Insurance Law

Is Dogfighting Illegal in the United States?

While dogfighting might seem abhorrent to most Americans, the reality is that dogfighting is still practiced in the nation today. Most U.S. citizens consider dogs of any breed to be companions and even members of the family.

It is illegal to conduct, promote, or attend a dogfighting event, but it does not stop some individuals from doing so.

Is Dogfighting a Felony?

Dogfighting is a felony offense in all 50 states and the territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and Washington, D.C.

It’s also illegal to attend dogfighting events in any state, with harsher penalties for those who bring anyone under 16 years old to a dogfight. The amendment of the federal Animal Welfare Act in 2007 led to increased penalties, with some states going even further in punishing spectators. A 2014 law attached to the federal Farm Bill made attending any animal fight a crime in all American jurisdictions.

If you attend a dog fight in the following states, you could face a felony instead of a misdemeanor:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington, D.C.

In some states, spectators are considered to have committed an automatic felony. In others, your charge might be upgraded to a felony charge if you have prior convictions on your record.

What’s the Penalty for Dogfighting?

The penalty for dogfighting varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, with some states (Colorado) having a maximum fine of $1,000 for a first offense and others being more punitive.

The federal Animal Welfare Act mandates that all convictions of being directly involved with a dogfighting event constitute felonious behavior. No matter where a guilty party is sentenced, they could face either a stiff fine (up to $50,000 in states such as California, Illinois, or Michigan) or a severe jail sentence of up to five years.

In some circumstances, if you’re convicted of keeping dogs for fighting or holding a dog fight event, you could face a fine and a jail term.

If you traffic fighting animals such as dogs or roosters, you could also be subject to harsh criminal penalties, including fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for up to three years.

Reasons Dogfighting Is Illegal

In the United States and many other nations, animal fighting is considered cruel and morally or ethically wrong. Owners often abuse animals in dogfights outside of the fighting cage. Even dogs that are treated carefully are subjected to other forms of abuse. Fighting dogs are often subjected to anabolic steroids and other drugs and often have their tails docked and ears cropped to reduce the likelihood of an opponent biting or grabbing them by these.

In addition to forcing animals to fight one another to the point of severe injury or even death, animal fighting events also commonly host other criminal activities. Due to the underground and illicit nature of animal fighting, illegal drug activity, gambling, gang activity, violence, and other forms of illegal activity often occur.

While dogfighting is illegal in most nations, some countries condone the practice to varying degrees.

In China, dogfighting is legal, although gambling upon the outcome of the fight is not. Dogfighting pits are common throughout China, especially in more rural areas, and it isn’t uncommon for young children to attend.

In Japan, dogfighting has historical precedent and continues to this day. The Tosa breed is particularly popular for these purposes. However, dogfighting has been banned in certain areas.

Dogfighting is also legal in other countries such as Albania, Morocco, and Russia — although certain Russian municipalities, including Moscow, have prohibited such events.

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