|Dog rescued from a MO dog fighting operation 2009 (CBS News)|
According to the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation (MAAL), at their request Missouri Senator John Lamping has introduced legislation to crackdown on dog fighting.
In Missouri one of the largest impediments to suppressing dog fighting is the problem of what to do with the fighting dogs seized during the investigations and raids of dog fights. Currently, state prosecutors can seek a disposition hearing for animals that have been cruelly treated and subsequently seized by law enforcement officials.
A judge can order such animals to be surrendered to the appropriate animal control authority or an animal shelter. This ensures that the animals will not remain in the control of those who have abused or neglected them and expedites their adoption into good homes. Unfortunately, the law authorizing a disposition hearing does not apply to dogs abused in the vicious sport of dog fighting since our law against dog fighting is in a different section of the state's anti-cruelty codes.
In the absence of a disposition hearing, animal shelters and municipalities have to bear the cost of housing fighting dogs indefinitely until a defendant can be prosecuted in criminal court. The criminal process can drag on for months and even years. Municipalities and animal shelters can't afford to house seized fighting dogs on a long term basis.
Defendants are aware of this and many seek continuances hoping the authorities will drop the charges against them in an effort to escape the mounting bills for housing and caring for such animals. Dogs utilized by dog fighters have to be housed individually and with special care and frequently require extensive veterinary care and long periods of rehabilitation. The animals can suffer additional stress from prolonged confinement.
The inability of shelters and local governments to house and care for fighting dogs for an indefinite period of time has prevented authorities from investigating dog fighting. Law enforcement officials know they have no place to house fighting dogs and are discouraged from following leads of dog fighting activity.
Senator Lamping's bill would extend disposition hearings to dog fighting victims and provide an expeditious disposition of these dogs so they can be rehabilitated and placed in loving homes. If you live in Missouri, please contact your state senators and representatives and ask that they support SB 903.