Court cases reveal Philly's weak history of punishing dogfighters.
Having to face trial, he was going to make a plea.
As the attorneys conferred, Clark sat at the defendant’s table, looking bored. He casually flipped through his case folder containing copies of Officer Loller’s photographs of his injured dogs. Loller sat in the gallery watching. This is what she had been waiting for. This is when she wanted to see some remorse.
The night they found them, the dogs were transported back to the Erie Avenue PSPCA shelter, where a team of vets led by Chief Veterinarian Ravi Murarka—who was incidentally fired earlier this year by PSPCA (then cleared and reinstated) after providing medical care to dogs at a kennel that was investigated for mistreatment—operated on their wounds for hours. Most troubling to the doctors was that Stimpy’s leg had already developed septicemia, an extremely painful condition where deadly bacteria kills healthy white blood cells. Stimpy would die if the condition spread. Plastic shunts were inserted to drain bacteria and puss from the wound and doctors repaired the damaged leg. Stimpy was transferred to the I.C.U. and fed pain meds and antibiotics through intravenous tubes. After two days, the dog’s chest was swollen from septicemia, and doctors put him down.
Officer Loller watched intently as Clark flipped through the photos.
“I’m glad he’s seeing the pain he caused these dogs,” she said.
Clark didn’t show any remorse. Loller sat forward when Clark stared at a photo from Stimpy’s surgery. In the picture, doctors are inserting the shunts into his wounds. Clark glanced over the photo for a moment, and then flipped through a couple more before tossing the folder on the table, seemingly unmoved by what he had seen.
Loller sat back in her chair, disappointed. In a way, her disappointment was, in itself, surprising. Dogfighters are able to inflict all this pain on innocent animals because they don’t see them as deserving any better. That’s why they deserve harsher sentences, so the message gets across—society won’t tolerate their actions.
A recent visit to some of these homes where the dogfights occurred revealed them to be the kind of places where you’ll see kids running through open fire hydrants, which is innocent enough, but you’ll also see them running pit bulls in abandoned lots, and in these neighborhoods that can be a sign of something dangerous. Bengal of the PSPCA said the youngest kids he’s arrested for dogfighting were 9 years old. Michael Vick was 8 when he started fighting dogs.
One recent afternoon, on E. Madison Street, where Joseph Roberts and his stepson had been arrested for running a dogfighting ring, the block was closed off for a party. As Beyoncé’s “Put a Ring On It” boomed out of speakers someone pulled onto their stoop, I spoke to with Roberts.
“Barry was fighting them dogs, not me,” he said. “I never liked dogs my whole life. Don’t go anywhere near ’em.”
Roberts says the dogfighting arrest cost him his job as a janitor at a charter school. He hasn’t worked since and he’s struggling to pay the $2,000 fine that came with his conviction.
“Michael Vick can thank God for his second chance,” said Roberts. “I wish I had some of that money they were giving him. I knew Vick coming here was going to open up a can of worms for me.”
Not long after Roberts’ arrest, a similar dogfighting ring was busted around the corner. There were 22 badly cared for pit bulls in Sidney Prosser’s cramped basement, but things being as they are he was sentenced straight to prison-work release. Prosser was home the other day. A “Warning: Pit Bull,” sign hung in his front window.
“I got nothing to say on that,” he said, when asked about dogfighting. “It’s over and done. I don’t mess with it.”
Despite his sign, he said he didn’t own any pit bulls.
In Courtroom 904, Loller was shaking her head again because things just weren’t going her way.
“Your honor, its horrible what happened to those dogs,” said defense attorney, Evan Hughes. “But this is a human being’s life we’re talking about.”
By this time, a guilty plea had been negotiated and a sentence was all that was left to be decided. All Loller wanted now, since she didn’t get her remorse, was to see the defendant get actual jail time.
The prosecutor, Barbara Paul, called Doctor Murarka to the stand to explain the scope of the dog’s injuries.
“That’s the mouth?” asked Judge Gordon, grimacing at one particularly disturbing photo.
The only way Vick can begin to make up for his heinous crimes is by dedicating a generous portion of his salary to animal welfare organizations here. After that, shut up and go win us a Super Bowl.
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PSPCA plans to pack the dogs into crates and stack them in "temporary emergency housing in the garages at the Erie Ave. facility," according to an email sent from PSPCA to their network of volunteers and rescues.