Gov. Neil Abercrombie is taking a bite out of the crime of dog fighting.
He signed a bill Tuesday making it a crime to attend or bet on a dog fight and raised penalty for anyone who owns, trains, equips, arranges, and sponsors dog fights.
The Hawaiian Humane Society says it has three open investigations of potential dog fighting in Waianae, Honolulu and North Shore.
In approving the anti-dog fighting legislation the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee reported that Hawaii had "the weakest" dogfighting laws in the country because there is no penalty "for attending or waging on an organized dogfight."
The new law makes it a class C felony to wager or attend a dogfight where "a dog or dogs are pitted against another dog or dogs with the intent that the encounter will result in the injury to one or more of the dogs."
A class C felony carries a maximum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.
The cruelty to animals penalty was raised from a class C to a class B felony. That means a conviction for sponsoring, arranging and allowing a dog fight on their property or owning, training, transporting, possessing, selling or transferring dogs engaged in dogfighting can result in a prison term ranging from 2 to 20 years and fines up to $25,000.
"Attendees of dogfights provide much of the profit associated with dogfighting, and admission fees and gambling helps keep dogfighting a thriving business," the Senate Judiciary Committee reported. "Because dogfighting itself is illegal, it is not widely publicized. Accordingly, attendees do not merely happen upon a fight; they seek it out. This measure is intended to address the demand of dogfighting, in an attempt to deter this callous practice."
The committee further reported that "dogfighting is a brutal practice for the dogs involved, often resulting in the death of the participating dogs by blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion, or infection within hours or days after the fight. Moreover, because the dogs used for fighting have been bred for generations to be dangerously aggressive toward other animals, the presence of these dogs in a community increases the risk of attacks on not only on other animals, but potentially on children, as their small size may cause a fighting dog to perceive a child as another animal."
Testimony in support of the measure included the city prosecutor’s office; the Humane Society of the United States; the Hawaiian Humane Society; the Maui Humane Society; the West Hawaii Humane Society; the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association.