Reaching Out: Project Code 597
BAD RAP will soon be moving its “Pit Bull Hall” project from a private shelter to Oakland Animal Services (OAS). The group is deepening its partnership with OAS in order to better serve dogs and support their owners through a coalition that includes Oakland Raider Jarrod Cooper’s Foundation, Code 597 (the number references the criminal code for animal abuse).
According to Donna Reynolds, the move is extremely exciting, and timely. “We’ve all been wanting to dial up our individual efforts to improve conditions for Oakland’s dogs, but the challenges are so big that a coalition is necessary. So BAD RAP, OAS and Code 597 are now mapping our goals and strategies for outreach work in our community.” The first order of business is a shots fair, which is tentatively scheduled for July in an underserved Oakland neighborhood where pet abuse/neglect issues are common. A Law with Teeth
A legal loophole was stitched up in Georgia earlier this year when Governor Sonny Perdue—a dog lover and former veterinarian—signed a bill into law that puts Georgia among the nation’s toughest on the issue of dog fighting. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Reese and Sen. Chip Rogers, was four years in the making and better equips law enforcement officers to crack down on dog fighting. It also imposes stiffer penalties for everything from transporting and training dogs connected with fighting to just being present during a match.
Previously, though dog fighting was illegal in Georgia, the laws were ambiguous and there were no penalties for those watching the brutal matches. Now, people convicted of the felony-class offense face penalties that include one to five years in prison, a minimum $5,000 fine, or both for the first offense (the penalty escalates for subsequent convictions).
Before the Michael Vick case gave the country an up-close look at this inhumane and cruel activity, Georgia had the nation’s third weakest dog fighting laws (only Idaho and Wyoming’s were less effective). Since then, Idaho and Wyoming have strengthened their laws, and with Georgia’s passage of its bill in May, dog fighting is now a felony in all 50 states.
The Human Element
• Dog fighting is a highly organized criminal industry; more than 250,000 dogs are placed in dog fighting pits each year.
• The HSUS estimates that 40,000 people are involved in organized dog fighting and an additional 100,000 are street-level fighters.
• A Chicago Police Department study showed that 65 percent of people charged with animal abuse crimes — including dog fighting — were also charged with violent crimes against people.
This article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 49, Jul/Aug 2008