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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Protect Children from Being Exposed to Cruelty and Violence

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it’s appropriate that this week, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced legislation to help protect animals and children from dogfighting and cockfighting.

There are a lot of ways to hurt a child. But none may be more baffling than to expose a young child to the senseless cruelty of animal fighting and its associated crimes. 

AnimalfightingSadly, dogfighters and cockfighters often bring children to animal fights, introducing them to animal cruelty, violence, blood-letting, and other illegal activity. In 2010 and 2011, HSUS investigators infiltrated cockfights throughout Texas to document the extent of the problem. Children as young as 5 years old were regularly present at cockfighting derbies. In one case, an infant sat ringside at a cockfight in a rural county near San Antonio. 

A couple years ago in Ducktown, Tennessee, a major cockfighting pit was raided with numerous children present. A young girl, approximately 8 years old, had a front row seat by the main fighting pit.

Children, however, pay a high price for witnessing the cruelty of animal fighting first hand. Research shows that regularly being exposed to animal cruelty puts children at risk. When children become accustomed to the pain and suffering they witness, they can become desensitized and it can interfere with their emotional development.

Animal fighting is also closely associated with other crimes such as gang activity, drug dealing, illegal weapons possession, prostitution, and violence to humans. Exposing a child to these crimes endangers their safety and well-being.

This week, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced S. 666, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act of 2013. It’s a companion bill to H.R. 366, introduced earlier in the year by U.S. Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., John Campbell, R-Calif., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Jim Moran, D-Va., which now has more than 130 cosponsors. Their legislation makes it a federal crime to knowingly attend an animal fight, as 49 states have already done, and also provides additional penalties for adults who knowingly bring a child to a cockfight or dogfight. This bipartisan, sensible legislation to protect animals and children deserves a vote and your federal lawmakers need to hear from you.

“As a former state and federal prosecutor, I’ve seen first-hand the criminal culture that surrounds animal fighting events and the damaging influence this environment has on our children,” said Rep. Marino, the House bill’s lead sponsor. The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act would bring accountability to adults who callously subject children to this criminal culture. To protect both animals and children, and to commemorate National Child Abuse Prevention Month, please contact your members of Congress today and urge them to support H.R. 366 and S. 666.

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