Michael Vick, Five Years Later

Stephen O’Donohue

On August 24, 2007 Michael Vick plead guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371.  U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson sentenced Vick to twenty-three months in prison.  Vick admitted to  organizing and running a dog fighting enterprise known as “Bad Newz Kennels,” where he oversaw not only the dog fights themselves (which often led to the death or maiming of at least one dog) but also admitted to directly participating in the killing of many dogs by hanging or drowning.  Vick served his sentence, and upon release performed a token amount of public service work and promptly returned to the NFL as a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, where he is still so employed.

The initial widespread condemnation of Vick’s conduct was, I believe and hope, a reflection of our society’s heightened value for the well being of animals.  Sponsors dropped Vick immediately, as did his former team, the Atlanta Falcons.  There was no place for him in our accepted culture.  Currently in 2012, however, Vick is still controversial but not   Continue reading

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The War on Pit Bulls

Lili Corn

Dog fighters concerned about whether they’re abusing their pit bulls

enough to achieve maximum viciousness in the fight ring can breathe a sigh of relief.  The popular dog fighting game application for Android, “Dog Wars,” from Kage Games, is back with a new name.  Pulled from the market for a few days last week due to trademark problems, the app was rereleased as “KG Dogfighting” on Saturday.   Those over the age of 14 are once again free to chose a game personality (perhaps the professional football player looking for a thrill) and get to work injecting virtual dogs with steroids, shocking them with electric currents, forcing them to drag around tractor trailer tires to build muscle, and sending them into the ring to rip apart opponents (or be ripped apart themselves).

          As heinous as it sounds, this game is not only real, but marketed as an attempt to raise awareness against animal cruelty.  Following this logic, one can only imagine what anti-pedophilia or anti-racism games would involve.  Search images of “dog fight victim” on the Internet if you want to see the true face of dog fighting and decide whether you think it is an appropriate subject matter for a game. Continue reading

Should Michael Vick Own a Dog?

Seth Victor

My quick answer is no, but Scott Heiser from ALDF offers a more detailed explanation about what realistic enforceable judicial options exist to keep abusers like Vick (who recently stated that owning a dog will help with his rehabilitation) from owning animals. You can read Heiser’s Q&A here.

 

UPDATE: While we are on the subject of punishment and rehabilitation, apparently President Obama went out of his way to praise the Philadelphia Eagles for giving Vick a second chance. Very interesting. You can read the article here.

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

Wrath

Seth Victor

            I did not intend to include wrath as the second sin, though according to Dante I am already out of order by putting pride first. In light of Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Stevens, I feel that this post is timely.

            Wrath is a terrible vice in the context of animal-human relationships. Wrath isn’t simply rage or force, a knee-jerk reaction at a perceived slight. This isn’t the classic “heat of the moment” response to seeing your spouse in bed with another lover. Wrath has a cool down period, a time to contemplate feelings, but instead of cooling down, those feelings grow into hatred, revenge, and a desire to punish. Wrath is a very conscious and intended vice, and for that reason it is a very human one.

            I am not claiming that other species are exempt from wrath, especially those species that share the same capacity for higher thinking as humans do. Why wrath is so dangerous in the animal-human context is that while other species may possibly carry out premeditated violence, only humans find it necessary to subjugate a number of other species and vent their wrath on countless animals who have no inclination to return the punishment. The ASPCA and HSUS have documented hundreds of cases against a variety of animal victims of varied species. Dogs may be the most commonly abused of them all.

            There is something about dog abuse that strikes a chord with the general population. Average citizens who are normally indifferent about animal issues will rally around the plight of abused dogs. Casual animal rights advocates will lament the condition of a kennel in disrepair, while in the same breath order a double-patty cheeseburger with bacon. Why is this? I think it is because dogs are able to abide by the maxims we are taught as children better than any of us are able to do. They treat you as they would want to be treated. Mark Twain, an animal rights advocate, says it best, writing, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Can anyone reading this honestly say they have met an Irish Setter who didn’t have a smile on his face? Ignore a dog for hours, and he is still ecstatic to nuzzle you if you have a bad day. It is not surprising that people are so appalled by abuse against an animal that embodies so many of the sympathetic qualities we admire.      Continue reading

Pondering Michael Vick & Grandma´s Turkey

David Cassuto

From the Recommended Readings Desk:  This from Sherry Colb over at Dorf on Law — a very thoughtful essay furthering a discussion begun when Gary Francione lectured at Cornell Law School.  Among other queries, the piece explores the relative morality of dog-fighting vs. cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.  The name of the essay is ´Animal Rights, Violent Interventions and Affirmative Obligations´ and is well worth the peruse.

Thinking About Dogs

Bruce Wagman

I have had dogs on my mind lately.  They are the main players in many of my (and many animal lawyers’) cases, and they are the species I get the most calls about.  This week I had a call about a sheep owner shooting a roaming dog, with the caller wondering about the implication of the California statute that allows a livestock owner to shoot any dog on his land, even if the dog is nowhere near livestock, Cal. Food and Agric. Code section 31103, and the case that upheld the broad scope of that statute, Katsaris v. Cook, 180 Cal. App. 3d 256 (Cal. App. 1986).  I talked earlier in the year with a lawyer who convinced a court that her client’s dog breeding operation was a livestock facility, United States v. Park, 536 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2008), on remand, 2009 WL 2949333 (D. Idaho).  The irony of that case seemed to escape everyone involved.  The issue in the case was whether this breeding operation could operate on land with a federal easement.  “Livestock operations” were allowed to do so.  So the interesting point of the ruling for me is the conclusion that breeders are in fact just like factory (livestock) farmers and others who operate commercial operations, use animals for profit, and in the short and long run contribute directly to the death of thousands of animals in shelters around the country.  When someone buys a dog from a breeder, they automatically kill a dog in a shelter who could have been saved – “buy one, get one killed,” as one of my t-shirts says.  The math is simple and can’t be denied; if a new dog if brought into the world for profit, and given to someone who has room for a dog, then that breed dog replaces the life of a dog in a shelter, who will then be gassed, injected or otherwise summarily wiped off the planet, dying sad and alone and wondering why.    Continue reading