BY HEATHER DOWDY
Publisher of Nashville Paw magazine
January 29, 2014
My email inbox receives anywhere from two to ten petition requests every week. I know yours might as well. That is why, before I ask you to sign this recent petition started by The Positive Pit Bull, I will explain why I think this petition matters to you, to the animals, to our community and to our entire society.
This is a plea from me, personally. I will not pretend that this post will be one of objective journalism; as a mom to a rescued American Pit Bull Terrier—of which all forty-six pounds is currently sweetly nestled in my lap as I type—this post is, indeed, deeply personal.
The Greater Raleigh Sports Council / PNC Evening of Champions Out has announced via their website (screenshot below) that on February 12, 2014, NFL player Michael Vick will be featured as their Special Guest, due in part because of, as they put it, "his meteoric rise from poverty to riches and fame, his downfall, and his improbable comeback."
I find it ironic that the abuse, torture and death of so many innocent, beautiful dogs is glossed over as a "downfall" as opposed to, say, a raging, violent series of felony crimes against defenseless animals screaming for their lives. But perhaps I'm just overly emotional about smart, sensitive, loyal, loving, helpless dogs enduring suffering that I cannot begin to imagine.
To those who will argue that Vick "did his time", I hear you. He indeed did “some” time, although not nearly appropriate (legally nor morally) for the crime. Indeed, he has also worked with humane groups to tell kids that what he did was wrong. Many people have made the argument that this is a positive thing--that Vick can now teach young folks that animal abuse is wrong. And you know what? I sincerely hope that his attempts do have that impact, and that other animals might be spared because of it. Then again, he could just be proving to kids that if you're wealthy and famous enough, or charming enough, or just plain lucky enough, you can abuse, torture and kill many animals, and still be crowned a national hero in the end, bowing to the applause of an entire country for your incredible "comeback".
As for the comeback of the dogs? Many never got the chance. They died at his own hands and at the hands of the handlers at the Bad Newz Kennels. Dogs were bashed against the ground until they died an agonizing death. Dogs that would otherwise be beloved and loyal family pets were electrocuted for not successfully shredding and killing a dog just like them, who also wanted nothing more than to be loved and to be safe, free from harm and fear.
As for the dogs who survived, their comeback was hard fought. They required enormous veterinary care, countless volunteer hours, endless rehabilitation from dedicated rescue groups and foster parents. Some went on to be therapy dogs helping humans, despite being so abused by other humans; others still have nightmares in their sleep. Very few of us are in a position to fathom what it must be like for any one of those dogs to "come back" from such utter, terrifying hell.
These dogs are the real heroes here, folks, and to bestow on their very abuser the same title is a vicious slap in the face to every one of them who endured his wrath.
Of all the incredible athletes in our country, or in North Carolina, or in the thriving city of Raleigh, could the Greater Raleigh Sports Council not find one athlete more deserving of special recognition, one more worthy of being held up as a shining example and role model to young athletes? One who is not only successful in their sport, but who is also a compassionate human being, and who leaves the world a little bit better than they found it?
I deeply believe that this sort of simultaneous disregard for life and tolerance for violence against all weaker beings, be it toward animal or human, is what is most wrong in our society today; we have become so apathetic and numbed to rage and violence that we can now hear and know and understand what atrocities a man has committed, and yet, most of the country rolls their eyes in unison and pats him on the back anyhow. When a man’s athletic abilities and celebrity status trump his moral compass, we have, as a society, a grave problem.
Maybe Vick is sorry. Maybe he lies awake at night, asking for forgiveness, seeing the faces of the dogs who looked into his eyes and pleaded for mercy before suffering and dying by his own hands. Maybe he has evolved because of his public shaming and legal conviction. I sincerely—and I do mean sincerely—hope that he has. I do believe in the power of any human spirit to change and evolve and find redemption, and I know that neither I nor any other individual can know his heart at this moment, so please understand me when I say that I truly hope Vick is a changed man with a more compassionate heart.
That said, whether or not Vick has had a change of heart is not the issue being presented by this petition. The point is simply this: there are better role models out there. Does Vick deserve forgiveness if he feels true and deep remorse? I like to think so. But does he deserve to be held out on a public pedestal as a role model to our youth, when so many other deserving and compassionate human beings could fill that role? I'm sorry, but I think not.
Don't agree with my post? That's okay. But if you do agree and want to make your own voice heard, please CLICK HERE to sign a polite and professional petition addressed to the Greater Raleigh Sports Council, asking them to kindly replace Vick with a more appropriate and deserving Special Guest at their PNC Evening of Champions Out on February 12.
ALSO CHECK THIS OUT: On January 10, 2014 The New York Times posted THIS ARTICLE about Vick and why they think young athletes deserve a better role model.