OLYMPIA – Washington could make it easier to crack down on dog fighting and selling horses to be slaughtered for human consumption under bills trying to survive a deadline in a House committee.
Although staging or gambling on a dog fight or other types of animal “blood sports” are already illegal in Washington, making arrests is sometimes difficult if sponsors and spectators aren’t caught in the act. Two bills would expand state animal cruelty laws to make it a felony to train animals to fight or have the equipment or paraphernalia connected with that activity.
Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, said the Yakima area has had an explosion in the number of dogs being stolen for training in dog fighting. The stolen canines are cut with knives or razor blades, and their mouths duct-taped shut before they are thrown in with fighting dogs, she said.
“Only a coward or a bully would do these acts,” said Mosbrucker, prime sponsor of one of the bills to expand the number of felony charges that could be used against animal fighting.
After they are killed in training or a fight, the dogs often are abandoned in empty lots or ditches. Mosbrucker’s bill would also make it illegal to abandon an animal that had been used in fighting or training.
Brian Considine, a representative of the state Gambling Commission, said agency investigators spend significant time on cases involving dog and rooster fighting, because wherever they are happening, illegal gambling is happening, too. But when law enforcement shows up, the actual fight might not be happening; making the equipment connected with that activity illegal would aid in enforcement, he said.
A separate bill would make it illegal in Washington to sell or transport horses for slaughter for meat that would be sold to people, to avoid what Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, said was a public safety problem.
Horses are not intended to be a food source in Washington, and are often injected with drugs that make the meat contaminated, she said. Horses purchased at auction or from ranchers are being shipped to slaughterhouses out of state or into Canada or Mexico where the meat is sold overseas, often to Pacific Rim countries.
“We are secretly poisoning the population of some of our most important trading partners,” Appleton said.
While equine groups supported the legislation and described horrific conditions some horses experience, some groups said the bill as written has problems.
“There is a place for humane equine slaughter,” said Mark Streuli of the Washington Cattleman’s Association. Without it, some owners will simply abandon their horses in tough economic times when they can no longer feed and care for them.
Sheri Call, of the Washington Trucking Association, said drivers often don’t know the intended use for the cargo they deliver and shouldn’t be held legally liable for delivering horses to someone who’s going to slaughter them for meat.
House Public Safety Committee Chairman Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, urged opposing sides to work with Appleton for possible changes in the next three days before Thursday’s deadline for the committee to pass bills.
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