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CEO purrspective

January 2008

Dear Fellow Animal Lover:

As I write this, the 2008 session of the General Assembly is about to open.  Among the many bills to be considered by the legislators this year will be several very important pieces of legislation for the protection of both animals and people from those who engage in the brutality of animal fighting.  Currently in Virginia, organizing and gambling on a dog fight is a felony but just attending a dog fight is no crime at all.  It is also not a crime to bring a minor to witness the spectacle of animals tearing each other apart.  Cock fighting is only a misdemeanor in Virginia although it is a felony in both North Carolina and Maryland.  The result is that we have become the haven for cock fighters on the mid-Atlantic and they flood into our state with all of their related narcotics sales and other criminal activities. 

The first and the most comprehensive bill we are proposing this year (House Bill 656) would make any form of animal fighting a felony, would make attendance at an animal fight and taking a minor to an animal fight Class 1 misdemeanors and would increase law enforcement’s powers of search and confiscation to more effectively combat these barbaric criminals.  In case this bill is not passed, as I very much hope it will be, we have also proposed a separate bill that would make attendance at a dog fight and bringing a minor to a dog fight crimes and would expand the law enforcement powers for officers investigating dog fighting.  Another bill would simply make cock fighting a felony.  If the first is adopted, the other two are not needed. 

We have also worked with Delegate Margi Vanderhyde to propose House Bill 1232 that would make it a Class 3 misdemeanor to breed more than 20 litters of dogs or cats, or sell more than 100 dogs or cats, in any year. This bill is just a small initial step in the direction of providing some oversight of the treatment of animals in Virginia puppy mills.  In light of the miserable conditions found at the Carroll County puppy mill that was broken up this fall where there were in excess of 1,000 dogs, the need for this legislation is more than obvious.  Nonetheless, we may expect to be aggressively fought on it by the breeders’ lobby. 

Lastly, we have a bill that would make the theft of a cat a felony in Virginia.  Currently, by statute, the theft of a dog, cow, goat, etc. is a felony but cat is no where on the list and therefore, the theft of a cat is only a misdemeanor. 

I would be deeply grateful for any help that you could give to this effort by asking your delegate or senator, or any delegate or senator that you know, to vote for these measures.  The last year provided many people with an education about the heart breaking abuses inflicted on innocent animals by humans.  The Vick case shocked and horrified the public as they learned that animal fighting is a brutal and rampant organized crime.  The puppy mill revelations resulted in an outpouring of concern for those dogs.  Now is our opportunity to get laws in place that will address these abuses and provide some real protection to the animals we love so much.

Robin Robertson Starr

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