But things are getting better. In 2007, the most (in)famous dogfighter – Michael Vick – was sentenced to just two years in prison (he served little more than one). Five years later, Donnie Anderson, the man at the head of the second biggest dogfighting ring in US history, was sentenced to eight years in prison. And just last Thursday, Hewitt Grant – a dogfighter operating out of Polk County, Florida – was sentenced to twenty years.
That’s a huge victory for animal lovers everywhere. According to some estimates, more than 40,000 people participate in organized dogfighting yearly, and hundreds of thousands more participate in street dogfighting. While raising awareness about such things can certainly help matters, the only way we’re going to seriously put a dent in those numbers is if the penalties – not just for dogfighting, but for dogfight spectating – become evermore severe.
In October of 2014, seventy-seven scarred and brutalized dogs were confiscated from Grant’s property, many of whom were saved and taken to behavioral shelters across the country courtesy of the ASPCA.
Connie Johnson of SPCA Florida – who helped rehabilitate some of the dogs – testified on the witness stand during the sentencing, saying:
I would like for someone to finally show the community that we’re not tolerating this anymore.
It was no doubt thanks, in part, to testimonies like Johnson’s that Hewitt Grant’s sentence was so much harsher than previous dogfighting sentences. Johnson talked to Fox 13 Tampa Bay about the work that went into helping the dogs:
When you touched them, their bodies would cringe, stiffen. They’d never had any human socialization at all. They yearned for it, though. You could tell many of them did. And a lot of them made it so that’s a success for me.
On top of the twenty-year prison sentence, Grant also received thirty years probation. And while his defense attorney suggested that, once he was out, he could give back to the community by serving hours at the local SPCA, the judge was adamant that he stay away from dogs for the rest of his days.
Featured image via Polk County Sheriff’s Office