Hawaii's dog fighting law strengthened

Keoni Vaughn
Keoni Vaughn

By Lisa Kubota - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new law is designed to crack down on dog fighting in Hawaii. Governor Neil Abercrombie signed Senate Bill 1069 on Tuesday.

The Humane Society of the United States ranked Hawaii last for having the weakest dog fighting law in the country. Hawaiian Humane Society investigators have been looking into a few cases for more than two years.

"The Hawaiian Humane Society has 3 open investigations: one in Waianae, the other in the North Shore, and one here in Honolulu. They're at the mid-level and professional level," said Keoni Vaughn, director of operations.

Investigators from the Hawaiian Humane Society traveled to the mainland in 2009 to help with the largest dog fighting bust in the United States. The case involved 400 animals across seven states.

"Some of the dogs had their lips torn off. Some of the dogs had their teeth shaved. It was pretty horrific stuff," said Vaughn.

The agency worked with the state legislature on a new law that takes effect July 1. It will be a crime to use bait dogs -- often lost or stolen pets -- to train other dogs for fighting. Police can also arrest anyone attending or betting on a dogfight. The Class C felony carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.

"Without spectators, you probably would not have this event, so Hawaii now probably has the strongest dog fighting law of the 50 states," said Sen. Clayton Hee, chair of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee.

Another change makes it illegal for people to arrange dogfights or allow them on their property. The new law makes cruelty to animals by fighting dogs in the first degree a Class B felony, which is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. The Hawaiian Humane Society is offering a $5,000 reward for any tip that leads to an arrest and conviction related to dog fighting.

"It is important to know that it is a very underground activity, so if anyone knows of a fight that's gonna occur to call us and I can assure you that we will keep their information confidential."

Tips are being taken by the Hawaiian Humane Society at 356-2250 or Animal CrimeStoppers at 955-8300.

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