Yes, lawyers really do have a heart. On Valentine's Day, the American Bar Association House of Delegates met and passed Resolution 108B, aimed at protecting animal victims of cruelty. The resolution urges all legislative bodies and governmental agencies to enact laws and implement policies ensuring the humane treatment and disposition of seized animals, including those from dogfighting busts, hoarding situations and other cruelty cases.
The Resolution was proposed by the ABA's Tort, Trial, and Insurance Section Animal Law Committee after being drafted by Professor Rebecca Huss (who was the guardian/special master in the Vick case), Michelle Welch of the Virginia Office of the Attorney General, and me.
It can be incredibly frustrating to citizens and prosecutors when judges refuse to respond to animal cruelty and neglect, like in the case of Alice, the dog who was found living in a box. The Change.org community is rightly outraged by this and over 13,000 animal advocates have signed a petition calling for justice for Alice.
Equally frustrating is when animals are saved from cruelty, only to face judges who summarily order their death. For example, the "Mississippi 8" was a group of dogs who were victims of dogfighting. Even though behavioral evaluations indicated that at least three of the dogs could have been rehabilitated, the judge ordered they all be killed.
The new ABA resolution will give animal advocates another tool to convince prosecutors and judges to give victims of cruelty a second chance.
It's fitting that the ABA resolution was passed in Atlanta, where Michael Vick rose to fame before he was convicted of participating in the blood sport of dog fighting. Let's face it: Not all victims of cruelty are psychologically damaged; some are extremely resilient, like Jonny Justice. Jonny was a Vick dog who was easily retrained and is now a therapy dog. Of the 22 dogs Best Friends Animal Society took in — the most damaged by Michael Vick's abuse — six have been adopted into loving homes and the rest are doing well at the Sanctuary.
Indeed, the Vick case was cited extensively in the ABA report as a reason to change the automatic death sentence for dogs seized in fight yards.
Yet there are still 13 states that automatically deem dogs seized in fighting yards as dangerous or require them to be killed. I recently blogged about Best Friends Animal Society spearheading bills to change Florida's law that condemns victims of cruelty. Over 1,200 Change.org community members have signed the petition supporting the bill that would repeal Florida's arbitrary designation of all dogs seized in fighting cases as "dangerous."
My little fight bust dog, Karma Korn, never would have had a chance in Florida, so she's ecstatic that the ABA recognizes that victims of cruelty deserve a chance to live. It's time for the Florida legislature to follow the ABA's lead and stop arbitrarily condemning the victims of dog fighting.
Let there be justice for all.
By Ledy VanKavage