State Assemblymember Pedro Nava will announce a legislative initiative combating dog fighting today, in a move that would effectively make it a felony to watch the canine sport in California.

Accompanied by the U.S. Humane Society West Coast Director Eric Sakach, Nava – who represents the 35th District, which includes Isla Vista – will announce the introduction of dog fighting legislation at a press conference at the State Capitol today. In a press release, Nava said California should further prosecute dogfight spectatorship.

“It is imperative that California join the 19 other states which have made it a felony to be a spectator at a dog fight,” Nava said.

U.S. Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said in a press release that the Humane Society commends Nava for his efforts to crack down on what they have referred to as “a despicable and indefensible practice.”

“Spectators finance dogfights through admission fees and gambling, and California’s law is deficient in handling these people who cheer and enable this cruelty,” Pacelle said. “The Humane Society strongly backs Assemblyman Nava’s efforts to crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in dog fighting.”

Nava has cited the recent number of high profile cases dealing with dog fighting as motivation for introducing the legislation.

It is estimated that 40,000 people are involved in organized dog fighting with an additional 100,000 individuals partaking in unorganized street-level dog fighting. This level of activity equates to an estimated 250,000 dogs dying annually, according to the press release.

In addition, studies have shown a direct correlation between those arrested for animal abuse – which includes dog fighting – and those arrested for violent crimes against other people, the press release said.