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What Are The Penalties For Involvement In Animal Fighting In Michigan?

In March 2011, local law enforcement in Monroe County busted a dog-fighting ring at a private home in Raisinville Township and arrest nearly two dozen people. Almost everyone present in that location was charged with an animal fighting crime, whether it was as an organizer, a participant or a spectator. These prosecutions resulted in numerous felony convictions that lead to steep fines, probation, imprisonment and a prohibition against owning a pet for several years. No matter what role you may play in an animal fighting operation, you can expect judges and prosecutors to take the charges seriously and punish you to the fullest extent of the law.

GROOMING, CREATING OR ORGANIZING ANIMAL FIGHTING

A person shall NOT do any of the following:

  • Own, possess, use, buy, sell, offer to buy or sell, import, or export an animal for fighting or baiting, or as a target to be shot at as a test of skill in marksmanship. MCL 750.49(2)(a).
  • Be a party to or cause the fighting, baiting, or shooting of an animal. MCL 750.49(2)(b).
  • Rent or otherwise obtain the use of a building, shed, room, yard, ground, premises, vehicle, or any other venue for fighting, baiting, or shooting an animal. MCL 750.49(2)(c).
  • Permit the use of a building, shed, room, yard, ground, premises, vehicle, or any other venue belonging to him or her or under his or her control for any of the purposes of animal fighting, baiting or shooting. MCL 750.49(2)(d).
  • Organize, promote, or collect money for the fighting, baiting, or shooting of an animal." MCL 750.49(2)(e).

A person who commits the offense of grooming, creating or organizing animal fighting is guilty of a felony punishable by any or all of the following:

  • Up to 4 years in state prison, and/or a fine between $5,000.00 and $50,000.00, and/or between 500 hours and 1000 hours of community service. MCL 750.49(3).
  • The court may order that person to pay the costs of prosecution. MCL 750.49(5).
  • The court may order that person to pay the costs for investigating the violation of this section, disposition of the animal, and housing and caring for the animal, including, but not limited to, providing veterinary medical treatment. "Disposition" includes the transfer, euthanasia, or adoption of an animal. MCL 750.49(6).
  • The court shall order the person convicted not to own or possess an animal of the same species involved in the violation of this section for 5 years after the date of sentencing. Failure to comply with the order of the court pursuant to this subsection is punishable as contempt of court. MCL 750.49(7).
  • All animals being used or to be used in fighting, equipment, devices, and money involved must be forfeited to this state. The animal must not be returned to the owner, trainer or possessor of the animal, and must be taken to a local animal control agency for evaluation and disposition. MCL 750.49(16). The animal control agency may humanely euthanize the animal or have the animal euthanized if, in the opinion of a licensed veterinarian, the animal is injured or diseased past recovery or the animal's continued existence is inhumane so that euthanasia is necessary to relieve pain and suffering. MCL 750.49(25). An animal control agency that receives such an animal may apply to the district court or municipal court for a hearing to determine whether the animal must be humanely euthanized because of its lack of any useful purpose or the public safety threat it poses. MCL 750.49(26). All other instrumentalities, proceeds, and substituted proceeds are subject to forfeiture proceedings under the laws of this state. MCL 750.49(27).

PARTICIPATING IN ANIMAL FIGHTING

A person shall NOT do any of the following:

  • Be present at a building, shed, room, yard, ground, premises, vehicle, or any other venue where preparations are being made for an exhibition of animal baiting, animal fighting or animal target practice, or be present at said exhibition, knowing that said exhibition is taking place or about to take place. MCL 750.49(2)(f).
  • Breed, buy, sell, offer to buy or sell, exchange, import, or export an animal the person knows has been trained or used for fighting, or breed, buy, sell, offer to buy or sell, exchange, import, or export the offspring of an animal the person knows has been trained or used for fighting (UNLESS the person is owning, breeding, buying, selling, offering to buy or sell, exchanging, importing, or exporting an animal for agricultural or agricultural exposition purposes OR an animal control agency is owning, adopting, or transferring ownership of an animal for the purpose of adoption of an animal trained or used for fighting or an animal that is the first- or second-generation offspring of an animal trained or used for fighting). MCL 750.49(2)(g).
  • Own, possess, use, buy, sell, offer to buy or sell, transport, or deliver any device or equipment intended for use in the fighting, baiting, or shooting of an animal. MCL 750.49(2)(h).

A person who commits the offense of participating in animal fighting is guilty of a felony punishable by any or all of the following:

  • Up to 4 years in state prison, and/or a fine between $1,000.00 and $5,000.00, and/or between 250 hours and 500 hours of community service. MCL 750.49(4).
  • The court may order that person to pay the costs of prosecution. MCL 750.49(5).
  • The court may order that person to pay the costs for investigating the violation of this section, disposition of the animal, and housing and caring for the animal, including, but not limited to, providing veterinary medical treatment. "Disposition" includes the transfer, euthanasia, or adoption of an animal. MCL 750.49(6).
  • The court shall order the person convicted not to own or possess an animal of the same species involved in the violation of this section for 5 years after the date of sentencing. Failure to comply with the order of the court pursuant to this subsection is punishable as contempt of court. MCL 750.49(7).
  • All animals being used or to be used in fighting, equipment, devices, and money involved must be forfeited to this state. The animal must not be returned to the owner, trainer or possessor of the animal, and must be taken to a local animal control agency for evaluation and disposition. MCL 750.49(16). The animal control agency may humanely euthanize the animal or have the animal euthanized if, in the opinion of a licensed veterinarian, the animal is injured or diseased past recovery or the animal's continued existence is inhumane so that euthanasia is necessary to relieve pain and suffering. MCL 750.49(25). An animal control agency that receives such an animal may apply to the district court or municipal court for a hearing to determine whether the animal must be humanely euthanized because of its lack of any useful purpose or the public safety threat it poses. MCL 750.49(26). All other instrumentalities, proceeds, and substituted proceeds are subject to forfeiture proceedings under the laws of this state. MCL 750.49(27).
  • A person may be charged with, convicted of, or punished for any other violation of law that is committed by that person while violating these laws. MCL 750.49(31).

FIGHTING ANIMALS CAUSING INJURIES TO OTHERS

The following conduct is prohibited under law:

  • "If a person incites an animal trained or used for fighting or an animal that is the first- or second-generation offspring of an animal trained or used for fighting to attack a person and the attack causes the death of that person, the owner is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for life or for a term of years greater than 15 years." MCL 750.49(8).
  • "If a person incites an animal trained or used for fighting or an animal that is the first- or second-generation offspring of an animal trained or used for fighting to attack a person, but the attack does not result in the death of the person, the owner is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both." MCL 750.49(9).
  • "If an animal trained or used for fighting or an animal that is the first- or second-generation offspring of an animal trained or used for fighting attacks a person without provocation and causes the death of that person, the owner of the animal is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years." MCL 750.49(10).
  • "If an animal trained or used for fighting or an animal that is the first- or second-generation offspring of an animal trained or used for fighting attacks a person without provocation, but the attack does not cause the death of the person, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both." MCL 750.49(11).

Fighting dogs causing injury DO NOT apply to any of the following:

  • The person attacked was committing or attempting to commit an unlawful act on the property of the owner of the animal. MCL 750.49(12).
  • A dog trained or used for fighting, or the first- or second-generation offspring of a dog trained or used for fighting, that is used by a law enforcement agency of this state or a county, city, village, or township. MCL 750.49(15)(a).
  • A certified leader dog recognized and trained by a national guide dog association for the blind or for persons with disabilities. MCL 750.49(15)(b).
  • A corporation licensed under the private security business and security alarm act, when a dog trained or used for fighting, or the first- or second-generation offspring of a dog trained or used for fighting, is used in accordance with the private security business and security alarm act. MCL 750.49(15)(c).

Additional penalties for fighting dogs causing injury offenses include any of the following:

  • The court may order that person to pay the costs of prosecution. MCL 750.49(5).
  • The court may order that person to pay the costs for investigating the violation of this section, disposition of the animal, and housing and caring for the animal, including, but not limited to, providing veterinary medical treatment. "Disposition" includes the transfer, euthanasia, or adoption of an animal. MCL 750.49(6).
  • The animal must not be returned to the owner, trainer or possessor of the animal, and must be taken to a local animal control agency for evaluation and disposition. MCL 750.49(16).
  • A person may be charged with, convicted of, or punished for any other violation of law that is committed by that person while violating these laws. MCL 750.49(31).

FIGHTING ANIMALS AT LARGE

The following conduct is prohibited under law:

  • "If an animal trained or used for fighting or an animal that is the first- or second-generation offspring of a dog trained or used for fighting goes beyond the property limits of its owner without being securely restrained, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00, or both." MCL 750.49(13).
  • "If an animal trained or used for fighting or an animal that is the first- or second-generation offspring of a dog trained or used for fighting is not securely enclosed or restrained on the owner's property, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both." MCL 750.49(14).

Fighting animals at large DO NOT apply to any of the following:

  • A dog trained or used for fighting, or the first- or second-generation offspring of a dog trained or used for fighting, that is used by a law enforcement agency of this state or a county, city, village, or township. MCL 750.49(15)(a).
  • A certified leader dog recognized and trained by a national guide dog association for the blind or for persons with disabilities. MCL 750.49(15)(b).
  • A corporation licensed under the private security business and security alarm act, when a dog trained or used for fighting, or the first- or second-generation offspring of a dog trained or used for fighting, is used in accordance with the private security business and security alarm act. MCL 750.49(15)(c).

Additional penalties for fighting animal at large offenses include any of the following:

  • The court may order that person to pay the costs of prosecution. MCL 750.49(5).
  • The court may order that person to pay the costs for investigating the violation of this section, disposition of the animal, and housing and caring for the animal, including, but not limited to, providing veterinary medical treatment. "Disposition" includes the transfer, euthanasia, or adoption of an animal. MCL 750.49(6).
  • The animal must not be returned to the owner, trainer or possessor of the animal, and must be taken to a local animal control agency for evaluation and disposition. MCL 750.49(16).
  • A person may be charged with, convicted of, or punished for any other violation of law that is committed by that person while violating these laws. MCL 750.49(31).

If you are accused of any of these crimes, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney to vigorously protect your rights. In addition to other statutory defenses, you may be able to secure an acquittal at trial if the judge or jury is convinced that you had no knowledge that animal fighting was taking place at a building you were present in or that you had no knowledge that the animals you were breeding were being purchased for the purposes of fighting, baiting or shooting. If the evidence against you is strong, an experienced lawyer may be able to negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor that minimizes or eliminates many of the legal penalties. You only get one chance to defend against these serious charges properly.

If you or a loved one is charged with any crime and need strong legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced lawyers at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.

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