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July 20, 2007

Department of Press Releases

From the Kerry camp:

Kerry Asks NFL Commissioner to Immediately Suspend Vick Over “Sickening” Dogfighting Case

Says Congress Must Pass Tougher Laws to Restrict
Disgraceful Dog Fighting

WASHINGTON D.C. – Sen. John Kerry said today that he will introduce legislation aimed at eliminating dogfighting, which is illegal but is by many accounts still far too common. Kerry said he hopes to go after the cruel sport by making it illegal to transmit images of dog fighting, to run websites that cater to dog fighting or to own or train dogs for the purpose of dog fighting.

I, too, think dogfighting is bad, though it's slightly unclear to me why it's so much worse than sport hunting, aside from the fact that we like dogs and it's somewhat more savage -- though not necessarily more savage than the types of hunting wherein we sic dogs on the prey. That said, does John Kerry, United States Senator and former Democratic nominee for president, really have to get involved here? Vick's actions were illegal and all signs point to vigorous prosecution. Why is the Senate's involvement necessary?

July 20, 2007 | Permalink


Because then they can get their faces on ESPN, which lots of people who don't follow politics but do vote watch.

Also, because Congress has periodically asserted authority over pro sports leagues through the Commerce Clause. With good reason in some cases; less so in others.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Jul 20, 2007 2:01:20 PM

Having solved the steroids problem, Congress must inevitably move on.

Posted by: Steve | Jul 20, 2007 2:04:22 PM

Not to mention those proposed restrictions on websites and images sure sound like clear First Amendment violations.

Posted by: Glenn | Jul 20, 2007 2:19:36 PM

What types of hunding do we sick dogs on prey? Fox hunting? does that even exist in the US. The last time I heard about a fox hunt it was protested in britain.

Dogs used for hunting find, point and retrieve prey - they do not attach it.

If you don't see a difference I dont think you are looking hard enough.

Posted by: yep | Jul 20, 2007 2:23:03 PM

One of the reasons the Chicago police give for some of their anti-dog fighting efforts is that it's the kind of thing that breeds both crime and cruelty. In my old neighborhood, you couldn't leave dogs tied up outside a shop or restaurant because of people cruising the neighborhood to steal pets as fodder for training dogs.

I'm not here to defend sport hunting, but it's actually far more savage. Here's the Animal Law Center at Michigan State School of Law on the issue:

From an animal welfare standpoint, dog-fighting is one of the most serious forms of animal abuse, not only for the heinous acts of violence that the dogs endure during and after the fights, but because they literally suffer their entire lives. Dogs that are born, bought or stolen for fighting are often neglected and abused from the start. Most spend their entire lives alone on chains or in cages and only know the attention of a human when they are being trained to fight and they only know the company of other animals in the context of being trained to kill them. Most dogs spend their entire lives without adequate food, water, or shelter. They are not perceived as sentient beings capable of suffering, rather they are commodities that exist for the sole purpose of making the owner money and prestige. The prevailing mind set among dog fighters is that the more the dog suffers, the tougher he will become, and the better fighter he will be.

The fighting dogs are not the only victims of heinous cruelty. Many of the training methods involve torturing and killing of other innocent animals. Often pets are stolen or otherwise obtained to be used as live bait in training exercises to improve the dogs’ endurance, strength, or fighting ability. If the bait animals are still alive after the training sessions, they are usually given to the dogs as a reward, and the dogs finish killing them...

...Historically, the crime of dog-fighting was considered an isolated animal welfare issue, and as such was ignored, denied, or disregarded by law enforcement. Within the last decade, however a growing body of legal and empirical evidence has emerged exposing the clandestine culture of dog-fighting and its nexus with other crimes and community violence. Dog fighters are violent criminals that engage in a whole host of peripheral criminal activities. Many are heavily involved in organized crime, racketeering, drug distribution, or gangs, and they arrange and attend the fights as a forum for gambling and drug trafficking. Many communities have been morally, socially and culturally scarred by the menacing pestilence of dogfighting for generations. From a very early age, children in those communities are routinely exposed to the unfathomable violence that is inherent within the blood sport. Even seasoned law enforcement agents are consistently appalled by the atrocities that they encounter before, during, and after dog fights, yet the children that grow up exposed to it are conditioned to believe that the violence is normal. Those children are systematically desensitized to the suffering, and ultimately become criminalized.

Posted by: brenda m | Jul 20, 2007 2:33:44 PM

Hey, I'm outraged too. If I were a Senator I'd think I have a way to express that outrage. Hence.

One wonders if Mitch McConnell will threaten a filibuster to require 60 votes, if it gets that far.

Unless there is clear evidence of interstate transportation of the dogs (or interstate betting on the outcome), EVEN THIS FLAMING, DIRTY FU*KING LIBERAL thinks Congress should avoid this area.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 20, 2007 2:36:38 PM

Regardless of any punishment Vick gets from the legal system, should he come up on the short end of the vigorous prosecution, he needs to sit out the upcoming season. The NFL needs to do something, Kerry's right about that.

OTOH, if he's found innocent, I guess he gets to put the Nikes back on...

Posted by: BdubBellingham | Jul 20, 2007 3:23:29 PM

I tend to think that we have a different responsibility to domesticated animals. Our ancestors carefully breeded these animals to live by us, and we are responsible for their welfare.
If a congressional action would give enforcement more weight, go for it.

Posted by: ChowChowChow | Jul 20, 2007 3:25:06 PM

are you as outraged as bob byrd?

Posted by: belltower | Jul 20, 2007 4:06:33 PM

What types of hunting do we sick dogs on prey?

Ordinarily we don't, and the distinction between shooting a duck, and watching a dog tear the duck limb from limb seems to be obvious to everyone but Ezra.

But I did read a feature once, in the University of Texas campus magazine, about some guys who used to hunt wild boar with only a hunting knife. They used dogs to pin the boar down, then they would dive in with a knife and stab until it stopped moving.

The article, which quite palpably valorized the practice in a Jack London sort of way, was written by Mark McKinnon, later famous for his part in the Bush campaign. I'd give anything if I could find it online, no luck so far.

Posted by: kth | Jul 20, 2007 4:15:11 PM

For those who don't follow sports very much: on the subject of whether Vick will be playing in the upcoming season or not, it seems that the most likely scenario will be for his team to grant him what amounts to a paid leave of absence. It wouldn't be a suspension, but the chances of him actually playing this fall are very quickly approaching zero.

Posted by: Haggai | Jul 20, 2007 4:15:33 PM

Maybe Kerry just loves dogs. If you do, one close-up look at what really goes on in organized dog fighting would be enough to make you go ballistic too.

Posted by: Paul Gottlieb | Jul 20, 2007 4:22:03 PM

Ezra, would it obviously matter if the only relevant difference was that we like dogs?

Posted by: Justin | Jul 20, 2007 5:08:42 PM

Not to mention those proposed restrictions on websites and images sure sound like clear First Amendment violations.

Images of violent animal abuse could probably be restricted along the same lines as laws against child pornography.

It is, of course, an overreaction to the event which happens to be in the news today, but look on the bright side. If Republicans were in power, they probably would have invaded a country over this.

Posted by: Steve | Jul 20, 2007 5:21:31 PM

It sounds ridiculous, but Mike Vick is doing a huge favor to animal rights and pet rescue charities all over the nation.

People don't realize how pervasive this filth is in America. Dog fighting is not some Southern-backwoods shadow phenomenon like cockfighting. It's in every inner-city of every town all over the country.

I've done alot of animal rescue/adoption work and I can tell you the city pounds see see an inordinate amount of scarred-up pitbulls through their system that have barely survived/escaped a fighting life. And unlike ex-racing dogs, ex-fighting dogs are totally lost causes: they've been trained to be so bad-natured you can't place them in any home. There is no choice but to put them down immediately.

In my area (Dallas/Ft Worth) the city pound euthanizes around 20,000 dogs and cats every year - it's an absolutely mind-boggling number. A small but significant portion of those are related to dog fighting. Most of the rest are just regular, healthy, happy, sweet-natured dogs and cats. (think about that next time you go to a dog breeder to buy a puppy)

So I say, thank you Michael Vick for indirectly shining a light on this scourge. Hopefully it will wake some people up to the ugly realities of dog fighting specifically, and animal cruelty and pet overpopulation too.

Go Falcons!

Posted by: ssdagger | Jul 20, 2007 6:20:20 PM

Not to mention those proposed restrictions on websites and images sure sound like clear First Amendment violations.

I could not believe the constant repetition on CNN on Wednesday (lunch at a restaurant with the sound off). The images were horrible not only of the beaten up dogs, but of the fights themselves. I do not know how they thought that was appropriate. I could hardly eat.

Posted by: yep | Jul 20, 2007 7:08:06 PM

Images of violent animal abuse could probably be restricted along the same lines as laws against child pornography.
Which were also First Amendment violations, but hey, we can't have things like constitutions when there are children involved! If you suggest that there should be any limits on anti-porn laws, the pornographers win!

This is the slippery slope in action. Thought police seem okay when you're only going after *really bad* thoughts...

Anyway, to return to why Kerry is involved: it's just the knee-jerk reaction that if something is illegal, and someone does it anyway, it needs to be made *more* illegal. You can't possibly expect legislators to sit around waiting to see if the existing laws work! This is why whenever outlawing some behavior fails to eliminate it, the penalties just keep escalating and escalating and escalating. And legislators never figure out why it keeps on not working.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 20, 2007 10:12:01 PM

Um he did it to get exposure.. so that he would get on ESPN as stated above.. but ah.. also so he would be talked about in places such as this. Free press for supporting dog welfare. ..it doesnt get much better then that.

That point is made all the more clear to me when taken together with the fact that his actions were already illegal. Pols live for things like this, where there is a clear evildoer its hard to go wrong.

Posted by: dave b | Jul 21, 2007 12:16:31 AM

I can understand the motivation for federal action here, because while most states prohibit dog fighting, there's a federal interest in the transportation of dogs across state lines, not to mention the gambling, and also in the alleged subverting of local law enforcement:

The source said many matches take place on rural farms, with lookouts stationed in the woods and down surrounding roads, up to eight miles away. He adds that sometimes, local sheriffs are paid off to look the other way -- that is, when they're not participating in the dog fights themselves.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Jul 21, 2007 1:04:41 AM

I'm pretty sure Vick wouldn't be in trouble if he had just shot the dogs in the head, assuming he didn't dog fight with them and treated them humanely.

Sort of the Old Yeller scenario.

That's the only situation comparable to hunting.

Posted by: stm177 | Jul 21, 2007 8:32:26 AM

Ezra - while I agree with you over 90% of the time, I wish you would stop taking any and every opportunity to demean and belittle John Kerry. Your animus seems to be almost personal. What - did Kerry kill your dog or something?

Posted by: zeke | Jul 21, 2007 8:35:40 PM

A Senator using his position to express personal opinion, the outrage! That's sole right of real celebrities, this gross infringement must not stand.

Posted by: AJ | Jul 22, 2007 9:41:04 AM

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