Animal abuse cases are not unknown in Northern Michigan. Stories of abused horses or reeking homes filled with starving dogs and cats have been in the news here in recent years.
But each time a story of animal abuse surfaces, it touches the heart of our humanity and generates outrage. To have a sense of humanity means caring for those weaker than yourself -- be they children, the poor, the less fortunate, and even pets or farm animals.
So what do you make of the current effort to find the humanity in Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who‘s infamous as a kingpin in the vicious “sport“ of dogfighting? One might have better luck finding the lost souls at the bottom of the collapsed mine in Utah than finding a heart in this guy, who likes to style himself as a “thug.“
Now, allies in the NAACP and the NFL are defending Vick with the notion that he‘s really a very nice guy who took a wrong turn. Hey, the same thing happened to Hitler and Osama bin Laden.
Yet Vick proved he‘s a heartless thug when police raided his home in Virginia last April, finding 66 dogs on the property, 55 of which were pit bulls. As the owner and operator of Bad Newz Kennels, Vick allegedly held dog fights at his home, caught red-handed with bloodstained carpets, a dogfighting pit, and abused animals. According to an ESPN report, spectators who bet on these fights at Vick‘s level gamble as much as $30,000-$40,000 to see these dogs ripped apart.
What a strange, sick world it is when Atlanta NAACP Chapter President R.L. White holds a news conference to state that Vick should be allowed to rejoin the NFL after his trial and likely conviction this November. Does this leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People forget that police dogs were sicced on African-American civil rights marchers in cities across the South during the 1960s? Michael Vick is the spiritual cousin of Sheriff Bull Connor, who used fire hoses and German Shepherds to rip into peaceful marchers in Birminghan, Alabama in 1963.
True, there‘s a difference between using dogs to attack human beings, whether they‘re marching in Selma, Alabama, or cowering naked in a prison cell in Abu Ghraib. But there‘s a shared thread in the principle that it‘s despicable and barbaric to use animals in this way.
Then there‘s NBA star Stephon Marbury defending Vick on the grounds that dogfighting is really just a “sport“ that‘s been forced underground. Other defenders say dogfighting is not much different than hunting.
But in a sport, you don‘t have coaches sneaking around stealing other peoples‘ pets as bait to train dogs to kill. A recent documentary on HBO told of an abducted pet dog whose leg was broken with a hammer or a pipe so that he‘d be defenseless to fight back against pit bulls. It also showed a stolen pet whose mouth had been duct-taped shut to keep it from defending itself during training fights.
These are apparently common practices in the “sport“ of dogfighting. According to the U.S. Humane Society, between 20,000-40,000 people in America are involved in what is a multibillion dollar industry.
Should Michael Vick be allowed to play in the NFL again once he‘s out of prison?
Yes he should, the same as Michael Richards should be allowed to get back on stage with his comedy and Don Imus back on the air with his shock jock shtick. The same as the Tour de France riders caught with steroids should ride again. They‘ve done their time in the barrel in one way or another.
But like those others, every time Michael Vick walks out under the spotlights for the rest of his life, it will be with loud boos and cries of “you suck!“ ringing in his ears. If he wants to hear that bad news about himself for the rest of his life, we should let him go right ahead and suck it up.
Know of any dogfighting going on in Northern Michigan? Do “man‘s best friend“ a favor -- call the cops.