State lawmakers are talking about making the act of watching an organized dog fight a felony crime. The bill was discussed Thursday by members of the House Public Safety Committee. Currently, only engaging in dog fighting is considered a felony in Iowa, while being a spectator is an aggravated misdemeanor.
Josh Colvin, with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, says organized dog fights have been happening in Iowa for several years. "It’s been a problem in the larger cities in the state, but now we’re seeing go into the rural areas as well," Colvin said. Earlier in his career, Colvin worked as an animal control officer. "We used to see (injured dogs) in the Waterloo area on a regular basis and from what I’m understanding that still happens," Colvin said. "In talking with other animal control and law enforcement agencies around the state, they’re seeing dogs coming in that are injured, pretty tore up…that are pretty consistent with forced dog fighting."
Colvin says dog fighting also has an impact on pet owners because organizers of the fights have been known to steal pets and use them as "bait dogs." Colvin explains, "Basically what that means is a dog that’s not aggressive being put into an area where there’s a pitbull or some type of fighting dog – to see how ‘game’ they are and see if the dog will actually kill the other dog. So, it’s a barbaric training method and that does happen."
Colvin says being a spectator of dog fights is already a felony in many other states. If approved in Iowa, a conviction could bring a sentence of up to five years in prison.