Crack Down on the Possession of Animal Fighting Paraphernalia
What is the status of HB 164?
HB 164 introduced by Representative Todd Stephens, passed the Pennsylvania House unanimously on March 4th and Senate Judiciary. It is now pending final consideration in the full Senate. Please contact your state senator to ask him/her to please support HB 164.
What is animal fighting paraphernalia?
Cockfighters and dogfighters use specialized equipment to train their animals for fighting; stage fights, and increase the bloodletting in the fights. This equipment includes treadmills used for conditioning dogs, specially designed metal knives, or ice-pick like instruments called gaffs, which are tied to the heels of fighting birds, and “breaking sticks” used to pry fighting dogs apart after a fight.
Why should possession of animal fighting paraphernalia be illegal?
Cockfighting and dogfighting is illegal in every state, and all animal fighting that affects interstate commerce is punishable as a federal felony under the Animal Welfare Act. 41 states, including Pennsylvania, have made cockfighting a felony offense, 37 states including Pennsylvania prohibit the possession of birds or dogs for fighting, and 41 states including Pennsylvania prohibit being a spectator at animal fights. 15 states, including neighboring New York, prohibit the possession of animal fighting implements and here Pennsylvania lags behind.
Pennsylvania has declared that mere attendance at an animal fighting event is a felony; however, savvy animal fighters elude law enforcement by exploiting a loophole in Pennsylvania law which does not criminalize possession of animal fighting implements, by carrying or housing animal fighting paraphernalia in one area and fighting animals in another. As law enforcement has a burden to prove that the animals are possessed or transported for the purposes of fighting which is generally done by the presence of animal fighting implements alongside the animals, animal fighters have learned to keep animals and implements in separate locations.
It is imperative that Pennsylvania continue its tradition of leading the nation against animal fighting by banning the possession of animal fighting paraphernalia.
What if I own these items for a legal purpose?
A few of these items could be used for a legal and legitimate purpose like break sticks which are occasionally used by animal control professionals to break up dogfights. Therefore, the language of the bill specifically mandates that these items are only illegal if “used in furtherance of animal fighting.” Mere possession of one of these items either with a legitimate purpose or without further evidence of animal fighting is not illegal.
Please ask your state senator to support Representative Todd Stephen’s legislation, HB 164, to ban the possession of animal fighting paraphernalia.
Media coverage of PSPCA cockfighting raid: