More Pacelle on Vick from Facebook

Talk Back: Michael Vick's Next Play

Readers have had a range of reactions about The HSUS giving Michael Vick the opportunity to participate in our community-based End Dogfighting outreach programs designed to steer kids away from dogfighting. We took note of the anti-gang and anti-violence programs done by others in urban communities, and re-engineered these programs to combat dogfighting. These programs are built around the leadership of ex-dogfighters who have turned around their lives and who are now engaging kids in more positive interactions with pit bulls.

There’s still a lot of raw anger over what Vick did, and we at The HSUS share the feeling that his acts of cruelty were horrible and wrong. That’s why we so aggressively worked for his prosecution. But dogfighting is always horrible and wrong, no matter who does it or where it happens. I imagine that readers would have the same reaction to every dogfighting case we’re involved with because it always has the same basic story line: people taking enjoyment from the extreme pain and suffering they directly or indirectly inflict upon animals. In this case, Vick's prominence ensured that the details of the case would be repeated over and over again.

I've laid out our general position on Michael Vick's future as an anti-dogfighting advocate consistently during the last several months, but today I want to add something to what I've said.

With tens of thousands of people involved in dogfighting, in hundreds of communities, it is impossible for us and law enforcement to arrest or scare off all of the perpetrators. We have to prevent them from getting involved in the first place, and build community support for our position. That’s why we have added our community-based programs to our portfolio of anti-dogfighting activities.

I personally am thrilled whenever a dogfighter turns around, just like I am pleased when a trophy hunter lays down his weapon or a bullfighter puts down his cape to join our side. I have to think that many of the ex-dogfighters we work with may have some self-interested motivations in getting involved. But we give them a chance to demonstrate an actual, on-the-ground commitment to our (and other) programs, and then we make our judgments. It's the same with Michael Vick. We did not endorse his return to the NFL, or vouch for his character, and he is not a spokesperson for The HSUS. Rather, we are simply giving him a chance to make good on his promise that he is through with dogfighting and now wants to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. That’s what we do at The HSUS: we give people an opportunity to turn away from cruelty and toward the light of kindness and compassion.

If Michael Vick doesn’t fulfill his pledge to combat dogfighting, we’ll be the first to call attention to that. But if he does come through, and he turns some kids around and helps animals, then I’ll be the first one to say that’s a good thing. Change for the better is what we are all about.

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