It’s time for Michael Vick to hang up his Falcons jersey. He should be immediately suspended from the NFL and, if convicted of dogfighting, thrown in the slammer. People who abuse animals belong in prison, not on the playing field. Anyone who is capable of the heinous cruelty that is detailed in Vick’s damning 18-page indictment poses a danger not only to animals but also to fellow humans.
Unlike football, dogfighting is no “sport.” The “winners” are kept on heavy chains, starved, beaten and forced to fight other dogs again and again; the “losers” pay with their lives. According to the indictment, in March 2003, Purnell Peace, one of Vick’s codefendants, allegedly killed a female pit bull who had lost a fight by soaking her with water and electrocuting her after consulting with Vick.
Just this past April, Vick and his codefendants allegedly killed at least eight dogs who didn’t make the “cut” in preliminary fighting sessions by hanging them, drowning them and “slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.” The indictment describes at least four other incidents in which Vick’s codefendants allegedly killed dogs who weren’t aggressive enough by electrocuting them or shooting them with a .22-caliber pistol. Vick’s success as a quarterback brings him multimillion-dollar contracts, status and recognition, but the “winners” who survived Vick and his cohorts’ alleged bloody fights apparently got the “luxury” of being chained constantly to buried car axles, left with untreated injuries, forced to run on a treadmill and, in the case of females, strapped down with their heads immobilized in a “rape stand” while male dogs mounted them.
Ensuring that those accused of these atrocities are locked up, given counseling and banned from contact with animals if they are convicted is crucial not only to prevent more animals from being abused but also to protect anyone who comes into contact with these individuals. Law-enforcement experts now recognize as fact what common sense has told us all along: People who can kill a dog in cold blood lack any compassion or consideration for other living beings—including humans—and it’s often only a matter of time before they turn their violence on their own species.
Mental health professionals and top law-enforcement officials consider cruelty to animals to be a red flag. The American Psychiatric Association identifies crimes against animals as a diagnostic criterion for conduct disorders, and the FBI uses reports of these crimes in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals.
Experts agree that it is the severity of the abuse"not the species of the victim"that matters. Dr. Howard Koplewicz, director of the Child Study Center at New York University, says, “Whenever I read about someone committing a horrible crime against an animal and getting off with a slap on the wrist because ‘it was just a cat,’ I become sick with dread because I know that as despicable as the acts may be that they’ve already committed, these people aren’t finished yet. They are just getting warmed up.”
Michael Vick and his codefendants must be brought to justice not only for the sake of Jane, Magic, Seal, Chico, Big Boy, Tiny, Too Short and the dozens of other dogs who allegedly lived, suffered and died at the hands of Bad Newz Kennels but also for the safety of the community as a whole.
Daphna Nachminovitch is the director of the Domestic Animals and Wildlife Rescue & Information Department for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.HelpingAnimals.com.
Works of Interest:
Sara C. Haden and Angela Scarpa, "Childhood Animal Cruelty: A Review of
Research, Assessment, and Therapeutic Issues," The Forensic Examiner 14