State House OKs dogfighting bill

ATLANTA - The House Monday overwhelmingly passed one of two bills pending in the General Assembly aimed at dogfighting.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Reese, R-Sugar Hill, is similar to a bill passed by the Senate last year.

Both would make it a felony to own, sell, train or transport dogs for purposes of fighting, or to sponsor, advertise or host a dogfighting event.

However, Reese's legislation would declare knowingly attending a dogfight a misdemeanor, while the Senate version would charge spectators with a felony.

Reese told his House colleagues on Monday that his bill has a more realistic chance of becoming law in Georgia.

"We want a bill that will pass and that the governor will sign," he said.

Both Reese and Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, sponsor of the Senate bill, have been working on the issue for a couple of years.

But cracking down on dogfighting has taken on greater urgency since ex-Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was sent to federal prison for his involvement in a dogfighting ring operating out of property he owned in Virginia.

Before approving the bill 165-6, the House approved an amendment removing an exemption for "guard dogs."

Reese said he was concerned that dogfighting operators caught by police might try to claim that they were training their animals as guard dogs and thus avoid prosecution.

The House bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to push for its version.