An Open Letter to Michael Vick 

click to enlarge MichaelVick.jpg

You know, I hate football. Somewhere, years ago (it must have been when the Clintons were trying to get their health care bill passed), I read that if the time, energy and money expended on the Super Bowl were instead turned to implementing national health coverage it would be a done deal. Health care for everyone, or four hours of overeating and commercials peppered with brief interludes of men in tight pants? That's a choice?

So when Michael Vick was accused, then convicted, of running a dog-fighting ring, serially abusing scores of dogs, and killing several brutally, I was more than ready to rumble. Too many mezcals and I was prone to call for punishments too stringent to mention in a family publication like this.

I kept it up for the 23 months that Vick was incarcerated, badmouthing him every chance I got, hating that someone who had been rewarded so excessively for something so pointless had then seen fit to turn his money and his power to activities so repugnant, so purely evil.

Well, he's out now, allowed to rejoin the NFL, and I have to admit most of me would like to see him suffer a little longer. I set out to write a column, in fact, that would lay out the 1,001 reasons he was unfit for human company of any kind. Then, looking at the situation, I started to reconsider.

Days after his reinstatement, the head of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, announced that Vick had expressed a serious interest in working with the HSUS in their anti-dog fighting endeavors, which are far more extensive and urgent than you might imagine. Just last month nearly 500 dogs were seized in a multi-state dog-fighting bust. Shelters across the country are already struggling under the load of dogs needing homes, and the fighting industry, and those that follow it, are contributing more than their fair share to shelter populations and eventual euthanasia rolls. The fate of the 500 is still undecided: many doubt there are homes for them all.

And this is where Michael Vick's under-utilized time could be put to good use. Whether or not he begins playing in the NFL immediately, or ever, Vick can make good on his expressed intentions, and use his celebrity for the animals. Pacelle has decided to give him a chance, and I have too - Vick may be the last, best, most unlikely hope we have to destroy the cachet of systematized animal abuse, and slow the torrent of maimed, abused, emotionally damaged, and unfairly maligned dogs, shuttled quickly from abuse to shelters to death. There may be no one else who has the ear of so many potential dogfighters, and the power to turn them into responsible dog owners.

So, Michael Vick, against every impulse I have, I am going to choose to believe you, and hope that you can turn the tide. Fight against this "sport," demand responsible pet ownership, advocate for spaying and neutering, and use the power you have to get people to understand, and adopt, the dogs whose brutal image you and hundreds of others have fabricated and profited from. Get the pitbull mix made official "breed" of the NFL, and host adoption days at stadiums. We're watching.

Your defenders claim you "did the time 4 the crime" and you should get another chance - shelter dogs everywhere are doing their time for your crimes, our crimes: don't they deserve a second chance too?

And the rest of you: adopt, foster, spay/neuter, volunteer, donate, and advocate if you can. There are thousands of dogs, of all breeds, dying everyday unnecessarily. For more info about where the Vick dogs are now, and how to help with pit bull/fighting dog rehabilitation, check out these sites: BadRap.org, PBRC.net, SPBR.org.

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