Local Case Makes Case for Federal Dog Fighting Bill, Supporters Say

By: Dana Brueck Email
By: Dana Brueck Email

A former sheriff's deputy facing sentencing on a federal drug charge also faces state dog fighting charges. Some say the case is a good reason to support new federal animal fighting legislation.

Former Wisconsin Congressman Mark Green originally introduced the bill. Supporters say it goes beyond dog fighting; it targets what they call an underworld.

"It's a very long time. They spend every day and every day is probably very long for them. There's very little to enrich them," Cathy Holmes, president of the board for the Dane County Humane Society, says of several dozen pit bulls.

Staff at the Dane County Humane Society does what they can to enrich the lives of nearly 50 pit bulls. They were seized during a drug raid at a Town of Dunn home last summer.
"I can't imagine where you have a short term view like a dog, of this going on and on and on. I don't know where it will end," Holmes says.

Holmes hopes a new piece of federal legislation is a start.

"Bird fighting and dog fighting is abhorrent," former Wisconsin Congressman Mark Green says.

Green drafted the bill, which was reintroduced this session. It makes animal fighting as well as the transport of animals or implements for fighting, felonies nationwide.

"What's happening is dogs used in dog fighting, they're being transported across state lines. Also, the paraphernalia that goes along with it, hooks, claws; truly awful stuff," Green says.

Dog fighting is already a felony in Wisconsin, but Green says it takes a federal law to deal with the interstate transport of animals.

"What a lot of people don't realize is this is organized crime that the dog fighting rings are out there," Green says. “And, all that goes with it, money laundering, illegal drugs, gang activity, and racketeering."

Investigators discovered the dogs, scarred and injured, while searching Robert Lowery's home for drugs. He faces three state felony charges for the instigation of animal fighting.

"I think it is big business and it needs to be recognized as such," Prosecutor Judy Schwaemle says.

She cannot comment on Lowery's case, but says the House legislation is encouraging because state law fails to go far enough.

"It needs to more explicitly address breeding dogs for fighting, training dogs for fighting, all of that activity that is part of the enterprise of dog fighting," she says.

Lowery is due back in court for a preliminary hearing on the dog fighting charges in February.

This legislation also addresses health concerns for humans. Supporters say bird fighting increases the spread of avian flu, which could threaten poultry and the public health.

A California congressman says cockfights spread Newcastle disease throughout his state, costing taxpayers and the poultry industry millions of dollars.

The legislation had more than 300 cosponsors when Green introduced it. It's now in a couple of committees, but is expected to move forward.

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