Animal Fighting Bill Likely Dead This Session - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Animal Fighting Bill Likely Dead This Session

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by Emily Luxen

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A bill that would toughen penalties for spectators at animal fights in Tennessee didn't get the necessary support it needed in the Senate.

Senate Bill 285 was two votes shy of getting a constitutional majority, and will likely be dead until next session.

The bill would have increased penalties for spectators at fights to a Class A misdemeanor with a minimum $500.00 fine. It would make a second offense a Class E felony rather than a misdemeanor.  Supporters, like local officials with the Humane Society of the United States, said animal fighting is prevalent across Tennessee, and something needs to be done.

"We believe the spectators are driving these fights," said Leighann McCollum, the Tennessee State Director of the HSUS. "They finance the fights, they make it profitable for the promoters.  We think more meaningful penalties would deter them from going to the fights."

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bill Ketron, a Republican from Murfreesboro, said the problem goes beyond just cruelty to animals.

"It's not just about the fights," said Sen. Ketron. "There's organized crime, gambling, and drugs all associated when you have a cockfighting issue going on."

During debate on the Senate floor Monday night, opponents argued the bill would affect farmers who raise chickens for show, and they felt the stiffer penalties were too harsh.

"This bill isn't about chickens, it's not about cockfights," said Sen. Frank Niceley, a Republican from Strawberry Plains. " It's about killing animal agriculture in America."

McCollom said Tennessee has some of the weakest animal fighting laws in the southeast.  Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, and Virginia all punish animal fighting more seriously than Tennessee. She said the battle over the troubling trend isn't over.

"We will keep fighting.  We will try again next year to continue to educate legislators about animal violence."


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