Q: B wrote,
Is it against the law to fight Bettas? There are boys in my class who are buying them to fight and I think it’s disgusting. Is there anything I can do to make them stop?
A: Well, you didn’t say which state (or country for that matter) you were writing from so I can’t say for certain if it is illegal in your state but I can tell you that fighting bettas is illegal in most U.S. states, the United Kingdom and Australia as well as many other western countries. In parts of Asia, Betta fighting is ingrained in the culture and doesn’t come with the same negative association as it does in western countries. In the majority of U.S. states, Bettas are protected under the same animal welfare statutes that protect dogs and birds. Florida, for example, has very strict laws against animal fighting and Bettas are considered equal with dogs. Fighting Bettas in Florida is a 3rd degree felony. Even promoting, advertising or just being a spectator at an animal fight is illegal and could lead to misdemeanor charges. In California and some other states, dog fighting comes with a more severe penalty but fighting other animals, including Bettas, is still a misdemeanor offense. As I mentioned, most U.S. states protect animals from organized fighting but even those that don’t may have specific statutes that protect animals from being purposefully injured.
Those of us who are compassionate about our finned-friends may take little solace in these animal protection statutes. I can’t recall ever hearing of someone convicted of fighting Bettas. This may be partially because they don’t feel outraged by fish fighting like they would be by a dog fight. Heck, the majority of people don’t even know what a Betta is much less that they are being fought. Another factor is that it is mostly minors fighting these fish. For whatever reason, I hear mostly of young boys 13 – 16 years old fighting Bettas. I guess all we can hope for is that as they mature they develop a sense of compassion for animals and learn to respect them for their beauty and not their fighting abilities.
In your case, I recommend you speak with a teacher or parent about the boys in your class. You may need to educate them on what Betta fighting is, that it is illegal and most importantly, that it is wrong. You may even want to ask your teacher about inviting a volunteer from the ASPCA or other local animal shelter to talk to your class about animal cruelty. Let them know that Betta fighting is becoming a problem so they can talk a little about it specifically. I think you will find it is easier to make a difference if you have some adults backing you up. Thanks for writing in and for standing up against animal cruelty.
To find out more about your state’s animal protection statutes, visit the ASPCA’s Fight Cruelty page and choose your state from the list.