Mississippi Votes To Make Dog Fighting a Felony

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A new law was sent to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant this week after being passed by both the Mississippi House and the Senate. The bill, Senate Bill 2934 would turn a participant’s involvement in dog fighting a felony offense, and one that carried up to $5,000 in punishable fines.

Related: ASPCA Wants You to #GetTough on Dog Fighting

Anyone who either promotes or stages fights, bets on fights or owns a dog they purpose to fight can be sentenced to between one and five years in prison. That goes for anyone who even owns dog fighting accessories. Repeat offenders can be fined between $5,000 and $10,000 and can be sentenced to prison for between three and ten years.

And there are stiffer penalties for those who *simply* watch dog fights, as they can face felony charges and fines, and even up to a year in prison.

After a bust of a huge dog fighting operation that brought national attention to Natchez, Mississippi, lawmakers wanted to take a tough stance. In that bust in November, police recovered 54 dogs who had been forced to fight and were starving. The wounds were so deep and severe in some, several had to be euthanized out of mercy, and dog skulls were found on the property as well.

Senator Bob Dearing of Natchez primarily authored the bill, saying that Mississippi’s current laws on dog fighting are some of the weakest in the country and that in border cities like Natchez, dog fighters easily bring dogs from other states to fight there and face a weaker penalty. This law will work to prevent that.

Related: The Champions Documentary Shows Life after Michael Vick’s Dog Fighting Ring [Video]

His original language was even tougher, but as the bill moved through both the Senate and the House, it softened. Still, he plans to use this first step as a platform to bring another, tougher bill into play next year.

Animal rights activists cheer the new bill, and are urging the Governor to not hesitate in signing it. Julia Breaux is the Humane Society of the United States’s legislative specialist and she says that this law will tell criminals that these crimes are serious and will no longer be tolerated in Mississippi.