Spectators Shouldn't Get Off with a Slap on Wrist
Currently, Georgia is the only state where it's legal to attend a dogfight and own fighting dogs. Police must witness a dogfight to press charges, and it's routine for defendants to plead to misdemeanor animal cruelty charges, pay the fines and then return to torturing dogs.
Dogfighting flourishes in Georgia because packaging animal savagery as entertainment is profitable. Eliminate the paying audience -- the thinking is -- and the torture of dogs for sport will disappear. But recent legislative proposals fall short of directly targeting "spectators" of dogfighting with a felony crime.
"Neighboring states make it a felony to be a spectator, so a lot of people from out of state are now coming to Georgia to hold dogfights," says Cheryl McAuliffe, the Georgia director for the Humane Society of the United States.
Senator Chip Rogers is making his fourth attempt to bolster the state's dogfighting prohibitions. Senate Bill 16 imposes felony charges against anyone who trains, owns or breeds dogs for the purpose of fighting; has equipment to train fighting dogs; transports dogs for the purpose of fighting; organizes the fights; or stages, advertises or attends them.
Yet only when Georgia can effectively charge spectators with a felony crime can Georgia can finally stamp out dogfighting.