Last week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed three new laws that send a clear message to dog fighters: Bloodsports are not welcome in the Great Lakes State.
Animal fighting is a felony in Michigan, punishable by up to four years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines, and so is watching an animal fight. But these new laws crack down even further. Here’s how:
•SB 356 allows local authorities to seize homes and automobiles associated with animal fighting. •SB 358 adds animal fighting, shooting and baiting to the list of racketeering crimes. •HB 5789 gives law enforcement the ability to shut down any venue found to be associated with animal fighting and declare it a nuisance.
Dog fighting is widespread in parts of the state, and experts have identified regions of the state as national hotbeds for animal fighting. That’s why we’re so glad Michigan decided to arm its officials with these new legal tools.
“We thank Governor Snyder for signing these critical measures to improve upon the existing law, making Michigan one of the toughest states on animal fighting,” says Vicki Deisner, ASPCA State Director of Government Relations for the Midwest.
Way to go, Michiganders! We’re one step closer to ridding the U.S. of dog fighting for good. Ready to help? Visit the Advocacy Center.
Guest blog by Andrew Binovi, ASPCA Federal Legislative Manager
With all the political gridlock in Washington D.C., it seems that Congress has nearly ground to a complete halt. So it was very exciting late yesterday when the U.S. Senate considered two important measures to help animals in need!
First, the Senate took up the cause of canine heroes who have served in our military and passed a provision that streamlines the adoption process for retired military dogs and authorizes the Department of Defense to provide veterinary care in the animals’ retirement without any cost to American taxpayers. Military dogs perform dangerous, critical tasks, and it is our duty to honor these dogs and ensure they are cared for after their service is complete. The House passed similar language in their version of the military bill earlier this year.
Then, just moments later, the Senate passed the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act by a unanimous voice vote. This bill, introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), along with Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Scott Brown (R-MA), will give law enforcement additional tools to crack down on animal fighting. The legislation will make it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight and will impose additional penalties for taking minors to animal fights.
Take Action! We are encouraged that in the twilight hours of this Congress, animals in need have not been forgotten by federal lawmakers. Our team has been working around the clock with members of Congress to ensure passage of both bills, but we still need your help. Please call your representative and ask him or her to support the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act in the House. Animals victimized in this grisly blood sport are in desperate need—and they are counting on us to get the job done!
“Pit Bull.” There is no other breed of dog—or arguably, any other animal at all—whose mere mention can elicit such strong opinions. Try a word-associate game with your friends: Ask them what they think of when you say “Pit Bull.” Chances are that by the numbers, their responses will be more negative than positive. And it’s no wonder: No other type of dog is as widely banned from housing, legislated against, or incorrectly vilified by the media.
How did we get here? Pit Bulls were once widely considered ideal family pets—affectionate, loyal and gentle with children. But in recent years, these dogs have suffered tremendously from a combination of overbreeding, bad publicity and irresponsible owners. In reality, the overwhelming majority of Pits and Pit mixes are sweet goofballs who have gotten a very bad rap.
Two years ago, Penguin Group USA published The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption, an in-depth look behind the scenes of the Michael Vick dog-fighting case and “where are they now” account of the dogs rescued from his property. The book was a hit, becoming a New York Times bestseller—and we especially loved it for the way it portrayed Vick’s Pit Bull victims as the sweet, heroic dogs they truly are.
Now, Lost Dogs author Jim Gorant has a new book out: Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls—One Flying Disc at a Time. Like its predecessor, this compelling book tackles the pervasive myth that Pits are troubled dogs by telling the rags-to-riches tale of Wallace, a shelter dog on death row who beat the odds to become a champion in the sport of canine disc.
Pick up a copy of Wallace for yourself or the animal lover in your life! (Tip: If you order the book on Amazon.com using this link, the ASPCA will receive a small donation at no extra cost to you!)
To learn more about the book and see videos of high-flying Wallace in action, please visit Jim Gorant’s website, www.wallacethebook.com.
In June, we told you about a dog fighting bust the ASPCA and New York Police Department conducted in the Bronx. Today, we’re happy to share some good news: 26 of the dogs have found placements with rescue groups, and another seven of them have placements in the works! We’re hoping continued rehabilitation and forever homes are just around the corner.
Partners that have embraced these canine survivors include St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey; Charles Henderson Animal Rescue in Brooklyn, New York; Columbia Greene Humane Society in Hudson, New York, and Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire in Bedford. Some dogs have also been transferred to the ASPCA’s Adoption Center in Manhattan.
These dogs’ lives are already so different from the ones they led just a few short months ago. On June 21, we found them living in the windowless basement of a six-story apartment building with a makeshift fighting arena.Also discovered on scene were a loaded .25-caliber handgun, U.S. currency and other equipment associated with dog fighting—including dog treadmills, harnesses, muzzles, syringes and a shopping cart full of raw chicken parts.
For more than two months, ASPCA responders cared for and provided the dogs with extensive socialization, a healthy diet, medical care and exercise at a temporary shelter. Each dog was carefully evaluated by a team of animal behavior professionals prior to being transferred to the rescue groups.
While the majority of the dogs in this case may be rehabilitated, some were far too dangerous for placement. These dogs were victims of the brutalities of dog fighting—bred over generations to exhibit aggression, trained to fight with lethal intent, subjected to a life of inhumane treatment and, as a result, displayed highly aggressive behavior. After extensive evaluations, all decisions to euthanize were based on recommendations of multiple behavior professionals who weighed in objectively and independently, with the best interest of each individual animal in mind.
The dogs’ owner, Raul Sanchez of the Bronx, was arrested during the raid and arraigned on 63 counts of animal fighting, six counts of aggravated animal cruelty, six counts of animal cruelty, and one count of criminal possession of a weapon. If convicted, he faces up to four years in jail.
The ASPCA’s Legal Advocacy team is providing support to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office in this case.