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2008 – Increased Penalties for Spectators at Animal Fights

This law increased the penalties for aiding or being present at an exhibition of fighting animals to a maximum $1,000 fine and/or five years in prison. The previous fine was a mere two hundred and fifty dollars or imprisonment for not more than one month, or both.

Law Passed to Increase Penalties for Watching Animal Fights
Governor Patrick Signs Important Animal Protection Measure

Boston (January 6, 2009) Following years of advocating for stronger animal fighting laws, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) is pleased to announce the passage of a law that increases the penalties for being a spectator at an animal fight. The bill, sponsored by Representative Louis Kafka, was signed into law today by Governor Deval Patrick.

“Animal fighting is one of the worst forms of animal cruelty,” said MSPCA’s Director of Advocacy, Kara Holmquist. “This bill will make significant progress to help end this activity in the Commonwealth. While we have made great strides for the animals over the years, Massachusetts lagged behind many other states in the strength of its animal fighting spectator statute.”

The new law increases the penalties for aiding or being present at an exhibition of fighting animals to a maximum $1,000 fine and/or five years in prison.  The current fine is a mere two hundred and fifty dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one month, or both.

“Animal fighting is a covert activity; spectators do not simply find themselves at fights,” stated Peter Gollub, Director of the MSPCA’s Law Enforcement department.  “Animal fighting spectators are not innocent bystanders—they are willing participants in organized crime intended for amusement and gambling profits.  If we deter the spectators with significant penalties, we take away a significant fighting incentive profit.”

Representative Kafka adds, “If increased penalties for those who watch animal fights works as we intend, far fewer helpless animals will be forced to suffer as entertainment.  We should all feel good about that.”

More information about H. 1527:

Summary: This bill increases the penalties for aiding or being present at the exhibition of fighting animals under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272, section 95.

Why was it necessary to increase these penalties?
Animal fighting is one of the most grotesque forms of animal abuse. Spectators play a key role in the continuation of animal fighting. During the course of an animal fighting event, there is usually more than one fight scheduled to take place. The participants in those fights are often arrested as mere spectators while they wait their turn to fight their animals. During the event, the spectators cheer for dogs on which they have placed wagers. They are purposely there to encourage others to engage in this criminal activity while gambling on which dog will inflict the most injuries.

How do we compare to other states?
There are 46 states that have provisions outlawing being present at an animal fight. There are 20 states that penalize this as a felony and 28 that do so as a misdemeanor. Massachusetts ranks 6th from the bottom of all states in terms of the strength of its penalties for dog fighting. In New England, only Massachusetts and Maine penalize this crime as a misdemeanor, with Maine’s penalty being up to one year in jail or a $2000 fine, considerably higher than Massachusetts’ penalty.

Sponsor:  Representative Kafka

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