While Oklahoma may have been one of the last states to ban cockfighting, one of our own is in position to decide if the federal animal fighting law will be effective or filled with loopholes.
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Legislation before his committee 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. We encourage Lucas to join the 228 House co-sponsors, 300 law enforcement agencies and numerous animal lovers who strongly support this legislation.
Spectators finance illegal animal fights with their admission fees. The large sums of money that spectators gamble away at dog fights and cockfights is what attracts this criminal element to the pits. Spectators are the key component of a profitable dogfighting pit. Worse, children are too often brought to witness the cruelty. The message these children get is that laws don't matter, cruelty is acceptable and animal life is expendable for something as frivolous as a cheap bet between friends.
Under Oklahoma law, attending an animal fight is illegal. Most animal fighting raids are handled by local law enforcement; that's how it should be. Yet a handful of cases are handled by federal law enforcement, usually the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some animal fighting rings are multi-jurisdictional, operating across numerous state lines. In those cases, federal intervention is warranted and federal prosecutors deserve the same sort of animal fighting law that Oklahoma district attorneys 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. The fact so many of these criminal animal fighting rings operate in an interstate manner prompted a federal animal fighting law that was passed in 1976.
Yet what we've 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's time to close that loophole and ensure that the entire cast of characters at animal fights is prosecuted.
Grantz is executive director of the Enid Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.