At Michael Vick's arraignment in U.S. District Court in Richmond yesterday, a trial date of November 26 was set. Vick's lead counsel put a major defense team on display, signaling that he intends to mount a vigorous defense against the charges set out by the federal government in its chilling and remarkably detailed 19-page indictment.
© The HSUS/K. Milani
Media and spectators surrounded the federal courthouse
for Vick's arraignment yesterday in
But more trouble could come for Vick. Federal prosecutors indicated at the hearing that they may level additional charges. And last week, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Gerald Poindexter, the prosecutor in Surry County, Virginia, announced he, too, would be filing charges at some point for violations of state law.
The federal trial date is nearly four months away—and November 26 lands on week 11 in the 16-week regular-season schedule of the National Football League. I am concerned that the NFL, once the clamor over the Vick case tamps down a bit, may attempt to allow Michael Vick to suit up and play. The HSUS is dead-set against that idea.
As I mentioned previously, it's not an act of denial or vindictiveness to attempt to prevent Vick from playing, but the fact is, Michael Vick has been one of the NFL's most popular and talented athletes, and kids following the NFL place him on a pedestal. With the epidemic of dogfighting in this country, and an increase in street fighting in urban communities, the NFL needs to set a higher standard and establish a zero-tolerance policy for animal fighting and other forms of malicious, premeditated animal cruelty. It's just not acceptable to allow Vick to play before the charges are settled.
And while we want justice to be served in the Vick case, our larger target is the scourge of dogfighting in this country and throughout the world. Yesterday, HSUS spokespersons hit the airwaves, appearing on dozens of nightly news broadcasts and shows such as Larry King Live, CNN's Nancy Grace, and ABC's World News Tonight. We are delivering the message that animal cruelty is wrong, that dogfighting must be eliminated, and that we need stronger laws against the activity and the enforcement of those laws. On the lawmaking front, we worked with Senator John Kerry yesterday on the introduction of new federal legislation in the U.S. Senate to further upgrade penalties for dogfighting and to make it a federal felony to be a spectator at a dogfight. I'll keep you apprised as that legislation gains steam.
Meanwhile, The HSUS's other work continues on a hundred fronts. Yesterday, while Michael Vick appeared in court, there was some very good news, and also some bad news, for animals as Congress started action on the Farm Bill, the sweeping agricultural policy measure now being considered by the U.S. House.
The thrilling news is two HSUS-driven bills, which were melded into a single amendment to the Farm Bill, were approved late last night. The Israel-Doyle amendment, named for its sponsors Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), was approved and would prohibit the use in research of random source dogs and cats obtained from Class B dealers, who have been known to steal pets or acquire them through “free to good home” ads. It would also ban the use of live animals in sales demos of medical devices. Third, it would increase penalties for research-related violations of the Animal Welfare Act, as recommended by the USDA's Office of the Inspector General.
The HSUS led the fight to secure passage of these important animal welfare issues, and I am grateful to all of you who contacted your Representatives yesterday. When the Senate takes up its version of the Farm Bill, we will urge adoption of these provisions, too.
The bad news is the House Rules Committee denied us the opportunity to offer an amendment to ban horse slaughter—a signature campaign of The HSUS for many years now. I was confident we had the votes on the House floor to win, but 110 amendments had been filed to the Farm bill, and House leaders decided to allow only about 30 amendments to be offered, and the horse slaughter amendment did not make the cut. We will seek other opportunities to pass the horse slaughter legislation this year, and put an end to this inhumane industry once and for all.
Always check humanesociety.org for updates on our many campaigns and activities. The active members of The HSUS are a key to our success.