Dogfighting IS a Real Crime
If you believe, as I do, that Michael Vick should serve the maximum possible prison time and never be allowed to play professional football again, then you have a real understanding of what he did and why society needs to make a stand against it. If you believe that dogfighting doesn't sound like such a big deal, that Mr. Vick is a victim of racism, and our time would be better spent prosecuting "real" crimes like rape or murder, then read on, because you need enlightenment.
Ironically, Michael Vick is single-handedly doing more to raise public awareness of this brutal pastime than all the animal welfare advocates have been able to do in fifty years. Because of his fame and fortune and the height of his fall, the beleaguered Pit Bulls of America may finally get the help they need. Those of us in the trenches of animal rescue know that fighting dogs may be skinned alive, have their entire faces ripped off, or throats torn out by a stronger opponent. We know that dogs who won't fight are routinely hanged, drowned, beaten to death, electrocuted, or, if an owner is exceptionally merciful, merely shot in the head. We know that classified ads offering free puppies and kittens are sometimes answered by people who use them as bait and practice targets to be ripped apart.
We have tried to make it known that there is a proven link between violence against animals and violence against people. Individuals who fight dogs and bet on them have a sick, twisted streak that often manifests as spousal abuse and child abuse as well. They vent their anger and frustration by abusing living creatures, and they don't always care what species their victims are. A high percentage of people who own fighting dogs and attend dog fights are felons who have already been convicted of other violent crimes. This is not a matter in which we should mind our own business, as suggested by Vick's buddy, Clinton Portis. This should be everyone's business every bit as much as someone beating a child should be everyone's business, because the behaviors are inextricably linked.
This was no youthful indiscretion on Mr. Vick's part. This is not, as his attorney stated, a case of "a good kid in a bad situation." This is not the same as being caught snorting cocaine or stealing a car or punching a guy in a bar fight. This was deep, personal involvement in a world of blood and violence over a period of at least seven years. I'm not naïve enough to believe that the only dogs he killed were the eight listed in the indictment. Those were only the latest and the best-documented. In an operation the size of Bad Newz Kennels, you could expect that at least 100 dogs would have been killed over that time period. Vick felt the need to do it personally by an assortment of methods that caused the maximum amount of terror and suffering in his victims.
Michael Vick is an unrepentant narcissist who only decided to "take full responsibility" for his actions when the feds were dangling a RICO charge over his head. He made an emotional apology to his family, his fans, the NFL and nearly everyone except the ones to whom he owed it most: the dogs in his care who trusted him and were rewarded with searing pain, suffering and mind-numbing fear.
I hope public outcry will keep this man from ever regaining the glory he attained as a football god. I hope anyone who owns a Vick jersey or shirt will donate it to Animal Services or the Humane Society to use as a dog bed or a poop towel. I hope the plight of the Pit Bull will finally be recognized and taken seriously. But, most of all, I hope for a society capable of understanding that the way we treat our animals is a reflection of the way we treat each other.