We are planning on giving Michael Vick an opportunity to help combat dogfighting, and we sincerely hope that he makes the most of it—so that he can help steer young kids drawn into this world away from this dead-end street and so he can begin to make amends for the terrible crimes he committed.
But no matter how he handles this opportunity, our relentless assault on animal fighting marches ahead. Earlier today, in Randolph County, Alabama, authorities acting on intelligence provided by The HSUS raided two alleged dogfighting operations. HSUS staff worked closely with colleagues from the ASPCA’s CSI Unit to conduct the raid and to evaluate the animals seized, and the properties in question, for evidence linking the suspects to dogfighting. According to one HSUS staffer at the scene, many animals were in an awful state.
Alabama has a strong anti-dogfighting statute, which makes it a Class C felony to own, possess, keep, or train a dog for the purpose of dogfighting, and imposes penalties of up to 10 years in prison, and/or a fine of $5,000, on those found guilty of involvement. Less than two years ago, an Alabama judge gave one dogfighter a 102-year prison sentence, after he was found guilty of 17 felony counts of harboring dogs with the intent to fight them.
And just last year, our state director joined with Alabama’s Attorney General to announce our $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in illegal animal fighting. Even in the face of enhanced risks for them, the dogfighters that were arrested today still tempted fate. It makes me think, when will these criminals learn? And why do they risk so much for such a frivolous and sickening crime?
Dogfighting has never been an abstraction for The HSUS; rather, it’s a reality that we meet head on every day. Our goal is simple: put dogfighters out of business. Through our undercover work, rewards programs, tip lines, community-based intervention programs, and other work, we won’t relent until the dogfighters hang it up or are put in jail.
It is exactly five years ago to the day that I assumed the role as President and CEO of The HSUS. My goal was to turn The HSUS into a hard-hitting yet mainstream force for animal protection—one that could take on the major forms of widespread cruelty, including dogfighting, in a serious way. It’s fitting to mark a personal and professional anniversary with yet another outcome like this—with criminals arrested and with animals removed from the threat of staged fights. If you give us the resources, we’ll continue our frontal assault on animal abuse in this nation and abroad.