Michael Vick and Roy Jones, Jr. beware.
The Senate Judiciary Committee today advanced legislation sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21) to create criminal offenses for dog fighting and leading dog fighting networks and amend the RICO statute to include dog fighting.
“Today, I had the opportunity to meet some of New Jersey’s brave and gentle survivors of dog fighting rings,” said Kean. “Such atrocities as those suffered by these innocent animals cannot go unpunished. We must expand our crackdown on this barbaric underground business by holding the leaders of these deadly rings accountable for their actions.”
Kean’s bill, S-736, would establish dog fighting as a third-degree crime punishable by three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The legislation would also establish leading a dog fighting network as a second-degree crime. If convicted, leaders of dog fighting rings would be subject to a term of 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of $150,000. S-736 also amends current racketeering laws to include dog fighting.
Under the bill, dog fighting victims would be rescued from the scene, and the courts could order the seizure of any property related to the criminal enterprise. Those convicted could also be mandated to pay restitution to cover the cost of housing and medical treatment for the animals harmed as a result of dog fighting.
“Less than a month ago, Police discovered a large dog fighting ring in Paterson where more than 20 dogs and puppies were found beaten, starved, and stuffed into trash cans,” said Kean. “Individuals who commit such unspeakably cruel offenses can easily escalate to abusing others in their community. This legislation will protect countless others from suffering the same fate.”
S-736 also defines “baiting” as attacking, provoking, or harassing an animal for the purpose of training the dog to behave violently accountable for their actions. Under S-736, the court could also protect countless animals from harm by prohibiting those convicted of these heinous charges from having future custody of any animal for any period of time, including permanent prohibition.