Those caught attending or betting on dog fights in Iowa soon will face tough sanctions. The Iowa Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill that makes it a felony to place bets on a dog fight and the governor’s expected to sign the bill into law.

Senator Joe Seng, a Democrat from Davenport, is a veterinarian who has treated pit bulls he believes were injured in dog fights across the river in Illinois. "It’s very unfair to the dogs. They’re just bred for fighting," Seng says. "They may enjoy the fighting, at the moment, but it’s a brutal sport for the dog."

Legislators originally considered charging spectators caught at dog fights with a felony, too. "If you would happen to be on a date with your boyfriend or something like that and you actually walk up to the thing, not even knowing what it is, and all of a sudden they grabbed you as a spectator, it seems a little strong (to charge you with a felony)," Seng says.

The bill in its final form will charge spectators at dog fights with an aggravated misdemeanor, but those caught a second time as a spectator at such an event would be charged with a felony.

Seng says pit bulls, by nature, are good watch dogs. "My daughter had two pit bulls.  Some of the nicest dogs.  They were very good family dogs.  They have protected a lot of women, I would say, from rape in poor parts of town," Seng says. "If you have a pit bull and you’re a woman and you’re alone, you can go to bed at night and not worry about someone standing over your head. They’re a good dog."

Seng says the tragedy of dog fighting, though, is owners take pit bulls, train them to be vicious, and then try to breed that as a dominant trait in the next generation.

Next year, Seng plans to push for legislation that would force Iowa vets to tell authorities when they believe an animal in their care has been involved in a dog fight. "If a dog is chewed up (customers at his clinic make) all the old excuses, ‘Well, my other dog got in a fight with this pit bull,’" Seng says. "After the second or third time you wonder, you know."