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“If the locals can work with the federal government to catch them, that will give them another tool,” said Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican and a sponsor.

A key arrest came in April, when Orange County, N.Y., police charged former bodybuilder James Fricchione, 33, with felony dogfighting and identified him as publisher of the Sporting Dog Journal, a leading dogfighting magazine.

The magazine never printed its address. To deter undercover police, subscriptions were sold only to people who had references from other subscribers.

Investigators said Mr. Fricchione’s arrest came after several years of investigations into the national dogfighting circuit.

At Mr. Fricchione’s home, investigators say, they found canine treadmills and 18 pit bulls — many of them scarred, one with a fractured jaw — and steroids that investigators suspect he fed to the dogs. Mr. Fricchione pleaded not guilty to 33 charges of animal cruelty, dogfighting and promoting dogfighting. If convicted of all charges, he faces anything from probation to 12 years in prison.