At the request of the Fort Wayne Animal Control Shelter and the Fort Wayne Police Department, I have introduced legislation to deal with a growing problem in our community and in our state: Dog fighting contests. For whatever reason, the popularity of dog fighting has increased in recent years. These contests, and the brutal manner in which dogs are trained to become killers, are considered by the American Human Society to be the cruelest treatment humans can impose upon a dog.
Not only are these dogs incredibly dangerous to other animals, but they have become a genuine threat to innocent people who reside near them, particularly children. The number of dog attacks upon people has increased sharply in proportion to the increase in animal fighting. You see, these animals aren't family pets; they are trained killers who are taught to be ferociously and unrelentingly aggressive. This accounts for why they will attack people without warning, and without being provoked.
While current Indiana law makes it a felony offense to be involved in this activity (and a misdemeanor to even attend a dog fighting contest), it is almost impossible to catch someone in the act of violating the law. To enforce the law, a person must be caught at an actual dog fighting event. That is far more difficult than one would imagine.
First, many of these contests are staged in garages, basements, or in other locations out of the public eye. Second, the individuals involved in this illegal activity are often involved in other illegal actions such as drugs and drug dealing. That makes the infiltration of the groups involved in this activity exceptionally difficult. For this reason, there have been few successful prosecutions for animal fighting in recent years.
Senate Bill 366 proposes to add several new provisions to existing law to make it easier to prosecute those involved in illegal dog fighting. The first part of the law sets out a list of dog fighting paraphernalia that are unique to the profession. If someone is caught with these in their possession, and it is found that it was their intent to use these devices for illegal animal fighting, they can be charged with a Class B or Class A misdemeanor. The charge can be enhanced to a Class D felony if animals are found in their possession which bear the markings and scars typical of fighting. Again, we tie the intent to use these animals in animal fighting contests to a violation of the law.
The new law would also make it a condition of probation or parole that the convicted person could no longer own an animal. This will be a major deterrent to someone convicted of this crime trying to get back into the animal fighting business.
Both the humane shelters in our State and law enforcement believe these changes in the law will immediately help them to crack down on illegal dog fighting.
This bill is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate the week of January 28th. I expect it to pass, and head to the House, where, hopefully, it will receive a positive reception, and be on the Governor's desk for signature by the end of February. If so, we will have struck a blow not only for public safety, but for animal lovers everywhere who believe the inhumane treatment of these dogs needs to be stopped now.