"State senator sees increased fines and penalties

State Sen. Jim Arnold (D-LaPorte) announced last week that he intends to file legislation he claims would make Indiana a national leader in strengthening its dog fighting laws.

The recent arrest and guilty plea by NFL player Michael Vick has reintroduced the horrors of dog fighting to American media and consciousness this summer. A popular and lucrative “sport” — though illegal in all 50 states — the Humane Society of the United States estimates that approximately 40,000 people participate in dog fighting, which profits from both admission fees and gambling. Thousands of dollars in bets can ride on a single fight.

“Dog fighting is one of the most vicious forms of ‘entertainment’ out there,” Arnold said in a prepared statement. “In the last few months we’ve heard a real outcry that we need to make sure our laws about it are as tough as they can possibly be and I intend to answer that request.”

Currently, Indiana law has several provisions governing dog fighting at the state level. Arnold wants to increase penalties for all dog fighting-related activities; Arnold said he has sought input from the National Humane Society to develop the legislation.

• Purchasing or possessing animals for fighting contests is currently a Class D felony. Arnold’s legislation would make it a Class C felony.

• Possessing animal fighting paraphernalia is currently a Class B misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class A misdemeanor for subsequent offenses. Arnold’s legislation would make it a Class A misdemeanor every time.

• Promoting an animal fighting contest is currently a Class D felony. Arnold’s legislation would make it a Class C felony.

• Attending a fighting contest is currently a Class A misdemeanor. Arnold’s legislation would make it a Class D felony.

Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. Class D felonies are punishable by six months to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Class C felonies are punishable by two to eight years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

To further strengthen the protection provided under these laws, Arnold’s bill will include a provision that will prohibit people who have been convicted of dog fighting-related offenses from owning any animal for a period of 10 years. The bill will also define “baiting,” in which smaller animals, often stolen or obtained under false pretenses, are used to train dogs to fight and to weed out less aggressive dogs.

In addition to gambling, the sale and use of drugs and physical violence are all associated with dog fighting. Arnold, the former LaPorte County sheriff, noted that dog fighting is also increasingly associated with gang activity.

“Dog fighting clearly has no place in our communities,” Arnold said. “I want Indiana to be seen as a leader in ending this crime nationally.”

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