Among the various forms of animal abuse, dogfighting stands out as a particularly gruesome and inhumane practice. While 57% of people believe dogfighting has never happened in their community, almost 40,000 Americans participate in dogfighting every year.
Despite the multi-million and international dogfighting market, dogfighting is illegal in every state in America. The United States federal government has also taken significant steps to address dogfighting.
History of Dogfighting
Dogfighting has a long and troubling history, dating back to ancient times. By the 12th century, the practice of baiting dogs had grown in popularity in England.
In the United States, dogfighting garnered popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As public awareness grew regarding the brutality of dogfighting, advocates called for legislation to protect animals and public safety.
The Animal Welfare Act
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in 1966 was one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the fight against dogfighting. The AWA addresses a wide range of animal welfare concerns as well as including explicit provisions for dogfighting. “The AWA makes it illegal to transport, buy, sell, or move dogs for fighting purposes across state lines,” and also regulates the treatment of animals “used in research, exhibition, and commerce.”
The Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act
In 2007, the federal government enacted the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act (AFPA); the AFPA amended the AWA and enhanced penalties for those involved in dogfighting activities.
The AFP Act made it a federal criminal offense to sponsor or exhibit an animal in a dogfight or to attend or wager on such an event. The act also criminalized the possession, training, or transfer of animals for fighting purposes. It established penalties of up to three years in prison.
Criminalizing Organized Dogfighting
Congress passed the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act (AFSPA) in 2014. The AFSP act closed a loophole in previous laws by making it a federal offense to attend or bring a minor to an animal fight.
By targeting spectators in addition to those breeding and fighting the dogs, the AFSPA aims to remove the financial support and communal acceptance that fuels the dogfighting industry.
Organizations and Agencies Combatting Dogfighting
Enforcing federal dogfighting laws requires collaboration among various agencies and organizations. The following actively support efforts to combat dogfighting, ensuring those involved in dogfighting to any degree face legal consequences:
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- U.S. The Marshals Service
The Impact of Federal Dogfighting Laws
By making dogfighting a federal offense, the laws communicate that animal cruelty will not be tolerated and perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions. The strict penalties act as a deterrent and discourage participation in dogfighting, ultimately saving countless animals from a life of abuse and suffering.
Federal laws have also led to increased awareness and education about the ethical treatment of animals. Organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) engage in outreach programs to educate the general public about the consequences and negative impacts of dogfighting.
Continuing the Fight for Dog Welfare
Federal dogfighting laws play an important role in preventing animal cruelty and safeguarding the welfare of dogs. Through various laws, the United States federal government has sent a clear message that dogfighting will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Dogfighting laws have helped reduce the prevalence of dogfighting, protect innocent animals and raise public awareness about the importance of animal welfare. By continuing to enforce these laws and working together, society can strive towards a future where all animals are treated with compassion and respect.