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Assembly Panel Clears Johnson Bill to Make Dog Fighting a Crime in NJ

Measure Would Establish Dog Fighting as a Third Degree Crime in the State

(TRENTON) – Bipartisan legislation sponsored in part by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson to establish new crimes of “dog fighting” and “leader of a dog fighting network” was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The bill would also amend the RICO statute to add “leader of a dog fighting network,” to the list of offenses the state considers racketeering activity in the state.

“Dog fighting is deplorable and should be prosecuted as a criminal act,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Unfortunately, New Jersey has seen far too many cases of this kind of criminal treatment toward animals in our communities. It’s time to strengthen state law by imposing stronger penalties for dog fighting and its ring leaders.”

Under the bill (A-2379), dog fighting would be considered a crime of the third degree, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, or a fine of up to $15,000 or both. The bill would also require the court to order the seizure and forfeiture of any dogs used for dog fighting or baiting. The measure would also permit the court to seize other animals or property in the person’s possession, and prohibit the person from possessing animals in the future.

“Those who organize, run or financially back dog fighting operations should receive tougher punishment as a result of their extensive involvement,” added Johnson.

In addition, the bill would define “leader of a dog fighting network” as a person who conspires with others in a scheme or course of conduct to unlawfully engage in dog fighting as an organizer, supervisor, financier or manager with at least one other person. Leader of a dog fighting network would be a second degree crime, five to ten years in prison or a fine of up to $150,000, or both.

“This legislation would codify what we already know to be true,” said Johnson. “Dog fighting is a crime. In NJ, it will be treated as one upon enactment of this bill.”

The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker who will decide when to post it for a floor vote.