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Dogfighting in the Spotlight

Celebrity case heightens public and police awareness

Celebrity case heightens public and police awareness

About a week before Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted on felony dog fighting charges in Virginia, the first felony animal fighting trial in Lancaster, Pa., history was just beginning.

It would quickly end in a partial mistrial. Though police had seized pit bulls, roosters, training equipment, and animal fighting publications as evidence, jury members were apparently unconvinced. They found the defendant guilty—but only on a minor cruelty charge stemming from the conditions in which the dogs had been kept.

When graphic details of the Vick case exploded onto the national scene just days later, staff at the Humane League of Lancaster County saw it as a case of bad timing.

“We were joking with the assistant district attorney and we said, ‘You know, I think you tried this case one week too early because now with all the publicity … maybe jurors would be more informed,’ ” says managing director of operations Kerry Flanagan.

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