By Don Cleary,
We must also recognize the victims of animal cruelty as individuals deserving of our compassion, and provide those animals with humane treatment. To do anything less is to criminalize the victim.
When Michael Vick was arrested three years ago, millions of our fellow citizens recognized what those of us in the animal movement have always known: animal fighting has a victim, the animal forced to fight. In the case of Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels, the victims were his dogs. That recognition provoked inevitable questions: Was it enough to oppose animal fighting, to criminalize it, and then to enforce the criminal statutes against the human felons? What about the animal victims that are seized? Who are they? What are our obligations to them?
Last year, representatives of HSUS, BAD RAP (Bay Area Dog Owners Responsible About Pit Bulls), Best Friends, ASPCA, National Animal Control Association, and Animal Farm Foundation formed a “working group,” whose purpose, in part, has been to address, practically and specifically, those obligations.
As a result of the working group’s deliberations, the National Animal Control Association developed a humane, precedent-setting new policy statement, containing recommendations regarding the fate of all victims of animal cruelty, including dogs seized from dog fighting operations. The NACA guideline represents an important step forward. We quote it here in part:
Animal control agencies should implement comprehensive policies for the seizure, care and disposition of animals resulting from all types of cruelty cases recognizing them as victims of crimes including but not limited to abuse, neglect, hoarding and animal fighting. Such policies should address care, housing, evaluation, treatment and disposition utilizing all available resources in cooperation with animal care, control and welfare organizations, law enforcement agencies and the judicial system. If necessary, legislative changes to existing laws are encouraged to facilitate such policies.
Both the ASPCA and HSUS have adopted and acted upon similar policies. ASPCA assisted with the care, evaluation and disposition of over 400 dogs confiscated in Missouri last year. At this writing, HSUS is working with rescue organizations, foster programs, animal shelters and individuals across the country to evaluate and find appropriate placement for dogs confiscated from a suspected fighting operation in Jefferson County, Ohio.
Is it enough to oppose animal fighting, to criminalize it, and then to enforce the criminal statutes against the human felons? It is not. We must also recognize the victims of animal cruelty as individuals deserving of our compassion, and provide those animals with humane treatment. To do anything less is to criminalize the victim.