ANIMAL WATCH-"Mexico has made dog fighting a felony with some of the strictest penalties in the world," the Yucatan News announced on May 1, 2017. "All dog fighting in Mexico is now illegal and anyone associated with it will face lengthy imprisonment and huge fines…Until now, most states in Mexico prohibited dog fighting, but now the laws are nationwide and have some big teeth."
A petition to Ban Dog Fighting in Mexico was initiated by Humane Society International in June 2016, declaring, “There is no place for dog fighting in Mexico.”It also asked for clear enforcement and penalties.
Over 200,000 people from all over the world signed that petition in support of the nationwide ban, demonstrating agreement with the premise that, "Dog fighting still takes place because no federal law explicitly prohibits it. Federal legislation banning and criminalizing dog fighting would eliminate the loopholes in these state laws and establish strong penalties for anyone associated with this blood competition."
According to a leading polling agency, 99% of Mexicans condemn dog fights and 85% believe dog fighters should be penalized, the petition states.
In an illustration of the changing attitudes of the new generation and the awareness of animals as sentient beings, David Marcial Pérez, writer for El País, described on November 24, 2016 how over 200 charitable and civil organizations, including coalitions to end human trafficking, presented two initiatives to the Mexican Congress to extend a federal prohibition on dog fighting and include breeding and/or sale of any animal used for the purpose of training dogs for fighting. They also supported changes in penal code sections to include penalties for being a spectator at an event.
Although dog fighting has been widely considered a cultural tradition, Pérez confirmed that, “a recent study shows that only 1% of people are in favor of these events, while 80% would like to see a ban.”
Many Mexican states are also looking at imposing severe penalties, activists state. Cruel dog fighting bouts continue unabated in clandestine underground locations, but they also openly take place during municipal celebrations around the country.
According to activists, an Annual international dog fighting even is held in Aguascalientes in the spring where as many as a dozen dog fighting matches involving pit bulls are on the bill.
“The dogs can be worth thousands of dollars,” Antón Aguilar, executive director of the Humane Society International in Mexico, told the Mexican News Daily, "and betting at such events can be high. The breed of choice is the pit bull.” He added that the organizers of the fights usually kill dogs that lose. Even those who win the fight often die as a result of injuries or infections they sustained.
On November 26, 2016, a Mexico News Daily headline read, "Senate approves bill to ban dog fighting," announcing, “The Mexican Senate has passed a dog-fighting bill that would prohibit the organization and staging of dog fighting events at the national level and assure all dogs are treated with dignity.”
The report explains that the bill also amends the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection and “…stipulates basic principles regarding the care of dogs, such as the provision of adequate food and water and providing medical attention when needed.”
Martha Carrasco, a Mexican veterinarian who lives in Los Angeles, is the local representative for APRODA (Association for animal rights and the environment,) based in Guadalajara Jal Mexico, which actively supported and is still involved in this project.
She explained that the law was approved with 71 votes in favor, three against and three abstentions. It provides a modification to the Federal Penal Code to impose a penalty of up five years in jail and a fine of $15,000 for violation. The law will go into effect as soon as it is published in the federal register, Diario Oficial de la Federación.
OTHER COUNTRIES THAT RECENTLY BANNED DOG FIGHTING AND OTHER ANIMAL CRUELTY
Adding to the celebration of Mexico's legislative success is that this reflects a change in ethical thinking about how animals are viewed and treated in society in Latin America. Demands are being made on those in political office to honor the will of the people.
"On March 7, 2017, Guatemala took a huge step forward in the battle against animal cruelty," writes Susan Bird, an environmental attorney and freelance writer on animal causes. "The Congress of Guatemala passed first-of-its-kind legislation in February 2017. Now, protection is firmly in place for wildlife, animals used in research and companion animals."
The new law also bans animal testing for cosmetics, using animals in circuses, and dog fighting. "Humans who are spectators at any of these events can be criminally charged under the law as well," she adds.
On November 12, 2015, in Honduras Bans Use Of Animals In Circuses And Dog Fighting, Animalequality.net declared, "Honduras joins countries like Canada, Sweden, Greece, Peru, Paraguay and Costa Rica (among others) in banning the use of all animals in circuses. The Honduran National Congress approved the Animal Welfare Act that regulates use of animals in various types of industries and shows."
The law also bans dog fighting. It credits passage to several organizations, including the Animal Rights Society of Honduras (Sociedad Animalista de Honduras.) Penalties of three to six years in prison can be imposed and also high fines for abuse or neglect of animals.
And a strong message was broadcast to those in other countries who want to bring about change for animals, "We hope that other countries [will] join Honduras…It is vital that protection of animals is included in the political agendas of all governments."
The challenge will, of course, be enforcement, but that is true in every country. The fact that federal law is being written in multiple countries to change actions -- not just acknowledge theory -- will affect the atmosphere in which children are raised and, thus, the mindset of future generations about how animals must be treated.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.