“The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but Can they suffer?” – Jeremy Bentham Awareness of animal cruelty and harsher sentences for those convicted has become increasingly important in the last few years. Many law schools now offer specific courses on the subject, all 50 states have animal cruelty felony provisions (most of felony provisions are for malicious, willful, or aggravated animal cruelty (language varies from state to state) when only four had such penalties in 1986, and the FBI just this year started collecting data on arrests for animal cruelty, which was previously lumped into the “other crimes” category.
The thing that we seem to not have an answer for, however, is the strong correlation between animal abuse and other crimes such as bullying, assault and murder. What is Animal Cruelty? Contrary to the first thought that would jump into many people’s heads, abuse is not just a violent act towards an animal; it is also about neglect and failing to provide for its general well-being. This covers an array of circumstances, including leaving an animal chained up outside during inclement weather or for long periods of time, hoarding, or failing to provide veterinary services as needed.
Dogs are the animals that suffer the most abuse. From fighting to the general neglect just mentioned, approximately 64 percent of reported cruelty involves dogs. They are the most common household pet, and unfortunately, household pets are the animals that suffer the most abuse. In correlation to other incidents of domestic violence, 71 percent of pet-owning women who were victims say that their attacker also targeted their pet.
is it always a crime to abuse an animal? While animal abuse is never O.K., it it isn’t always a crime and -even when it is – not all animals are protected (especially in laboratory testing). There is a lot of variance in animal abuse laws from state to state, particularly in terms of which animals are covered. For example, some states do not include fish or other sea creatures on their protected animals list, while others still, such as Nebraska, do not include livestock.
Animal Cruelty Laws by State State Animals Covered 1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense Psychological Testing State Animals Covered 1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense Psychological Testing Alabama Dog or cat that is domesticated member of family $1,000 fine and/or 6 months jail $3,000 fine and/or 1 year jail $15,000 fine and 10 years imprisonment No Alaska Vertebrate living creature, not including humans or fish $10,000 fine and/or 1 year prison $50,000 fine and/or 5 years prison N/A No Arizona Mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian $2,500 fine and/or 6 months prison $150,000 fine and/or 2 years prison N/A No Arkansas Vertebrate living creature, not including humans or fish $1,000-10,000 fine and/or 1-6 years prison $1,000-10,000 fine and/or 1-6 years prison $1,000-10,000 fine and/or 1-6 years prison Yes California Every dumb creature, endangered species $1,000-20,000 fine and/or 6 months-1 year jail $20,000 fine and/or 3 years jail N/A Yes Colorado Any living dumb creature, domesticated and livestock $1,000-5,000 fine and/or 18 months prison $1,000 fine and 3 years prison Escalating penalties Yes Connecticut All brute creatures and birds $1,000 fine and/or 1 year prison Up to 5 years prison N/A No Delaware Animals not including fish, crustacean or molluska $2,300 fine and/or 1 year prison Fine determined by court, 3 years prison N/A Yes Florida Every living dumb creature $500-5,000 fine and/or 60 days-1 year prison N/A N/A Yes if felony Georgia Animals not including fish or pests $1,000-15,000 fine and/or 1-10 years prison $5,000-100,000 fine and/or 1-10 years prison Escalating penalties Yes before sentencing Hawaii Animals except human $1-10,000 fine and/or 30 days-5 years prison N/A N/A No Idaho Any vertebrate member of animal kingdom except man $5,000 fine and/or 6 months-3 years prison $7,000 fine and/or 9 months jail $9,000 fine and/or 1 year jail No Illinois Animals except human $1,500-25,000 fine and 30 days-3 years prison $25,000 fine and 3-5 years prison N/A Yes Indiana Animals except human $5,000-10,000 fine and/or 1-3 years in prison N/A N/A Yes Iowa Vertebrates not including: humans, livestock, game, fur-bearing animals and fish unless owned by a person $625-6,250 fine and 30 days-2 years prison $7,500 fine and 5 years prison N/A Yes Kansas Living vertebrate except human $2,500 fine and/or 1 year jail $2,500 fine and/or 1 year prison N/A Yes Kentucky Warm blooded living creature except human $500 fine and/or 1 year prison $10,000 fine and 5 years prison N/A No Louisiana N/A $1,000 fine and 40 hrs.
community service and/or 1 year prison $25,000 fine and/or 10 years prison N/A Yes Maine Every living sentient creature not a human $2,000-10,000 fine and/or 1-5 years prison Escalating penalties N/A Yes Maryland Living creature except human $1,000 fine and/or 90 days prison $2,000-5,000 fine and/or 6 months-5 years prison N/A Yes Massachusetts N/A $5,000-10,000 fine and/or 7-10 years prison N/A N/A No Michigan Vertebrate other than human $1,000-2,000 fine and/or 93 days-1 year prison and/or 200-300 hrs.
community service $2,000 fine and/or 2 years prison and/or 300 hrs. community service $5,000 fine and/or 4 years prison and/or 500 hrs. community service Yes Minnesota Every living creature not a human $25-10,000 fine and/or 90 days-4 years prison N/A N/A Yes Mississippi Any feline, canine, horse, mule, jack, jennet or exotic animal $100-1,000 fine and/or 100 days-3 years prison/jail $5,000 fine and/or 5 years prison N/A Yes Missouri Every living vertebrate except human $500-1,000 fine and/or 15 days-1 year prison $1,000-5,000 fine and/or 6 months-4 years prison N/A Yes Montana N/A $1,000-2,500 fine and/or 1-2 years prison/jail $2,500 fine and/or 2 years prison N/A No Nebraska Any vertebrate member of animal kingdom except wild uncaptured creature or livestock $1,000 fine and/or 1 year prison $10,000 fine and/or 2-3 years prison and 12-18 months post-release supervision N/A No Nevada Every living creature not a human $1,000 fine and 6 months jail and 120 hrs.
community service $1,000 fine and 6 months jail and 200 hrs. community service $10,000 fine and 5 years prison Yes New Hampshire Domesticated animal, household pet or wild animal in captivity $2,000 fine and/or 1 year prison $4,000 fine and/or 7 years prison N/A No New Jersey The whole brute creation $2,000-10,000 fine and/or 6-18 months prison $10,000-15,000 fine and/or 18 months-5 years prison N/A Yes if juvenile New Mexico "Animal" does not include insects or reptiles $1,000 fine and/or 1 year jail $5,000 fine and/or 18 months prison N/A Yes New York Every living creature not a human $100-5,000 fine and/or 1-4 years prison N/A N/A No North Carolina "Animal" includes every living vertebrate in the classes Amphibia, Reptilia, Aves, and Mammalia except human beings $1,000 fine and/or 30 days-6 months prison N/A N/A No North Dakota N/A $3,000 fine and/or 1 year prison $3,000 fine and/or 1 year prison $10,000 fine and/or 5 years prison No Ohio Every living dumb creature $250-2,500 fine and/or 30 days-1 year jail or prison N/A N/A Yes Oklahoma Any mammal, bird, fish, reptile or invertebrate, including wild and domesticated species, other than a human being $250-5,000 fine and/or 1-5 years jail or prison N/A N/A No Oregon Any nonhuman mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian or fish $1,250-125,000 fine and/or 30 days-5 years prison N/A N/A Yes Pennsylvania “Domestic animal” means any dog, cat, equine animal, bovine animal, sheep, goat or porcine animal.
“Domestic fowl” means any avis raised for food, hobby or sport $500-5,000 fine and/or 90 days-2 years prison $2,500-15,000 fine and/or 2-7 years prison N/A Yes Rhode Island Every living creature not a human $500-1,000 fine and/or 11 months-2 years prison N/A N/A Yes South Carolina living vertebrate creature except a homo sapien, "fowl" not covered $500-5,000 fine and/or 30 days-10 years prison N/A N/A No South Dakota Any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian or fish, except humans $2,000-4,000 fine and/or 1-2 years jail or prison N/A N/A No Tennessee Domesticated living creature or a wild creature previously captured $50-3,000 fine and/or 30 days-6 years prison $3,000-25,000 fine and/or 6-30 years prison N/A Yes Texas “‘Animal’ means a domesticated living creature, including any stray or feral cat or dog, and a wild living creature previously captured,” not including “an uncaptured wild living creature or a livestock animal.
” $500-10,000 fine and 1-2 years jail $4,000-10,000 fine and 2-4 years jail $10,000 fine and 2 years jail Yes Utah Live, nonhuman vertebrate creature, not including those in captivity $750-5,000 fine and/or 90 days-5 years prison N/A N/A Yes Vermont All living sentient creatures not human $2,000-5,000 fine and/or 1-3 years prison $5,000-7,500 fine and/or 2-5 years prison N/A Yes Virginia Any nonhuman vertebrate species except fish $250-2,500 fine and/or 6 months-1 year jail $500-2,500 fine and/or 1-10 years prison N/A Yes Washington Every creature, either alive or dead, other than a human being $150-10,000 fine and/or 60 days-5 years jail or prison N/A N/A Yes West Virginia N/A $500-2,000 fine and/or 3-6 months jail $1,000-5,000 fine and/or 6 months-10 years prison N/A Yes Wisconsin Every living warm-blooded creature, except a human being, reptile, or amphibian $500-10,000 fine and/or 9-42 months prison N/A N/A No Wyoming Livestock, animal used for food, animal used for work $750-5,000 fine and/or 6 months-2 years prison $5,000 fine and/or 1 year prison N/A No *Notes regarding laws in table: In some states, penalties vary greatly.
Some states do not have escalating penalties based on prior convictions, but rather they base it on the stipulations listed here: which animal was subjected to cruelty, how harsh the cruelty was, whether there was intent to sell, whether classified as misdemeanor or felony, how valuable the court deems the animal, and whether it lives or dies. All punishments regard maximum penalties. On the flip side of this, there are states that have some interesting provisions that invoke harsh penalties.
For example, in Arizona, even just being present at a dogfight is a Class 6 Felony, which carries anywhere from a six month to a six year sentence, depending on priors. Penalties can also be more harsh if they happen in the presence of a child. In relation to this, 75 percent of animal abuse incidents occurred in the presence of women and/or children. When one considers that a child who witnesses this is three times more likely to be violent towards an animal compared to those in a peaceful household, these numbers become even more alarming.
Another area in which the states have vastly different laws is forfeiture; that is, what happens to the animal after it has been abused? What happens to the abuser, and above all, who gets to decide all of these things? In most cases, the court decides what will happen to the pets of abusers. More often than not, these pets are part of a family, and a lot of states allow for other family members, many times victims themselves, to claim exclusive custody of the pet.
At the same time, the abuser is not allowed to come within a certain distance of that pet. Restrictions for abusers can also include not owning an animal of any kind for a certain amount of time, and not coming within a certain distance of any place where pets are often found. Language is intentionally left vague in some states, as this allows judges to approach each case uniquely and make a recommendation that specifically applies to the case.
Not all states are as proactive towards preventing repeats of incidents. The authority of law enforcement to seize and otherwise protect animals they suspect are suffering abuse could be crucial to preventing further incidents. For example, Wyoming only has specific protections for livestock in this regard, not domestic pets. But laws change constantly, and they for the most part have been moving in the proper direction.
Recently, Nebraska imposed laws that allows for authorities to investigate, obtain search warrants and arrest those they suspect of animal cruelty. This is important because it helps prevent further crimes of violence from happening. It’s startling how often animal abuse coincides with domestic violence, but perhaps even more alarming is that cruelty towards animals serves as a prognosticator of such tragic events.
Research shows that those who abuse animals are five times more likely to commit a violent act against another person. Correlation Between Animal Cruelty and Domestic Abuse A lot of studies show that animal abuse is what’s known as an indicator crime. One survey says that a history of animal abuse was found in 30 percent of convicted child molesters and 36 percent of domestic violence offenders.
The propensity of animal abuse and domestic violence is particularly troubling, because 64 percent of homes with children under the age of six have a pet. Research has shown that 48 percent of convicted rapists admit to committing acts of cruelty against animals during their childhood. This is one reason why psychological testing could be so important. Currently, 3 of the 5 states ranked as the worst for animal protection by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) do not require psychological testing be done on those arrested or convicted of animal cruelty.
Overall, there are 19 states that fail to have this requirement. It is very noticeable how strong the connection is between the worst states and those without psychological testing. There are efforts being made to curb the frequency of these tragic circumstances. One of those efforts is that more than half the states now include protective order legislation for animals in domestic violence situations.
This means that a victim of such violence can be guaranteed that any domestic pets in the household will be given the exact same protections under law that the human gets. It’s extremely important that such a provision exist, because studies show that domestic violence victims will sometimes stay in the abusive relationship because they fear for the pet’s safety. While no one can argue the benefits of a program which allow ex-convicts, or sometimes even those currently behind bars, to use and own therapy dogs, these need to be examined closely from one person to the next.
Not allowing a convict with a violent past to own a pet is another thing that could help. Research shows that up to 70 percent of animal abusers have a criminal record, most with a violent act towards humans. One thing that could also help curtail, not just animal abuse but it’s happening alongside domestic violence, is all states requiring abuse be reported by veterinarians. Currently there are 15 states without specific provisions that call for said reporting, and allowing this could not only alleviate some of the burden from the victims themselves, but bring them peace of mind in knowing that there are many upon whom they can rely in a time of crisis.
See Also: Animal Friends Of The Valley
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Away from a jungle of rain-washed pines and junipers spearing the recent blueness of the Florida sky, ran a little, tawny-haired boy. His bare toes, extending from his overalled legs, crackled from the fallen palmettos. He leaped into the air, flinging his arms toward a flock of white doves circling over him.
Michael Vick Animal fighting has been brought to the forefront of the nation’s attention by the highly publicized conviction of NFL star quarterback Michael Vick and three of his associates on federal and state charges related to illegal dogfighting. Vick and his associates operated the aptly named “Bad Newz Kennels,” which housed and trained over 50 pit bull dogs, staged dog fights, killed dogs, and ran a high stakes gambling ring with purses up to $26,000.
The exposure of Bad Newz Kennels helped alert the nation to the viciousness of dogfighting that is commonplace in many communities despite the fact that dogfighting is outlawed in every state and, to some extent, by the federal government. To read about new laws and tougher penalties that have been enacted in the wake of the Vick case, see ALDF’s Animal Fighting Fact Sheet. The Michael Vick case illustrates many attributes common to the dozens of organized dogfighting cases the Animal Legal Defense Fund has seen over the years: The clandestine operation went undetected until law enforcement discovered it while investigating another crime.
The dogfighting activity was violent and bloody. Dogs were methodically tested and poor performers executed. Illegal gambling was a major part of the operation. Shelters housing the seized dogs had to implement high security precautions. This case has several unusual aspects, too: The federal government brought charges (this is extremely rare). One of the defendants had a very high public profile.
The dogs were not euthanized when the case concluded. The court appointed a guardian/special master to handle final disposition of the dogs. 2001 – 2007 The Dogfighting Operation Michael Vick, then 21, began his rookie year as a professional football player the same year he and three associates – Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips and Tony Taylor – began a dogfighting operation named “Bad Newz Kennels” at a property purchased by Vick in Surry County, Virginia.
They bought dogs in Virginia and other states and brought them to the new facility. Michael Vick became a registered dog breeder. The co-conspirators set up the property for a dogfighting venture. They built a fence along the side of the property, so that their activities would not be visible. They buried car axles with heavy chains, a common method for securing fighting dogs since the pivoting axle prevents the chain from tangling.
The men tested the dogs in fights, then shot, electrocuted, or hung dogs who did not perform well. “In or about April 2007, PEACE, PHILLIPS, and VICK executed approximately 8 dogs that did not perform well in ‘testing’ sessions … by various methods, including hanging, drowning, and slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.” (Federal indictment PDF) A report by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigator provided more details on the April 2007 killings, saying that the men hung approximately three dogs “by placing a nylon cord over a 2 X 4 that was nailed to two trees located next to the big shed.
They also drowned approximately three dogs by putting the dogs’ heads in a five gallon bucket of water.” They killed one dog by “slamming it to the ground several times before it died, breaking the dog’s back or neck.” According to a witness, the men fought their trained pit bulls with pet dogs, and they “thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs.
” They hosted fights at the Virginia property and transported dogs to other states to participate in fights. The fights usually occurred late at night or in the early morning and would last several hours. Before fights, dogs would be bathed to remove any poison or narcotic that might have been placed on them to hinder their opponents’ performance. Losing dogs sometimes died in the pit. Gambling purses were frequently in the thousands of dollars.
Dogs who lost fights were sometimes executed: “In or about March of 2003, PEACE, after consulting with VICK about the losing female pit bull’s condition, executed the losing dog by wetting the dog down with water and electrocuting the animal.” (Federal indictment PDF) In 2004, Vick had a 10-year, $130 million contract with the NFL. By 2006, he was the NFL’s highest-paid player. April 25, 2007 The State Investigation When Davon Boddie, Vick’s cousin, was arrested on drug charges, he gave Vick’s property as his address.
Surry County authorities searching the property found probable cause to obtain a second search warrant for animal cruelty/dogfighting. Police discovered: approximately 54 dogs, mostly pitbulls, some with scars and injuries; most were underfed about half of the dogs were chained to car axles and just out of reach of each other, a typical arrangement for fighting dogs a blood-stained fighting area animal training and breeding equipment, including a “rape stand”, a device in which a female dog who is too aggressive to submit to males for breeding is strapped down with her head in a restraint a “break” or “parting” stick, used to pry open fighting dogs’ mouths during fights treadmills and “slat mills” used to condition fighting dogs assorted paperwork documenting involvement in animal fighting ventures performance-enhancing drugs commonly used to increase the fighting potential in dogs, as well as to keep injured dogs fighting longer.
Vick initially placed blame for the dogfight enterprise on family members who lived at the property, and he claimed that he never visited the property. May 22, 2007 Defenders of Dogfighting In a news interview reported by the Associated Press, two other football players defended Vick and ridiculed the idea that dogfighting is a crime: …In an interview with WAVY-TV, (Clinton) Portis said that if the Atlanta Falcons quarterback is charged and convicted of being involved in a dog fighting operation, then authorities would be “putting him behind bars for no reason.
” “I don’t know if he was fighting dogs or not,” Portis said. “But it’s his property; it’s his dogs. If that’s what he wants to do, do it.” Portis said dog fighting is a “prevalent” part of life. Portis, a native of Laurel, Mississippi, added: “I know a lot of back roads that got a dog fight if you want to go see it. But they’re not bothering those people because those people are not big names.
I’m sure there’s some police got some dogs that are fighting them, some judges got dogs and everything else.” “Politicians,” added (Chris) Samuels, who found it hard to keep from giggling while Portis was talking. “Presidents,” added Portis with a laugh.… June 7, 2007 The Federal Investigation A witness told federal investigators that dog carcasses were buried on the property. A federal investigator then asked local authorities to execute a search warrant, but they did not.
After waiting for a week, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture executed their own search warrant and found the remains of 6-8 dogs in two mass graves. A month later, on July 6, Federal investigators executed a fourth search warrant. July 17, 2007 The Federal Case – Indictment Vick, now 27, and his three associates were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia and charged with violating federal law 18 U.
S.C. § 371 Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture. The “interstate commerce” requirement gives the federal court jurisdiction over an activity otherwise regulated by the state. Interstate commerce in the Vick case included transporting fighting dogs across state lines and hosting dogfight participants from other states at Bad Newz Kennels.
The charge is a felony with a maximum penalty of 5 years prison. A charge under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) for animal fighting activities in violation of 7 USC § 2156 would have carried only a maximum penalty of one year per violation. August 27, 2007 The Federal Case – Guilty Pleas After his three co-conspirators pled guilty and began cooperating with authorities, Vick also pled guilty, admitting to funding the dogfighting operation and the associated gambling operation.
He admitted to knowing about four dogs that his co-conspirators killed in 2002, and he admitted to agreeing to the hanging and drowning of 6-8 dogs who underperformed in 2007. Vick admitted he provided most of the operation and gambling monies, but he claimed he did not gamble by placing side bets or receiving proceeds from the purses. Under the sentencing guidelines for this crime, most first time offenders would have received no jail time.
However, Chuck Rosenberg, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, described the behavior of Vick, Peace and Phillips as “heinous, cruel and inhumane”, so he required that they accept a provision in the plea agreement that they “understated the severity of their conduct and that a sentence substantially above what would otherwise be called for by the guidelines would be appropriate.” Rosenberg recommended 12-18 months in prison rather than 0-6 months.
Co-conspirator Tony Taylor was not included in this recommendation since he was the first to plead guilty and assist in the investigation. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for December 10, 2007. The NFL suspended Vick indefinitely without pay. After he is freed from prison, he could be reinstated. September 24, 2007 The State Case – Indictment Five months after the initial investigation, a Surry County grand jury brought two charges against Vick: one count of violating VA Code Ann.
§ 3.1-796.124, which makes it a Class 6 felony to promote dogfighting for amusement, sport, or financial gain or to possess, own, train, transport, or sell any dog intended for animal fighting one count of violating VA Code Ann. § 3.1-796.122(H), which makes it a Class 6 felony to engage in the torture, ill-treatment, beating, maiming, mutilation, or killing of animals. Peace, Phillips and Taylor were charged with promoting dogfighting .
Taylor was also charged with three counts of unlawful torture and killing of dogs, and Peace was charged with one count. Each is a felony charge with a maximum 5 year prison term. The grand jury declined to bring eight possible additional counts of animal cruelty against the defendants. The following is an excerpt from a news article describing the charges: [Surry County Commonwealth Attorney Gerald] Poindexter said he pursued the case because “crimes that were not prosecuted were committed in Surry County.
” But he would not say whether his prosecutors put Vick’s federal court admission that he killed dogs before the grand jury. “Come on, lady, how much do you need to know?” he told a reporter who was pressing the issue. October 1, 2007 The Federal Case – Dogs Evaluated A team of animal behavior experts selected by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals analyzed the 49 seized dogs and then recommended whether they were suitable either to be adopted by families, trained as police dogs, placed in a sanctuary, or should be euthanized.
Only one dog was recommended for euthanasia because of extreme aggression. The others were deemed suitable to go to sanctuaries or foster homes for socialization training. October 12, 2007 The Federal Case – Vick Lied about Killing Dogs Even after pleading guilty to the federal charges, Vick had not admitted to hands-on participation in the killing of poorly performing dogs. Investigators got conflicting statements from Vick’s co-conspirators.
An FBI agent questioned Vick for five hours and gave him a polygraph test that indicated he was lying. Vick finally admitted to killing two dogs. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gill, Vick told the polygrapher, “I carried a dog over to Quanis Phillips, who tied a rope around its neck. I dropped the dog.” October 15, 2007 The Federal Case – Court Appoints Guardian for Dogs The U.
S. District Court appointed Rebecca J. Huss, Professor of Law at Valparaiso University School of Law, as the guardian/special master to advise the Court regarding the final disposition of the remaining 48 seized dogs. Per her recommendation, the dogs were eventually dispersed to eight rescue organizations for adoption, rehabilitation or lifetime care in sanctuaries, where they have been neutered. Writer Jim Gorant described the assessment of the dogs: “What the [ASPCA animal behavior] team found was a mixed bag.
Fewer than a dozen of the dogs were hardened fighters. Two had to be put down–one was excessively violent and the other was suffering from an irreparable injury. Then there was a group characterized as “pancake dogs”–animals so traumatized they flattened themselves on the ground and trembled when humans approached. Another group seemed to be dogs of relatively friendly normal temperament who simply had never been socialized.
” November 19, 2007 The Federal Case – Vick Reports Early to Prison In a single day, Vick bought a $99,000 Mercedes; he cashed checks that totaled $24,900; he gave $44,000 to friends and relations; he paid a public relations firm $23,000; and then he reported to prison. In less than 3 months since the day he pled guilty to federal charges, Vick spent over $3 million. December 10, 2007 The Federal Case – Sentencing At the sentencing hearing, due to Vick’s deliberate false statements to federal investigators about his role in killing dogs, the prosecutor recommended Vick be sentenced at the upper end of the 12-18 month guideline range.
Vick had also lied to investigators about testing positive for marijuana in September, a violation of the terms of his release on bail. A probation officer, who did not believe Vick had accepted responsibility, recommended an enhanced sentencing range of between 18 months and two years in prison. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson said Vick also played a major role by “promoting, funding and facilitating this cruel and inhumane sporting activity”.
The judge added at least 5 months to the prosecutor’s recommended prison term, sentencing Michael Vick to 23 months in prison. Vick also received three years’ supervised probation during which he cannot buy, sell or own dogs. He was fined $5,000. Vick was also ordered to pay $928,073 as restitution for the 53 dogs seized from his property. He was required to enter a drug/alcohol treatment program and pay for the cost of treatment.
Vick is scheduled to be released from federal prison July 20, 2009. Peace, Phillips and Taylor all pled guilty to the same charge earlier in the year. Peace was sentenced to 18 months prison and Phillips to 21 months prison. A few days later, Tony Taylor was sentenced. Since Taylor had been the first co-conspirator to plead guilty and had provided investigators with details of the dogfighting operation, the prosecutor had recommended that Taylor only serve probation.
However, the judge said it wouldn’t be fair to give Taylor probation after sentencing his co-defendants to 18 months or more in prison. He told Taylor, “You were as much an abuser of animals as any other defendant in this case.” The judge sentenced Taylor to 2 months in prison. The defendants cannot appeal the judge’s sentences. January 25, 2008 The Federal Case – Sentencing an Accessory Oscar Allen, who had sold a pit bull to Vick and had attended some of the fights, was sentenced to 3 years probation and a $500 fine.
In October 2007 he had pled guilty to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce and to aiding in illegal gambling and to sponsoring a dog in animal fighting. He had cooperated with the federal investigation. February 2, 2008 The Dogs A New York Times article followed up on the lives of several of the dogs who were transported to Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary. This excerpt describes a dog named Georgia: A quick survey of Georgia, a caramel-colored pit bull mix with cropped ears and soulful brown eyes, offers a road map to a difficult life.
Her tongue juts from the left side of her mouth because her jaw, once broken, healed at an awkward angle. Her tail zigzags. Scars from puncture wounds on her face, legs and torso reveal that she was a fighter. Her misshapen, dangling teats show that she might have been such a successful, vicious competitor that she was forcibly bred, her new handlers suspect, again and again. But there is one haunting sign that Georgia might have endured the most abuse of any of the 47 surviving pit bulls seized last April from the property of the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in connection with an illegal dogfighting ring.
Georgia has no teeth. All 42 of them were pried from her mouth, most likely to make certain she could not harm male dogs during forced breeding. Her caregivers here at the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary, the new home for 22 of Mr. Vick’s former dogs, are less concerned with her physical wounds than her emotional ones. They wonder why she barks incessantly at her doghouse and what makes her roll her toys so obsessively that her nose is rubbed raw.
… Georgia, known to lick the face of anyone who comes near.… Having those teeth extracted, Dr. McMillan and other vets said, must have been excruciating. Even with medication, dogs are in pain after losing one tooth, which may take more than an hour of digging, prying and leveling to pull. June 21, 2008 The Dogs NPR news reported that Leo, a former Bad Newz dog, is now working as a therapy dog for cancer patients.
July 7, 2008 Michael Vick filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, with assets around $16 million and liabilities over $20 million. November 25, 2008 The State Case – Guilty Pleas Each defendant pled guilty to one felony count of dogfighting. Cruelty to animals charges were dropped. The judge ordered a three-year suspended prison term and a $2,500 fine, which will also be suspended if they pay court costs of $380 and maintain good behavior for four years.
According to an AP news report, “After the hearing, Surry County Commonwealth Attorney Gerald Poindexter approached Vick’s mother and hugged her, saying, ‘At least some of this is over.'” Upon resolving the state charges, Vick became eligible to complete his federal prison term in a halfway house, rather than remain in federal prison until his scheduled release date of July 20, 2009. He expects to be reinstated in the NFL.
May 20, 2009 After 18 months, Vick was released from federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas to spend the final two months of his sentence confined to his luxury home in Virginia. July 20, 2009 Vick’s electronic ankle monitor was removed and his federal incarceration ended. July 27, 2009 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reinstated Vick into the NFL with some conditions. Subsequently, Vick was hired to play football for the Philadelphia Eagles with a base salary of $1.
6 million for the first season. Under a court mandated bankruptcy agreement that extends to 2015, much of Vick’s salary goes to pay off debts he accumulated prior to his incarceration. Vick agreed to speak to various community groups as part of an anti-dogfighting campaign organized by the Humane Society of the United States. July 2010 Investigations continued into Vick’s alleged illegal gifts to friends and family prior to his incarceration and declaration of bankruptcy.
August 2010 Many of the dogs have been adopted into homes with children and other dogs. Some, like Mel, continue to deal with fear issues, whereas others work as therapy dogs in hospitals or children’s programs. Some will live out their lives at Best Friends Animal Society. More details of the dogs’ lives since their rescue are recounted in Jim Gorant’s book The Lost Dogs. September 2010 The Philadelphia Eagles named Vick as the team’s starting quarterback and will be paying him $5.
25 million this season. December 2010 Vick stated that in the future he would like to have a dog again as a family pet. ALDF legal experts provided insights into the Michael Vick case as it progressed, in a series of blogs posted on the web: