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Death penalty to dog fighters!

July 28, 2007|By JOHNATHAN R. BURRS

The indictment of NFL superstar Michael Vick for maintaining a dog fighting operation out of his Virginia home has forced America to take a second look into this grave, cruel and violently sadistic contest that pits two dogs in a small arena where they fight to the death, solely for the entertainment of thugs and hoodlums!

Regardless of the outcome for Vick in this matter, society in general must accept the fact that dog-fight events are getting worse and often used as a venue for other illegal activity such as drug dealing and illegal weapons sales.

According to the Baltimore Health Department, dog-fight events often expose children, who are sometimes present, to extreme brutality, illegal gambling, drugs and guns.

A person who arranges a dog fight in Baltimore can be charged with a felony, subject to a $5,000 fine and three years imprisonment. A person who attends a dog fight can be charged with a misdemeanor and subject to $1,000 fine and 90 days imprisonment.

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The city and Baltimore County each offer $1,000 rewards for information on dog fighting. Michael Vick, if convicted, faces up to six years in prison and more than $300,000 in fines.

So why exactly haven't law enforcement officials been able to reduce the number of dog-fighting contests?

A person who attends a dog-fight contest, places a few thousand dollars on a couple of dogs that win, could net several thousand dollars in winnings.

If they get caught at the dog fight, and that's a big if, they might face a short stint in the slammer and pay a fine that is only a fraction of what they won at the dog fight itself.

Remember, many of the participants in these crimes are drug dealers - misdemeanor dog fighting charges are nothing to them in comparison to felony narcotics possession with the intent to distribute.

Another obstacle facing law enforcement is glamorization in the entertainment industry.

According to Mark Kumpf, a member of the National Illegal Animal Fighting Task Force, dogfighting is increasing nationwide. "It's a multibillion-dollar industry," Kumpf says, "and it's partly because it's glamorized in the entertainment industry in hip-hop, rap and professional sports."

Additionally, public awareness of these malicious and brutal events is relatively low, in part because the majority of people do not own pets and therefore have no interest in what goes on with animals, whether it be good or bad.

So, what exactly can be done to put a stop to this particular animal abuse?

I can only speak from the perspective of an animal lover and owner who was taught to respect and love my animals. The answer is obvious, although it may sound excessive and, to many, a little radical.

Legislators must increase the penalties for both organizing and attending dogfights. My belief is that organizers of these events should be charged with first-degree murder or first-degree attempted murder punishable by the death penalty.

This belief is based on the fact that organizing a dogfight is a premeditated act each and every time.

These people know what they are doing, they know it's illegal, and they know the dogs intend to and often to kill the other animal. Attendees should be charged with accessory to murder or accessory to attempted murder punishable by life without the chance of parole.

Again, attending a dogfight is a premeditated act each and every time. No one is forcing these people to attend these events and, without their patronage, dog-fight events would not be a multibillion-dollar industry.

I also believe the appeals process in cases like these should be limited to only instances of mistaken identity cases where the perpetrator was arrested at a place other than the actual dog-fight event itself.

Some special rules should apply for certain juveniles arrested at these events depending on age and involvement.

The bottom line is this: These people have proven they have no respect for life, nor do they care about the laws or the "current" punishment for breaking these laws.

Implement this strategy and I guarantee an organizer or an attendee who gets caught will never commit these crimes again!

Jonathan R. Burrs is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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