While animal fighting is the most widely criminalized form of animal cruelty in the United States, a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act has exempted the bloodsport from regulations in US territories. Now, the PACE Act has been proposed to close this loophole once and for all.
In the United States the 3 most common types of animal fighting are dogfighting, cockfighting, and hog-dog fighting. While animal fighting is criminalized throughout the country, ambiguities in federal law have given animal fighters the ability to continue the practice in US territories.
But newly proposed legislation—the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act—plans to clarify that US territories are not exempt from the Animal Welfare Act’s provisions against dogfighting and cockfighting.
Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Rick Nolan (D-MN), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), and Steve Knight (R-CA) introduced the act.
Under current legislation in the Animal Welfare Act, it is a federal misdemeanor to be a spectator at any animal fight, but it is a felony to:
“Animal fighting is an atrocious activity that, for many years, has been banned in the United States,” said Roskam. “Today I’m introducing a bill that closes the loophole that, until now, has allowed this despicable practice to continue throughout our U.S. territories.”
The PACE Act would directly impact Puerto Rico, which has become a hub for American cockfighting. In territories such as this, birds are raised to participate in spectacles, outfitted with metal knives and other sharp weapons before fights and treated inhumanely if they survive.
“We shouldn’t have one set of rules against animal cruelty for all 50 states and a different set of rules for U.S. territories,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, which is a strong supporter of the Pace Act.
Besides these horrific acts of animal cruelty, cockfighting has also been linked to the spread of several diseases. It was implicated in the spread of exotic Newcastle disease in a 2002 outbreak as well as bird flu throughout Asia.
By closing this loophole in the Animal Welfare Act, legislators will improve the lives of animals being forced to perform in inhumane spectacles and safeguard poultry suppliers from avian diseases.
“Dogfighting and cockfighting are barbaric practices, more widely criminalized than any other form of animal cruelty in the world, and the prohibitions should apply to every part of the country,” Pacelle said. “The Humane Society of the US is grateful to Rep. Roskam for leading this fight and working to stamp out animal abuse everywhere.”