Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dog Fighting Legislation in Missouri

According to the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation two bills were introduced in the Missouri legislature regarding dog fighting - SB 632 and SB 664 - both failed. These bills were introduced to strengthen Missouri's dog fighting statute. Unfortunately, neither bill was ever given a hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and they failed to advance this session.

Fortunately for the more than 400 tortured dogs that were rescued in the most recent federal raid, the U.S. District Court was permitted to make a timely decision about the fate of these dogs (adoption, foster care, rehabilitation, etc.). In contrast, as a result of the Missouri General Assembly’s failure to pass dog fighting reforms, our state law still requires the victim dogs to be held until all criminal proceedings are resolved. If charges are brought now in Missouri state court, the seized animals must often remain in isolation for many months and even years!

Dog fighting is the only such animal cruelty crime that is currently exempted from this procedure in Missouri. Bills filed by Sen. Jane Cunningham of Chesterfield (SB 632) and Sen. Scott Rupp of St. Charles (SB 664) would fix this problem by strengthening Missouri's dog fighting statute. Both bills would allow a judge to hold a disposition hearing within 30 days of seizure to determine what happens to the dogs that are seized (i.e., adoption, foster care, rehabilitation).

SB 632 and SB 664 would also have increased the penalty for repeat spectators at a dog fight, giving law enforcement an important tool for cracking down on this barbaric “sport”. Rep. LeVota's HB 1689 would have prohibited anyone from possessing dog fighting paraphernalia. This bill would also have enhanced the criminal penalties for all second or subsequent dog fighting offenses.

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