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Dogs on the Docket
Does the Constitution protect the right to possess or sell videos of dog fighting?

Today, the Supreme Court considers the question: Can the government make it a crime to sell or possess a depiction of animal cruelty? The case stems from the conviction of a man how sold videos depicting dog fighting. This morning, NPR’s Supreme Court maven, Nina Totenberg, provided an excellent preview of the case, which is worth a listen. It’s a tough decision for those of us who are horrified by the cruelty but also recognize the essential importance of the First Amendment. The Bark’s legal columnist Geordie Duckler, JD, weighed in on this complex case in April. Meanwhile, one detail in Totenberg’s story stood out for me. The defendant in Supreme Court case was sentenced to three years for selling videos depicting animal cruelty—twice as long as Vick, who participated in cruel acts.

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com


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Submitted by Chelsea's Mom | October 7 2009 |

The constitution does not protect against cruelty, or does it? A video that makes cruelty to an animal okay is the same as videotaping child abuse. Why would you sell something like that and why would it be okay for anyone to even want to watch it. People who watch things like that are sick. It needs to be a federal crime just like child pornography.

Submitted by K. Dawson | October 24 2009 |

It is not the same. One is animal abuse and the other is child abuse. If you can't tell the difference, you certainly shouldn't be in custody of any children.

Submitted by Lisa Wogan | October 7 2009 |

Mark Markarian provides some perspective from the steps of the US Supreme Court on his blog. Link here: http://hslf.typepad.com/political_animal/2009/10/stevens-case.html

Submitted by Kathy Konetzka-Close | October 7 2009 |

I must be dense or something, because I honestly don't see the slippery slope, or how this has ANYTHING to do with the First Amendment. If an activity is illegal, then it seems to me to be a very clear dot to connect to the idea that video of said activity is illegal as well. This guy wasn't selling videos for education, or for entertainment,i.e where the animal abuse was simulated, like what Hollywood does in a film about abuse)--he was making a buck from distributing material depicting real dog fighting, with real dogs trying to tear each other apart. Honestly, I know we live in a society where we will never agree on everything, but it seems to me that this is a pretty easy decision. The public is not as stupid as we're made out to be; some of us are quite capable of discerning the difference between a movie where someone is murdered and an actual snuff film. We prosecute the purveyors of child pornography with gusto (as we should). This seems as clear cut an issue (to me, at least) as that one. As for the prison sentence for this individual being longer than the one for Michael Vick, well......all I can say is that neither one of them served enough time IMO, but if this gentleman had been a professional athlete like Mr. Vick, he might have gotten a better deal.

Submitted by crackbaby | October 20 2009 |

I don't care for dog or cockfighting, but I struggle with the constitutionality of laws being passed against such. How can we allow children by the hundreds of thousands each year to be hurt in injury inevitable sports in public, yet have felony laws against injury inevitable sports on private property involving animals. We have put the safety of animals well above the children to say the least!

Submitted by Anonymous | November 4 2009 |

Animals don't have ANY choice. They can't say no. I don't think comparing children playing sports with animal fighting makes any sense. Children more often than not are willingly participate in sports and are conscience of the potential injury. The animals involved in fighting are often abused and beaten in order to get them to fight. Human boxers who beat the c*** out of each other have free will. Bottom line: Humans have free will. Even children, even though many adults are too patronizing to realize this, do too. Animals do not in this case.

Submitted by Morgana | October 27 2009 |

I don't understand the differentiation of abuse to this one or that one. As a child that was abused, all I can say is:ABUSE IS ABUSE. As for the depiction of abuse getting more time than Vick, I don't understand that either, except they were tried in two different courts and maybe that is the difference. If you kick a dog or kick a child, which is worse? Differentiation of abuse is a serious problem of these polemics, but the bottom line is ABUSE IS NOT OKAY, period. And those who get their kicks out of watching abuse are even more despicable. They don't have the courage to actually perpetrate the crime themselves, but must get their shits and giggles vicariously. sick, sick, sick.

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