Gov. Rick Snyder signed bills into law Dec. 12 designating dogfighting and cockfighting as criminal enterprises, punishable by penalties of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000, the Detroit Free Press reported Monday.
Representatives of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals say dogfighting has been widespread in parts of Michigan, with the cities of Kalamazoo, Detroit and Flint considered national hotbeds.
The ASPCA's Vicki Deisner said the legislation sets a national standard.
"Michigan is out ahead on this one," she said.
State Sen. Rick Jones, a sponsor of the bills that were enacted, said they send the message that "Michigan is not a good place to bring dogfighting. 20 years in prison, $100,000 fine, lose your house, your barn, your property, cars, anything involved with this crime."
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon called it a "welcome punishment for those who are caught. If you're going to profit from this, we're going to take your profit from you."
The newspaper noted Johnson, who referred to the bill as the nation's toughest, had two fingers severed in a snowblower accident last winter, losing his footing while being menaced by a pit bull in his Highland Park, Mich., driveway.
Johnson said he could see fighting scars on the dog's muzzle.
"I knew he was a fighting dog," Johnson said.