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END CRUEL PRACTICE

New legislation making dog fighting a felony deserves quick passage.

THOSE WHO get their kicks from the broken bones and torn flesh of dogs used for pit fighting could face a stiff prison sentence - and rightly so - under a bill proposed by state Sen. Chip Rogers.

Currently, Georgians can only be charged if they're caught in the act of holding a dog fight, and then with only a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty.

Judging by the widespread problem of dog fighting in both urban and rural areas, that's not enough of a deterrent.
Mr. Rogers' bill would make first-offense dog fighting a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both. This part of the provision is similar to what's already on the books.

However, on subsequent offenses, the penalty would increase to up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Even attending a dog fight would be a crime under the new bill - a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of $1,000.

The new law would also make it easier to charge offenders, by allowing veterinarians to report suspected abuse and testify in court pertaining to dog fighting cases.

Further, any person shown to have bred or kept dogs for the express purpose of fighting could face charges, as well as anyone proved to have bet on a dog fight.

The beefed-up regulations are long overdue, and the legislature should enact the new penalties this year.
Mr. Rogers tried to get a similar measure through last year, and while it sailed through the Senate, it got bogged down in the House with amendments concerning cockfighting, which had some lawmakers worried that some Georgians in the poultry business could be targeted under the bill.

Also, outdoorsmen were concerned that regulations would have prevented them from training dogs to hunt.

Mr. Rogers has since tailored his bill to address those concerns and more tightly focus on the offense of using dogs for pit fighting.

Other lawmakers should avoid tacking on amendments that might block passage again this year. Legislation addressing other blood sports and animal cruelty issues should be filed separately.

Further, the bill in question rightly makes no breed-specific recommendations. Lawmakers should restrain themselves from adding amendments that would criminalize owning any given breed of dog. Such measures punish responsible dog owners along with bad ones, and fail to recognize that dogs are not born vicious. It takes cruel human owners to make them that way.

http://new.savannahnow.com/node/210912
 
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