TRENTON - People found guilty of participating in and operating dog fighting rings could soon face harsher punishments.

In the wake of several high-profile dog fighting busts in the state, Sen. Tom Kean has introduced two new bills to lawmakers.

The first one would make dog fighting a crime punishable by up to five years in jail. The other would have leaders of such rings charged with racketeering, which could bring 10 years in jail and a $100,000 fine.

Sen. Kean would also like to force people arrested for dog fighting to have to pay restitution, which means those convicted would also have to pay for the dogs’ medical bills and shelter. This would be helpful to dog shelters that typically take in these animals and have to pay for their care.

According to the senator, because the penalties are more severe than animal cruelty charges, it would give prosecutors more leverage when trying to convict or get witnesses to cooperate.

Both bills could be put up for vote by the state Senate as soon as May 18.