Mississippi Crime of the Week – Dog Fighting

Dog fighting is a very “politically incorrect” crime these days.  Just ask Michael Vick, who thankfully is on the rebound these days.

The following conduct will get you into trouble for dog fighting in Mississippi:

  • sponsoring, conducting, staging, or promoting a dog fight;
  • betting or encouraging betting on a dog fight;
  • owning a dog with the intent to enter it into a dog fight;
  • training or transporting a dog for a dog fight.

These activities constitute a felony in Mississippi, and the penalties are a fine of not less than $1000.00 nor more than $5000.00, or imprisonment for 1-3 years, or both.  The statute specifically makes exceptions for livestock dogs, hunting dogs, or “the training of dogs for any purpose not prohibited by law.”  Miss. Code Ann. § 97-41-19.

What if I am just caught at a dog fight?  I wasn’t doing anything!

If you are caught at a dog fight, or where someone is planning to have a dog fight, and the prosecutor can prove you meant to be there, you face a felony conviction, and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $500.00 nor more than $5,000.00, or by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both, in the discretion of the court.

The sheriff took all my dogs!  Can he do that?

Mississippi’s dog fighting law states that a law enforcement officer can lawfully “take possession of all dogs and all paraphernalia, implements, equipment or other property” used in dog fighting, and file an affidavit with the court describing it.  The officer then takes the dogs and gear to a licensed veterinarian, the humane society, or other suitable custodian, and this custodian will keep everything until your case is done.

If this custodian certifies that one of your seized dogs is not likely to survive until the end of your case, or it is in such bad shape that it humanely needs to be put down, then the court can authorize that the dog be euthanized within 7 days of this certification.  If these procedures are not followed exactly before one of your dogs is put down the statute allows you to sue the law enforcement agency that arrested you.  Finally, if you are convicted under this statute, your dogs are forfeited and the court will order a “humane disposition,”  but if you are acquitted or charges are dismissed you get your dogs and property back.

If you love your dogs as much as most people do, a lot is going to be at stake if you are arrested and accused under Mississippi’s dog fighting laws.  It is at this point that I normally say that I have “extensive experience” with this type of case, but I can honestly say I have never had a dog fighting case before.   But seeing as how there are no reported cases under this statute (in other words, most of these cases get resolved), then they are rare.  A criminal charge is a criminal charge, however, and I am always available for a consultation if you need an experienced criminal lawyer to help you.