Organized Crime and Dogfighting

Rafael WolffFirst Post Animal Law Image

How can anyone hurt this little, cute puppy?

That was my only thought when I realized that this little guy was found in the scorching sun, with a chain around his neck, during a police raid last month, due to an investigation about dog fighting, according to CNN. But when organized crime and money are involved, there is little room for compassion, so, I shouldn’t be surprised. What should have surprised me is the fact that dogfighting can bring as much as $200,000 to criminals. I also should have been surprised by the fact that there are a lot of costumers for that “product”, similarly to drugs and other illegal goods.  Continue reading

Football, Pit Bulls, and Regaining Trust: A book review of Jim Gorant’s The Lost Dogs

Stephen Iannacone

In July of 2007, after months of investigating, Michael Vick and three others were charged with the federal crime of operating an interstate dog fighting ring known as “Bad Newz Kennels.”  Initially, Vick maintained that he only funded the dog fighting ring.  However, as further details were released over the course of the investigation, he eventually confessed and publicly apologized for his actions.  Every sports fan, animal advocate, and legal aficionado knows the result of this case.  However, very few of us know the amount of effort that went into building a case against Vick, collecting the evidence, attempting to rehabilitate the pit bulls that authorities were able to rescue, and finding these pit bulls new and loving homes.

Jim Gorant, a senior editor at Sports Illustrated, does a remarkable job of presenting these facts in his book The Lost Dogs.  The book leaves you feeling sickened that a man like Vick could be playing football again after a mere 19 months in prison, but also feeling revitalized to learn that so many of the pit bulls have survived what they were forced to endure.  Gorant pays credit where it is due: to the investigators who managed to obtain a near impossible warrant and eventually indicted Vick; to the shelters that helped care for the pit bulls after they were rescued; to the many people who assisted in rehabilitating the pit bulls; and to the pit bulls themselves.  Gorant reveals the true side of not only the Vick dogs, but also an entire breed.  Plainly stated, pit bulls are discriminated against, especially in the media.  This book takes a step in the right direction, clearing the name of a misunderstood and mislabeled breed.   Continue reading

Animal Advocates in Action: California Assemblyman Pedro Navas

I just got back from Buenos Aires where I had almost no internet access, so I hope start posting on a weekly basis from now on.

Today I want to praise California Assemblyman Pedro Navas (D-Santa Barbara) for introducing three animal cruelty related bills that were passed by both houses of the California legislature and now await the Governor’s signature.

Bill A.B.  241 caps the number of unsterilized dogs and cats that an individual or business can have for the purposes of breeding pets. Veterinarians and animal shelters are exempted from the law.

Bill A.B. 242 doubles the punishment imposed on spectators of dogfights.

Finally, Bill A.B. 243 prohibits certain individuals convicted of cruelty related crimes from owning or taking care of dogs.

Once again, California rises to the occasion. Much more needs to be done, but the Golden State is heading in the right direction. You can learn more about the bills here.

Luis Chiesa

The Politicization of Animal Use

 Conservative political radio talk show political host Rush Limbaugh has joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to support a U.S. crackdown on “organized dog fighting and other animal cruelty crimes” according to the Washington Times.

To this end, Limbaugh has lent his voice to some public service radio announcements. Limbaugh’s large and strong following of politically conservative Americans (his official website claims his talk show to be the most listened-to radio talk show in the country), though, are not happy. According to the Washington Times:

“Twenty-eight groups representing millions of hunters and sportsmen are demanding that the conservative radio commentator end his collaboration with the HSUS and stop “helping them to mainstream their image in the minds of reasonable people.”

“Despite a few programs designed to attract support from the general public, HSUS is in fact an organization that opposes hunting, fishing, and trapping,” the groups, including Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, wrote in a letter last week to Mr. Limbaugh.

“Its leadership has a long and established history of promoting legislation, litigation, and referenda to restrict the rights of American sportsmen and women.”

 

I think that the response of Wayne Pacelle, Executive Director of the HSUS, is right on point:

“I’m embarrassed for them that they would criticize Rush for amplifying our message that dogfighting and other malicious forms of animal cruelty are unacceptable in society… I think the folks that are criticizing it are unbelievably knee-jerk – I guess they want to provide comfort to dogfighters? It just doesn’t make any sense… there are certain things that civil society should agree on.”

Well put!

-Suzanne McMillan

Free Speech or Free Tyranny?

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to finally determine whether selling videos depicting animal cruelty should be constitutionally-protected speech.

This year, it will hear the case of United States of America v. Robert J. Stevens. The defendant, who sold dogfighting and hog-dog fighting videos, was the first person to be convicted under a 1999 federal law prohibiting the creation, possession and/or sale of videos depicting animal cruelty with the intention of profiting financially therefrom. He was convicted by a U.S. district court in 2005, but a U.S. appeals court vacated the holding as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.  

According to one article, “Stevens argued in his appeal that the federal law was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad because it criminalized depictions of conduct that was either legal or happened before dogfighting was outlawed, prosecuted people who did not take part in the underlying conduct or could be extended to hunting and fishing violations.” 

According to the Washington Times, “the U.S. government seeks to carve out an exception to free speech in the case of those selling videotapes of pitbull fighting and the fetished crushing of small animals by high-heeled shoes.”

There has been a question for some years now regarding of legality of sales of videos depicting dog fighting, as well as fetish “crush” videos, in which small animals are crushed by high-heeled shoes. The Humane Society of the United States is currently suing online merchant Amazon.com and four other companies because of their sales of dogfighting and cockfighting videos and magazines. Dogfighting is illegal in all U.S. states, and cockfighting is illegal in 48 states.

-Suzanne McMillan