On March 25, 2005 this headline item appeared on the website of the Humane Society of the United States, "Dogfighting Kingpin Toppled in Louisiana Raid." The kingpin was 70-year-old Floyd Boudreaux. He was slapped with 48 counts in state court of dogfighting and animal cruelty. For decades, Boudreaux was the high profile, patriarch of the dirty business. He bragged and boasted of his dog fighter breeding skills, and was even featured on the cover of magazines. Boudreaux made a fortune in the sport, bred and trained dogs and influenced a generation or more of dogfight trainers and breeders. Other than a local paper, and the Humane Society website, Boudreaux's arrest and case quickly disappeared.
On July 18, 2007 this headline screamed from every paper in the country: "Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick indicated on dogfighting charges."
There are three things to keep in mind about the Boudreaux versus Vick sagas; the date, the charges and the outcome, and most importantly the reaction of HSUS and PETA, and state and federal prosecutors, and the public.
Beyond his initial arrest and presumed jailing, Boudreaux has not spent a second in court let alone in a jail cell in the more than two years since his arrest. In fact, he's not even scheduled to go on trial until January 2008. There's no indication that all, or even most of the charges Boudreaux was plastered with will stand up in court or whether the prosecution will vigorously go after him. There's no iron-clad guarantee that nearly three years after Boudreaux's arrest he will even see a courtroom. There could be a plea bargain and then the question is will prosecutors ask for jail time and if they do will he get jail time. Prosecutors are stone silent on all of this. Though dog fighting is a federal offense and Boudreaux undoubtedly transported dogs across state lines, there's no public indication that the feds will bring any charges against him.
Then there's Boudreaux. He did not stand before the world and say "I made a mistake, made bad decisions and dogfighting is a terrible thing." Vick did when he entered his plea.
A Google search turned up only handful of pieces on Boudreaux, the arrest and the charges. Apart from that one bland, newsy article on Boudreaux, the Humane Society ran no endless angry editorials about Boudreaux, made no loud demands for investigations and crackdowns on his alleged operation, or called for pickets to show up outside the Lafayette Parish, Louisiana courthouse when Boudreaux was initially hauled into court. The Humane Society has made no website or public call for animal rights advocates to show up in force in January at his scheduled trial.
Boudreaux is no small potatoes backwater operator. He is rich, famed, and an icon in the dogfighting world. If anyone merits being a candidate for having his mug slapped on a poster for the evil of animal abuse it would be Boudreaux. But let's be realistic, and the Humane Society is nothing if not realistic. They know that Boudreaux and indeed the Boudreauxs of the dog fighting world won't ignite passion, mania and hysteria among thousands, won't draw outraged editorials, and stir chatter on talk shows and Internet sites, won't spur normally intelligent, thoughtful, persons to resort to street corner, juvenile delinquent name calling, won't get senators and congresspersons calling for banning an offender from their profession.
This all adds up to soaring membership numbers, puffing up their public profile and stature, and best of all big dollars flowing into the kitty of animal rights groups. Vick did all of that and more for them, and as long as he can serve that purpose, he's guaranteed to be the other half of the tale of hypocrisy about who America chooses to finger for crime and punishment against animals.
When it's a Vick versus a Boudreaux it's no contest.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October.