Justice Served in Dogfighting Case Underscores why the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act needs to be passed into Federal Law
Drug Trafficking and Dog Fighting Ring Leader Sentenced to Thirty Years In Prison
On June 4, 2021, Jason R. Coody, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, sentenced Jermaine Hadley to 30 years in federal prison. Hadley headed a drug trafficking organization affiliated with a violent gang in Florida that was responsible for the distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA, possession of illegal firearms, and operating a largescale dogfighting ring throughout the north-central Florida Panhandle between 2018 and 2019.
The investigation into Hadley resulted in the rescue and rehabilitation of over 100 fighting dogs along with the seizure of drugs, numerous firearms, and large sums of U.S. currency. In addition to Hadley's sentencing, a total of 21 others were arrested that were involved with the extensive drug trafficking and dogfighting operation which included criminal links to Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
A Victory for Multiple Federal, State, and Local Agencies that Worked Cooperatively on the Case
The investigation and prosecution in the case was the result of the collaborative efforts of numerous federal, state, and local agencies. Their exemplary efforts should be applauded and emulated.
Long Delays and Lack of Enforcement of U.S. Animal Cruelty Federal Statutes
While the Hadley et al case was brought to victorious justice, the vast majority of criminal cases involving egregious crimes against animals aren't fully investigated and prosecuted. According to the U.S. Department of Justice's own records, between 2015 and 2019, less than 200 defendants were charged, convicted or sentenced for federal animal welfare offenses. This is why the passage of the Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act into federal law is crucial.
The ACE Act would create a specialized Animal Cruelty Crimes section at the DOJ to increase their ability to pursue more cases across the nation. Federal statutes that would fall under the jurisdiction of the division include the Animal Fighting Venture Prohibition Act, the Horse Protection Act, and the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act. The Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act is a pragmatic law-and-order bill that will help protect animals and help keep our communities safe from violent offenders, illegal drug distribution, and other crimes.
The ACE Act iNTRODUCED IN THE U.s. HOUSE to Better Enforce the Horse Protection Act, Crackdown on Animal Cruelty
U.S. Representatives Joe Neguse (D-CO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Dave Joyce (R-OH) introduced the Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act, a bill forged in cooperation with Animal Wellness Action, Animal Wellness Foundation, Horses For Life Foundation, American Horse Protection Society, and the Center for a Humane Economy to step up federal action against perpetrators of malicious cruelty. The bill would establish a dedicated Animal Cruelty Crimes Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to aid in the investigation, enforcement, and prosecution of felony animal cruelty crimes.
The new DOJ section would concentrate on enforcing animal welfare criminal statutes such as the Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970 that was designed to stamp out the cruel practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses. The ACE Act was conceived in part to help better enforce the HPA after nearly a decade of failed attempts to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) regulations that would have eliminated the use of large-stacked shoes and ankle chains in the showring and revamped the industry’s corrupt self-policing program.
While all 50 states currently have laws in place to prohibit animal cruelty, enforcement of these laws across the U.S. and from the Department of Justice continue to see lengthy delays, with many crimes going unprosecuted completely. Dedicated staff at the Department of Justice, provided through the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act, would facilitate much stronger enforcement of animal cruelty laws by providing specialized knowledge and a streamlined process for handling of these offenses.
“Proper enforcement of animal cruelty laws will protect animal welfare and help keep each of our communities safe from the violence often linked to these crimes,” said Rep. Neguse. “For too long the Department of Justice has missed the mark on providing timely and efficient prosecutions. The Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act, which I am proud to introduce today, seeks to right this by providing the necessary resources and staffing for efficient enforcement of these laws, so animals and communities alike are protected and justice is served."
For three years in a row, Congressmen Neguse has successfully advocated for funding to support enforcement of animal cruelty crimes at the federal level, passing multiple bipartisan amendments to House Appropriations legislation that provided the USDA Office of the Inspector General and the Department of Justice with additional funding to enforce federal animal cruelty laws.
Today, Representatives Joe Neguse (D-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Buddy Carter (R-GA) introduced the Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act, sweeping bipartisan legislation to protect animal welfare and keep our communities safe.
The bill would establish a dedicated Animal Cruelty Crimes Division at the Department of Justice to aid in the investigation, enforcement, and prosecution of felony animal cruelty crimes. Studies repeatedly show that there is a close link between animal cruelty and violence toward people. By bringing charges against perpetrators of animal cruelty, we can prevent individuals with a propensity for violence from further harming animals or turning that violence on people.
Congress has made important strides to prevent animal cruelty recently,” said Rep. Carter. “Now, we need to ensure the laws are enforced. This legislation will provide the resources necessary to combat animal-fighting and other barbaric practices.
A few weeks ago, Congressmen Neguse and Gaetz were also successful in passing two amendments to the House Appropriations Minibus to provide the USDA Office of the Inspector General and the Department of Justice with $1,000,000 each in funding to enforce animal cruelty laws. This is the 2nd year in row they have led amendments in the House to ensure robust funds for enforcement of animal cruelty crimes. They also secured language in the base Appropriations bill to encourage enforcement of animal cruelty crimes and to instruct the Department of Justice to study the creation of a dedicated animal cruelty crimes unit through a letter signed by 45 other Congressmembers.
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