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Seized dogs awaiting claims

August 21, 2007|Veronica Gorley Chufo | Newport News (Va.) Daily Press

RICHMOND, Va. -- Anyone who has an ownership stake in one of the 53 pit bulls removed from Michael Vick's Surry County property this year has until Thursday to file a claim.

So far, no one has stepped forward.

The dogs were seized by the federal government as part of the dogfighting investigation that started on Vick's property in April. Surry County Animal Control removed 66 dogs from the property, but the U.S. District Court in Richmond has filed suit to take only the 53 pit bulls.

The Newport News native and Atlanta Falcons quarterback has been indicted on a charge of conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal-fighting venture.

Vick's attorneys Monday said he plans to plead guilty next week. His three other co-defendants have pleaded guilty.

Three notices were published last month in the Richmond Times-Dispatch to let possible owners know the dogs were seized. If no one files a claim by the deadline, the dogs will, by default, become the property of the government and the court will determine their fate.

The forfeiture statute says the animals "shall be disposed of by sale for lawful purposes or by other humane means, as the court may direct."

In dogfighting cases, animals are often euthanized because they're deemed unsafe as pets, the Humane Society of the United States has said.

The future of the dogs is a separate civil proceeding that doesn't mention Vick or his co-defendants by name. It does, however, mention Bad Newz Kennels, the dogfighting operation Vick and his co-defendants are accused of running, as well as Vick's property at 1915 Moonlight Road in rural Surry County.

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