How would YOU react if a rapist posed with a victim on the Rape Victim Advocacy Program’s website? Would an organization such as RVAP, a sexual assault crisis center based in Iowa City, IA, fathom such a stunt? Regardless of whether they include a sincere apology and a tangible display of remorse from the criminal, would the public be comfortable? The answer would probably be no. However, when it comes to animal cruelty the same rules don’t apply.
Let’s take Michael Vick’s case as an example.
Michael Vick went from an all-American football quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons to the despised owner of extensive dogfighting facilities within the blink of an eye, with 50 pit bulls on a 15-acre property in rural Surry County, VA. As the media delved deeper into the breaking story, audiences discovered a darker side involving illegal operations of an interstate dog fighting ring involving drugs and gambling. Animal lovers and activists were outraged by reports of abuse, torture, and the killings of under-performing dogs.
> Has the nation forgotten?
The extent of the abuse is far more troubling than what most people know and the details are highly disturbing. Donna Reynolds, co-founder of Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls (BAD RAP), evaluated the 49 pit bulls found alive at Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels and gave a chilling account in her organization’s blog:
“The details that got to me then and stay with me today involve the swimming pool that was used to kill some of the dogs. Jumper cables were clipped onto the ears of underperforming dogs, then, just like with a car, the cables were connected to the terminals of car batteries before lifting and tossing the shamed dogs into the water. Most of Vick’s dogs were small – 40lbs or so – so tossing them in would’ve been fast and easy work for thick athlete arms […] It seems that while they were scrambling to escape, they scratched and clawed at the pool liner and bit at the dented aluminum sides like a hungry dog on a tin can.”
After pleading guilty to federal felony charges, Vick spent 19 months in prison, lost his NFL salary and Nike’s product endorsement deal, and filed for bankruptcy by July 2008. As an attempt to rebuild his image, Vick and the Humane Society of the United States joined teams to supposedly eradicate dogfighting amongst urban teens.
Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the HSUS, met with Vick while the player served time. Despite the severity of his crimes, the organization decided to give him the chance to be somewhat of a role model (BUT NOT QUITE!) against dog fighting. The trick has many questioning Vick’s remorse and with good reason. It seems very convenient to work with one of the most powerful and wealthy animal rights organizations after being convicted for a crime that screams, well, animal cruelty.
- How does the Humane Society justify its decision?
“Vick was a role model for many young people, and he lost everything because of what he did to dogs. His story is the strongest possible example of why dogfighting is a dead end. Just as former drug addicts are able to reach people struggling with addiction, former dogfighters are some of the most effective voices against this crime. We realized the potential that Vick has to reach at-risk youth and pull them out of the quicksand of animal fighting. That said, we constantly attempt to recruit celebrities and others to join us in our crusade to end dogfighting and other forms of animal cruelty. We want to use all pathways to stopping the problem.”
- Does the HSUS really practice what it preaches? The following paragraph from a New York Times article speaks for itself:
“Officials from our organization have examined some of these dogs and, generally speaking, they are some of the most aggressively trained pit bulls in the country,” Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a telephone interview […] “Hundreds of thousands of less-violent pit bulls, who are better candidates to be rehabilitated, are being put down. The fate of these dogs will be up to the government, but we have recommended to them, and believe, they will be eventually put down.”
The HSUS is one of the most recognized and funded animal rights organizations in the nation. By putting Vick up on their website playing with cheerful dogs, they’re allowing audiences to easily forgive and forget who this guy really is. Putting pubic relations, marketing, role models, and humane societies aside, Michael Vick should be seen as a twisted dog torturer and murderer. Time in jail can’t change the past. Sessions with a therapist might delve deeper into the psyche of such an individual, but it’s not enough to grant full oblivion of his mistakes. The past is the past, including the countless pit bulls who died and suffered beating, hanging, shooting, electrocution, drowning, and substandard living conditions due to vile, underground gambling addicts. The present, though, still shows the dozens of pups recovering from the tragedy. About 50 of the rescued pups, many which were left for dead, have been placed in homes and sanctuaries. The majority bear the scars, both physical and emotional while the athlete plays poster boy.
The ethics behind this case are worthy of endless and countless discussions. As human beings given the right to think and speak freely, the debate is open and opinions welcomed. Regardless of mixed perspectives and opposing sides, Vick crossed the line by attempting to become a role model through HSUS. The player shouldn’t be rewarded for his crimes (ehem, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles), much less idolized. Why not choose a football player who loves animals and opposes dog fighting? That, fellow readers, is something we can all live with.