As of this January, Montana has the distinction of being the only state in the U.S. where there are no penalties for attending a dogfight.
This month legislators had the chance to change that, but they tabled House Bill 279, which would have made attending a dogfight a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $750 and no more than six months in jail – successfully keeping Montana at the very bottom of the list of state rankings for dogfighting laws.
Even though dogfighting is a felony in every single state in the U.S., Montana legislators apparently couldn’t be convinced that it’s a good idea to pass a law that would crack down on spectators – the ones who help keep these operations going by generating money.
“Law enforcement officials and prosecutors need legislation like HB279, so that they can bring the entire cast of characters involved in this cruel spectacle to justice. Our laws should be tough enough to stop people from financing the torture of animals,” wrote Wendy Hergenraeder, the Montana state director for the Humane Society of the United States.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Virginia Court, D-Billings, received a lot of support from animal control officers, law enforcement officials, veterinarians, community members, the HSUS and the Humane Society of Western Montana. Even local Girl Scouts traveled to the hearing to support it and testify before their representatives as part of their “Take Action Project.”
Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office Prosecutor Ingrid Rosenquist pointed out at the hearing that animal fighting doesn’t just affect the dogs, but communities as a whole, in addition to the problems that law enforcement officers and prosecutors have when it comes to holding individuals accountable. The current spectator loophole allows those who are responsible for running these operations and holding fights to blend into the crowd and disappear.
Yet, for some reason the House Agricultural Committee failed a second time to pass anything that would help shut this industry down. The last bill would have made attending a dogfight a felony, but lawmakers evidently believed the punishment was too harsh.
It’s been said time and again that spectators at these fights don’t just happen innocently upon them. They go there intentionally and without them there would really be no reason to continue torturing animals.
We’ve heard the stories, seen the victims and understand why we need tougher laws to protect dogs and other animals from this hideous underground bloodsport, which every other state but Montana currently has on the books.
Please sign and share the petition asking lawmakers in Montana to revive this bill and make it illegal to attend a dogfight.
Photo credit: sparktography