Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why We Must Forgive Michael Vick

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


  1. Please address this thought, which I am still undecided:

    Is Vick, who not only financed a dogfighting ring but also reportedly "enjoyed placing family pets in the ring with fighting pit bulls and ... laughed as dogs ripped each other apart," really reformed? Is his desire to help the Humane Society simply a public relations move designed to get him reinstated in the NFL?"

    Who really knows the true answer to his motivations damage repair, or true remose?

  2. Well, Anonymous - two avenues of thought on that question. The first, from the utilitarian point of view, leads to this answer: Who cares if he's remorseful? He's making an impact. He's doing great things to help, so it doesn't matter if he means it or not.

    The second point of view, based purely on emotion, is that I really believe he is remorseful. People that doubt his sincerity point to the fact that he looks away during interviews, doesn't make eye contact, avoids specific mention of the dogs he hurt, etc. But then watch some of his other interviews not about the dogs... he still looks away, still doesn't make eye contact. He's fairly soft-spoken and clearly uncomfortable during all interviews. Watching video of his speeches to the kids really shows his sincerity, in my opinion. Also note the change in his dog-speak vocabulary - he sounds more and more like an advocate everyday. As far as not specifically mentioning the dogs he hurt? We've all done bad things - not on that level, of course, but none of us are perfect. We've all done things we've regretted. How many of us are comfortable talking about them afterwards? We'll all talk AROUND whatever it was, we'll be remorseful, but we'll still avoid it. It's natural.

  3. Forgive Vick because you think he's remorseful? Only if you forget the deeper, sordid picture of Vick's Bad Newz dog fighting ring in Surry County, which wasn't just some gentleman's sporting club where wagering was committed as well-muscled, athletic pit bulls tussled in a ring together, and may the better dog win.

    This was a blood sport — emphasis on "blood" — in which dogs were maimed, crippled and ripped apart.

    And, if they lost in the ring, they still had to face Vick.

    Vick the dog owner and his crew committed unspeakable acts against those dogs. Shooting them, drowning them, hanging them. One that survived his hanging was picked up, slammed into the ground over and over and left to — finally — die.

    This wasn't a no-nonsense farmer putting a quick bullet into the brain of a nuisance or sickly animal. It was as if Vick and his buddies were thinking up ever more creative ways to inflict pain. As if death were simply a byproduct.

    But there's more.

    Vick didn't just savage his fighting dogs. According to federal investigators, he threw a family pet into the pit with a fighting dog. A fighting dog, by the way, that in any other household could have been a loving and loved pet, but which he and his crew had meticulously conditioned to kill or be killed.

    Then, as the fighting dog went after the defenseless family pet, Vick laughed.

    This was not some mistake. This was not some error in judgment.

    This was a mindset.

    Since his stint in federal prison, his temporary suspension from professional football, his public mea culpas, Vick says he's a changed man. His NFL career has taken off again, and mazel tov.

    A judge ordered him not to own a dog while he's on probation, but apparently Vick has begun to reflect on how wonderful a family pet can be.

    "I think just to have a pet in my household," said Vick in an interview with NBC News and The, "and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love and my passion for animals, I think it would be outstanding."

    His advocate, Wayne Pacelle, thinks so, too.

    "I have been around him a lot," Pacelle told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "and feel confident that he would do a good job as a pet owner."

    Maybe Pacelle believes it. But maybe a bit of that optimism is wanting to justify the decision to use Vick as a poster boy. How would it look, after all, if they aligned themselves with someone they consider an irredeemable dog killer?

    Unless Pacelle is willing to give Vick his own personal family pet with no conditions, oversight or reservations — then forget it.

    Sure, it's a pity Vick's kids won't know the childhood joy of a dog in the household, but when they're adults, they can get their own.

    Right now, the only dog I'd trust with Vick is Cujo.

  4. My problem with Vick is his obvious enjoyment of causing pain to the dogs he fought. He wasn't content with "just" owning the dogs or "just" fighting them. He went the extra mile and, with his own hands, killed the dogs who didn't win by slamming their heads against concrete, hanging them where they died slowly, placing electrodes on their bodies and tossing them into a swimming pool. These are not "simply" crimes, they are indications of a sadistic and sociopathic personality. These are not traits that can simply be turned off by seeing the error of one's ways. Vick tortured the dogs and took pleasure in it. He may or may not be remorseful, but I can't believe he has been "cured" and I can't believe he is now a compassionate person. Just as an alcoholic has to choose to refrain from drinking even a little lest he slip back into overdoing it, and just as a pedophile has to be banned from ever working with children (i.e. scout master or holiday Santa) lest he give in to his urges, just so do I believe that a sadistic torturer has to be prevented from having access to the defenseless animals that he has enjoyed hurting. Vick was not moved to stop by the screams of pain when he was fighting dogs, he was pumped up and stimulated by those cries. These traits are a part of his being and he has not even had any psychiatric counseling to help him try to change those feelings (and I repeat, I don't believe they can truly be changed). So I say let him continue to speak to children about making good choices, and let him tell his daughters the truth about why he can't have a dog, but please don't let him ever have one.

  5. "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?"

    Sorry, Adam, but here's your apparent disconnect: These offenses illustrate what are frequently referred to as "victimless" crimes.. that is, no living, sentient being was physically harmed in the commission of those activities.

    Just as there are laws that prohibit convicted pedophiles from having ANYTHING but the most closely supervised contact with children (FOR LIFE), there must be identical protections for companion animals.

    HAS there every been a thorough psychological profile of Vick, with follow-up evaluations on a regular basis?

    As Maureen observed above, "These are not "simply" crimes, they are indications of a sadistic and sociopathic personality. These are not traits that can simply be turned off by seeing the error of one's ways. Vick tortured the dogs and took pleasure in it."

    No companion animal should EVER be put in such a questionable position (that is, within Vick's purview), where there risk that his "dark side" will resurface will forever remain....

    Vick can - and should - speak to the cause of animal protection for the rest of his life, but for that same period he should forever face exclusion from animal "ownership".

    Some crimes are too heinous, too offensive, to unspeakable to ever merit "forgiveness"...

  6. I never said that Vick's crimes were anything other than unconscionable and inexcusable. Also note that I didn't comment on whether or not Vick should have a dog; that's not the point of this.

    What I'm looking at here, what I'm discussing, the point I'm trying to make is that Vick is, without question, helping animals through his work with The HSUS. Ask the kids he's spoken to and the administration of the schools at which he's spoken, and they'll tell you that Vick is making a very positive impact on these kids.

    When we get right down to it, the reasons we must forgive Michael Vick is very simple. The 53 dogs that survived and the countless others that didn't will have absorbed the abuse entirely in vain if we don't forgive him, if we don't support the work he's trying to do now. There will come a point, if the constant harassment and condemnation continue, that he'll say "you know what? I tried, but they don't want my help. I quit." And the day he quits trying is the day the children he reaches out to quit caring, too.

    Vick's actions were unforgivable; but he's working very hard at earning forgiveness as a man. Our ultimate goal is doing whatever we can to see that animals are treated better, right? Embracing Vick is quite clearly part of that "whatever we can."

  7. the flucker is doing what he has to do to stay a football player, NOT NOT NOT because he cares any chyt about what he did to poor defenssless animals. HE IS COVERING HIA AZZ, and that is all he is doing.

  8. alot seem to forget that he denied everything till his CO-HORTS ratted him out and then it was "oh yea i was involved and i'm sorry"...WHY DIDN"T HE COP TO EVERYTHING WHEN HE WAS FIRST NAILED?? HAD TO TAKE HIS PARTNERS ratting him out before he admitted what he did. DOESN"T THIS MEAN ANYTHING TO ANYONE????HAY OBAMA> DID YA THINK ABOUT THIS??

  9. Oh hey, sweet! Another person that entirely missed the point. Don't worry, you're in good company. Re-read what I wrote, and then try to understand why your comment isn't at all relevant. But, since you commented as "anonymous", I can't imagine reasoning is something you're interested in.

  10. Why should we forgive him, he can continue his work with the HSUS, but that doesn't mean that he should be forgiven!!!