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Tweaked dogfighting plan heads to Culver

Discussion in 'Dog Ordinances & Laws' started by fearlessknight, Apr 26, 2008.

  1. fearlessknight

    fearlessknight Good Dog

    DES MOINES --- A bill designed to give law enforcement officials more power to shut down illegal dog fighting rings was approved by the Iowa House and Senate Thursday.

    The proposal, pushed by Rep. Jim Lykam, D-Davenport, would allow prosecutors to charge illegal animal fight spectators with a class D felony the second time they are found to have violated the law.

    Current Iowa law allows offenders to be charged an aggravated misdemeanor any time they attend a fight.

    The bill, approved unanimously in the House and Senate, would also make people who bet on such fights eligible to be charged with a class D felony. The bill now heads to Gov. Chet Culver for an expected signature.

    "We are just sending a message that the people in Iowa will not tolerate the torture of innocent animals," Lykam said. "And if you want to fight dogs, go to another state."

    If charged with a class D felony, attendees could be sent to prison for five years and fined up to $7,500.

    When charged with an aggravated misdemeanor, they face penalties of up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

    The bill, approved Thursday, is a scaled-back version of a proposal Lykam pushed for earlier in the session.

    That original draft would have made attendance at any illegal animal fight a class D felony. But it didn't garner the necessary support for passage, as some lawmakers expressed apprehension that the bill would end up netting so-called innocent criminals --- people who had attended the fights unknowingly or without their consent. Others said they didn't feel lawmakers should ratchet up penalties for crimes.

    Rep. Rick Olson, D-Des Moines --- who voted against Lykam's earlier proposal --- offered the compromise legislation, which scaled back the initial draft.

    Although few are ever charged with aggravated misdemeanors for attending fights, Susan Adams with the Humane Society of the United States said she hopes making such offenses felony-worthy will spur prosecutors and judges to take the crime more seriously.

    "A lot of law enforcement officials don't want to waste their time with a misdemeanor," Adams said.

    Animal fights are a problem across the country, as illustrated by the high-profile case of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who was indicted on dogfighting charges, Adams said.

    Fighting rings stay in operation because they continue to draw spectators, Adams said.

    "The spectators are the ones that are fueling the sport. They're gambling on it. They could be the next in line to have their animals fight," Adams said.

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