New Jersey Senate Moves Forward on Dog-Fighting Law

Law to Ban Dog Fighting Approved by Senate Panel

Pug dogThe New Jersey state senate moved a bill forward in May that will criminalize dog-fighting operations and subject anyone participating in such activities to the state’s anti-racketeering statute. The bill also calls for a separate offense of leading a dog-fighting network.

The statute has been on the Senate’s docket for nearly a year, but gathered momentum after large dog-fighting rings were discovered in Paterson and Elizabeth earlier this year. In the Paterson raid, officers rescued three pit bulls after hearing barking, whimpering, cheering and screaming coming from a building on East 16th Street.

According to Senator Tom Kean, Jr., a Republican from Union, dog-fighting rings are typically one small component of a much larger criminal operation. A sponsor of the bill, Kean has proposed that persons arrested be charged with violating New Jersey’s criminal RICO laws, which he says would give prosecutors and those who actively oppose dog-fighting a lot more leverage when gathering evidence.

Calling the dog-fighting activities “the most visible, most violent, most painful example” of criminal activity that crosses state and town lines, Kean said it also involves gambling, drugs and other illegal activity.

If the statute is passes, anyone participating in a dog-fighting ring could be charged with a third-degree crime, with a possible sentence of three to five years in prison and fines of up to $15,000. Because the crime would fall under state RICO laws, though, the penalties could be much more severe. Courts could order the seizure of property related to or obtained with proceeds from dog-fighting, and could order restitution for housing and treatment of any animals harmed.

The proposed law identifies leading a dog-fighting operation as a second degree crime, with sanctions including five to ten years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines.

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