Senate Bill 504 filed Monday in the Florida Legislature would give local law enforcement the tools to hold accountable people who break animal-fighting laws.
Florida has one of the strongest animal-fighting laws in the country, but a 2010 court ruling requires law enforcement to catch people in the act rather than accepting evidence as proof. Kate MacFall, Florida director for the U.S. Humane Society, said it's not a realistic expectation.
"Nobody supports animal fighting, and it's not safe for law enforcement to try to catch them in the act," she said. "It's nearly impossible."
The state bill comes as a federal bill before Congress has bipartisan support. The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act would outlaw attendance at organized animal fights with penalties for anyone bringing an underage person to such an event.
MacFall said a uniform federal law would help support animal-fighting laws in Florida and enable law enforcement to cross state lines to hold animal-fighting rings accountable, since many move among multiple states.
"The federal law would really put some oomph into many of the state laws and let the feds handle it, which would be the appropriate way to go," she said.
The Humane Society claims animal fighting often is associated with gangs, illegal weapons and narcotics. The claim is supported by a three-year study by the Chicago Police Department that found 70 percent of animal offenders had been arrested for other felonies, including battery, drug trafficking and sex crimes.