Michael Vick, ex-quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was sentenced to 23 months in prison this morning for financing “Bad Newz Kennels,” his dogfighting operation, and viciously killing dogs that his kennel used in fights. He was also ordered to pay more than $928,000 for the care of the 54 dogs seized from his property. ALDF applauds U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson’s sentence, as it exceeds the 12-18 month sentence recommend by the U.S. Attorney, and it takes into account the cost of care for the dogs rescued from Vick’s fighting operation.
The Michael Vick case made headlines around the nation–and around the globe–but as we know from the number of cases reported to ALDF week after week, dogfighting is a national epidemic. Sadly, unlike the high-profile Michael Vick case, most cases of dogfighting go unnoticed by the media, and find dogfighters receiving weak sentences if convicted.
Although animal fighting is illegal in all 50 states, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is working to make such crimes easier to prosecute and punishable by stronger penalties. ALDF has drafted a recommended amendment to state laws that would enable prosecutors to charge dogfighters under the respective state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (commonly referred to as “RICO”) statute. Applied to animal fighting, RICO – which was originally designed to be a weapon against a wide variety of organized criminal efforts, including drug dealing and gambling – would give prosecutors increased muscle in seeking justice for the animals abused, and, as in the Vick case, even executed by their owners.
Thirty-two states currently have RICO statutes to which this amendment could be applied; in addition, the federal RICO Act could – and should – be amended to include any animal fighting activity as a predicate act. Such an amendment would provide for longer jail sentences for dogfighters, larger fines, and the forfeiture of the assets used in the illegal activity and the gains generated from the criminal enterprise.
Help us put an end to dogfighting and create strong laws for animals so criminals like Michael Vick receive meaningful sentences! Contact your federal legislators, report any suspected dogfighting activity or neglected animals, and donate to ALDF so we can keep fighting for the animals.
Thank you for all that you do to help animals!