Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has had a big win on legislation that would make it a federal crime to attend an animal fight.

The animal-fighting amendment — which would also strengthen existing penalties for spectators who knowingly bring children to an animal fight — was included in a massive farm bill approved by the Senate Thursday.

Blumenthal said existing federal laws that outlaw fights between dogs, fowl or other animals have a huge loophole — attending the events is not a crime.

He introduced the “Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act” in December with support from two conservative Republican senators, David Vitter form Louisiana and Ron Kirk of Illinois.

Under the legislation, attending an animal fight could bring up to one year in jail and/or a fine and bringing a child to the fight could bring up to three years in jail and/or a fine.

“Despite efforts by Congress to put an end to animal fighting, this cruel sport continues to exist throughout the country, and is financed by thousands of dollars from spectators who contribute to this blood sport,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “These crimes are a federal matter and the federal response ought to be as strong as possible. Animal fighting encourages the worst in the human condition….”

The animal fighting legislation must be approved by the House to become law.

Blumenthal predicted it would have strong support in that chamber.

“This crosses party lines,” he said.

Blumenthal said he has long had an interest in preventing cruelty to animals, having founded the “Animal Protection Caucus” among the nation’s attorneys general when he was Connecticut’s attorney general.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, is hopeful the measure will put an end to a practice that continues, despite federal prohibition.

“Federal investigators that raid large-scale animal fighting operations may soon be able to indict the entire cast of characters that sustain dogfighting and cockfighting,” he said.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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