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Now What?
Dogfighting’s poster child, Michael Vick, leaves prison.

A little more than two years ago, Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick (the “Michael Jordan of football”) was charged and convicted of running a dogfighting operation at his estate. The details of brutality, including hanging and electrocuting the dogs, were shocking. Early this morning, Michael Vick was released from prison to serve the last two months of his 23-month sentence in something called “home confinement.” So, what’s next?

According ESPN.com’s extensive coverage, Vick is focused on family and the community, not football, right now. Sports writers and fans are focused on whether the NFL will lift Vick’s suspension (with surprisingly little discussion of what inspired the ban in the first place). Will he return to the pros? Will he begin training again? Who is he—or more importantly, his agent—talking to?

Those of us tracking the story with an eye more on the dogs than Super Bowl rings have other concerns. Our first priority was the fate of the dogs, mostly pit bulls, seized from his property. Many have recovered from their rough treatment and have landed in good homes. Today, they are outstanding ambassadors for their kind—dogs with bad reputations, raised in terrible circumstances who turned out wonderfully. I feel that Vick, who grew up surrounded by poverty and crime, also deserves an opportunity at a second chance.

While in prison, Vick reportedly met with Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States—at the inmate's request. It’s likely he will participate in a program aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens. I hope his involvement isn’t just a cynical attempt to buff his brand with the HSUS name. I believe that if Vick could find a way to convey true remorse and understanding he could be a valuable agent for change. Still, I remain skeptical.

I wonder what others think. What do you need to see from Vick? Has he paid his dues? Would allowing him back into the NFL undermine the seriousness of his crimes? Can he really learn compassion at this late stage?

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com
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Submitted by Anonymous | May 20 2009 |

Tough questions. I believe that he has served his time and to a certain extent should be allowed to move on with his life which could include a future with the NFL. The thought of him partering with HSUS disgusts me on multiple levels. I'd rather him just go about playing ball and stay out of trouble. I do not want to see him on PSA's cuddling up with pit bulls promoting HSUS and saying he is sorry and how bad dog fighting is...

Submitted by Anonymous | May 27 2009 |

I think that someone who was so insensitive to another animals pain in the first place will have a hard time actually undergoing any real change. Most likely he is trying to clear his name so he can play football again. I mean we are talking about systematic torture, abuse and neglect of his dogs here. If a person is ever okay with that then I don't really see him changing his views.

Submitted by Anonymous | May 20 2009 |

They should have thrown him and his co-defendants in a pit and let the dogs chew on him like he trained them to do to each other.

Submitted by Kathy Konetzka-Close | May 20 2009 |

Those of us who are "dog people" have such a visceral reaction to dog fighting that it's really hard to be objective. My own feelings are very mixed; I don't think Mr. Vick served enough time to begin with, but that's how our judicial system sentenced him. I don't want to see him cuddling up to any animals, either. On the other hand, maybe by participating in PSA's and such, he can actually make a difference. So I don't know--what went on in Mr. Vick's home sickens me beyond belief. But I also want to believe in second chances; redemption IS possible--it just requires more than a good PR campaign. He needs to really step up; otherwise, it's just words.

Submitted by Anonymous | May 21 2009 |

I have never seen or heard anything of Vick apologizing for what he did to the animals, just patronizing commments to fans, his team etc.

Now the HSUS and PETA are considering him as a spokesperson? I feel like they are exploiting the pitbulls just as much as Vick!

Submitted by Lisa Wogan | May 21 2009 |

Wayne Pacelle of the HSUS has posted an explanation on his blog about his decision to work with Michael Vick. It makes good sense but Pacelle, like so many of us, knows the proof will be in Vick's actions. Here's a link: http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2009/05/michael-vick.html

Submitted by Anonymous | May 22 2009 |

Though I do believe that spending time in jail has it's purpose, I don't believe that it really makes things right. I think that Mr. Vick could make a difference by speaking out to inner city kids about the repercussions he has experienced due to all of this. I don't think him snuggling up to dogs is a great idea - in fact - he should never be around dogs again. But do I think that kids can relate to someone who came from nothing, really moved up and made something of himself in the world and then fell right back down to the bottom - all because of the poor choices he made. Dog fighting is horrible, but I think that the social aspect of it is important to consider. He didn't do these things alone - and kids could use someone to help guide them to choose better friends and make better life decisions.

Submitted by Dakota | May 30 2009 |

I think that Vicks shouldn't be let back in the NFL cause he broke the laws and needs to prove that he wouldn't do it again so I think he needs more time out of football to get his self strait.

A Canines friend,
Dakota

Submitted by Anonymous | June 4 2009 |

I think that Michael Vick should not be allowed to play football ever again. He can act sad and dissappointed, but the fact is if he had not been caught innocent animals would still be being abused. It is just not right.

Submitted by Karen | June 5 2009 |

What Michael Vick did was horrible, and no one is debating that. I am intensely in love with my dog and my ferrets, and emotionally I feel that no punishment is great enough to eradicate what this man did to the dogs in his care (or lack thereof). But let's face it. The judicial system dealt with him. Should he be allowed to play football again? What does one thing have to do with another? As a football professional, will he be required to deal with animals? He served his time. He plays football for a living. He needs to earn a living. Let him play. I don't thing the NFL should have gotten involved in this in the first place. They aren't the end-all to animal cruelty. Can they be a vehicle to educate the public? Yes! But the NFL doesn't promote dog fighting. Nor are they in the position to enforce the law. Let's sit back and see what Mr. Vick does. Let's encourage the NFL to educate their players, and in turn the public, about animal cruelty. I know I've done many things in my past that I hope would never hinder my ability to work. I've learned from my mistakes and strive to be a better person. I don't want to be blacklisted from my chosen profession because I did something stupid. The greatest gift we have is the ability to learn and grow and change and forgive. If this man takes even one step toward acknowledging what he did, let us give him a chance!

Submitted by Anonymous | June 6 2009 |

I am of the opinion that being a star athlete and public figure demands that you have a stricter moral code. Since many of Vicks fans are young children who emulate his behavior, he should have the decency to show them some respect. Too bad he lost his NFL position.
All of the athletes that abuse drugs should be tossed out too. We need to raise our standards in this country. Role models SHAME ON YOU!!!

Submitted by Anonymous | June 7 2009 |

I do not think that he should be able to play football again. I believe him to be a role model to many young individuals who are often quick to mistreat animals anyway. I do not, for one moment, think that his attempts at coming to the aid of dogs is sincere. I believe it to be one more way to try to get back in the good graces of the football organization. Just look at him, he is not an honest person. There is no good in those eyes.

Submitted by Leslie | June 10 2009 |

I don't know if Michael Vick is sincere or just trying to win some brownie points with the NFL. I agree with the NFL's decision to suspend him. What he did was a felony in some states and many employers would fire employees for commiting a felony. The truth is, it's a privelage to play in the NFL and if you abuse that privelage, you should not be allowed to return. Unfortunately, they will probably let him back since he's a good football player. I think he should have to serve his time doing community servece at an animal shelter and clean up dog crap all day. He definitely deserves a lot worse than he got.

Submitted by Jennifer | June 10 2009 |

Michael Vick should have big NFL players pick him up & slam him down on the ground over & over (with no pads), then drown him & if it doesn't work the first time throw him on the ground & resume later. After that, put electricity in his body and then hang him. Then, tie him to a rape stand and then make him fight people with his teeth removed & his hands tied behind his back! This is the only way Vick will truly understand what he put those dogs through.

Submitted by Ann | October 14 2010 |

In response to Jennifer's post:

Submitted by Jennifer on June 10, 2009.
Michael Vick should have big NFL players pick him up & slam him down on the ground over & over (with no pads), then drown him & if it doesn't work the first time throw him on the ground & resume later. After that, put electricity in his body and then hang him. Then, tie him to a rape stand and then make him fight people with his teeth removed & his hands tied behind his back! This is the only way Vick will truly understand what he put those dogs through.

My post:

Thank you for your comment Jennifer I couldn't agree more. Now that Jim Gorant's book has been released, detailing all the gut wrenching, depraved acts that Michael Vick and his rejects inflicted on innocent dogs, I can confidently say that your comment is entirely appropriate. I also think that everyone who is compelled to weigh in should first read the book and only then make a statement. I believe that after reading the accounts of this horrible story many commenting here who are quick to forgive and forget would change how they feel about Michael Vick.

Submitted by BOBBIEJ | June 13 2009 |

HE DOES NOT DESERVE A SECOND CHANCE. HE DOES NOT HAVE IT HIM TO RESPECT ANIMALS, HE IS JUST TRYING TO SAVE HIS NECK. THE MAN IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED. HE HAS NO COMPASSION FOR A POOR DEFENCELESS ANIMAL.
HE MADE MONEY OFF THESE DOGS AND THE CRUEL WAY HE DID IT, WAS UNGODLY.
I AM SURPRISED THEY LET HIM OUT SO SOON, BECAUSE HE WILL DO IT AGAIN IF HE GETS THE CHANCE, OR GET SOMEONE TO DO IT FOR HIM.
WHEN I HEARD ABOUT THIS AND SAW IT ON THE NEWS, I WAS THINKING "WOULDN'T IT BE NICE TO SEE HIM BEHIND BARS, EATING GARBaGE OUT OF A DIRTY BOWL" AND THEN HIT WITH A CATTLE PROD, AND SEND HIM TO A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE COULD BET ON HIM IN THE RING OF ANGRY PEOPLE.
I AM APPALLED JUST THINKING OF HIM.HE CANNOT EVER LEARN COMPASSION FOR ANY ANIMAL, IT IS NOT TAUGHT, IT IS SELFISH MOTIVE FOR MAKING HIM FEEL BETTER MONITARLY AND NO COMPASSION FOR A LIVING BREATHING DOG..OR WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE.!

Submitted by Karen | June 14 2009 |

I posted earlier, and I have a feeling my post was taken in the wrong spirit, even though no one was cruel enough to say so. I had just read this http://blog.halopets.com/2009/06/05/former-dogfighter/ before posting and thought maybe I should have an open mind. We are all a product of our upbringing and environment, and not all of us are as educated in the things we as pet lovers take for granted or just simply do as an innate part of ourselves. Change is possible. Michael Vick did a terrible thing, but should we judge him as being beyond the point of no return? He's had a long time thinking about what he did, he's lost everything he wanted in life, and he is a villian. The Michael Vick who fought dogs is certainly not the role model I want for my son, but the Michael Vick who has learned from his mistakes certainly could be the right role model for kids who came from the same environment. We are so quick to judge things the things with which we disagree, even if we ourselves have never been there. Do we really believe he is going to jump right back into dogfighting? He could be the best spokesperson we as anti-cruelty crusaders could possibly want. He's been there, done that, and been punished accordingly. Stringing him up for a beating is counterproductive. Encouraging him to speak out for the cause of the dogs is a much better option. Who is better than someone like him, someone who has been punished and learned to educate against what he has done? So I say, let him play. And if the NFL is to be involved, why not issue public education messages during commercial breaks starring him when the largest audience of potential offenders may be watching?

Submitted by Anonymous | June 15 2009 |

The NFL should not allow him to play again. He is a criminal and a murderer. Everything he has done to those dogs and others and everything he took from them, he should be punished by having everything he worked for taken from him.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 16 2009 |

The acts of violence that Vick displayed against those defenseless dogs are indications of an antisocial personality disorder. These people lack the ability to feel remorse for the suffering they bring to others, human or animal, and often do not fear any consequences. There is no cure for this disorder. People with this disorder cannot be "educated" or punished into feeling remorse. Therefore, there is no incentive not to harm again. My opinion is that it is more likely that he only feels resentment towards the dogs and a society that he perceives values a dog's life more than his. As a resident of the town where he grew up, I can tell you that that is what I have heard from many of his supporters. I hope he has been required to undergo psychological testing to help determine a mental health diagnosis before he is released. He may deserve a second chance to live a law-abiding life, but he certainly should never be allowed to own animals or work with children/teens in an unsupervised setting. I hope I am wrong, but I believe it's only a matter of time before he acts out again.

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