[Vision2020] Update from Rep. Trail: The mysterious case of thedisappearing

Carl Westberg carlwestberg846 at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 3 11:51:55 PDT 2007

More on dogfighting from Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times.

By Steve Kelley

Seattle Times staff columnist

A debate has surfaced on the fate of the 50 dogs removed from Michael Vick's 
property, and whether they can be rehabilitated.

The dogs are caged, imprisoned really. They no longer have names, just 

They gnaw at their cages. Some pace nervously. All of them are scared. If 
they are lucky they are allowed out of their 4-by-8 cells once a week, but 
they have no interaction with other dogs.

These pit bulls are guilty. Guilty of fighting, of being bred, trained and 
forced to attack each other, for the amusement and gambling pleasures of 

The Vick Dogs, as they've come to be known, are the dogs bred and used to 
fight on Michael Vick's property in Surry, Va. They were fed cats and other 
small animals to give them the taste of blood.

They were abused and taunted and turned into killers. And now, in four 
separate kennels in four different Virginia counties, they await the 
sentence that will be handed down by the court for these actions in the 
lives they didn't ask to live.

Some of them weren't even fighters. Some females were used only for 
breeding, some dogs were too young, but all 50 of them taken from the Vick 
property might be sentenced to death.

Before the courts decide the fates of these dogs, animal behaviorists will 
come to these holding cells/kennels, observe the temperament of the dogs and 
make recommendations.

Many animal-rights groups believe euthanasia is the right thing to do. They 
believe these dogs are too far gone to be rehabilitated.

Other groups, such as the Coalition To Save The Vick Dogs, based in New York 
City, are asking for patience.

"I've seen many rehabilitated tough dogs," said Wayne Johnson, a longtime 
animal-rights activist and spokesman for the Coalition To Save The Vick 
Dogs. "No matter what kind of bloodlines, if they are separated from the 
other dogs, we believe, some of them can be retrained."

These Vick dogs are manifestations of the worst in mankind. They represent 
something disturbing about who some of us are and what some of us think is 

The dogs recovered from the Vick property are the lucky ones. They weren't 
drowned, beaten, electrocuted or hung after losses.

They survived, at least temporarily. But they sit in these cages, a sort of 
canine death row, awaiting the court's decision.

Most of the attention on this case has centered on Vick's NFL future.

After his incarceration, will he, should he, be allowed back in the league?

Much of the league's concern seems concentrated on the gambling that is at 
the heart of this blood sport. The league appears much more worried about 
the gambling than the animal cruelty.

And then, of course, there is the burning debate about whether his 
replacement, Joey Harrington, can fill Vick's fleet shoes.

But what about the dogs? Isn't it too easy to sentence all of them to death? 
Aren't they, not Vick, not the league, not the Falcons, the victims?

"Mentally, these dogs are in pretty bad shape," Johnson said. "Even though 
they were treated so badly, forced to fight each other, and put on 
treadmills to the point of exhaustion and fed kittens, among other animals, 
they still have a tremendous sense of loyalty to their owners.

"Now they feel abandoned. They're bewildered, confused. They're in a setting 
that is a flat-out jail. They don't know who these people are who are caring 
for them and there's a sense of what's next?"

Johnson and his group believe many of these dogs can be and should be 
rehabilitated. At the least, his group believes, even the meanest dogs could 
be placed in some form of humane isolation.

It believes sanctuaries can be found that would allow the dogs some space, 
even, at first, if it merely is a 12-by-12 run.

"We think it's eminently preferable to death," Johnson said.

Three sanctuaries have offered to take some of the dogs — Mariah's Promise 
in Colorado, Best Friends in Utah and the Animal Care Foundation in Hawaii.

"My experience is that dogs taken out of their situation, given time and 
patience, given new information, can be saved," said Toni Phillips of 
Mariah's Promise, a dog sanctuary in Divide, Colo., two hours outside of 
Denver. "They can become good citizens. All of these dogs want to be safe."

The Vick case has shed light on a very disturbing subculture in this 
country. If there is any good to come from his crimes, this is it.

"It isn't just a sports, or even a Southern rural culture, that is involved 
in this," Johnson said. "The point is, there seems to be a lot of people who 
enjoy watching animals tear each other apart. There is a thrill, that 'this 
is my dog' feeling. And then there also is shame when their dog loses. If 
you have a dog that loses, then you're a loser and, overwhelmingly, the 
losers' dogs are put to death."

Now, in Virginia, 50 dogs await their fates.

Do all of these victims deserve to die?

>From: <ttrail at moscow.com>
>To: vision2020 at moscow.com
>Subject: [Vision2020] Update from Rep. Trail: The mysterious case of 
>thedisappearing Pit Bulls
>Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2007 14:27:38 GMT
>Dear Constituents:
>One of the difficult constraints in getting legislation passed to increase
>the penalty on dog fighting from a misdeameanor to a felony has been the
>lack of "hard" evidence.  This has been a major complaint of conservative
>legislators who oppose the legislation.  It finally looks like we have the
>hard evidence needed and it should help us through the legislative process
>in getting the felony penalty to be approved by the legislature.
>This article was passed along to me by Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, President of the
>Idaho Humane Society.  The owner of the dog fighting operation mentioned in
>the article has confessed.
>Rep. Tom Trail
>Pit bulls disappear
>MALAD - Thirty pit bulls discovered Tuesday at an alleged dogfighting
>operation disappeared when a deputy who was guarding them left on another
>call and remain missing, Oneida County Sheriff Jeff Semrad said Thursday.
>Semrad said due to Idaho's current dogfighting laws, which prohibit the
>seizing of animals unless there are physical signs of abuse or neglect, law
>enforcement officials could not legally impound the 26 adults and four 
>The alleged operation was discovered when Oneida County deputies served a
>search warrant at 8210 South Old Highway 91 in the Cherry Creek area and
>arrested Andy and Tiffany Willard on charges of manufacturing a controlled
>substance, with an enhancement because a 3-year-old boy was in the home.
>Several marijuana plants and paraphernalia were seized during the raid, he
>-- Advertisement --
>Semrad said the Willards, who had a pit apparently used to host dogfights
>on their property, will also be charged with dogfighting under the current
>misdemeanor law. The maximum penalty for the charge is a $300 fine and six
>months in jail.
>Idaho and Wyoming are the only states where illegal dogfighting is not a
>Andy, 23, and Tiffany, 24, Willard were arraigned Wednesday and bond was
>set at $20,000 each. The couple remains in the Caribou County Jail in Soda
>Oneida County is working with federal investigators to determine if the
>dogfighting operation crossed state lines and if federal charges could be
>filed in the case.
>Although blood at the scene and other evidence that was confiscated pointed
>to dogfighting, Semrad said the dogs at the Willard home appeared to be in
>good health, and there was no evidence that they'd engaged in the activity.
>An Oneida County deputy maintained surveillance on the residence, but when
>he was called to another emergency the dogs were removed from the rural
>home sometime Tuesday night.
>''I believe my officer was being watched,'' Semrad said. ''When they saw
>his lights go on and saw him leave, they took the dogs.''
>Semrad said he was hesitant to use county Search and Rescue personnel to
>provide surveillance on the suspected dogfighting venue.
>''These are dangerous people,'' he said. ''It's easier to infiltrate a drug
>ring than a dogfighting ring.''
>After a Salt Lake City report named Malad as a dogfighting hub, Semrad said
>he visited the Willard property and was able to walk through the kennel 
>The animals housed at the residence were most likely being bred for
>fighting, he said. The cost of a purebred pit bull is about $1,800.
>Jeff Rosenthal, executive director for the Idaho Humane Society, said the
>number of dogs at the Oneida County operation indicates an organized
>component. Dogfighting operations usually have ties to gang-related
>activity and organized crime.
>''There's a lot of money at stake in these operations,'' Rosenthal said.
>He was at Thursday's press conference at the Oneida County Courthouse to
>raise awareness about dogfighting and the need to enact tougher laws.
>Rosenthal said Oneida County officials acted appropriately under the
>current law. Idaho's misdemeanor law compels dog owners to pay for the
>animal's care after confiscation in a dogfighting case.
>Rosenthal said pit bulls can be taught to act aggressively.
>''They're highly trainable, they're smart and they're rewarded for
>fighting,'' he said.
>Rosenthal said a dogfight can last as long as five hours. The dogs fight to
>the death or until one animal refuses to fight.
>Trainers often collect stray dogs and cats to use as bait during training,
>he said.
>Oneida County's location on the Utah border and Idaho's current misdemeanor
>law, Rosenthal said, makes the rural county a prime site for dogfight
>Under current law, Rosenthal said only individuals directly involved in
>dogfighting can be prosecuted, spectators cannot be charged.
>Legislation to amend the current law was killed three times in committee,
>but Rosenthal said the high profile Michael Vick case and the Oneida County
>case has brought attention to the issue.
>Vick, a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, pleaded guilty Wednesday to
>funding a dogfighting operation and admitted to have taken part in killing
>at least six dogs that performed badly during fights.
>Animal Control Director Mary Remer also came to Thursday's the press
>conference with members of the Bannock County Humane Society.
>Remer said reports about suspected dogfighting operations have increased,
>suggesting that the public is becoming more aware of the problem.
>When pit bulls are confiscated in suspected dogfighting cases, the animals
>must be caged and segregated from other animals, and the breed's high play
>drive makes them difficult to control.
>Humane Society Board member Sharon Angle said the dogs are not normally
>aggressive toward humans.
>Angle said the group attended the press conference to learn more about
>dogfighting in Southeast Idaho.
>''We want to encourage everyone to pass a bill making dogfighting a
>crime,'' she said.
>Idaho Rep. Donna Boe said the main impediment to getting the law passed was
>the belief that dogfighting didn't exist in Idaho.
>''Now we know it does,'' she said. ''I think it will be easier to get the
>bill passed now. This coupled with the Michael Vick case.''
>By Debbie Bryce
>This document was originally published online on Friday, August 31, 2007
>Rep. Tom Trail
>ttrail at moscow.com
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