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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Steve King’s Voting Record is a Reflection of His Position on Dogfighting

Steve King is on the defense and is pressuring TV stations in Iowa not to run the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s new TV ad critical of his voting record on animal fighting policy issues in Congress. He says he’s an animal lover and he opposes dogfighting—but he just doesn’t think we should have any federal laws on the subject.

SteveKingIf you’re really against dogfighting, you should support efforts to give law enforcement all the tools they need to crack down on this criminal enterprise. That’s why the federal bill in 2007, to make interstate animal fighting activities a felony offense, passed the Senate unanimously, was approved by the House with a commanding vote of 368 to 39, and was signed into law by President George W. Bush. This wasn’t a Democrat versus Republican issue, a state versus federal issue; this is a decency and common-sense issue.  That’s why the current effort in Congress, to make it a crime for an adult to attend or bring a child to an animal fight, has a bipartisan group of 226 co-sponsors in the House, passed the Senate by a wide margin of 88-11, and has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and more than 280 law enforcement agencies across the country.

Steve King was on the wrong side, both times. And he can’t skirt the issue by saying we should only have state laws, but not federal laws, on animal cruelty. Everybody who fights progress on animal welfare says they’re against cruelty—this is nothing new, and no one should be duped by his double-speak.

If state prohibitions against animal fighting were alone sufficient, there’d be no need for a federal animal fighting statute. But the nature of the industry has changed, and now a substantial share of fights involves interstate transport of the animals and participants from multiple states. The feds are better suited to handle these cases because of the patchwork of state laws.

And local authorities do not have the jurisdiction to go into other states to carry on an investigation. When an animal fighting ring involves players from several states, a sheriff’s department simply does not have the authority to root out the entire operation. Such animal fighting cases are a federal matter requiring federal law that will close all loopholes. There are also times when the county sheriffs or prosecutors are not taking action (due to corruption or lack of interest) and it’s necessary for the federal agencies to get involved.

If a federal prosecution is made, we want to have a comprehensive application of the law and see that everyone involved is brought to justice, including the adults who expose children to this violence and blood-letting. That will have a greater effect in terms of ending animal fighting and also mean a bigger bang for the buck in terms of the federal investment, while federal agents are already on the scene.

Federal and state laws on animal fighting involve a complementary system. Sometimes there are federal busts, sometimes state, and sometimes they’re collaborative. Federal law enforcement must have the needed tools—as state law enforcement already has in 49 states—to take action against those who are fueling the industry with their blood money of admission fees and high-stakes gambling, and to make sure that they and the perpetrators who blend into the crowd when the feds arrive don’t get off scot-free. 

The federal law against animal fighting was used to prosecute Michael Vick and other people who put dogs through hell for their amusement. King has opposed strengthening this law at every turn. His colleagues know that if our nation is to root out this inhumane practice, we have to have strong laws to combat it.

It’s easy for a professional politician to claim he’s against animal cruelty. But the acid test is their voting record. Time and again, King votes against the most modest animal welfare reforms. Now, he has a provision in the Farm Bill to invalidate a whole host of local and state animal protection laws. He says he’s for state laws on animal welfare, but he’s trying to wipe those out too.

The federal bills in Congress seek to strengthen our nation’s laws against animal fighting, and they are a reflection of a politician’s position on the issue. And it has to be seen in the context of Steve King’s larger voting record. He has opposed nearly all animal welfare reforms during his five terms in Congress—being on the wrong side of animal welfare is nothing new for him. 

Steve King doesn’t want voters to see the truth about his voting record on dogfighting. So we need you to watch this TV ad, share it with your friends and family, and send a message that we need elected officials who share our basic values.

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