Baltimore to ban dog-fighting paraphernalia

In Baltimore, it will be a crime to be in possession of animal-fighting paraphernalia.

In Baltimore, it will soon be illegal to possess gear associated with dog-fighting.

The City Council on Monday unanimously voted to approve a proposal from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to make it a crime to be in possession of animal-fighting paraphernalia, such as so-called "breaking sticks" and breeding stands.

The legislation is intended to help police and animal control officers file charges against people involved in animal fighting, according to the mayor's office. By criminalizing possession of the paraphernalia, the authorities can charge those involved in the crime even if there are no animals present when they enter a location used for fighting, the mayor said.

"Prohibiting the possession of animal fighting paraphernalia will help eliminate the vile practice from our city," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "We know that animal fighting is not only cruel to animals, but it is associated with other illegal and often violent activity."

Baltimore police say dog-fighting remains a "real issue" in Baltimore. Last year, 22 people were indicted for allegedly participating in a dog-fighting ring, taking from them 139 dogs, mostly pitbulls, including 28 puppies. The ring used treadmills, heavy chains and steroids to train the dogs, police allege.

Under the bill, paraphernalia will include "breaking sticks" that are placed in a dog's mouth behind its molars to break the dog's grip on another animal or an object, breeding stands that immobilize female dogs and mills that rotate while securing a small animal that is kept out of the dog's grasp.

Possession could lead to a $1,000 penalty and 90 days in jail.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals hailed the bill's passage.

"Dog fighting is a brutal form of organized animal abuse in which dogs are forced to fight as their owners profit from their torture," said Chloe Waterman, senior manager of state legislative strategy for the organization. "Banning the possession of dog fighting paraphernalia is a critical tool for law enforcement to crack down on this cruel blood sport."

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

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