First, there is a great deal of misinformation in the news on this story. He is NOT convicted of dog fighting. It is a violation of Federal law to transport an animal across state lines for the purpose of fighting, whether the fight occurs or not. It is also a violation of Federal law to conspire to transport the animals across state lines for this purpose or aid in doing so (including funding.) Finally, it is a violation of Federal law to be involved in the planning of animal fights if it involves crossing state lines. These, and variations of these, are what he is convicted of doing. The difference may seem subtle, but from a legal standpoint it is very distinct. These types of crimes are MUCH easier to prove in court that actual dog fighting. While it has been hyped in the news, based on what Iâ€™ve seen so far and the legal history of this type of crime it will be almost impossible for the state to convict him of actual dog fighting crimes. He could only be convicted of actual dog fighting in Federal court if the fight occurred on US Government property (such as a military base) or on Reservation land.
As for his sentence, this is one of the most severe Iâ€™ve ever seen in one of these cases. The high profile nature of this case surely played into it, since it is almost exclusively in high profile cases where I have ever seen stiff sentences given for any type of animal cruelty. Having seen and worked with far more than my share of these poor animals that have been subjected to this life I personally think it would be to generous to drop the people who do this in a pit of boiling acid, but I donâ€™t write the laws. Most dog fighters rarely get more than probation or a small fine even after multiple convictions. Iâ€™ve held far to many potentially wonderful dogs while they were euthanized because one of these low lifes bred, held, or trained them to be fighters which, according to state law (and civil court history) automatically declares them a â€œpotentially dangerous animalâ€ and makes them unadoptable.