House leader blocks bill to ban animal fighting


Washington - The FBI and Congress have better things to do with their time than bust criminals who fight animals.

WASHINGTON — The FBI and Congress have better things to do with their time than bust criminals who fight animals.

That assessment comes from House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner who last month blocked the widely supported Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act from moving to the House floor for a vote.

The measure increases penalties for the interstate shipment of animals such as cocks and dogs for sport fighting. While most states already prohibit animal fighting, the new bill makes it a federal felony punishable by up to two years in prison.

State and local officials are better suited to deal with the practice of animal fighting, Sensenbrenner contends. Yet many lawmakers suggest otherwise. Earlier this year, the Senate passed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act by unanimous consent, and it attracted bipartisan support from 324 cosponsors in the House.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and welfare activist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States have lobbied heavily for the measure.

"The AVMA fully supports the Animal Fighting Prohibition Act, as many of our members have seen the horrible results of dog fighting," says Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of AVMA's Governmental Relations Division. "We encourage the committee to vote on the bill and send it to the full House where it will pass with overwhelming bipartisan support."

Yet officials with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) suggest such an outcome is not expected.

"(Sensenbrenner) has been opposed to that bill all along," Associate Executive Director Dr. Andrew Maccabe says. "I understand his reason, but I don't necessarily agree. That's a philosophical issue on his part, and we will just keep working to promote the proper welfare of animals."

Proponents plan to push the bill's resurrection next month as the 110th Congress convenes. Sensenbrenner loses his seat as chairman at that time.

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