BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 2281
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          Date of Hearing:   April 8, 2008
          Chief Counsel:      Gregory Pagan


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                                 Jose Solorio, Chair

                  AB 2281 (Nava) - As Introduced:  February 21, 2008


           SUMMARY  :   Makes it a felony punishable by 16 months, 2 or 3  
          years in the state prison for any person convicted of being  
          knowingly present as a spectator at any place, building, or  
          tenement where preparations are being made for an exhibition of  
          the fighting of dogs with the intent to be present at that  
          exhibition. 

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Provides that any person that does any of the following is  
            guilty of a felony and is punishable by imprisonment in a  
            state prison for 16 months, 2 or 3 years; by a fine not to  
            exceed $50,000; or by both such fine and imprisonment:

             a)   Owns, possesses, keeps, or trains any dog, with the  
               intent that the dog shall be engaged in an exhibition of  
               fighting with another dog.

             b)   For amusement or gain, causes any dog to fight with  
               another dog, or causes any dogs to injure each other.

             c)   Permits any of the above acts to be done on any premises  
               under his or her control, or aid or abets that act.  [Penal  
               Code Section 597.5(a).]

          2)States that any person that is knowingly present, as a  
            spectator, at any place, building, or tenement where  
            preparations are being made for an exhibition of the fighting  
            of dogs, with the intent to be present at those preparations,  
            or is knowingly present at the exhibition, fighting or  
            injuring with the intent to be present at the exhibition,  
            fighting, or injuring is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by  
            imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed six months; or by  
            a fine not exceeding $1,000; or by both.  [Penal Code Section  
            597.5(b).]








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          3)Provides that any person who causes any animal, not including  
            a dog, to fight with another animal, or permits the same to be  
            done on any property under his or her control, or aids or  
            abets the fighting of any animal is guilty of a misdemeanor,  
            punishable by up to one year in the county jail; a by a fine  
            not to exceed $5,000; or both.  [Penal Code Section 597b(a).]

          4)Provides that any person who causes a cock to fight with  
            another cock, or permits the same to be done on any property  
            under his or her control, and any person who aid or abets the  
            fighting of any cock or is present as a spectator is guilty of  
            a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail  
            not to exceed one year; by a fine not to exceed $5,000; or by  
            both.  [Penal Code Section 597b(b).]

          5)Provides that any person who is knowingly present as a  
            spectator at any place, building, or tenement for an  
            exhibition of animal fighting, or who is knowingly present at  
            that exhibition, or is knowingly present where preparations  
            are being made for the exhibition, fighting, or injuring of an  
            animal is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment  
            in a county jail not to exceed six months; by a fine not  
            exceeding $1,000; or by both.  (Penal Code Section 597c.)

          6)Provides that any person who owns, possesses, keeps or trains  
            any bird or other animal with the intent that that it be used  
            an exhibition of fighting is guilty of a misdemeanor,  
            punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed  
            one year; by a fine not to exceed $5,000; or by both.  (Penal  
            Code Section 597j.)

          7)Provides that any person who maliciously and intentionally  
            maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal or  
            maliciously and intentionally kills an animal is guilty of  
            either a misdemeanor or felony, punishable by imprisonment in  
            a county jail for up to one year and/or by a fine up to  
            $20,000; or by imprisonment in state prison for 16 months, 2  
            or 3 years and/or a fine up to $20,000.  [Penal Code Section  
            597(a).]

          8)Provides that any person who overdrives, overloads, overworks,  
            tortures, torments, deprives of drink, cruelly beats, or  
            mutilates an animal is guilty of either a misdemeanor or  
            felony, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to  








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            one year and/or by a fine up to $20,000; or by imprisonment in  
            state prison for 16 months, 2 or 3 years and/or a fine up to  
            $20,000.  [Penal Code Section 597(b).]

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :  

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "According to  
            the Humane Society of the United States, dog fighting is a  
            'sadistic 'contest' in which two dogs - specifically bred,  
            conditioned and trained to fight - are placed in a pit  
            (generally a small arena enclosed by plywood walls) to fight  
            each other for the spectators' entertainment and gambling.   
            Fights average nearly an hour in length and often last more  
            than two hours.  Dogfights end when one of the dogs will not  
            or cannot continue.  Unfortunately, dogs used in fights often  
            die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion or infection  
            hours or even days after the event.

          "Spectators provide much of the profits associated with dog  
            fighting.  The money generated by admission fees and gambling  
            helps keep this 'sport' alive.  Because dogfights are illegal  
            and therefore not widely publicized, spectators do not merely  
            'happen upon a fight' - they seek it out.

          "It is estimated that 40,000 people are involved in this blood  
            sport resulting in injury or death to nearly 250,000 dogs  
            annually.  Law enforcement projects that at least 100,000  
            additional persons participate in 'street level' dogfights.   
            In fact, there have already been two vicious dog fighting  
            cases prosecuted in 2008 in California alone - one in Los  
            Angeles and one in Fresno - involving over 30 dogs between  
            them.                                             

          "Dogfights come hand-in-hand with a host of other concerns.   
            Illegal gambling is the norm at fights.  Firearms and other  
            weapons are typically found at events, due to the large amount  
            of cash present.  Illegal drugs are often sold and used at  
            dogfights.  And, perhaps most disturbingly, young children are  
            sometimes present at events which can promote insensitivity to  
            animal suffering, enthusiasm for violence and a lack of  
            respect for the law.  A study by the Chicago Police of  
            incidents between 2001 and 2004 found that in 362 dog fighting  
            cases, 59% of dog owners had gang affiliations and 66% had  








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            been arrested at least twice before.

          "With the introduction of AB 2281, I hope that by making  
            spectatorship at dogfights in California a felony, this  
            illegal activity and its detrimental effects on animals will  
            be dramatically reduced or eliminated."

           2)Penalty Increase  :  Under existing law, any person who is  
            knowingly present as a spectator at any place where dogs are  
            fighting is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six  
            months in a county jail; by a fine not to exceed $1,000; or by  
            both a fine and imprisonment.  [Penal Code Section 597.5(b).]   
            Also, any person who keeps or trains a dog with the intent  
            that the dog be engaged in an exhibition of fighting, or  
            causes a dog to fight another dog, is guilty of a felony,  
            punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months,  
            2 or 3 years in the state prison; by a fine not exceeding  
            $50,000; or by both a fine and imprisonment.  [Penal Code  
            Section 597.5(a).]  This bill increases the penalty for being  
            a spectator at a dog fight from a maximum of six months in a  
            county jail to 16 months, 2 or 3 years in the state prison.   
            Should the penalty for being a spectator at a dog fight be the  
            same as the penalty for those who keep, train, and actually  
            fight dogs?  Why is the existing six-month county jail penalty  
            inadequate for being convicted of being a spectator at a dog  
            fight?  It should also be noted that the penalty for being a  
            spectator at other animal fights, including cock fighting, is  
            a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in the county  
            jail; by a fine not to exceed $1,000; or by both.  (Penal Code  
            Section 597c.)  As a result, this bill creates an  
            inconsistency between the penalties for being a spectator at a  
            dog fight and being a spectator at a cock fight.  Should the  
            Legislature create inconsistent penalties for what is  
            essentially the same conduct - being a spectator at these very  
            similar events?

           3)"Three Strikes" Implications  :  It has been argued that  
            contiguous states around California have made being a  
            spectator at a dog fight a felony.  However, these states do  
            not have a draconian "Three Strikes" law as does California.   
            Under California's Three Strikes law, if this bill were  
            enacted a person convicted of this newly created felony of  
            being a spectator at dog fight and has two prior "serious" or  
            "violent" prior convictions could be sentenced to a term of  
            25-years-to-life in the state prison.








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           4)Prison Overcrowding and a Court-Ordered Population Cap  :   
            Concerns for overcrowding arise because of the increase in the  
            prison term when the offense is already punishable by a  
            substantial prison term.  As California's prison crisis  
            worsens, close attention should be paid to legislation that  
            increases prison overcrowding.  The California Policy Research  
            Center (CPRC) recently issued a report on the status of  
            California's prisons.  The report stated, "California has the  
            largest prison population of any state in the nation, with  
            more than 171,000 inmates in 33 adult prisons, and the state's  
            annual correctional spending, including jails and probation,  
            amounts to $8.92 billion.  Despite the high cost of  
            corrections, fewer California prisoners participate in  
            relevant treatment programs than comparable states, and its  
            inmate-to-officer ratio is considerably higher.  While the  
            nation's prisons average one correctional officer to every 4.5  
            inmates, the average California officer is responsible for 6.5  
            inmates. Although officer salaries are higher than average,  
            their ranks are spread dangerously thin and there is a severe  
            vacancy rate."  [Petersilia, "Understanding California  
            Corrections", California Policy Research Center, (May 2006).]   
            California's prison population will likely exceed 180,000 by  
            2010.

          According to the Little Hoover Commission, "Lawsuits filed in  
            three federal courts alleging that the current level of  
            overcrowding constitutes cruel and unusual punishment ask that  
            the courts appoint a panel of federal judges to manage  
            California's prison population.  United States District Judge  
            Lawrence Karlton, the first judge to hear the motion, gave the  
            State until June 2007 to show progress in solving the  
            overpopulation crisis.  Judge Karlton clearly would prefer not  
            to manage California's prison population.  At a December 2006  
            hearing, Judge Karlton told lawyers representing the  
            Schwarzenegger administration that he is not inclined 'to  
            spend forever running the state prison system.'  However, he  
            also warned the attorneys, 'You tell your client June 4 may be  
            the end of the line.  It may really be the end of the line.'

          "Despite the rhetoric, 30 years of 'tough on crime' politics has  
            not made the state safer.  Quite the opposite:  today  
            thousands of hardened, violent criminals are released without  
            regard to the danger they present to an unsuspecting public.   
            Years of political posturing have taken a good idea -  








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            determinate sentencing - and warped it beyond recognition with  
            a series of laws passed with no thought to their cumulative  
            impact.  And these laws stripped away incentives for offenders  
            to change or improve themselves while incarcerated.  

          "Inmates, who are willing to improve their education, learn a  
            job skill or kick a drug habit find that programs are few and  
            far between, a result of budget choices and overcrowding.  
            Consequently, offenders are released into California  
            communities with the criminal tendencies and addictions that  
            first led to their incarceration.  They are ill-prepared to do  
            more than commit new crimes and create new victims."  [Little  
            Hoover Commission Report, "Solving California's Corrections  
            Crisis:  Time is Running Out", pg. 1, 2 (2007).]

          In light of the escalating overcrowding situation in  
            California's state prison system, should the Legislature make  
            it a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for  
            a person convicted for being a spectator at a dog fight?

           5)Argument in Support  :  According to the  Humane Society of the  
            United States  (the sponsor of this bill), "Participating in  
            dog fighting and possessing dogs with the intent to fight them  
            are already felonies in California, but lower spectator  
            penalties for dog fighting create a loophole that makes it  
            more difficult for law enforcement officials to effectively  
            prosecute dog fighters.  Typically, organized dog fights occur  
            with several matches held one after the other.  When police  
            raid a dog fight it is extremely difficult to differentiate  
            between spectators and participants who were going to fight  
            their dog in the next match.  This creates a loophole allowing  
            many dog fighters to avoid prosecution, or be subject to  
            minimal penalties."

           6)Argument in Opposition  :  According to the  California Attorneys  
            for Criminal Justice  (CACJ), "CACJ opposes the amendments to  
            Penal Code Section 597.5 because we believe that there is no  
            sound policy basis to punish someone in the spectator status  
            equally with the organizers and perpetrators of the crime of  
            dog fighting.  The organizers and persons engaging in raising  
            dogs for dog fights are already punishable on the felony  
            level.  The crime of being a spectator is also already  
            punished, and is punished on a level commensurate with the  
            individual's involvement, as a misdemeanor.  To increase  
            punishment to allow state prison sentences for this activity  








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            without any basis to show this would either deter or prevent  
            illegal activity, we believe would be a senseless escalation  
            of penalty."

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 

           Humane Society of the United States (Sponsor)
          American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
          California Animal Control Directors Association
          California Association of Zoos and Aquariums
          California Peace Officers Association
          California Police Chiefs Association
          Concerned People for Animals, Inc.
          East Bay SPCA
          Peace Officer Research Association of California
          Sacramento Council of Dog Clubs, Inc.
          Sacramento County Sheriff's Department 
          San Francisco SPCA
          Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs' Association

           Opposition 
           
          None
           

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Gregory Pagan / PUB. S. / (916)  
          319-3744