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From 30 May 2004 Issue

Bush Administration Endorses Federal Animal Fighting Legislation
From: MediaRelations@hsus.org 

The Humane Society of the United States Praises Strong Position

WASHINGTON (May 27, 2004)– Federal legislation that would increase penalties for violations of animal fighting laws received a significant boost this week with the endorsement of the Bush Administration.

In a letter sent to Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT), Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, speaking on behalf of the Bush Administration, expresses her support for the enactment of S. 736, the Federal Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act. Senators John Ensign (R-NV), Wayne Allard (R-CO), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the legislation in March 2003. The bill has 51 cosponsors. It would amend the Animal Welfare Act by establishing felony penalties for animal fighting violations (covering dogfighting and cockfighting) and banning interstate and foreign commerce in the sharp metal implements – knives and gaffs – that cockfighters strap to birds’ legs.

A companion bill introduced in the House of Representatives, H.R. 1532, has 196 cosponsors. Earlier this month, Representatives Mark Green (R-WI) and Elton Gallegly (R-CA) introduced H.R. 4264, which would accomplish the same goals by amending Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

In addition to the Bush Administration endorsement, the legislation has the support of 158 local police and sheriffs departments across the country, 55 animal control and humane groups, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the National Chicken Council.

“We believe that tougher penalties and prosecution will help to deter illegal movement of birds as well as the inhumane practice of cockfighting itself,” wrote Secretary Veneman in the May 24, 2004 letter to Senator Bennett, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies.

In the letter, Veneman describes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to enforce the current Animal Welfare Act prohibition on interstate and foreign shipments of animals for the purpose of fighting. That prohibition, enacted by Congress as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, went into effect in May 2003. Veneman writes that USDA has worked with “other Federal, State, and local authorities to conduct investigations and enforce the AWA’s animal fighting provisions.”

“Together with the provisions in the Farm Bill, S. 736 further enhances the ability to prosecute those charged with animal-fighting violations. We are committed to enforcing the AWA to the fullest extent of the law,” Veneman explains.

“The bill would also enhance USDA’s ability to safeguard the health of U.S. poultry against deadly diseases, such as exotic Newcastle disease and avian influenza,” Veneman indicates. Fighting birds were “implicated in the introduction and spread of exotic Newcastle disease in California in 2002-2003, which cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $200 million to eradicate, and cost the U.S. poultry industry many millions more in lost export market,” she states.

“The Humane Society of the United States is grateful to the Bush Administration for recognizing the need to have felony level penalties for dogfighting and cockfighting,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS chief executive officer – designate. “Animal fighting is a barbaric and gruesome practice that deserves no safe harbor in the United States. We hope the administration’s strong endorsement will help push the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act over the finish line before Congress adjourns at the end of the year.”

Dogfighting is banned in all 50 states and cockfighting is banned in 48 states. Only Louisiana and parts of New Mexico allow legalized cockfighting.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization with more than eight million members and constituents. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals and equine protection, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research and farm animals and sustainable agriculture. The HSUS protects all animals through legislation, litigation, investigation, education, advocacy and fieldwork. The non-profit organization, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2004, is based in Washington, DC and has 10 regional offices across the country. On the web at www.hsus.org

Media Contact: Rachel Querry (301) 258-8255
E-mail: rquerry@hsus.org 

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