Animal cruelty laws will be strengthened under senate bill |

Animal cruelty laws will be strengthened under senate bill

DENVER – State Rep. Carl Miller chalked up a victory for animals Wednesday with a bill to strengthen animal cruelty laws.

Miller’s bill allows the state Animal Cruelty Prevention Fund to collect money from grants and donations to assist with costs associated with the care, treatment and impoundment of abused animals. The fund also helps pay the costs of court-ordered anger management treatment programs for juveniles who injure animals.

The bill passed unanimously in the House Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Wednesday afternoon. It goes to the full House next week.

The bill would also allow law enforcement officers to impound animals they believe have been abused – something they couldn’t do in the past. The accused abuser would then have to post a bond to the impound agency to take care of the animal until the case comes to court. A judge would determine the ultimate fate of the animal.

Additionally, the bill would change existing laws to ban breeding, selling or transferring animals with the intent of using them for fighting.

Violations for convictions would increase from $300 to $1,000 and a jail term of 90 days or both.

Miller, who lives in Leadville and represents Summit County in the state Legislature, cosponsored the bill with Sen. Ken Chlouber after learning that 22 pit bulls were tied up outside a house in their hometown.

The dogs were apparently being fed, but officials were concerned about possible kennel operation and land-use violations. Some residents were concerned about reports that the owner had removed some dogs’ voice boxes to stop their barking. Others believed the dogs were being used for fighting, but officials were unable to verify those allegations.

“It’s a national problem,” Miller said of dog fighting. “It’s really bad. It’s certainly not fair to the animals. That’s why we think this is a step in the right direction.”

Summit County hasn’t had any reports of dog fights, said Animal Shelter department manager Nancy Ring. She suspects it’s because people here treat their dogs better than in other parts of the country.

“I would fall short of worship, but we are on the high end,” she said of the way pet owners here treat their pets. “We also have a community that supports that tenet.”

Animal fighting is illegal in all states and is a felony in 44 of those, including Colorado.

Dog fighters are categorized into three groups, with high-betting professionals working the national and international circuits, hobbyists focusing on gambling and street fighters who are less organized and use dogs of all breeds.

Wagers can reach $20,000, and breeders can get top dollar for pups sired by winning dogs.

Fights typically take place in basements, garages, barns, backyards and warehouses, with pits measuring 16 feet in diameter and enclosed so the dogs can’t escape. Once in the pit, the dogs are washed to ensure they don’t have any chemicals on their fur that could influence the outcome of the fight. A referee orders the release of the dogs and determines the winner based on the speed at which one dog maims its opponent. Owners often use electrical prods or sharp sticks to keep tired dogs fighting. Dogs stay in the ring one to two hours or until one is declared the winner. The losing dog is often killed by its owner.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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