One year ago today the federal government indicted Michael Vick for activities related to dogfighting. Today a major dogfighting operation was raided in Georgia and a reported kingpin in the underground dogfighting circuit was arrested and charged with felony dogfighting. Between these busts, there’s been enormously significant activity over the past year.
Vick’s arrest, and the subsequent examination of this issue by the nation, has reconfigured the dynamics of dogfighting in the United States. The HSUS has long campaigned against animal fighting, and really stepped it up a few years ago. We committed to a full-blown assault on the activity and those involved with it. Not only did our work help trigger the Vick case, but we have subsequently driven the issue forward with key players—lawmakers in Congress and the states, law enforcement officials, the press, corporations, and others.
Here’s a rundown on what we’ve helped to accomplish together for the dogs and against the dogmen, as they call themselves, during the last year alone.
- Raids on dogfighting operations have increased from 27 between January and April 2007 to at least 67 raids to date in 2008—tripling the number of reported arrests for this crime.
- Wyoming and Idaho made dogfighting a felony offense—these two states had been the last holdouts with weak penalties for fighting crimes. Lawmakers in Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Oregon, and Virginia also passed stronger laws against dogfighting, as part of a wave of 26 states considering legislation to increase penalties.
- Congress passed a new federal law making it a federal felony to train or possess dogs for fighting, and to bust dogfighters if there is any interstate activity associated with the fight.
- Made possible by the Holland M. Ware Charitable Foundation and our donors, The HSUS’s animal fighting reward program was doubled, offering up to $5,000 for people who provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of animal fighters. The program precipitated dogfighting raids in half a dozen states. Seventeen rewards have been paid so far and several are pending. The cases range from a Texan who reported on his neighbor and his six scarred pit bulls to major busts with dozens of animals confiscated.
- In February, The HSUS worked with the Pima County sheriff in Arizona to bust two of the nation’s most notorious dogfighting kingpins, Mahlon Patrick and T.L. Williams. Officials seized more than 150 dogs and arrested six people.
- We have held joint press conferences with 12 state attorneys general, the Chicago Police Department and the Los Angeles County district attorney to announce the animal fighting reward program. Joint press conferences with three other state attorneys general have been scheduled.
- The HSUS’s animal cruelty and fighting campaign has trained nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers on how to identify and prosecute animal fighting, produced a new television spot featuring Russell Simmons, distributed a new radio PSA, available in both English and Spanish, and distributed tens of thousands of rewards posters.
- An HSUS pilot program aimed at ending street dogfighting in inner cities is being tested in Chicago. The End Dogfighting in Chicago program of education, intervention, dog training and law enforcement support will serve as a model for other cities nationwide.
- Animal advocates from across the country submitted videos illustrating the horrific nature of dogfighting to our "Knock Out Animal Fighting" contest. Tens of thousands of people have viewed the submissions and one of the winning videos, by Cindy Deir of Burbank, Ill., was transformed into a TV commercial and aired in Chicago.
- Rap legend Darryl “DMC” McDaniels judged The HSUS’s "Hip Hop for Hounds" contest, designed to find the best rap song that stands up for dogs—and against dogfighting. The contest generated entries by talented artists from across the country, ranging from professional rappers to elementary and middle school students, and a compilation CD of selected entries will be available for purchase later this year.