(NASHVILLE, TN), March 31, 2011 — The Senate Judiciary Committee this week approved the “Animal Fighting Enforcement Act,” which strengthens penalties against those who attend dog fights and cockfights. The bill, sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), also closes a loophole in existing law that allows for cock fighters to be treated with greater leniency than anyone that stages fights between other species.
“Dogfighters and cock fighters routinely go jurisdiction shopping for states with the weakest penalties and go to those states to commit these crimes,” said Senator Ketron. “Tennessee has some of the weakest animal fighting laws in the Southeast and is becoming a destination of choice for animal fighters. These events are also magnets for other criminal activities, including illegal gambling and drug trafficking.”
The bill imposes a fine of $2,500 for the Class A misdemeanor of cock fighting, increases the penalty for a second or subsequent conviction of cock fighting from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony, enhances the penalty for being a spectator at an animal fight from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor, and imposes a $2,500 fine for such violation.
In 2008, a group of Tennessee cock fighters was convicted in federal court for helping a Mexican drug cartel run multi-ton quantities of meth and heroine through cockfighting pits in middle Tennessee. Federal investigations have revealed intricate gambling operations with millions of dollars changing hands. Senate Bill 785 would bring Tennessee in line with the 39 states that punish cockfighting as a felony.
“Children are routinely in attendance at these events where they are exposed to a host of criminal activities and animal cruelty,” added Senator Ketron. “I am pleased this bill has received committee approval and am hopeful we can pass it this year.”