog fighting network.
The bill (A-2379) makes dog fighting a third-degree crime, punishable by imprisonment for three to five years and a fine up to $15,000.
The Humane Society of America currently lists New Jersey first in strict dog fighting laws, with dogfighting involvement listed as a third degree crime, punishable by imprisonment for three to five years and up to a $5,000 fine.
The court will also have the option to seize the animals and property in possession of the individual and prohibit the person from possessing animals in the future.
“Dog fighting is deplorable and should be prosecuted as a criminal act,” Johnson said.
“It’s time to strengthen state law by imposing stronger penalties for dog fighting and its ring leaders.”
Organizing, supervising, financing and managing a dog fighting network will also be charged as a second-degree crime with an option of a 5 to 10-year prison term and a fine up to $150,000.
This is a stricter penalty then the previous law, which charges the act as a third degree crime with possible imprisonment up to five years and the maximum fine of $15,000.
The proposed bill also amends the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations) Act to add “leader of a dog fighting network” to the list of offenses.
“I absolutely believe there should be harsher penalties,” said Charlene Rosenbaum, animal cruelty investigator for Cumberland County.
Question is, do the current laws suffice?
Admittedly I was never a fan of the pit bull, knowing full well that in many cases the dogs were bred as fighting dogs.
But who’s fault is that?
Certainly not the dogs!
In many cases, the dogs are used as parts of large organizations and single individuals who set up the fights.
According to Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue, which is a non-profit organization that works to protect the well-being of animals and aid them in distress, his feeling is that only are fighting dogs in danger but also weaker dogs used to train the fighter and ultimately die a violent death.
“They will think nothing of even stealing a poodle out of someone’s yard and throwing him in a ring for kicks and giggles,” Misseri said.
Bait dogs, as they are refereed to, are also protected under the proposed bill, which Misseri supports.
“I hope it passes and if it passes it’s a matter of now enforcing it,” he said. “And that’s the goal, getting it enforced. If it’s not enforced it’s not going to work.”
The legislation passed its first committee vote on March 14.