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Richmond SPCA

Humane Center

2519 Hermitage Road
Richmond, VA 23220

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Jan. 9, 2008

Contact:   Tabitha Hanes, community relations manager

               Office: (804) 521-1319, Mobile: (804) 615-0089

Legislation proposed to protect Virginia’s animals

What:      Five bills will go before the General Assembly in the session beginning today. These bills, if adopted, will make our state safer and more humane for both animals and people as well as a national leader in combating animal fighting.

Why:       Animal fighting, in all of its forms, is organized crime conducted by cruel and ruthless people who also engage in many other underworld activities such as drug trafficking and illegal gambling. Since Virginia law treats cock fighting as only a misdemeanor while it is a felony in both North Carolina and Maryland, we have become the venue of choice of cock fighters which brings brutal people and all of their related criminal behavior into our state. At all types of animal fights, children are included among the spectators thereby contributing to the creation of another generation of people who lack empathy and abuse others who are weaker than they.  Law enforcement officers have long lacked the legal tools that they need to effectively investigate this activity and bring the perpetrators to justice.  Puppy mills have become a great problem in terms of lack of adequate care and compassionate treatment for their animals and litters.

Proposed legislation includes:

  • A bill to make cock fighting a felony
  • A bill to make Class 1 misdemeanors of both attending a dog fight and taking a minor to a dog fight
  • A bill to (a) broaden the Class 6 felony applicable to the crime of dogfighting (i) to the fighting of any animals, and (ii) to the possession of any materials intended to enhance the ability of animals to fight and (b) to make class 1 misdemeanors of (i) attending an exhibition of animal fighting and (ii) permitting a minor to become involved in animal fighting. This bill would also require animals that are the subject of such criminal charges to be forfeited to the locality and would allow law enforcement officers to conduct searches at any time upon the issuance of warrants.
  • A bill to add cats to the list of animals whose theft constitutes a felony. 
  • A bill to limit the number of breeding animals and the number of litters that may be produced by pet breeding operations annually.

Who:      Richmond SPCA CEO Robin Robertson Starr has worked with a coalition of law enforcement groups, poultry producers and animal welfare organizations to draft and introduce the proposed legislation.

The patrons for the comprehensive animal fighting bill are Senator Tommy Norment (R-Williamsburg) and Delegate Morgan Griffith (R-Salem). Attorney General Bob McDonnell also included the animal fighting bill in his announcement of his 2008 legislative agenda. The cat larceny bill has Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) as its patron, the dog fighting bill is patroned by Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) and the cock fighting bill is patroned by Delegate Jim Scott (D-Fairfax). The puppy mill bill is patroned by Delegate Margaret Vanderhyde  (D-McLean).


The Richmond SPCA is a no-kill humane society dedicated to the principle that every life is precious. The non-profit organization saves the lives of more than 3,000 homeless animals each year. As a national leader in humane care and education, the Richmond SPCA is aggressively tackling the problem of pet overpopulation through education, adoption, rehabilitation and spay/neuter. For more information, please visit www.richmondspca.org.