New Jersey lawmakers are acting to get tougher on dogfighting.
Animal fighting in general is already prohibited in New Jersey, but a bill approved by the Assembly Judiciary committee would explicitly criminalize dogfighting with a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Leaders of a dogfighting network could be prosecuted under the state’s anti-racketeering statue and get up to ten years behind bars.
Debra Bresch with the ASPCA says dogfighting is often part of organized crime.
“These are not isolated pickup fights on the street,” said Bresch. “This is big business, very lucrative, and you have a lot of money coming from it and pouring back into it, and it’s often associated with other ills like drugs, guns.”
Bresch says dogfighting has no redeeming social value, and increased penalties could help deter it.
Kathleen Schatzmann, director of the New Jersey Humane Society, says dogfighting is connected to other kinds of crime.
“Not only is this about gambling, but this also brings other illicit activities such as drugs, illegal weaponry. So you’re going to find unfortunately a multitude of issues at dogfights,” said Schatzmann.
Since dogfighting is an underground business, there are no statistics on how often it occurs in New Jersey, but Schatzmann says it is prevalent.