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Dog Fighting Soon to Become Felony

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Dogs like this one at the Orange Co. Animal Shelter are believed to have been abused in fights.
CHAPEL HILL — Many of the laws we create protect people. But North Carolina legislatorshave authored a new law that protects animals, ones used for fighting. The Tar Heel State is about to join the ranks of other states crackingdown on dog fighting.

Dog fighting is cruel and illegal, but in North Carolina the penaltiesare minor. Animal control administrator Stan Bragg believes people moveto the state knowing that if they're caught, it will only be a misdemeanorslap on the wrist.

In fact, all the states bordering North Carolina have felony dog fightinglaws. Here, it's still a misdemeanor, but that's about to change. InDecember a new law goes into effect making dog fighting a felony.

"Making it a felony will heighten awareness," says Amanda Graham, of theOrange County Animal Protection Society. "It's a statement that thepeople of North Carolina don't want to be a dumping ground for dogfighting which is what we've been for years and we're not going totolerate it."

Right now, there are 27 pit bulls including puppies being held in OrangeCounty. They're evidence in a dog fighting case set to go to trial inabout a week. Graham says the kind of time and expense it takes to prosecute misdemeanor dog fighting cases makes law enforcers think twice.

"It's very expensive and when the worse that can happen is a class twomisdemeanor, you're looking at a maximum with prior convictions of likesixty days possible time."

Three weeks ago, a group of dogs were seized in an animal cruelty case. Animal control officers suspect they were used for fighting. With the newfelony law, officers say it will be eaiser to prosecute and may drive dogfighting promoters out of North Carolina.

Bragg expects "you're gonna have regular law enforcement taking it moreseriously and resources are going to be opened up more."

The New North Carolina law is designed to protect all animals from thiskind of fighting, though there still is some debate if cock fights fallunder the same rules.

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