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Georgia toughens penalties for dogfighting
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The penalties for dogfighting in Georgia got a lot tougher last week when Gov. Sonny Perdue signed legislation making the activity a felony offense in the state.
Dogfighting, when two aggressive, often trained to be vicious dogs battle each other in "matches" until one of them is killed or near death, has long been a popular underground activity in both rural and urban areas of Georgia.
Contests normally take place in makeshift "pit arenas" and last an average of an hour, although many can go on for as long as two hours, according to research by The Humane Society of the United States.
Despite the brutality of the activity, few participants were prosecuted in Georgia because the state's dogfighting laws had been among some of the weakest in the country.
According to a report by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, between 1995 and 2006, 271 people were charged with dog fighting. Of the convicted, only eight received prison sentences and 107 were given probation.
But those prosecuted under the new law can expect much stiffer punishments, even for just watching a dogfight.
The new law makes it illegal to train transport, sell or own a fighting dog, to promote or advertise a fight and to attend a dogfight event.
Involvement in any aspect of the dogfighting business will be a felony, while attending a dogfight will be a high and aggravated misdemeanor on the first offense and a felony on the second offense.
Perdue, a veterinarian, said the new policy now makes it "clear that dogfighting is an activity that we will not tolerate here in Georgia" and called the activity a "repulsive, senseless organized crime."
"Over the past year there has been a bright spotlight shining on a sad situation...the bloody, brutal world of dog fighting," Perdue said before signing the bill during a press conference, which included a few police dogs in the crowd of spectators. "It's not a sport, it's really barbarism."
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