RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -The government has asked animal-behavior experts to evaluate the pit bulls seized from Michael Vick's property in southeast Virginia to determine whether the fighting dogs can be adopted or should be euthanized.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will lead a team that will assess the dogs confiscated in late April in rural Surry County, federal prosecutors said Monday. The suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback pleaded guilty Monday to a dogfighting conspiracy charge and faces up to five years in prison.
Based on ASPCA evaluations, the consultants will make recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Attorney's office. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson ultimately will decide what becomes of the animals, which are being held at several unspecified shelters in eastern Virginia.
The evaluations are expected to take about three weeks.
``The public can be assured that careful consideration will be given to the ultimate disposition of the dogs involved in this matter,'' the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement.
But animal-welfare groups, including the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have said that pit bulls bred and trained for fighting typically are, and should be, euthanized because they pose a danger to other animals and sometimes people.
In criminal dogfighting operations, dogs are usually tested for aggression, fighting ability and continuing to fight when hurt. Those that don't perform well - and might become acceptable pets - are killed. Vick and his cohorts executed dogs that didn't measure up by hanging and drowning.
``Every effort should be made to make sure that every animal can be saved is,'' said Ann Chynoweth, director of the Humane Society's animal cruelty and fighting campaign. ``But again, animals that are bred and trained for fights are too aggressive to be put back into the community.''
Dog sanctuaries, which are scarce for fighting animals, also would deprive the pit bulls of a real life, Chynoweth said, because the dogs must be kept in solitary confinement.
Federal prosecutors filed court documents last month to condemn 53 pit bulls seized as part of the investigation into dogfighting on Vick's property. No one claimed any of the dogs by Thursday's deadline, and prosecutors said Monday they plan to ask Hudson this week to enter an order declaring the dogs U.S. property.
The civil complaint does not name Vick and is separate from the criminal case against him. But it states the pit bulls were part of the dogfighting operation known as ``Bad Newz Kennels,'' which Vick and three cohorts operated.
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