House committee hears Mosbrucker bill to expand animal abuse law

Rep. Gina Mosbrucker says the illegal blood sport of dog fighting has grown to “epidemic” levels in central Washington and other places throughout the state.

During a public hearing Monday on a bill she sponsored, the Goldendale lawmaker told the House Public Safety Committee that large numbers of dogs are disappearing around Yakima and surrounding areas.

“We found out they are being collected to be bait. Their mouths were duct-taped, and then they were sliced and put into rings to fight repeatedly,” saidMosbrucker. “And the people behind this are making very large amounts of money.”

Mosbrucker noted Washington already has strict penalties against animal fighting. However, laws against stealing a pet are not as strong.

“Animal fighting is a class C felony, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. However, it is only a gross misdemeanor to steal a pet, which carries a fine of $500 per animal. We want stronger penalties for those who would steal an animal for the purposes of fighting or intentionally mutilate it,” said Mosbrucker.

Under House Bill 1919, a person who steals an animal with the intent of using it for animal fighting, or for training for baiting for the purposes of animal fighting, could be convicted of a class C felony. That same level of conviction would apply under the bill for those who own, possess, buy, sell, transfer or manufacture fighting paraphernalia to be used in animal fighting.

“I have a constituent who told me she found three dead dogs in the ditch when she went home. All three had their mouths duct-taped and they were sliced on their sides,” noted Mosbrucker.

The bill would also amend the criminal offense of animal cruelty in the second degree (a gross misdemeanor) to include circumstances in which a person has taken possession of an animal used in fighting, and then abandons it to let it die.

“The violence doesn’t just stop with animals. We know that as much as 83 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters report their partners hurt or killed an animal,” said Mosbrucker.

“Dogs can’t speak,” added Mosbrucker, “so we need to be their voices for these horrific acts and to do what we can to make it stop.”

The measure is awaiting committee action.