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By STEPHANIE CARROLL CARSON
Florida News Connection
TALLAHASSEE - Attending an animal fight has been a felony in Florida for nine years, but now there is a push in Washington to make it a federal offense to cross state lines to fight animals, and also to offer some consistency among the state laws.
Earlier this month the U.S. Senate passed the national Farm Bill, which contained an amendment that would prohibit attendance at organized animal-fighting events, as well as punish vendors who sell at those events.
Laura Bevan, the director of the Southern Region for the Humane Society of the United States, says the federal law will help protect animals as well.”You have to tackle it at the state level, but then you have to look at the federal level and the fact that people are crossing state lines for these fights.”
Dog and cock fighting have been particularly common in Florida in the past, although the strict state law has discouraged such events from taking place in public forums, says Bevans.
The U.S. House was expected to vote last week on a one-year extension of the Farm Bill which would include the law against animal-fight attendance.The amendment to the Farm Bill would also specifically prohibit bringing children to these events, which is something the Florida law does not specifically make illegal.
Bevan says ending the practice of animal fighting is part of a larger issue. “It it hard to call ourselves civilized if we are getting fun out of watching two animals tear each other up. It doesn’t say much about us as a society.”
A three-year study by the Chicago Police Department found that 70 percent of animal offenders had also been arrested for other felonies, including domestic and aggravated battery, drug trafficking and sex crimes.
Florida U.S. Representatives Steve Southerland of the 2nd District and Tom Rooney of the 16th district, both Republicans, as members of the House Agriculture Committee, voted against the inclusion of an amendment that would strengthen animal-fighting laws.
Update: The House passed a farm bill that was different from the Senate version and both chambers adjourned for the summer elections recess.