Best of Show: Top Prose, 2009 Legislative Session
(Editor’s Note: The following is the preamble to Senate Bill 318, which, as explicated below, would allow the seizure of property and assets of anyone convicted of any of the felonies listed in Section (a) of California Penal Code Section 597.5. The crimes enumerated in that code section are punished by a minimum of 16 months to a maximum of three years in prison or a fine of as much as $50,000.
Here are the felonies:
“(1) Owns, possesses, keeps, or trains any dog, with the intent that the dog shall be engaged in an exhibition of fighting with another dog.
“(2) For amusement or gain, causes any dog to fight with another dog, or causes any dogs to injure each other.
“(3) Permits any act in violation of paragraph (1) or (2) to be done on any premises under his or her charge or control, or aids or abets that act.”
Although wasted on an audience prone to describing the contents of legislation as “language” and summarize a bill’s intent as “creating a level playing field,” the prose of this introduction positively sings.
Given that the Humane Society proposed this measure and, as the introduction so eloquently notes, should receive remuneration from these seized properties for the “social, economic, and moral burden” it shoulders as a result of dogfighting, the author of this deathless epistle is, one suspects, an employee thereof.
Odds are long this was penned by Sen. Ron Calderon, the Montebello Democrat who carried the measure, which awaits final action by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
To the anonymous bard who wrote what follows: Balzac and Dickens genuflect.)
Dogfighting is an insidious underground organized crime and, notwithstanding its absolute prohibition in America, this crime has reached epidemic proportions in all urban communities and continues to thrive in many rural areas as well.
Many communities have been morally, socially, and culturally scarred by the continuing presence of dogfighting. Children who are exposed to the unfathomable violence of dogfighting are conditioned to believe that violence is normal and are systematically desensitized to the consequential suffering.
Dog fighters are violent criminals who engage in a whole host of peripheral criminal activities. Many are heavily involved in organized crime, racketeering, drug distribution and gang-related criminal activity; and they arrange and attend the fights as a forum for ambling and drug trafficking. These activities, both individually and collectively, present a clear and present danger to public order and safety and are not constitutionally protected.
An effective means of punishing and deterring the criminal activities of dog fighters is through forfeiture of the property, both personal and real, profits, proceeds, and the instrumentalities acquired, accumulated, or used by dogfighting participants, organizers, transporters of animals and equipment, property owners who allow their premises to be used for dogfighting and other activities in support of dogfighting, and breeders and trainers of fighting dogs, and persons who steal and illegally obtain dogs and other animals for fighting, including bait and sparring animals.
Dogfighting not only encourages and furthers antisocial values and violence but it also results in the antisocialization of dogs thereby making them a danger to the community at large.
Police officers, firefighters, utility, and other municipal workers are at increasing risk in the course of their employment on both public and private property because of the epidemic number of dogs that have been bred and trained to fight each other as well as other animals, small children, and adults.
Public animal shelters, humane societies, and nonprofit animal rescue and adoption groups that rescue and care for animals bear much of the social, economic, and moral burden caused by dogfighting.
Specialized multi-agency law enforcement entities such as anticruelty task forces comprised of municipal animal control, local police, sheriff, and city and district attorneys investigating, arresting, and prosecuting dogfighting and other crimes against animals are a critical component of the goal of reducing and eliminating this heinous crime in California, yet these agencies suffer from limited resources.
Forfeited property, profits, proceeds, and instrumentalities acquired, accumulated, or used by dogfighting participants and others acting in support of dogfighting, should be sold to support efforts to care for abused animals and the law enforcement entities specially formed to address dogfighting and animal cruelty, wherever possible. Distribution of the above should be determined by the state or local governing bodies depending upon which is responsible for the prosecution, as a result of which the proceeds were seized.
It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to seek the eradication of dogfighting by systematically reducing the economic resources available to those criminals who facilitate and support the crime of dogfighting.
(Additional Editor’s Note: Who knew dogfighting is California’s most vexing ill, its “epidemic” callously shredding the Golden State’s socio-economic underpinnings. The Senate Public Safety Committee analysis notes “forfeiting property used to promote, further or facilitate,” as this bill would allow if it becomes law, “is beyond what is currently forfeitable for criminal profiteering and offenses such as murder, mayhem or kidnapping.” Further proof – if that were needed — of the tools required to eradicate the scourge that is dogfighting. Yet those sniveling soft-on-dogfighters at the American Civil Liberties Union have the temerity to suggest such a provision violates the constitutionally protected right of not having property seized without due process. Must have been too busy trying to get dogfighters out of prison to SB 318’s preamble.)
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