Michael Vick's crimes are unforgettable and unforgivable. The pain endured by all of the "Bad Newz" dogs must be remembered, and will always remain a constant reminder of why we rescue. And ultimately, it is because of them that we must forgive Michael Vick.
Under the terms of Vick's probation upon his release from prison in May 2009, the only animal-related requirement was that he not own, possess, or sell any canines. There was no community service requirement at all, let alone animal-related community service. Yet almost immediately upon his release, Vick hooked up with the Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS was bashed for this, and people claimed Vick was only doing it for his image - at the time, this seemed like a valid point. However, after the publicity of this initial announcement, very little publicity has been given to the other things Vick has done.
If Vick was only out to improve his image by working with The HSUS, wouldn't his "publicity team" be turning each and every occurrence of Mike Vick speaking about dogs into a media circus? I mean, that's the job of a publicist - if your job is to repair the image of a man who did awful things to dogs, you're damn sure to make it very public every time he does something good for them. Yet beyond sparse local media coverage, there hasn't been much publicity at all. How many people know that Vick has done over one hundred speeches at schools so far?
(Note: These numbers are guesses, although I believe that they're a very conservative estimate. The actual impact is likely much greater, but I don't want to be accused of exaggerating.)
During his speeches, the number of students he has spoken to is at least 15,000. If just 1/4 of them listen to his message, he's reached 3,750 kids. Those kids are, without fail, going to go home and pass that message along to friends and family. If just 1 percent of that 3,750 were already abusing animals, or would have in the future, That's 38 animal abusers stopped. For comparison, if Vick had been locked up for life or executed, those numbers would all be zero.
Some people argue that Vick could have done this work with The HSUS without being granted the privilege of playing a game and making millions of dollars at the same time, and it's true that he could have done the speeches. But would the impact have been the same on these kids coming from "ex-con Mike Vick" as coming from "NFL Superstar Mike Vick"? Of course not.
If you argue that Vick wasn't punished enough for his crimes, I'm apt to agree with you; in that case, though, venom needs to be directed towards the laws in place and those that enforce them, and not Vick.
So why MUST we forgive him? If for no other reason, utility. More good will get done if we support the work he's doing than will if we fight it because of his past. Being stubborn and unforgiving won't help. And to be quite honest, by opposing Vick, you are opposing the work he is doing... and ultimately, you are hurting dogs.
Oh yeah... wanted to touch up on some silly things I've heard.
1. "Vick owning a dog is like a pedophile moving next door to a daycare/adopting a child/etc." - ok, sure is. By that logic, though, should petty thieves never be allowed into a convenience store again? Should convicted money launderers never be allowed to have money again? As rescuers, we always talk about the healing power of dogs. Opposing Vick's ownership of a dog is entirely vindictive - nobody can honestly believe he is going to fight dogs again. With all of the notoriety this move would receive, can anyone honestly believe that dog would be anything but pampered?
2. "He's not doing enough" - Really? He's done more already - impacted more people, educated more children, and given more publicity to the horrors of dogfighting than anybody I know. What, exactly, would be "enough"? I have a feeling you don't have an answer for that.
Anything else? Post questions here and I'll respond quickly. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org