Sheriffs' Association offering reward for dogfighting tips
Initiative announced at new Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement Center

LAWRENCEVILLE - Although he said he didn't want any recognition, Sheriff Butch Conway was credited Wednesday for being the inspiration behind a new reward offered by the state's Sheriffs' Association.

Georgia Sheriffs' Association Inc. Executive Vice President and COO Terry Norris announced Wednesday at an event at the new Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement Center that the association would be offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in dogfighting.

"We hope this reward fund will generate information to make an arrest in some of these cases," Norris said. "We hope to push this dogfighting issue out of the state."

Norris and Sheriffs' Association Region 2 Vice President and DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown said Conway's passion to stop dogfighting spurred their efforts.

"Money has always been a motivator to get someone to do the right thing," Brown said. "And this is a way for people to do so anonymously."

Conway announced a similar effort in July, offering a $10,000 reward from his own pocket for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in dogfighting in the county.

"This is a statement that law enforcement will not accept dogfighting," Conway said. He said his department has followed several dogfighting leads into other counties, but no arrests have been made.

Laura Bevan, southeast regional director for The Humane Society of the United States, said she's proud of Georgia sheriffs' efforts to stop dogfighting.

"This is an excellent idea. We offer a $5,000 reward similar to this," Bevan said. "This is the first reward in the country that I've been able to find of a statewide law enforcement effort like this."

Bevan mentioned a dogfighting bill is up for approval by the General Assembly that she supports.

Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, is behind the dogfighting bill and attended the ceremony Wednesday. Rogers said his bill passed the Georgia Senate by a 54-0 vote.

"A 3-year-old boy in my district was attacked by a pit bull and had to have eight surgeries. He'll never look the same," Rogers said. "That really had a big impact on me. I realized this wasn't just a breed specific problem, and I also realized how bad Georgia's laws are about dogfighting and about three years ago I created this bill."

If the bill passes, the new laws would make it easier to prosecute dogfighters.

Rogers and Norris said the sheriffs' reward is just a start to ending dogfighting.

Norris said he hopes the sheriffs' efforts will lead others to become active in stopping the dogfighting.

Norris said the chance for people to be eligible for the award began Wednesday and will continue until the end of 2008.

"It very well could (be extended) depending on the effectiveness of this," Norris said.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle was also present and offered his support to the Sheriffs' Association's efforts.

"I commend the Sheriff's Department here in Gwinnett County and the Sheriffs' Association for their support against animal cruelty."