The Michael Vick case is playing out in federal court, but animal abuse cases are largely a matter of state law. The Humane Society website has a wonderful listing of laws by state, including breakdowns of how seriously each state takes animal abuse offenses and whether the states ban animal fighting. Alabama is doing a fabulous job of protecting its weakest citizens (i.e., women and children who might be targeted next by animal abusers) by classifying cruelty to a dog or cat as a Class C felony and imposing a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for a first offense.
Alaska, Arkansas, and Utah, however, are among the handful of states that still classify animal cruelty as a misdemeanor.
Activists in Utah are trying to toughen its laws against animal cruelty. Advocates for making animal torture a felony have named their bill "Henry's Law," for a tiny black Chihuahua who was, among other things, blinded by a leaf blower and thrown in a 200-degree oven and cooked by some insane human. Let's hope all states soon have laws to crack down on this sort of insanity.
The lesson of Michael Vick's imprisonment should be, "Just because you can doesn't mean you do. And if you do torture animals, we will use the full force of the law against you in retribution."