Lucas at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Lucas at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

A Nose for News has Moved!
(Please note that I have a new link and more blogs at )

Michael Vick, the disgraced Atlanta Falcon’s star quarterback, walked out of prison last week, serving some 17 months after having been convicted of gambling charges, and most notably, operating a major dog fighting operation hidden behind the walls of his exclusive Virginia estate.

Before his sentencing, as part of his plea agreement, Vick admitted to taking part in the murders of several fighting dogs that just weren’t ‘up to snuff.’ Vick’s Bad Newz Kennel had a policy of eliminating these ‘inferior’ dogs by hanging, electrocution or drowning. Those talented hands that brilliantly passed the pigskin on the gridiron, brutally killed his own dogs with equal determination and dexterity.

It was headline news for months in 2007. Now, it’s headline news again – at least in dog circles – and it shouldn’t be. As far as I’m concerned, he did his time, still has more coming – monitored work release and then probation, as with any other criminal. He owes more money than he has, his future with the Falcons is kaput – with the NFL it’s uncertain, and if he has a conscience, he has an awful lot to mull over. I really never wanted to think of this man again – but thanks to Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Human Society of the United States (HSUS), I must.

Pacelle had visited Vick at Fort Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary a few times. The self proclaimed savior of the Vick pit bulls is considering an alliance with Vick and the HSUS. Pacelle envisions a fund raising inner city country-wide tour with the so-called rehabilitated Michael Vick, center stage, speaking to impoverished youth about all that is bad about dog fighting. He returned with these thought that are posted on the HSUS web site.


“I knew it would be controversial, but I decided it was the right thing to engage with Michael and give him a chance to participate in our anti-dogfighting efforts. We at the HSUS are about change, even the hard cases.”

Pacelle appears to be so forgiving, so willing to work with this man – Vick was a “hard case” but he deserves another chance. Let’s cut back to the year 2007 when Vick was first arrested and his stable of over 50 fighting dogs were seized. Virginia law enforcement officials parceled out the dogs to local shelters where they could be cared for until the courts decided upon their fate. Pacelle immediately hopped onto the media circus train and demanded that Vick have the book thrown at him. He also implored all animal lovers to open up their checkbooks and send the HSUS lots of money so that the Vick dogs would be properly cared for. Soon, the New York Times reported that HSUS was not, in fact, caring for the dogs. HSUS president Wayne Pacelle told the Times that HSUS is recommending that government officials “put down” (kill) the dogs rather than adopt them out to suitable homes. I suppose Pacelle and the HSUS did not think that those dogs were true “hard cases.”

Many people who donate to the Humane Society of the United States don’t realize – probably due to its slick ad campaigns – that it is not affiliated with any humane societies or shelters. In fact, according to an Atlanta WSBTV investigative report, less than 4 percent of its budget – is passed over to legitimate pet shelters in the form of grants. In 2007, the year of the Vick case, HSUS hauled in about $120 million through its appeals to the public. About $112 million of that money wound up in the hands of lobbyists, politicians, activist groups, ad and public relations agencies, and top ranking HSUS employees in the form of salaries, benefits and expenses. Pacelle has shifted over the group’s major emphasis from pets to pro-vegan, anti-meat, anti-dairy, breeder legislation and of course keeping up a high visibility profile whenever a major puppy mill is raided. What happens to all of those seized dogs is not the problem or concern of the HSUS. While the HSUS receives the glory of the bust through the media, the burden of care of the puppy mill victims is laid at the steps of local animal shelters, that are often already struggling to care for more animals than they can afford.

Does this constitute fraud? I really don’t know, I’m not a lawyer or a judge. But I can smell a rat. Seems like the State of Louisiana did too. In post Katrina days, officials wanted to know what happened to the $34 million that Pacelle raised to reunite all those poor lost pets with their displaced families. An investigation was launched and then suspended after Pacelle opened his HSUS wallet and started doling out some funds to the still struggling state of Louisiana.

Back to the Vick prison interviews as told by Pacelle in his blog and at the HSUS website.

“Sitting with Michael at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, I saw a man who, if he had the resolve, could do powerful and persuasive outreach to at-risk youth and steer them away from dogfighting. He told me he saw dogfighting when we he was a boy, and from there, he came to accept the activity and to get involved. Nobody was there to step in and pull him out of that morass, and he obviously didn’t have the strength to get away from it himself.”

Gosh, this sounds like the makings of a movie script – a tale of turmoil, success, a horrid downspin and redemption. Now I don’t know who is pulling whose tail here but this isn’t exactly how Vick’s life unfolded.

Vick did grow up in the projects of Newport News, Virginia. But he was one of the more fortunate kids. He seemed to blossom in a mud puddle. His Dad, who worked long hours at the Naval Base, found time to play with his kids and the game was football.

In an article published in September 2000, while his son Michael was at Virginia Tech, Michael Boddie, Vick’s dad, told the university’s Collegiate Times: “Ever since he learned to throw a football, he’s always liked throwing a ball…It’s just in his blood.” He added that his son had never gotten into trouble or … involved with drugs, adding: “I like the way he has developed, not only as a player but as a person.”

Vick himself has said that sports saved him from the undesirable elements of the project. He told Sporting News magazine in an interview published April 9, 2001: “Sports kept me off the streets…. It kept me from getting into what was going on, the bad stuff. Lots of guys I knew have had bad problems.”

Actually, there were no reports of dog fighting activities in those projects during Vick’s formative years. It appears that Vick’s dog fighting activities began after he joined the NFL in 2001. He should have been old enough at that point to have known right from wrong. He overcame those projects as a kid and chose to revisit them as a successful adult.

Despite incredible talent on the field, and his own personal mettle, which catapulted him to football star status, in a few short years, his private world spiraled downward. His wealth and renown grew as the number of bad choices he made off-field became glaringly apparent to friends, team mates, coaches and endorsement companies.

So, who’s kidding whom here? Don’t really know.

Here’s what I can surmise though. Vick has a public relations problem to tackle. What he wants more than anything else now is to receive the blessings and vindication of the NFL. He wants to get back in the game. If it means returning to the ghettos and speaking with kids in the projects about the horrors of dog fighting he’ll do it – whatever it takes. Is he really repentant? I don’t know. I just want him to go away.

What’s Pacelle want out of the ‘Michael Vick Ghetto Tour?’ That’s an easy question. He wants money to pour into the HSUS – whatever it takes. I’d like Pacelle and the HSUS to go away too.

Against all odds, thanks to real animal shelters, who stepped forward, the Vick dogs have been rehabilitated and now live in homes. They are called the Vicktory Dogs.

Kudos to the real people and organizations that made it possible – who believed these dogs deserved a second chance and prove to shelters throughout the country that pit bulls can be rehabilitated despite their past abuse:

Bad Rap – a California pit bull rescue group – the first group to some forward and petition the courts to allow for professional evaluation of the seized Vick fighting dogs – Bad Rap refused to agree with PETA, which called the Vick dogs ‘ticking time bombs’ urging for prompt euthanasia, and the HSUS which also called for their disposal. Bad Rap was also responsible for the rehabilitation of many of the Vick pit bulls

ASPCA – coordinated the evaluation of the Vick dogs bringing together renowned dog experts and behaviorists.

The American Justice system and the court appointed guardians of the Vick dogs who heeded the advice of the team of evaluators and allowed for the rehabilitation of the Vick dogs.

Best Friends – a Utah rescue group that took part in the rehabilitation of some of the Vick dogs

All of the un-named volunteers who spent hours with these dogs – to all the volunteers who opened their homes to the Vick dogs – providing foster homes and a ‘normal’ environment.

Please visit and to see some of those happy pit bull faces and meet the true animal advocates who were down in the ditches with these dogs helping them make the transition into a sane world where people love dogs.

I am sure there were many more involved in this rehabilitation project. Forgive me for any omissions. Please leave a comment below and I will be sure to add you to the list of hero volunteers – the ones who make a difference every day to unfortunate canines.

Do you have an abused dog tale to tell? Have you seen the power of recuperation through love, respect and care? I’d like to hear from you.

Semper Fido,