WASHINGTON – With enactment of Wyoming's new law making dog-fighting a felony, all 50 states now have criminalized the bloodsport, a move that the Humane Society of the United States ushers in as a new era for man's best friend.
Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed the legislation Tuesday to up the penalty for participating in dog fighting from a misdemeanor to a felony. Wyoming followed Idaho, whose governor signed similar legislation last week.
With the case of jailed former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick shedding light on the practice, Humane Society president Wayne Pacelle is calling it a new era for dogs and a moment for Americans to savor.
"This is a real reason to celebrate — a landmark moment in the struggle to rid our nation of this hideously cruel activity that destroys so many innocent animals and is so corrosive to the ideals of a decent and civil society," Pacelle said.
Dog fighting involves more than 250,00 dogs each year and is a criminal enterprising involving as many as 140,000 human participants, HSUS says.
The Humane Society argues that cruelty to animals is an indicator of socially maladapted individuals, and cites a Chicago Police Department study that showed 65 percent of people charged with animal abuse crimes were also charged with violent crimes against people.
HSUS has also repeatedly asked the Pentagon to investigate alleged cases of animal cruelty by soldiers in Iraq, suggesting that any soldiers involved in animal cruelty could be suffering psychological trauma from the war zone.
On Monday, Pacelle repeated his request to the Defense Department to insert an explicit prohibition and punishment for cruelty to animals within the Universal Code of Military Justice, citing an Internet video that allegedly showed a U.S. Marine in Iraq tossing a puppy off a cliff.