Michael Vick is almost certainly going to jail. For dogfighting.
That’s a powerful message. You harm an animal, you lose your freedom. Perhaps also a bright career in professional sports.
Hats off to the federal investigators at the USDA’s Office of Inspector General and to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. They took up the case when it appeared that the local prosecutor did not have the resolve.
The feds even brought conspiracy felony charges against Vick and his co-defendants, even though the federal animal fighting law provided only misdemeanor penalties (the law was upgraded to a felony just after the Vick case came to light).
The feds methodically flipped Vick’s co-defendants one by one, isolating Vick and stumping his high-powered defense team. The very real threat of superseding charges made it plain that Vick was going to be thrown for a loss—it was just a question of how severe. Vick put his knee down to avert a potential 20-year loss of freedom on a RICO charge.
It’s now up to a federal judge to impose a sentence. We are hoping for stern punishment—not only because the penalty should fit the crime, but also because it’s a signal to every American that animal fighting is no petty offense.
The battle is about Vick, but the war is about animal fighting. Now it must be our task to leverage this case to wipe out the larger epidemic. We’ve now just reached a consensus on the moral rot of animal fighting. It was just this year that the last two states in the nation—Louisiana and New Mexico—passed laws to outlaw cockfighting, and just this year that the federal government made organized animal fighting a felony. Now that we have a social consensus, we have to clean out the rot that has festered for so long.
Bad Newz Kennels is no longer. But there are many other dogfighting kennels housing animals destined for fighting pits.
Let’s not celebrate the Vick case. But now that we know the possibilities, let’s press the battle on every front.