Opposition To NH Anti-Animal Fighting Bill Doesn't Hold Up
Animal fighting paraphernalia ban, HB 605-FN passed the House Criminal Justice Committee on March 13th with a vote of 13-7. Unfortunately, there are some unable to see beyond the uninformed misconceptions spread by American Kennel Club affiliate, Dog Owners of the Granite State (DOGS), which is causing opposition. Residents must now urge their representatives to support the bill before the House's vote on March 19th.
In March 2016, a similar bill (HB 1517-FN) prohibiting paraphernalia for the use in animal fighting, was opposed by the House Environment and Agriculture Committee, the AKC, their affiliate DOGS, and the NH Farm Bureau. A few primary reasons were expressed for their opposition, which was nearly identical to those cited for opposition to HB 605-FN this year; again from DOGS, as well as some members of the House Criminal Justice Committee. Below is a closer look at those assertions, and why they don't hold up upon consideration of the facts.
“It is everywhere, whether you believe it or not.”
-Terry Mills, ASPCA
Director of Blood Sports Investigations
Animal fighting does not occur in New Hampshire
Those opposed to HB 605-FN and previously to HB 1517-FN assert that such laws are unnecessary because 'instances of animal fighting have not occurred in NH for many years'; meaning it's not an issue that must be addressed in NH.
Do not allow the term "underground" to mislead you; it means highly secretive and organized, not minimal nor far away. Animal fighting has reached epidemic proportions in the US, and cases have been prosecuted within neighboring states that involved NH residents. Tips of animal fighting in NH have been received, and there are legitimate on-going investigations in the Granite State. NH's unenforceable laws are preventing the prosecution of those animal fighting cases; contributing to the misconception that the crime doesn't occur in our state.
On March 11th, 2016, two days after the House Environment and Agriculture Committee voted to kill animal fighting paraphernalia bill HB 1517-FN, 24 people were arrested at a cockfighting ring in MA. Two of the individuals arrested were NH residents; one of Merrimack, and the other of Salem.
18 cocks were seized, 5 cocks were seriously injured, and many had gaffs attached to their legs to inflict more damage. The cockfighting ring was in a house located within a seemingly peaceful neighborhood.
A resident living across from the house stated, "I was shocked. I think of it as animal cruelty." ... "Right across the street, I had no indication."
It is not uncommon for animal fighting cases to involve residents from multiple states, or for animals to be transferred across state lines to fight. Animal fighters also often breed, train and house their animals in separate locations from where they fight and constantly relocate the animals, even changing the location of a fight multiple times while in route to the event.
Maureen Prendergast, director of outreach and investigations for the Animal Rescue League of NH, attended the public hearing for HB 605-FN on March 6th. She testified that she has been aware of a professional animal fighter in NH for several years, but has been unable to determine when or where the fights are located.
"Because I don't have something like HB 605, I can't move forward with the investigation," she said. "I've sat idly by long enough."
Current law [644:8-a, I & II] requires that law enforcement arrives while the dogs are in the process of being trained, or while a fight is just about to, or is actively taking place. Due to the highly secretive, well-funded and well-informed nature of animal fighting, it is a nearly impossible task to arrive on the scene during training or a fight.
Although it has happened, it is uncommon for arrests to occur based on the highly unusual and fortune tip of a fight location occurring at the perfect time and place for law enforcement to arrive in time.
Often officials will find animal fighting paraphernalia, but not a fight that is underway. And with that paraphernalia currently lawful in NH, law enforcement can only use that information to create an on-going investigation, which will likely take several months, sometimes years, or often go cold. The only other choice is to do absolutely nothing because current law ties their hands.
Those convicted of animal fighting are unlikely to abuse their pets or other animal species and should not be prohibited from future animal ownership.
Current law allows the court authority to ban future animal ownership of those convicted of animal fighting; however, it is not mandatory. Not included in the 2016 bill, HB 605-FN prohibits those convicted of animal cruelty from owning animals for at least five years, which brought new reasons for opposition to the table this year [Section 2, paragraph VI]. Members of the American Kennel Club affiliate, DOGS testified against the ban, asserting that it was unnecessary, going as far as to state the shockingly uninformed comments below during the public hearing for HB 605-FN on March 6th.
"I don't understand why somebody who's fighting gamecocks can't have a cat at their house for their kids to have as a pet. I don't understand why even somebody who's fighting dogs could not live in a home where mamma's poodle snuggled up on the bed with him every night."
-Member of the Dog Owners of the Granite State
I do think current statue seems reasonable, due to it being unlikely someone would treat their other animals inhumanely just because they were convicted of fighting cock or game fowl."
-Angela Ferrari, Legislative Chair
Dog Owners of the Granite State
Considering the egregious level of cruelty and desensitization to the violence and suffering involved in animal fighting, a 5-year prohibition on animal ownership for those convicted of animal fighting is relatively lenient.
FBI agents, law enforcement officers, and cruelty investigators refer to animal fighting as one of the most heinous forms of animal cruelty, with ties to homicide and assault. Animal fighters, sometimes recruited as children, are conditioned to believe that violence is normal and animals are mere objects, used to earn money and gain prestige. Developing a healthy and safe relationship with animals after exposure and involvement of such violent acts can take years of rehabilitation, and sometimes individuals are considered not restorable even with treatment.
In 2014, the US Department of Justice declared animal cruelty a 'crime against society,' due to its links with human violence. That led to the tracking of animal cruelty via an FBI database beginning in 2016. In 2017, David Goldstein, Franklin NH Chief of Police testified, "There is compelling evidence of a link between animal cruelty and human violence, including child abuse, spousal abuse and other types of criminal violence." With animal abusers also harming humans, it is unjustifiable to believe those convicted would not harm other non-human animals, regardless of species.
Animal owners who possess the items included as 'animal fighting paraphernalia' for reasons other than animal fighting will be at risk of unjust prosecution.
HB 605-FN requires that the paraphernalia is intended for, or used for the purpose or furtherance of animal fighting, and requires that the totality of the scene, as well as direct and circumstantial evidence, is considered when determining such use or intent. Without such evidence, there would be no probable cause and therefore, no prosecution.
An item often discussed by those opposed to the bill are treadmills, yet that is not an item listed within HB 605-FN. Another item discussed is a springpole, which is a knotted rope or other material suspended by a beam or tree, created for a dog to bite and hold on to, which strengthens their neck and jaw muscles.
A dog owner or trainer may own a springpole for legitimate reasons, such as to help dogs learn how to release objects they have ahold of on command and in a controlled environment.
Truthfully, springpoles can be purchased on Amazon. However, many items are sold in stores or online that can be used for either good or harm.
Amazon also sells kitchen knives. Determining whether or not a kitchen knife was used to prepare dinner or to harm someone requires investigation. Likewise, determining whether or not someone uses a springpole to train their dog to fight or for legitimate training purposes requires investigation.
HB 605-FN [Section 2, paragraph III (b)], requires that the paraphernalia is intended for, or used for the purpose or furtherance of animal fighting.
HB 605-FN [Section 2, paragraph III (c)], requires consideration of the totality of the scene, as well as direct and circumstantial evidence, which is consistent with efficient investigative approaches for most crimes.
"We can continue to be concerned about what could happen to legitimate dog owners, which has not happened in 21 states that have passed this law; there has not been a single instance of this issue of what might happen to a legitimate person. What we know is happening is animal fighting, and we encourage [the passing of] this bill this year so we can address the issues that we're aware of."
NH State Director, HSUS
With fighting paraphernalia often found as opposed to animals in the process of training to, or actively fighting, HB 605-FN allows for more effective enforcement by granting officials the ability to make an arrest when fighting paraphernalia is found, along with supporting evidence that reasonably indicates intent for its use in animal fighting.
Common evidence of animal fighting, along with a springpole, would include communications with fighters to facilitate fighting, written instructions on how to use a springpole to train their dogs to fight, and documentation of a dog's fighting 'bloodlines,' or fighting statistics.
If there is an absence of evidence reasonably indicating the equipment is used for animal fighting, not only would it prevent law enforcement from obtaining a warrant, as there would be no probable cause, but the state wouldn't attempt to prosecute, because the case would be dismissed due to insufficient evidence. It would be a waste of valued state resources and efforts, and it would also be at the unnecessary risk of endangering legitimate on-going animal fighting investigations.
The Bottom Line
Animal fighters exploit the fact that animal fighting paraphernalia is not unlawful. They hide behind the smokescreen that some of this equipment can be used for legitimate reasons, and they use that for the furtherance of animal fighting; an industry in which animals lose limbs, break bones, they are starved, shot, hung, and electrocuted, they die from blood loss, shock and kidney failure. This is an industry that has ties to money laundering, childhood exposure to violence, assault, homicide, drug trafficking, and weapons trafficking.
It is estimated that there are 40,000 professional animal fighters and even more street animal fighters in the United States and that tens of thousands of dogs suffer from it each year, despite being illegal in all states.
Opposing HB 605-FN despite the fact that evidence indicates animal fighting is present in NH, and opposing this legislation despite the fact that law enforcement is capable of differentiating between legitimate use and the use in animal fighting, is exactly what those criminals want us to do. I strongly urge that we don't.
"I've had dogs that I highly suspect to have been used in animal fighting wag their tails at me and lick my hands through the caged bars of their pens. I wish I could help them. I wish I could know that when I return to the property that they'll still be there, but I can't unless I have a resource such as HB 605."
Animal Rescue League of NH
Director of Outreach & Investigation
HB 1571-FN, as introduced, https://drive.google.com/open?id=10fAOBfmmu8NODVI7yxHEfqJ1KXcyFxje, 2016, Last visited March 2019
HB 1571-FN, Bill Docket, NH General Court, http://gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_Status/bill_docket.aspx?lsr=2569&sy=2016&sortoption=&txtsessionyear=2016&txttitle=animal%20fighting, March 2, 2016, Last Visited March 2019
House Calendar 14, P. 15, http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/caljourns/calendars/2016/HC_14.pdf, March 4, 2016, Last Visited March 2019
Elysia Rodriguez, Mike Pescaro and Noelle Graves, "24 Arrested in Cockfighting Ring, Police acted on a tip to break up cockfights; animals severely injured," NECN News, Mar 12, 2016, https://www.necn.com/news/new-england/24-Arrested-in-Animal-Fighting-Ring--371881362.html, Last visited March 2019
Cristela Guerra, 'Learning about dog fighting in order to stop it,' Globe Staff, January 03, 2017,
'Combating Dogfighting: Prosecutor’s Guide to Dogfighting Cases,' ASPCA, 2010, http://neacha.org/resources/prosecutors.dogfight.pdf, Last visited March 2019
Caitlan Butler, ’Animal control officer: Dog fighting difficult to prosecute,’ El Dorado News Times, January 24, 2018, https://www.eldoradonews.com/news/2018/jan/24/animal-control-officer-dog-fighting-difficult-pros/, Last visited March 2019
Keegan Hamilton, 'To pull off the biggest pit bull fighting bust in U.S. history, investigators went deep undercover. So did their dogs.' September 01, 2010, https://www.riverfronttimes.com/stlouis/to-pull-off-the-biggest-pit-bull-fighting-bust-in-us-history-investigators-went-deep-undercover-so-did-their-dogs/Content?oid=2492155, Last visited March 2019;
Hanna Gibson, 'Overview of Dogfighting,' Michigan State University College of Law, Animal Legal and Historical Center, 2005, https://www.animallaw.info/article/overview-dog-fighting, Last visited March 2019
Estimation of animal fighters in the United States are based on:
Arrests that have been made and cases that have been prosecuted,
Legitimate on-going investigations,
Finding discarded dogs with injuries consistent with dogfighting,
Injured dogs entering shelters showing evidence of fighting, and
Reports from underground dogfighting publications
Sources indicating this include some of the resources listed above, as well as, but not limited to:
United States Department of Justice, "Justice Department Conducts Animal Fighting Investigations Training," Office of Public Affairs, Jun 21, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-conducts-animal-fighting-investigations-training, Last visited March 2019;
United States Department of Justice, Facebook Live Interview, April 23, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/DOJ/videos/10156196435784030/?hc_ref=ARS6NyxTMge_2TkgdzwpTRPxCYmYwDPSOch9EJBOpq2JYUPHOyXn_ttuRRQxnQRvatI, Last visited March 2019