Protecting Kids from Dogfighting in Illinois

The penalty for dogfighting in Illinois has become more severe since Saturday, July 17, 2010, when Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that enhances the felony penalty provisions for staging a dog fight within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, playground, daycare center or group home. Even the day's soaring temperatures couldn't dampen the good mood of all that attended this monumental event.

The signing took place at Maywood Market, 615 S. 5th Avenue, Maywood, the home area of the bill's principal sponsor, Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood). Senator Lightford, also on hand, was the Senate sponsor of the bill.

The dignitaries who participated in the signing in addition to IL Representative Karen Yarbrough (D - Maywood) and IL Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), included Maywood Mayor Henderson Yarbrough and Rob Moon from Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart"s office.

Esteemed guests of Best Friends Animal Society and Safe Humane Chicago included: Cynthia Bathurst, national director, Project Safe Humane, Best Friends; Lauren Gallagher, public service attorney, Best Friends; Rou the pit bull with owner Callie Cozzolino, programs coordinator for Youth Leaders for Safe Humane Chicago; Ivanhoe Hall, Youth Leader for Safe Humane Chicago; Kyla Page, volunteer coordinator, Safe Humane Chicago; and Priscilla Kienzell, Logistics Specialist, Safe Humane Chicago.

4806178284 fc58f1ffe7 oMany people were involved in producing these results, as one can tell from the day's line up! Lauren Gallagher summed it up best: "What a thrill to see the product of so many individuals working together to make Illinois communities safer for children and dogs."

(pictured at left, Safe Humane ambassador dog Rou, Kyla Page, SHC volunteer coordinator; Lauren Gallagher, Best Friends public service attorney; Cynthia Bathurst, Best Friends director of Project Safe Humane; Rob Moon, Cook Sheriff's Office; and Ivanhoe Hall, Youth Leader for Safe Humane Chicago)

House Bill 5790, sponsored by Yarbrough and Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester) was crafted jointly by Best Friends Animal Society and the Cook County Sheriff"s Department.

"Best Friends Animal Society, which has forged a strong relationship with law enforcement in Cook County and throughout the Chicago area, is pleased to have helped with the bill and we congratulate Rep. Yarbrough and Sen. Lightford for sponsoring the legislation," said Gregory Castle, chief executive officer of Best Friends Animal Society, based in Kanab, Utah.

4803013005 f2ca100167 oThe strengthened law continues a series of crackdowns on dogfighting in Illinois. Gov. Quinn last August signed into law legislation that prohibited convicted dog fighters from owning unsterilized or vicious dogs. The new law has made it more difficult for offenders to return to dogfighting after they have served their time.

(pictured right, Gov. Quinn, Ivanhoe Hall - Youth Leader for Safe Humane Chicago & Cynthia Bathurst - national director for Project Safe Humane)

"This law will in essence create dogfighting free school zones, much like the drug-free zones that already exist," said Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative attorney from Best Friends Animal Society, who came up with the idea. "The Sheriff"s Department and Best Friends Animal Society spearheaded the effort. And we are especially proud that Gov. Quinn is committed to safe, humane communities."

VanKavage, a recognized national expert on animal legislation, also credited radio talk show host Steve Dale and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart for their part in the effort. Dale"s radio interview with Dart was the starting point, after which Dale contacted Best Friends Animal Society, which has a history of promoting anti-dogfighting measures around the country.

4805555633 4544107cd0 o"This new law will help us do more to ensure that children are neither exposed to nor endangered by the violence of those who exploit dogs for money and power," said Cynthia Bathurst, national director of Project Safe Humane for Best Friends Animal Society and principal director of Safe Humane Chicago.

(At left, Governor Pat Quinn signing the bill)

The impact of this signing ceremony goes way beyond the Governor"s and Illinois legislature"s exemplary support of laws that protect our children and animals from violence and help create environments in which people and animals can flourish. Stricter animal abuse laws like House Bill 5790 are a big part of the solution in keeping a community safe. In a recent article by Charles Siebert entitled "The Animal-Cruelty Syndrome" from the New York Times Magazine on June 7, Siebert highlighted the connection again between animal abuse and the rampant violence that can destroy a society. Best Friends Animal Society and Safe Humane Chicago will continue to work tirelessly with local officials to ensure that all the members of a community are free from violence and the havoc it wreaks, especially on the most innocent members of all communities: children and animals.

Get Involved!

  1. Join the Best Friends Legislative Action Center.
  2. Click here to learn more about the programs from Safe Humane, like the Dog Advocacy Work Group (D.A.W.G.) and the Advocacy Court program.
  3. Tune-in to Steve Dale's Pet World.

Images courtesy of Donald W. Bromley Photography, Priscilla Kienzell and Best Friends staff