COLUMBUS – The Ohio House last week passed House Bill 215, which expands the penalties associated with animal fighting.
Specifically, the legislation makes it a felony to participate in various activities supporting animal fighting such as betting on the results of an animal fight, purchasing tickets for an animal fight or allowing a minor to be present at an animal fight.
Sponsored by State Representatives Barbara Sears (R-Monclova Township) and Heather Bishoff (D-Blacklick), House Bill 215 is aimed at reducing the prevalence of cockfighting in Ohio. The ability to prevent cockfighting is especially pertinent given the recent increase of avian influenza outbreaks across the country, significantly impacting the poultry industry.
Recently in Fulton County, which Sears represents, a large cockfighting ring was discovered and disbanded by local law enforcement. Seeing the perpetrators cross the Ohio border to engage in this activity is why Sears says Ohio needs to strengthen its laws on animal fighting.
“HB 215 brings Ohio in line with our surrounding states. It increases the penalties for those engaged in cockfighting but more importantly takes the profit out of the sport through heavy fines,” Sears said. “HB 215 proactively addresses this rapidly growing criminal problem in Ohio.”
House Bill 215 could elevate the penalties for cockfighting in Ohio to levels that are already in place in 42 states, including all of Ohio’s neighboring Great Lakes states. Additionally, while the bill addresses the cockfighting activity itself, it also helps to reduce the criminal and illegal activities that often accompany cockfighting in communities around Ohio.
“States with weak cockfighting laws become a hub for a variety of illegal activity, such as gambling, narcotics trafficking and homicide,” Bishoff said. “By elevating the offense from a minor misdemeanor to a felony charge, we send a clear message to Ohioans and the nation that Ohio cares about animal welfare.”
House Bill 215 passed with bipartisan support and now goes to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.