In 2007, Atlanta Falcons star Michael Vick was sentenced to prison for running a dogfighting operation out of his home. Under Vick’s supervision, dogs that did not perform up to expectations were killed by electrocution, hanging, drowning, and other violent means. Vick served nearly two years in prison, and received a harsher sentence than the two co-defendants because he lied about his involvement when he was supposed to be coming clean to the judge who decided his fate.
At his sentencing, the judge told Vick, “You were instrumental in promoting, funding, and facilitating this cruel and inhumane sporting activity. You need to apologize to the millions of young people who looked up to you.” Now, it seems, Vick is trying to do just that. Since his release, Vick has been serving as spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States as the face of an anti-dogfighting program.
In 2009, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was involved in more than 250 busts of animal fighting operations. With their stance on dogfighting, you’d think the pairing of Michael Vick and HSUS would be unlikely. Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS, said when he talked with Vick about working with them, Vick said that he was a changed man and he wanted to show the American public that he is committed to helping combat this problem.
Now is about the time when most people’s eyes start to roll. Vick explained to Pacelle that he grew up with dogfighting as a boy and he never questioned it as he grew into manhood. He didn’t know any better because he was never taught that it was wrong. Pacelle said, “If he makes the most of it, and demonstrates a sincere, long-term commitment to the task, then it may prove to be a tipping point in our campaign to eradicate dogfighting…Maybe if there had been an intervention program in Newport News, Virginia, 15 years ago, a young Michael Vick would have grown to love and respect pit bulls, and he would not have done these terrible things to dogs. For me, it’s not about Michael Vick and providing endless punitive treatment. It’s about stopping other young people from going down the road Vick took.”
The HSUS and Michael Vick’s “End Dogfighting” campaign stopped at two high schools in Connecticut last week to encourage kids to be kind to animals. Vick spoke to students, telling them how his ignorance about the plight of animals has now turned into a blessing. Legal restrictions have been tightened across the country once the spotlight turned to lax laws surrounding dogfighting. Vick said, “I think I’m being used by God because all the laws have changed since my incident.” Vick delivered the message that dogfighting is a dead-end road that leads dogs to the grave and young men to prison. Many of the 2,000 students at Hillhouse and Wilbur Cross High Schools and Fairhaven Middle School are faced with the same temptations and bad influences that Vick was also confronting on a daily basis. Vick relayed his own shame at having to explain to his children that they can’t get a dog because of what he has done. However, he told the kids that his greatest pride comes not just from his accomplishments on the football field, but from the work he was doing right at that moment–spreading a message of compassion to future generations.
When I first heard that Michael Vick was going to be working with the Humane Society of the United States helping to end dogfighting, I was a bit skeptical. However, I realized that if an ex-dogfighter can turn around his life and engage kids to do the same, perhaps he can help interrupt the cycle of violence that leads kids down this dead end path. Perhaps Michael Vick’s story is one that kids need to hear.
What do you think about Michael Vick trying to become part of the solution? Post your comments online.
Animal Cruelty By Pet Owners
Speaking of animal cruelty, volunteers from animal shelters are fed up with people turning in their old, sick and behaviorally challenged pets. I was asked to mention this because these pets are hard to adopt and likely sit forever in cages or are euthanized. Please consider other alternatives, such as euthanasia (while holding your own pet) if that is the most humane option, before turning your unadoptable pets into an already crowded shelter.
Homes for the Holidays
County Animal Services is promoting homes for the holidays by discounting all animal adoptions for the entire month of December and hosting adoption open houses at all three Santa Barbara County Animal Shelters on Saturday, December 4, 10 am-4 pm.
County Animal Services is providing a Home for the Holidays $25 discount on all dog and cat adoptions starting November 29, 2010, through December 31, 2010. Adopting a dog will be $65. Adopting a cat will be $40. Adopting a rabbit will be $25. Every adoptable animal has been medically screened, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered.
Join them on Saturday, December 4, 2010 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for their special “Home for the Holidays Adoption Open House” events at each of our three animal shelters.
• Santa Barbara Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road
• Lompoc Shelter, 1501 West Central Avenue
• Santa Maria Animal Center, 548 West Foster Road
There are over 1,000 animals awaiting adoption at Santa Barbara County Shelters. Visit the animals whose only wish this holiday season is for a home to call their own. Bring a little love home for the holidays. Adopt a shelter animal. However, as much as I want to encourage Home for the Holidays, adopting an animal should not be a surprise for a friend or even your own family. Visit the shelter together. Decide on which animal to adopt together. “Bring a little love home for the holidays together.”
It Had to Be You production benefits K-9 PALS
Here’s a scoop for some local affordable entertainment with all proceeds benefitting K-9 PALS, www.k-9pals.org, the only non-profit organization that provides care and services for the stray and abandoned dogs of the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter in Santa Barbara. Go to the show for a little culture and you’ll be helping the County shelter dogs.
It Had to Be You by Acting Up Productions as a benefit for K-9 PALS
This absurd, fast-paced romantic comedy is about Theda Blau, a failed actress, health food nut, analyst, and would-be playwright who wants to find love and success in New York, and Vito Pignoli, a hugely successful TV commercial director. By hilariously holding him hostage in her apartment on a snowy Christmas Eve, she attempts to convince him to be her partner both on the page and off. A very engaging play, full of emotions and unexpected twists and turns is sure to add fun to your holiday season! Performances take place at the beautiful Center State Theater located in the Paseo Nuevo Mall in Santa Barbara
Thursday, December 2, Opening at 8:00 P.M.
Friday, December 3, and Saturday, December 4, at 8:00 P.M.
Sunday, December 5, at 2:00 and 7:00 P.M.
Thursday, December 9, Friday, December 10, and Saturday, December 11, at 8:00 P.M.
Sunday, December 12, at 2:00 and 7:00 P.M.
General Admission tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Purchase tickets in advance online at centerstagetheater.org or by phone 963-0408. The Center Stage Theater Box Office is open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 5:00 P.M.
Adoptable Pet of the Week
Willie is an Anatolian shepherd mix only 1-2 yrs old. He is a neutered male and 85 lbs. Willie is good with kids, cats and dogs, but no kids so small that he might knock them over by mistake. He’s smart, sociable, eager to please, and quick to learn. Willie needs just a little training and he will be an incredible companion/family dog.
DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group) is a no-kill not for profit dog rescue/adoption organization located at 5480 Overpass Road in Goleta. For more information, please call: 805-681-0561. You can view more adoptable dogs at sbdawg.com. The public is invited to stop by and look around every day from 9 a.m. To 4 p.m. DAWG relies on volunteers to take care of all the dogs, so if you love dogs, think about volunteering. Students are able to fulfill their volunteer community service requirement by volunteering. Volunteer orientations are generally held every other Saturday at 10 a.m. Please contact DAWG for the next meeting.
Lisa Acho Remorenko is executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions, animaladoptionsolutions.com