RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A federal judge on Tuesday approved the neutering of dozens of fighting dogs seized from Michael Vick's rural home and the appointment of an expert to decide the animals' future.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson acted on a government motion requesting animal law expert Rebecca J. Huss serve as the guardian-special master to oversee the possible placement of the 48 dogs, or their euthanasia.
Hudson also granted a request by the U.S. attorney's office that each of the pit bulls be spayed, neutered and have microchips implanted.
Huss, a professor of law at Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana, will travel to Virginia to evaluate the animals and make recommendations on their placement or future. There is no deadline for the process.
``As someone whose academic endeavors focus on the legal status and value of animals in our lives, I am honored to represent the interests of those at the heart of this case, the dogs,'' Huss said in a statement released by Valparaiso.
The court will be responsible for carrying out Huss' recommendations.
The animals were among more than 60 dogs seized by local authorities during an April raid of property in Surry County owned by Vick, the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback. They have been held in animal shelters in the area since.
Vick and three co-defendants pleaded guilty to federal a dogfighting charge and are to be sentenced before the end of the year. They each face up to five years in prison.
Earlier this month, a federal judge ordered one of 49 pit bulls seized to be euthanized after the dog displayed too much aggression to allow animal behavior experts to examine it. The order said experts determined the other 48 dogs have placement potential.
The motion filed Monday acknowledged the government has ``not ruled out the possibility'' additional dogs may be euthanized after further evaluations are completed, but said other placement options are preferred.
Vick and his co-defendants still face state charges in Surry County, where the dogfighting enterprise known as Bad Newz Kennels operated since 2001 on 15 acres owned by Vick.
Vick has been charged with two state felony counts - beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs and engaging in or promoting dogfighting. Each felony is punishable by up to five years in prison.
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