LANSING (WWJ) - The Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation designed to curb dog fighting by increasing criminal penalties.
The three bill package would allow for the seizure and forfeiture of real property used in animal fighting and make animal fighting a predicate offense for racketeering. The legislation would also make the owner, lessor or person conducting the activity guilty of nuisance.
Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) commended the passage of the multi-bill package, adding that “people who harm animals for sport are the lowest form of humanity.”
Despite being illegal for over a century, dog fighting is still an ongoing problem in Michigan and across the country.
Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) said a strong correlation exists between those who abuse animals and those who abuse humans. He added that punishing those who commit acts of violence against animals may also help to stem future violence against people.
While significant criminal penalties exist for those who engage in dog fighting, the law is largely silent on the economic aspect of the crime. Thousands of dollars can exchange hands for just one fight, making the potential financial gain outweigh other possible penalties.
“I believe that removing the prospect of financial gain will serve to further discourage individuals from engaging in this brutal and barbaric crime,” Bieda said in a release.
Dog fighting operations often involve multiple crimes, such as tax evasion and gambling and the fights usually draw individuals who engage in other illicit activities involving weapons and drugs.
“We need to deter crime and protect animals in Michigan and this law will go after dog fighters where it hurts the most, seizing their profits and property,” Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) said in a release.
“Right now the rewards for these criminal operations significantly outweigh the risks, and this legislation will correct that and serve as a stronger deterrent for dog fighting in Michigan,” he continued.
If you remember, Johnson injured his hand in a snowblower while he was attacked by a pit bull outside of his Highland Park home this past February. Pit bulls are illegal in Highland Park.
The bills now go to the House for consideration.