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Richmond SPCA

Robins-Starr
Humane Center

2519 Hermitage Road
Richmond, VA 23220
804-521-1300

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Susan M. Markel
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Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 3, 2008

RICHMOND SPCA SEES OMNIBUS ANIMAL FIGHTING LEGISLATION THROUGH TO PASSAGE

Richmond, Va. --- The Richmond SPCA saw the culmination of months of work today when a final version of the omnibus animal fighting bill (House Bill 656) unanimously passed the General Assembly. Governor Tim Kaine has already made known his support for the bill and his intention to sign it into law. The bill was patroned by House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith. The companion Senate bill was patroned by Senator Tommy Norment.

The Richmond SPCA's role in the development of this legislation began in November 2007 when the organization formed a coalition with the Humane Society of the United States and other humane organizations to draft the original form of the bill and seek patrons for companion bills in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. The Richmond SPCA was instrumental in securing the support of Attorney General Bob McDonnell and a groundswell of public opinion in favor of the measure.

"Throughout the lengthy legislative process, we have strived to keep our constituents informed of each bill's progress through the numerous committees that reviewed it," Richmond SPCA Chief Executive Officer Robin Roberson Starr said. "Our supporters strongly believe Virginia's animals should be protected from people who would seek to torture and abuse them through animal fighting activities, and each time we asked for their help, they were very vocal in urging their delegates and senators to support this legislation."

Efforts to educate the community about the dark and previously little known underworld of animal fighting were furthered by Starr's series of op/ed columns for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which began Aug. 6, 2007 and continued throughout the fall. As each bill was debated and examined in the General Assembly, Starr was regularly in attendance and spoke on behalf of the legislation before all committee and sub-committee meetings. Groups of cockfighters made strong lobbying efforts in opposition to both bills.

The Senate previously unanimously passed Senate Bill 592 on Feb. 5, and the companion House Bill 656 passed the House on Feb. 12. Modest differences between the two bills existed at that time and, after crossover, the Senate bill was conformed to the House version which has now been passed by the Senate. When the bill becomes law, all forms of animal fighting will become crimes and will be Class 6 felonies with the presence of any in a list of aggravating factors such as the use of performance enhancing drugs, the use of blades, the presence of minors, the presence of gambling activity or the involvement of one or more dogs. The bill also gives law enforcement more effective tools to combat animal fighting and makes it a crime to be a spectator at an animal fight.

Starr said, "The passage of this bill takes Virginia from having one of the weakest animal fighting laws to having arguably the strongest in the country. After the horrible revelations of the Michael Vick case, I am deeply proud that our state has taken a forceful stand against the depravity of animal fighting."

###

The Richmond SPCA, founded in 1891, is a no-kill humane organization dedicated to the guiding principle that every life is precious. As a national leader in humane care and education, the Richmond SPCA is aggressively tackling the problem of pet overpopulation through programs of adoption, rehabilitation, spay/neuter, pet-retention, trap-neuter-return, and humane education. For more information, visit www.richmondspca.org.
  
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