July 17, 2007
Michael Vick indicted on dogfighting charges
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on charges related to illegal dogfighting.
Vick and three others are charged with competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines.
The dogfighting operation was named “Bad Newz Kennels,” according to the indictment, and the dogs were housed, trained and fought at a Surry County, Va., property owned by Vick.
The indictment alleges that the 27-year-old Vick and his co-defendants began a grisly dogfighting operation in early 2001 in which dogs fought to the death — or close. Losing dogs were sometimes killed by electrocution, drowning, hanging or gunshots.
If convicted, Vick and the others — Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips and Tony Taylor — could face up to six years in prison, $350,000 in fines and restitution.
I think I’ve read before that Vick has said that he had nothing to do with the operation, that it was going on without his knowledge — because of course he owns enough properties that he doesn’t visit that particular one often. However, I’m guessing that if there are 66 dogs living on your property, you’re going to notice, so unless he hasn’t been there since 2001…
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Vick really didn’t know anything about it. At any rate, my hope is that the guilty parties will be brought to justice, and that this story and the subsequent proceedings will illustrate the fact that dogfighting is not a laughing matter.
I do have one related concern, however: the article states that one of the charges is “procuring and training pit bulls for fighting.” I wonder if that’s actually how the charge is phrased in the indictment. If so, what the hell? First of all, “pit bull” isn’t an official breed, so that seems like a charge that could either be used inappropriately (i.e. in an overreaching manner) or wiggled out of on the basis of technicality. More than that, though, what if a person is procuring and training another breed of dog for fighting? I bet cocker spaniels could be pretty vicious if raised and trained the way fighting dogs generally are. Or what about mutts? Is it hunky-dory as long as it’s not pit bulls?
Furthermore, I fear this will only feed the fire of breed-based bans, which frustrate me. Recently I was calling rental agencies in the town we’re moving to in Kansas, trying to find a house. My first question was always whether or not dogs were allowed, and after I informed one fellow that we have two 50-ish-pound dogs, he asked whether either of them were vicious breeds. I replied that both of them are mixes, and his next question was whether either of them resemble a vicious breed — “You know,” he said, “like a pit bull or an akita or something.” “Um, well one of them looks vaguely like a pit bull,” I answered, and he informed me that animal control will actually go so far as to take dogs who look like vicious breeds out of yards, at least if they don’t have tags. Now, I don’t know how much to trust such an off-the-cuff statement, and either way Seamus has tags and is microchipped, so I can’t imagine it ever coming to that, but it still bothered me — in spite of the fact that he probably has some pit heritage, along with German shepherd (we generally call him a German shepherd mix) and maybe some kind of sight hound (just based on his general shape) and who knows what else, Seamus doesn’t have a vicious bone in his body. He’s submissive to other dogs, and will only fight if another dog persists in attacking him. I hate thinking that someone might try to take him away or call animal control on us just because he vaguely resembles a relatively vague grouping of dogs.
Ah well. Updates as events warrant.