Moves to increase dog fighting enforcement hit legislative wall
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Moves to increase dog fighting enforcement hit legislative wall

Date: April 29, 2010
By: Scott Kanowsky
State Capitol Bureau

Intro:  Since NFL quarterback Michael Vick's 2007 arrest brought dog fighting into the national consciousness, legislation to increase it's enforcement has hit a wall at the Missouri statehouse.
RunTime:  3:26
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap:   Debbie Hill's face hardly betrays any emotion when she describes the wounds of a former fighting dog.

Actuality:  HILL2.WAV
Run Time:  00:10
Description: "Often times horrendous infection, there may be even maggots on the animal in the summer time, but there will be layers and layers of scars underneath those fresh wounds."

The vice president of the Humane Society of Missouri, Hill says dog fighting happens everywhere in the state.

Actuality:  HILL3.WAV
Run Time:  00:06
Description: "There's probably not a county in this state that does not have some dog fighting activity going on."

For the past three years, Wentzville state Senator Scott Rupp proposed bills cracking down on dog fighting.

But every attempt failed.

None even reached a vote on the Senate floor.

And Rupp thinks he might know why.

Actuality:  RUPP10.WAV
Run Time:  00:17
Description: "There's some people that view it as a sport, and they're saying 'It's a sport, it's privately owned animals and on my private property and they think it's just fine.' And then you have others that view this as 'Well this is just another way for those wacko animal rights activists to get into our property."
Rupp's battle is shared by House Minority leader Paul LeVota.
Like Rupp, LeVota has raised the dog-fighting issue year after year after year.
But even though failure followed the Independence Democrat, too, he still remains optimistic that progress is being made.

Actuality:  LEVOTA4.WAV
Run Time:  00:12
Description: "I think the federal folks have really clamped down on it and more awareness by the public--clearly the Michael Vick case and some other things--have made the public more aware of it and has curtailed some of it."

Missouri was the central figure in the FBI's massive, multi-state dog fighting bust last summer that resulted in the hundreds of arrests and the capture of nearly 500 animals.

But this has done little to stop dog fighting throughout the country and in Missouri.

John Goodwin is the Manager of Animal Fighting Issues at the Humane Society of the United States.

He says nearly 40 thousand people partcipate in organized dog fighting rings, most of it out of the national spotlight.

Actuality:  GOODWIN3.WAV
Run Time:  00:20
Description: "It happens in the shadows. And because it's brutal and leads to dogs being mutilated and killed, it happens in the shadows. As a result, people don't know how much of it is happening in their communities.

Goodwin estimates an extra 100 thousand people nationwide practice dog fighting as a hobby.

And he says many times those involved are into more than just dog fighting.

Actuality:  GOODWIN2.WAV
Run Time:  00:22
Description: "The fact is that this is a felony in all fifty states, and the people that are willing to break those laws don't just draw line in the sand and say 'This is only law I'm going to break, I'm going to be a good citizen otherwise,' no, to the contrary, they're bad people involved in a whole range of illicit activities."

Goodwin says there has been a noticeable decline nationwide since last July's bust.

Still, it's been three years of failure in the Missouri legislature and Rupp says he cares mainly about the condition of the dogs and not the punishment of their owners.


Actuality:  RUPP11.WAV
Run Time:  00:16
Description: "Let's figure who's going to take care of these animals, because we can sit there and we can try the people and we can say 'You've been at these events more than one time and we're going to charge you with this and that.' But at the end of the day, there's still a very abused animal who needs to be put down or needs to be given medical attention."

Both Rupp and LeVota say they will try again during the next legislative session.

Rupp admitted the punishments become less steep to get more people on board. 

From the State Capitol, I'm Scott Kanowsky.