Senate panel approves bills to crack down on animal fighting

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would crack down on animal fighters and organizers.

Senate Bills 413 and 414 would establish that animal fighters and organizers convicted of their second offense would be guilty of a felony and receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 18 months to four years. They also would be fined $5,000 to $50,000 and/or receive 500 to 1,000 hours of community service.

“We are sending a strong message that Michigan does not tolerate the barbaric behavior of animal fighting,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, sponsor of the bills. “Many violent criminals first abused animals. By ensuring that Michigan law properly sentences and deters people from engaging in animal fighting, we can effectively crack down on this brutal degradation of animals and ensure public safety.”

Those who attend fights, breed animals or who fight or sell equipment for such fights would, on their second offense, be charged with a felony and receive a mandatory minimum sentence of nine months to four years. They also would be fined $1,000 to $5,000 and/or receive 250 to 500 hours of community service.

A person with any conviction for animal fighting or organizing a fight would receive a five-year ban on owning the same type of animal species involved. Any person in violation of this ban would be guilty of a misdemeanor and be punished by up to one year or fined $1,000 to $2,500. Each animal that a person owns or possesses in violation of the ban would constitute a separate offense.

“Even though Michigan has one of the strongest animal fighting laws in the nation, repeat offenders are often given probation or meager sentences,” said Lydia Sattler, Michigan state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “The punishment should fit the crime, and animal fighting is a violent crime that brutalizes animals, degrades entire communities, and involves other illegal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking. We applaud Senator Margaret O’Brien for sponsoring legislation to ensure that repeat offenders receive meaningful punishment.”

The bills now advance to the full Senate for further consideration. Rep. Brandt Iden has introduced companion legislation, House Bill 4669, in the House of Representatives.