It’s Time for Federal Sentencing Guidelines to #GetTough on Dog Fighting

June 22, 2015

It’s Time for Federal Sentencing Guidelines to #GetTough on Dog Fighting

We all want stronger sentences for convicted animal-fighters—and the government is listening. You can help make this a reality by telling the U.S. Sentencing Commission to get tough on dog fighting! Time to speak up is limited; take action today.

Last year, at the sentencing of Alabama dog fighters, we listened while one convicted criminal after another expressed shock at the notion that animal fighting was a serious crime. These men were entirely aware of the criminal nature of their drug deals and weapons-trafficking, but had little concept that fighting, killing, and maiming dogs within huge multistate gambling rings could land them in jail. The federal judge who heard that case likewise expressed his shock that the federal sentencing guidelines were so inadequate for a crime so brutal. The current guidelines recommend prison sentences as low as six months and almost half of all offenders only get probation. No wonder the Alabama offenders didn’t know that dog fighting could land them in prison.

Today the U.S. Sentencing Commission—the independent federal agency that constructs sentencing guidelines as a reference for federal judges—took a great step toward remedying this problem by proposing to revise the federal sentencing guideline for animal fighting in its upcoming amendment cycle.

Congress raised the maximum prison sentence for a federal animal fighting conviction to five years in 2008 in response to the Michael Vick case. The current sentencing guidelines never incorporated that increase, creating a huge gap between what is allowed under federal law and what is recommended in sentencing guidelines. As a result, convicted dog fighters too often receive unacceptably weak sentences.

We commend the U. S. Sentencing Commission for considering this critical issue. Tell the U.S. Sentencing Commission to get tough on dog fighting by making stronger animal fighting sentences a priority. The Commission will be accepting comments for the next 30 days—make sure they hear from you!