Sunday, July 29, 2007

As Details of the Cruelty Michael Vick Inflicted on Dogs Comes Forth, the Public Learns More about the Horrible Reality of Dog Fighting

Let’s just sum it up in one quote:

“In the indictment against Vick, he and his Bad Newz Kennels associates are accused of killing dogs that did not perform well by hanging, drowning and electrocution. At least one dog was killed when it was slammed to the ground.”

This is why Vick was indicted. If all is true, he is one sick person.


Michael Vick case resonating with the American public

By Chris Togneri
Sunday, July 29, 2007

The celebrity aspect, gruesome details and a public awakening to a vast bloodbath.

Such factors begin to explain Americans' horrified reaction to allegations that Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick raised dozens of dogs to battle other dogs to the death and murdered those who proved too docile to fight.

Though the illegal "sport" long has been part of the American landscape -- it was first outlawed in the 19th century and today is a felony in all but Idaho and Montana -- the Vick story has elicited a particularly emotional response throughout the country and beyond.

An Internet search Friday for "Michael Vick" and "dogfighting" netted 1.72 million hits -- with headlines from U.S. and foreign newspapers and media outlets such as ESPN, CNN and Sports Illustrated. It was a topic on many radio talk shows.

Hundreds of protesters jeered Vick on Thursday outside the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., where he pleaded not guilty. Others demonstrated in front of the Falcons' training facility in Georgia, NFL offices in New York and at other spots.

Sociologists and animal rights advocates say several aspects of the Vick case have contributed to the public's response.

Dan Santoro, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh's Johnstown campus, said nearly everyone in America is in somehow affected by the allegations, including sports fans, animal lovers and people fascinated by celebrity trials.

"It's another scandal involving an athlete, and a lot of people feel celebrities are over-privileged and spoiled and have a sense of entitlement," said Santoro. "And then throw doing something bad to dogs into the mix -- Americans love dogs."

Because of Vick's star power -- he is the cornerstone of the Falcons franchise and one of the most athletic and explosive players in NFL history -- the story will continue to grab headlines, and might even change societal values, Santoro said.

"What happens in sports has an effect on society," Santoro said. "We changed our understanding of race relations in America when Jackie Robinson broke in to the Major Leagues. People got interested in steroids even though maybe they had never heard of them until (former football player) Lyle Alzado died.

"One way to look at it is that a lot of big issues we're still fighting culturally show up in sports," Santoro said. "It's almost like a battleground when issues get played out. ... This is going to be hot for a while."

Race issues could be at play, Santoro said. Some people question whether Vick is being targeted because he is black.

"It touches everyone," he said. "It's pulling in different groups, different segments of society who aren't necessarily sports fans, not necessarily football fans."

The grisly details from the 18-page indictment against Vick and three other men contribute to the furor.

Eric Sakach, director of Western Operations for the Humane Society, spent 20 years investigating and infiltrating illegal dog- and cockfights. He said the average American knew dogfighting exists, but could not imagine its brutality -- until it grabbed headlines.

"When you hear about dogfighting, most people associate it with something they may have seen, like two dogs mixing it up in their neighborhood," Sakach said. "They don't have an idea of how brutal and how protracted these fights are. Some are hours long."

In the indictment against Vick, he and his Bad Newz Kennels associates are accused of killing dogs that did not perform well by hanging, drowning and electrocution. At least one dog was killed when it was slammed to the ground.

"Many people weren't aware those things were going on to the degree they are," Sakach said. "I've seen dogs with literally part of their faces torn off, broken jaws, broken legs. ... It's a pretty pathetic commentary on what passes for entertainment."

The Vick case has in some ways put a face on the activity, Sakach said.

"This is arousing public interest," he said. "When was the last time we saw ESPN or Sports Illustrated or other sports writers take an interest in this and help to expose it? It's clearly something the pubic is finding absolutely horrifying, and they want it stopped."

There are about 40,000 serious dogfighters -- people who breed dogs for fighting purposes and wager tens of thousands of dollars on fights -- in the United States, Sakach said. There are countless more "street level" dogfighters, he said.

Kathy Hecker, a humane investigations officer for Ohio Township-based Animal Friends, said dogfighting occurs everywhere in the country, including western Pennsylvania.

The Vick case, she said, might help those fighting to kill the brutal sport.

"In a perverted sort of way, it's good news for animal lovers," Hecker said. "This is a very covert undercover 'sport,' and he's very nationally known, so people are paying attention."

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