After a two-year legislative battle, the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly passed a bill that -- if signed into law -- will ban dog fighting in the country. The move was one of the last actions of the outgoing assembly.
Under the new bill, dog fighting will be listed as a criminal offense and stricter fines and penalties will come along with it, including a sentence of up to three years in prison. The ban would also cover other cruel events involving dogs, like "pole jumping," where dogs are made to leap and hang on to a piece of meat. Lastly, the bill will also create an offenders list of dog fight organizers who have to register with the country's Animal Health Service.
The Humane Society International-Latin America drafted the bill and fought for it in court and will change the landscape of animal cruelty in Costa Rica. Dog fighting is already illegal in Costa Rica but the law falls under current animal cruelty legislation which is considered weak at best. For instance, when a dog fighting ring is caught, the organizer will have his or her dogs confiscated, but he is not punished otherwise. Last month the first-ever fine was levied for dogfighting in the country -- and it was a measly $200.
The bill could be signed into law by Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla or by her successor, Luís Guillermo Solís -- an avid supporter of animal welfare. "We are very pleased that this slipped right under the wire," Cynthia Dent, the regional director for HSI-Latin America, told The Tico Times. "We are definitely expecting improvements [with Solís]. We are very excited and hope we can continue working as closely as we have with the government."