I've just read an Opinion piece by U.S. (Georgia) Representative Lynn Westmoreland, published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in which he defends his opposition to "federal intervention on dogfighting." Representative Westmoreland believes that the legalities of dogfighting should be handled by state law, according to his Opinion: "Do we want them concentrating on counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence, international drug cartels, nationwide crime syndicates, child predators and public corruption? Or do we want to divert their attention toward issues that can be handled by police departments?"
What's wrong with this picture?
Representative Westmoreland is certainly concerned about animal welfare; he rescued a dog, now his pet, from the roadside after it was hit by a car. However, I think it's very naive (at best) for him to believe that dogfighting cases are necessarily events that have neither national repercussions nor international ties.
Dogfighting rings such as Mike Vick's operate on a multi-state level; there were participants and dogs from across the country. They are a part of the "nationwide crime syndicates" of which Westmoreland speaks. Let's not forget that Vick was charged with interstate commerce for the purposes of an illegal act; he was abusing national privileges for the purpose of an illegal venture. So, what types of people hang out at dogfights? Narcotics traffickers, gamblers, law enforcement. Is none of this of importance on a national level? To dismiss the significance of animal abuse in national political and legal life, is to dismiss the significance of associated illegal enterprises on the American public.
Research going back to the 1960s has shown that, in addition to persistent bed-wetting and obsession with fire, animal cruelty is a characteristic of future serial killers. So what's the link here, since we're talking about adults? Well, for one thing, behaviors are often passed from one generation to the next (which is one way of substantiating the "culture" of dogfighting). Generally, if someone is desensitized to abuse, they are more capable of cruelty. And, if someone can validate his/her capacity for cruelty - on any level - then that person is certainly a public threat. And public threats are not so just on state levels; they can easily become national threats. Isn't that why we have federal law?
Let's hope that Rep. Westmoreland will see "the big picture" of dogfighting and animal cruelty, and perhaps stop thinking like his dog whom, he says, "has no preference on whether abusers of his fellow canines are arrested by local sheriffs or the FBI." Chances are if his dog knew that local change would be influenced by national change, he'd prefer the FBI.
To read Westmoreland's Opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, click on this link.
To read about animal law, click on this link to Animal Law at Michigan State University.