Today marks the beginning of a new era for dogs, a moment to savor for millions of Americans who cherish the special place these wonderful animals occupy in our lives, and a signpost of progress for all citizens who share aspirations for a more humane America. Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed a bill yesterday that made the cruel blood sport of dogfighting a felony crime — the 50th state to enact such a law.
"This is a real reason to celebrate — a landmark moment in the struggle to rid our nation of this hideously cruel activity that destroys so many innocent animals and is so corrosive to the ideals of a decent and civil society," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.
Wyoming's action follows the signing of a similar felony law in Idaho on Feb. 25. These two states were among many states nationwide that are considering legislation this year to increase penalties against dogfighting. Such bills are pending in 23 states.
The wave of legislative action this year follows the 2007 case against football star Michael Vick, who pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting charges. His case shed a spotlight upon the horrific reality of dogfighting in the U.S. and triggered a national outcry. Vick is serving time in a federal prison.
Since its inception in 1954, The HSUS has worked to rid the nation of animal fighting. As recently as 1975, dogfighting was a misdemeanor crime in all states. By 1995, the number of states with misdemeanor penalties for dogfighting was down to 16. Now that number is zero.
- Dogfighting is a highly-organized criminal industry; more than 250,000 dogs are placed in dogfighting pits each year.
- The HSUS estimates that 40,000 people are involved in organized dogfighting and an additional 100,000 are street-level fighters.
- A Chicago Police Department study showed that 65 percent of people charged with animal abuse crimes — including dogfighting — were also charged with violent crimes against people.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.