Letter to the Editor:
Over the past few years, public awareness regarding the growing trend of dog fighting has become a top story and focus of the national news media, largely as a result of the involvement of celebrities. One would be hard pressed to find even a non-sports fan in America who isn't at least somewhat familiar with the disturbing acts of former Altanta Falcon Michael Vick, but for those who are unfamiliar, dog fighting is a brutal for-profit spectator sport that involves taking two aggressive dogs and placing them together in a co fined area so that they will fight each other.
The fight is only stopped when one of the dogs is killed or injured beyond its ability to continue.
Though disturbing, The Vick saga seems distant to me. The real question: What are the lawmakers in my home state of Illinois currently doing to combat this disgusting so-called sport?
Unfortunately, as of 2008, I feel the answer is not enough. I only became aware of this fact just this past week while working as an intern for State Representative Mike Boland. Representative Boland, who has pledged to make this issue a priority in 2009, provided me with reading materials detailing the current Illinois state laws regarding dog fighting. Although there are several inadequacies within the current laws, the most glaring problem with Illinois law is that it neglects to place proper emphasis on the role of the spectator.
Like any spectator sport, legitimate or otherwise, dog fighting would have no purpose for existence were it not for the indulgence of patrons. It is undeniably inadequate that the attendees, who make the sport profitable and thus possible, are merely subject to being charged with a class A Misdemeanor in Illinois. Such a charge only carries the possibility of maximum prison sentence of up to one year, couples with a fine of up to $1,500.
By comparison, states such as Virginia, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Florida have taken a much stronger and more proactive approach, deterring dog fighting by making spectators subject to being charged with a felony. In Oregon, for example, a spectator faces up to five years in prison couples with a fine of up to $125,000 if arrested while in attendance at a dogfight. The increased fines and jail time no doubt serve as much greater deterrent to would-be participants.
Failing to increase punishment for dog fighting in Illinois not only make it probable that current participants will continue to thrive, it also makes it attractive for fighting rings residing in states with stricter laws to migrate to Illinois. That is definitely not the message we want to send to criminals across state borders. A year from now, I hope to see Illinois law listed as being among the strictest in the nation in regards to dog fighting.
Intern, Ill. State Representative Mike Boland