Sentencing commission votes to increase penalties for dog fighters

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted Friday to increase the recommended penalties for convicted dog fighters. 

The federal commission agreed to increase the recommended minimum sentence for animal fighting offenses from a range of six to 12 months to a range of 21 to 27 months, and to establish a recommended sentencing range of 6 to 12 months for anyone who brings a minor under the age of 16 to an animal fight.

ADVERTISEMENT

The actions, the commission said, are in response to changes Congress made to the Animal Welfare Act and the nearly 50,000 letters it received from the public.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals praised the commission for its decision.

“Until now the guidelines didn’t reflect the seriousness with which Congress, law enforcement, and the public view this barbaric activity,” Nancy Perry, ASPCA’s senior vice president of government relations said in a statement. “We are grateful to the U.S. Sentencing Commission for voting to give judges the tools they need to ensure the punishment fits the crime.”

Though dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the ASPCA said it has assisted police in four dog fighting cases spanning five states in the last 10 years.

“These new guidelines will go a long way to protect hundreds of thousands of dogs in the United States who are forced to fight and suffer each year purely for the entertainment and financial gain of their owners,” Tim Rickey, the group’s vice president of field investigations and response said in a statement.

The changes will be sent to Congress in the coming weeks and will take effect on Nov. 1 barring any congressional action.