Dog fighting is animal cruelty almost by definition, although some still dare to call it a “sport.” Many of us have seen the mutilated faces and scarred bodies of survivors that have been rescued by national organizations and by local shelters and rescue groups. When the former fighters wag their tails as we pet them, and we gaze into their sad-but-still-trusting eyes, we ask ourselves, “How could they?”So it’s not difficult to understand the angry reactions to the signing of Michael Vick as the Steelers backup quarterback. But I am troubled by the level of hatred leveled against the new backup QB, the Rooney family and the team. Social media abounds with angry posts and new pages, including Pittsburghers Against Michael Vick, which attracted nearly 14,000 “likes” on Tuesday and Wednesday. A Change.org petition got more than 17,000 anti-Vick signatures. Dog lovers are saying they’ll no longer watch Steelers games on television or at Heinz Field. There’s talk of burning Terrible Towels and Steelers jerseys and T-shirts.Here’s what I posted on my Facebook page Tuesday:“Would it surprise you to know that I personally believe in second chances and redemption? Michael Vick did horrible things and paid a heavy price. He went to prison, lost millions of dollars and years of missed playing time.”I didn’t expect that statement to be controversial. I didn’t expect to be accused of not caring about — or loving — dogs. Dozens of posters, including Facebook “friends” and people I know, said they will never, ever forgive Mr. Vick. He should not be “rewarded” with another year or fame and big bucks in the NFL.I’ve been falsely accused of “supporting” what Michael Vick did. I would never hire him to pet-sit our dog, but I think he should be allowed to get on with his life and his work, which in his case is playing football. I think all ex-convicts should be able to get jobs after they serve their time, and that traditionally has been difficult for most of them.What are animal organizations saying about Michael Vick?Astoundingly PETA told PG Steelers beat reporter Ed Bouchette, “As long as he’s throwing a football and not electrocuting a dog, PETA is pleased he is focused on his game.” This is one of the few times I have agreed with a statement from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.The Humane Society of the United States declined to comment, but a 2012 “frequently asked questions” post on www.hsus.org details the many ways Mr. Vick has worked — without pay — with HSUS since his 2009 release from prison.“He’s supportive of our Pets for Life program to end dog fighting and helps to spread the message through his public appearances” aimed at persuading at-risk youth to just say ‘no’ to dogfighting, according to the HSUS site.Mr. Vick and HSUS successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act. It’s now a federal crime to take a child to a dog fight.Western Pennsylvania Humane Society director Joy Braunstein said: “We cannot comment on the business dealings of the Steelers organization. We are an animal welfare agency and work every day to save and improve the lives of homeless and at-risk animals.”Ms. Braunstein also notes that the North Side shelter investigates and prosecutes animal cruelty cases and works to help pass anti-dog fighting legislation. “We will continue to advocate on behalf of animals and work closely with community partners, like the Steelers, to make our region better for all animals and people.”Animal Rescue League executive director Dan Rossi said, in part, that ARL “is very disappointed in the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and their decision to sign Michael Vick. … Part of our mission is to rescue and rehabilitate dogs from fighting rings. … We understand that Mr. Vick has made an effort to atone for his past mistakes and has worked to help strengthen animal abuse laws, but we do not think it is appropriate for him to continue a high-profile public career where impressionable children look up to him.”The Larimer shelter has moved its annual Paw Prints Gala from Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, to Consol Energy Center, home of the Penguins. It will be held Oct. 31.Animal Friends in Ohio Township said it “has made the difficult decision to not participate in any Steelers-related activities at this time. Steelers-related memorabilia and tickets have been temporarily removed from all fundraising efforts, and donated items will be returned.”
Source: Pets: The animals in our lives.