Bills strengthen law for animal cruelty offenses

Nevada lawmakers reviewed two bills Thursday that toughen the state’s stance against cockfighting and revise the provisions governing the release of animal cruelty reporting data.Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, presented the bill regarding animal cruelty reporting, SB73, to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.The measure closes a loophole from Cooney’s Law, a bill passed in the 2011 session that increased animal cruelty penalties but included a flaw sponsors did not notice until state agencies began interpreting the new law. SB233 was referred to as Cooney’s Law after a dog named Cooney was gutted by its owner.It made maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating or killing companion animals a felony, but an amendment intended to make the identity of whoever reported the crime confidential was widely interpreted to make all aspects of the report and investigation confidential. This bill changes the language to make the entire report public, with the exception of the reporting party’s identity — if they wish to have it concealed, Manendo said.John Goodwin, the director of animal cruelty policy for the Humane Society of the United States travelled to Carson City to present the second bill, SB83. It is a committee bill aimed at increasing the penalties for cockfighting in Nevada.“They’re not criminals who just cockfight and live at the foot of the cross the rest of the time,” Goodwin told the committee. “It is a criminal subculture.”Cockfighting, pitting two roosters against each other in a fight to the death, is illegal in all 50 states, but some states have looser penalties than others. Cockfighting often bring the industry and other criminal activity to those states.For a cockfight, participants usually gather in discreet locations and pay an entry fee, often times around $200, and there is a tournament with the last standing rooster securing the winnings for its owner. Those prizes are commonly near $10,000, Goodwin said.“Because the potential winnings are so much greater than the misdemeanors, fighters see a first offense as a get out of jail free card,” Goodwin told committee members.Under current Nevada law, first offenses are gross misdemeanors and incur fines up to $2,000. This bill would change them to category E felonies with minimum prison time at a year and fines up to $5,000.“You see more here than other states because it’s a slap on the hand,” Manendo said. “There’s no real risk I think that’s why I hear so much about it.”He added that he hears complaints of cockfighting with the same frequency of graffiti — about once every three weeks.The bill also criminalizes knowingly renting a location to cockfighters and knowingly selling or possessing the sharp barbs often attached to birds feet in fights to damage the competing animal.There was no opposition for either bill. The committee took no action Thursday, but both bills could pass during the next work session, Manendo said.


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