As seen in the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights Newsletter;
used with permission;
Legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate (S. 1880) and U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 3219) to expand existing dogfighting laws pertaining to training, selling, and transporting "fighting" dogs or for watching dogfights. The legislative package-introduced in July as companion measures by Senator John Kerry (Mass.) and by Representative Betty Sutton (Ohio)-was prompted by the public outrage over the brutality revealed in the indictment of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick on dogfighting charges The federal indictment described horrific treatment of dogs on Vick's property in Virginia, including some dogs who survived the fights being put to death by drowning, strangulation, hanging, gunshot, and electrocution. Vick pled guilty to the charges against him and faces a maximum 5 years in prison and a $250.000 fine.
The legislation, which would amend the Animal Welfare Act, would expand the scope of dogfighting laws to address some of the problems revealed by the Vick case and the Bad Newz Kennels that apparently operated on his property.
More specifically, the legislation would:
1. Remove the existing requirement for prosecutors and agents to prove that one dog crossed state lines to attend the fight.
2. Make it a federal offense to be a spectator at a dogfight.
3. Make it a crime to buy, sell, transport, train, or possess "fighting" dogs.
4. Enhance the penalty for dogfighting from a maximum three-year prison sentence to a five-year prison sentence.
Please contact your federally elected officials and urge them to support this legislation. For contact information, go to www.house.gov or www.senate.gov. For more information on the dogfighting issue, go to http://www.hsus.org/acf/fighting/dogfight/.
From the Website of The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights
- Posted September 2007
Although Michael Vick has submitted a plea agreement in federal court on dog fighting charges -- and will likely get a reduced penalty and jail time for doing so -- he could also face stiffer penalties and a longer prison sentence if a Virginia Commonwealth Attorney pursues charges against him for breaking state dog fighting and animal cruelty laws.
In the federal case, Vick pled guilty to illegally gambling on interstate dog fighting (a felony charge) and illegally sponsoring dogs in animal fighting ventures (a misdemeanor). For these charges, Vick could face a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. However, the U.S. District Attorney's office in Richmond, Virginia, which has been prosecuting the case, has indicated they will recommend a lighter sentence (a year to 18 months) provided Vick continues to cooperate with authorities. Vick is scheduled to be sentenced in this case in U.S. District Court in Richmond on December 10.
In the meantime, Virginia Commonwealth Attorney Gerald Pointdexter, who prosecutes cases for the state in Surry County where Michael Vick's property is located, could also file charges against Vick for violating state animal cruelty and dog fighting laws. Poindexter has been quoted in the media stating that he intends to file charges on both counts, with the animal cruelty charges carrying a potential of up to five years in jail for each animal killed. Dog fighting is also a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. "The execution of these animals -- and the manner in which they were executed -- is startlingly offensive and demanding of prosecution," Poindexter has said.
What You Can Do:
Please urge Poindexter to file state charges against Vick. He has indicated that he could bring the charges before a federal grand jury that is scheduled to convene on September 25. Poindexter is reportedly being pressured not to file the charges, and there is apparently little precedent for doing so. However, there is no prohibition against filing state charges that are based on different offenses and were not part of the federal plea agreement.
Letters of support can be sent to Poindexter at the following address:
Virginia Commonwealth Attorney Gerald Poindexter
Post Office Box 358 Surry, Virginia 23883
ph: 757-294-3118; fax: 757-294-3560
NO EMAIL ADDRESS
For more information on the state case, below are links to two news articles on the issue:
Help Spare the Lives of the Dogs in the Vick Case
The fate of the dogs confiscated in the Vick case is also in the hands of the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Virginia. The dogs became the property of the U.S. government after district attorneys filed a civil forfeiture action in July to ensure that the dogs were "not returned to the same environment." The 50 dogs, all pitbulls or pitbull mixes, have since been held at local animal shelters in Virginia.
Although the dogs are likely unadoptable to a family environment given their training and fighting history, they do not have to be killed. There are sanctuaries which have experience in caring for dogs rescued from dog fighting situations, such as Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, which has volunteered to provide rehabilitation and a home for the animals.
The U.S. District attorneys working on the case have contracted with behavior specialists with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to assess the dogs prior to making a recommendation to the court. They are expected to finalize that recommendation within the next three weeks.
What You Can Do:
Urge the U.S. District Attorney's office working on this case to bring the same commitment and compassion they evidenced in prosecuting the Vick case to their efforts to provide a better future for these dogs. After all these dogs have endured, they deserve to live in a place where they feel safe and nurtured and not brutalized by humans. They should do the right thing and recommend to the judge that these dogs are given a chance to be rehabilitated and not automatically killed.
United States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia
U.S. Attorney Michael R. Gill
600 East Main Street, Suite 1800
Richmond, VA 23219-2447
ph: 804-819-5400; fax: 804-771-2316
For more information on the dogs in the Vick case, go the following links: