After Ten Years of Michael Vick Matter

Ten years ago this week, a turning point in animal cruelty caught the nation’s attention: The investigation of NFL quarterback Michael Vick for dog action. But in hindsight, the most important step was not so much the story of a superstar judgment of using a dog action ring. Instead, it was the revelation to most Americans that dogaction is still active, popular throughout the country, and sadistically enjoyed by people we thought we knew.

Whether or not you believe in Vick’s rehabilitation, or that his crimes should be forgiven and forgotten, The Vick matter has been crucial in making critical progress in our tools and our ability to contain dogaction more.

For example, 10 years ago it was common for dogs seized during dog action to be immediately euthanized, since they are aggressive and peril by nature. The Vick matter has prompted behavioral experts to take a closer look. Now dogs are evaluated as individual animals, and placement decisions are based on behavior, not context or circumstances. In fact, of the 49 Vick dogs that were evaluated by the ASPCA-led team, only one was considered unfit for behavior for rehabilitation, Sanctuary placement, or Adoption.

Further progress since The Vick matter:

Big dogs action rescues

Since 2007, the ASPCA and other rescue groups have worked closely with federal, state and local authorities to infiltrate major organized dog action networks, including the largest (July 2009) and second largest (August 2013) dog raids in U.S. history. You can see some of these dogs from the 2013 rescue.

In 2010, ASPCA formed a dedicated team of highly qualified investigators, veterinary experts, behavioral experts and protective professionals to provide special training to law enforcement, assist with animal cruelty investigations, and respond to victims of animal cruelty and disasters across the country. I was proud to lead and work among these dedicated professionals. Since then, the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team has assisted law enforcement in more than 100 dog hunter investigations and rescued more than 3,600 dogs from action farms or kennels. Last year alone, the ASPCA was in operation in eight states and rescued nearly 350 dogs from dogaction.

The fields of forensic medicine, the lawful profession and the evaluation and rehabilitation of animal behavior have also evolved and play an active role in contemporary dog control studies. Our ASPCA Forensics team studies the types of animal crimes to find, Record, retain, and analyze body evidence, while our team of lawyers provides critical support to prosecutors, including developing applications, securing search warrants, assisting with evidence verification, and identifying appropriate charges. With our help, prosecutors filed 787 delinquent charges related to dog action. During the delinquent proceedings, our animal cruelty team assesses each animal and works closely with our placement team to determine the most appropriate locations for each dog.

As a milestone in itself, ASPCA 2014 launched April 8 as national Dog action Awareness Day, to alert and educate the public about the persistence of this depraved “blood sport” and take action to end it.

Legislative Success

After the Vick matter, a wave of state laws was passed to action dog action. In 2008, Idaho and Wyoming became the 49th and 50th states that made dog action a crime. Over the past 10 years, state legislation has provided more tools to law enforcement, including delinquent possession of dog action equipment, increasing penalties for bystanders, and adding dog action as an administrative offense.

Inspired by The Vick matter, Congress passed the Farm Bill in 2008, which strengthened federal law against dog action and made it illegal to use the U.S. postal service to promote animal control. This bill also increased the maximum federal penalty for participation in an animal control enterprise.

In 2013, the Animal Action Spectator Prohibition Act was introduced, making it a federal offense to knowingly participate in organized animal action and impose penalties for taking children to animal action. The language of the act was added to the Farm Bill in the Senate, and a similar language was added to the House version of the Farm Bill. Next year, President Obama signed the law—including these measures-into law.

There is much more dialogue around one of the biggest challenges of dog action reviews: covering the huge costs associated with victim care. These costs include emergency accommodation, veterinary care, behavioural assessment and trauma rehabilitation. This theme “care costs” is as much about saving lives as saving money, because a high price can make governments think twice before intervening in a situation of cruelty. ASPCA and its partners have called for corrective action at the national and federal levels, including our support for the Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act.

Justice and law enforcement

In 2011, the ASPCA collaborated with the U.S. Department of Justice to create a dog action toolbox used by nearly 3,000 public servants across the country. Since 2010, the ASPCA has also held hundreds of in-person training workshops across the country for more than 7,000 law enforcement professionals, like this one in January. We also regularly offer online courses, webinars and graduate certificates.

In 2016, the U.S. delinquent Commission increased the federal guidelines on crimes against animals and revised the guidelines to explicitly state that causing harm to animals and performing exceptional cruelty are reasons to impose longer judgement.
In a 2015 national study of more than 500 law enforcement officers, most dogs were considered “serious” crimes. Eighty-one percent of them said it was because “dog action is inherently cruel.”In recognition of law enforcement’s renewed commitment to ending dog action, we honor individuals who have made an annual commitment to ending dog action in their communities with the ‘Champion for Animals’ Award.

This is important progress, but make no mistake: dog action continue, and animals continue to suffer. According to our estimates, there are still tens of thousands of dogs in the United States that force hundreds of thousands of dogs to brutally train, action and suffer each year. Losing dogs are often finished by brutal methods such as striking, electrocution and drowning.

As part of National Dog action Awareness Day this year, the ASPCA partnered with Sir Patrick Stewart to urge animal advocates to post #GetTough on dog action via social media. We are pleased that this year’s campaign was supported not only by Patrick Stewart, but also by celebrities like Justin Theroux, Joan Jett, Ricky Gervais and Beth Behrs.

The ASPCA will continue to mark National Dogaction Awareness Day every April 8th until dogaction is so avoided—and its participants are so shamed and sufficiently condemned-that the brutal activity is not only deterred, but completely eradicated.

You can play a role in this result. Even if you do not know about dog action or wrestler, you can still do a lot:

  • Speak out against dog action with the Hashtag #GetTough.
  • Visit aspca.org/gettough-campaign and share the information with your friends, family and colleagues.
  • Help end life-browbeating stereotypes of certain breeds—often Pit Bulls-by action breed-specific regulations and prohibitions and encouraging once-mis-word animals where and when they can.
  • Notify local authorities if you hear or see anything that portends animal action or animal training to action. Public counseling is often the first step in rescue investigations that reveal not only animal mis-word, but also related crimes such as the illegal sale of medicine and firearms.

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