The American criminal justice system is sometimes extremely confounding. On the one hand, the system seems to try to punish anyone selling drugs as severely as possible. This trend is to the point that the death penalty is a possible punishment for large scale drug trafficking, even when no homicide has been committed by the person being sentenced. We are, in fact, a major anomaly in the sense that we are a Western nation with a lengthy tradition of republican government that still executes people at all. In the state of Texas alone, an average of over thirteen people are executed every year. Yet in other areas, our laws are horribly lenient. A primary example of this is pit fights involving animals. For running a brutal dog fighting ring, Atlanta Falcons player, Michael Vick, received a twenty-one month prison sentence. This was followed by two months under house arrest in a mansion, a sentence many criminals would relish. He is now back to a lucrative professional football career. (As the cases of Michael Vick and Riley Cooper demonstrate, the Philadelphia Eagles management seems to straddle the line between giving second chances and giving free passes.) There are millions of people languishing in prison for nonviolent drug offenses and unlikely to get out anytime soon who would give their right arm to be in Michael Vick’s position. In many states, a person can be sentenced to as little as one year, or even nine months, in prison for dogfighting. Many states also classify attending a dog fight as simply a misdemeanor.
It is well known that animals feel pain. They are, in fact, much more sensitive and mentally complex than many people like to admit. While progress has been made in criminalizing animal fighting, there is still much to be done. Traditionally, sentencing people for crimes of violence is considered to be the responsibility of individual states. That is fine, so long as the states deal with these crimes adequately. When they fail, the federal government must step in. The Violence Against Women Act was a prime example of this. That is why I propose federal legislation that sets a mandatory minimum five year prison sentence for being involved in animal fighting, a mandatory minimum four year prison sentence for possessing animals with the intent to use them in fights, and a mandatory minimum three year prison sentence for being a spectator at an animal fight. The legislation should also stipulate that people involved in animal fighting will be required to pay full costs of treatment for any injuries incurred by animals as a result of said animals being forced to fight.