Animal Advocacy Groups Praise Oregon Legislature for Increasing Dogfighting Spectator Penalties

Posted on February 22, 2008

Salem, Ore. — Three animal protection organizations, The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Legal Defense Fund and Oregon Humane Society, applauded Oregon lawmakers for passing S.B. 1072, legislation that will make it a Class C felony to be a knowing spectator at a dogfighting event. S.B. 1072 was sponsored by Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.

"Dogfighting is a despicable and indefensible practice," said Kelly Peterson, Oregon state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "Spectators finance dogfights through admission fees and gambling, and Oregon’s law was deficient in handling these people who cheer and enable this cruelty. The Humane Society of the United States thanks and congratulates Senate President Peter Courtney for his efforts to crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in dogfighting."

The Humane Society of the United States recently ranked the 50 states on the strength of their laws to combat dogfighting, and Oregon ranked at number 28–lower than most states principally because the penalties for attending a dogfight were so weak.  Under S.B. 1072, advertising or otherwise offering to sell dogfighting equipment as well as possessing dogfighting paraphernalia will be considered Class C felonies.

"The unprecedented level of support for this bill should serve as formal notice to Oregon’s law enforcement community that the citizens of this state demand proactive, targeted investigations of dogfighting operations," said Scott A. Heiser, Sr. attorney & criminal justice program director for ALDF. "That is the only way we will ever truly have any hope of ending this barbaric conduct."

Dogfighting spectators are willing participants in this crime, and also perpetuate it by paying admission fees and wagering on the fights. Under current law, participants could claim they were only present at a dogfighting event as spectators, thereby avoiding any meaningful punishment. The bill targets those attending organized, deliberate animal fights yet protects bystanders who may have inadvertently come across a street fight.

"Oregon has some of the toughest animal cruelty laws in the nation," said Sharon Harmon, executive director of OHS. "This bill is one more step in demonstrating compassion for those who can’t speak for themselves."

In addition to 26 other city and country law enforcement agencies, this legislative effort is supported by Oregon District Attorney’s Association, Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Agency, Oregon State Sheriff’s Association, Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and Oregon Animal Control Council.