Dogfighting's Day of Reckoning
Michael Vick is already in jail, and now he's going to stay there for a while. This morning, U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson sentenced him to 23 months. No football and no freedom for two years because of dog abuse.
There wasn't much drama in the case, since Vick had pleaded guilty and two of Vick's co-defendants were sentenced last week by the same judge at the higher end of the federal prosecutors' recommended sentence.
Now that this case is done, let's reflect on what it's spawned.
- Bad Newz Kennels is shut down, and all of the individuals charged in the Vick case have pleaded guilty. Vick and two of his co-defendants have been sentenced to substantial prison terms, and the fourth defendant will be sentenced Friday.
- The nation has a newfound awareness of the dogfighting issue. It's gone from a second-tier issue to first tier for many people concerned about animal protection.
- Dogfighting busts have tripled since the Vick case came to light.
- We expect as many as 25 states in 2008 to consider legislation to strengthen their laws against dogfighting—a potentially remarkable surge in lawmaking.
- Legislation has already been introduced in Congress to make dogfighting—whether or not state lines are crossed—a federal crime. Prospects for adoption of the legislation are promising.
- An HSUS radio PSA has been played almost 40,000 times since released, and a television spot featuring Russell Simmons, done for The HSUS and BeKind, is now airing in markets across the nation.
Vick and his co-defendants caused dogs to suffer terribly, and it's an awful thing that occurred. But the public disgust for Vick's conduct has triggered a series of actions that offer the possibility of lasting change on the issue. If people continue to engage in staged dogfights, they risk their freedom.