Earlier this week, we noted Virginia's effort to establish a "Dangerous Dog Registry," to provide information on canines that might pose a threat to public safety. With the click of a mouse, residents of the Old Dominion can now learn if a "dangerous" dog resides in their neighborhood. Owners of pooches that earn the title are required to purchase additional liability insurance for their homes, place a special tag on their dog's collar, ensure their pet is spayed or neutered, and pay substantially higher fees for the animal's registration.
But we're still unconvinced that the new program will identify animals--and their owners--that are a genuine risk to the public. Support for our theory was provided by the latest raid on the Surry County property of NFL quarterback Michael Vick, carried out by federal, state and local authorities on Friday afternoon. Informants have reportedly linked the Atlanta Falcons star to a multi-state dog-fighting ring, and agents have searched the property three times since April, as part of their on-going investigation.
Vick has claimed that he had no knowledge of alleged dog-fighting on his Virginia property, and suggested that "relatives" living at the house may have taken advantage of his generosity. But the credibility of those claims is growing dubious; neighbors report that Vick installed kennels on the property over five years ago--before the house was built. And, federal court records released today revealed that dog carcasses were found at Vick's Atlanta home during a surprise search in early June, and Norfolk media outlets report that more canine remains were discovered in Surry County today. Authorities also suggest that dog fights have been staged at Vick's Virginia property since 2002, attracting spectators--and bettors--from across the country.
However, there are no indications that Surry County officials were concerned about the apparent activity at Vick's property. In fact, a probe by local authorities only began in April of this year, when it became apparent that the feds were on the trail. Last month, the local Commonwealth's attorney told reporters that he didn't have a single report on the Vick case, and wouldn't present evidence to a grand jury until next month. Not surprisingly, today's search at the Surry County residence was led by the feds, with state and local agents playing a supporting role. Obviously, federal agencies can claim jurisdiction in cases that fall within their purview, but their leadership also suggests impatience with local probe's glacial pace.
Which brings us back to that dangerous dog registry. Left to their own devices, it seems unlikely that Surry County officials would have intervened at the Vick property, and listed the animals as "dangerous dogs." Ignoring an obvious problem for five years speaks volumes about the "selective" enforcement practices that exist in some part of Virginia--practices that will doom that highly-touted dog registry.
ADDENDUM: In fairness, we should point out that Mr. Vick was not named in the court documents released today. However, in light of the discoveries in Atlanta and Surry County, Vick's status may change in future court filings.