Your Voices Were Heard! Tougher Sentencing for Dog Fighting

Photo Credit: Partsnpieces, Flicker CC license, Sweet victory! Your voices were heard! When I asked you to contact the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) in support of tougher sentencing for people involved in dog fighting you rose to the challenge!

Here is the outcome of your efforts. The USSC received 50,000 comments from the public pertaining to tougher sentencing guidelines. Never before has the Sentencing Commission received so many comments about a single issue.

Until now, prison sentences for convicted dog fighters have been only 6 months on average. Most offenders have received nothing more than probation. On April 15, the USSC voted to strengthen federal sentencing guidelines for animal fighting. The recommended time for incarceration was increased from 6-12 months to 21-27 months. This is a 250 percent increase in the minimum recommended sentence!

Now here’s the part I really love. The USSC issued forth a new sentencing range of 6-12 months in jail for anyone who brings a child to an animal fight. Last but not least, the Commission revised their guidelines to say that causing harm to a large number of animals and performing acts of extraordinary cruelty to animals are grounds for imposing even longer sentences.

Thanks to everyone who contacted the USSC on this issue. How richly rewarding it feels when we win one for the “good guys”- those precious animals with whom we share our time on this earth.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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9 Comments on “Your Voices Were Heard! Tougher Sentencing for Dog Fighting

  1. I personally find this disappointing. Clearly the Commission also feels that they are “just dogs 🙁 21-27 months for unimaginable cruelty? Not to mention lack of vet care, dogs stolen to be fighters and bait dogs…I would have liked to see a minimum sentence of 5 years, followed by years of probation and a mandate that these monsters cannot be near any animals, forever. And people who bring children (under 18) to dog fights should get the same sentence, since they are “impairing the morals of a minor”.
    I have helped recover stolen dogs before they were used. This is a very large and insidious industry, with evil spreading out in ripples. And I agree with Vicki Barber that if any laws go into effect, they must be specific: exact # of dogs involved/kept, definitions of extreme cruelty, etc. Vague laws are unenforceable, just creating loopholes that should, indeed MUST not exist.
    Although I would like to agree with Dr. Carolyn Contois, ” I would rather have them impose HUGE fines and hours of community service; cleaning kennels, actively finding homes for dogs, mandatory humane education…” but most of these monsters do not have loads of money to pay fines, and I would not like them near any dogs! Education is good…but there are so many like their hero Michael Vick, who think the only thing wrong was getting caught. You can’t graft a conscience on someone who does not have one. And as for “maybe even getting thrown in the ring” with the dogs…well as lovely as that sounds, dogs are trained to fight each other, and generally are very submissive to humans, as I’m sure you know. Really, I’d support the death penalty for dog fighting and all the crimes that are part of it.

  2. Fantastic news! Echoing Vernon re. shutting down puppy mills. I also think Dr. Contois comments make very good sense.

  3. Great news! Congratulations. Now, it would be great to do the same for puppy mill owners. Keep up the good work!

  4. Hi Dr. Contois. Thanks very much for voicing your opinion here. Much appreciated.

  5. Respectfully, I don’t think longer sentences are the answer. I would rather have them impose HUGE fines and hours of community service; cleaning kennels, actively finding homes for dogs, mandatory humane education and maybe even getting thrown in the ring with a bunch of angry, starving pit bulls. I have a rescue fighter living in my bedroom. She has been here for a year and is just starting to let her guard down and relax. Long road! EDUCATION is the only answer here… I don’t think these people really feel like they are doing anything wrong… after all… it’s just a dog!

  6. I thrilled at the potential longer term. The potential is that the commission recommended but you didn’t say it was accepted.
    My greater concern is the loophole left for defense lawyers. The “large number of animals”, how many? and “extraordinary cruelty” is defined as what? A lawyer would please that his client was just below the level of each level. However, if the number was 5 and only 4 are involved that is still 4 too many. I can only hope the residing judge is an animal lover, too and throws the book/longest sentence at each person involved.

  7. Hooray! Thanks for your efforts Dr. Nancy Kay.

  8. This is such great news!!! Thank you for your work and information sharing!

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