I know a couple of the people who work at Petside. They are rabid animal lovers and animal cruelty is as much an anathema to them as it is to me. Or so I thought.
This week, Petside released a list of the Top 25 Pet People of 2010, and in the #10 slot is Michael Vick. Yes, this high profile animal torturer and murderer has, with the help of a savvy PR Team, successfully reinvented himself as an animal activist, helping to raise awareness of the evils of dogfighting.
Is it a coincidence that Petside is owned by NBC, who happens to broadcast Sunday Night Football?
When the Vick dogs were seized, those who did not need to be destroyed immediately were in danger of euthanasia because they were not deemed able to be rehabilitated. It was only through the extraordinary efforts of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and BADRAP that the surviving dogs were “saved.” Some will never be placeable in a home because of the trauma they endured, but many have found loving homes after months (or years) of daily therapy.
Best Friends took 22 of the Vick dogs. One would think that if Vick were truly rehabilitated (which requires a leap of logic to assume that sociopaths are cured by a short stint in the slammer) he would visit the dogs, make a big donation to Best Friends from the millions he now earns, or take some small step to see how his former dogs are doing.
But Vick doesn’t give a crap about the dogs he tortured. He and his PR team are focused on the photo opps and sound bytes that will endear him to the public and keep the dollars rolling in. Francis Battista of Best Friends describes the contact Vick has had with the group:
From what we at Best Friends know of the way Michael Vick has related to the animals he abused, the answer is clearly that he has simply rediscovered the pocket. Best Friends took 22 of Vicks 48 seized dogs and the only contact weve received from Vick or his representatives was by way of some overtures from his agent, one of his attorneys and a PR firm specializing in reputation rehabilitation. They were interested in some public glad handing that would put Vick in a favorable light with the NFL, which at the time was still considering whether or not to reinstate him. We declined.
Best Friends has never heard from Michael Vick or any of his representatives inquiring after the health or well being of any of the 22 dogs that we received from his fighting ring. [more…]
Yes, Vick has done his time, and should not be required to wear the scarlet “A” of Abuse for the rest of his life. But neither should he be hoisted on a pedestal and celebrated as a “Top Pet Person.” The work he’s done has either been court-mandated or orchestrated by his PR Team (who, by the way, are doing a stellar job or reinventing the brute.)
And what about the 15 people below Vick on the list? How can you bask in the questionable glory of being a “Petside Top 25 Pet Person” when Michael Vick is ranked higher than you?
Victoria Schade said it best in a Petside Blog op ed entry:
To honor Vick — a man responsible for killing innocent dogs in ways too disturbing to mention here — for his ability to raise awareness and inspire others to action is a little like honoring Clarence Bush, the drunk driver who caused the car accident that lead to the creation of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Admittedly Bush did nothing to help himself or other alcoholics after the fact, but he also had no fans to answer to.
Rather than honoring the criminal, let’s look to the people picking up the pieces and bringing about true positive change; the canine welfare organizations like BADRAP and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary working to rehabilitate the Vick dogs.
Who really deserves recognition for their contributions to animal welfare? A convicted dog abuser with a canny PR team? Or the people putting in the time to heal Vick’s broken dogs? Michael Vick’s community service speaking engagements pale in comparison to the animal rehabilitator’s hands-on efforts to turn “born fighters” into household companions. BADRAP and Best Friends deal with the fallout of extreme animal abuse but still manage to find hope and happy endings — now that’s something to celebrate.
Like many Petside readers, the wounds are still too raw for me. The reasons behind his inclusion — impact and inspiration — are better illustrated in those working to correct his wrongs. Let’s hope to see these real heroes getting the kind of attention and accolades they deserve.
Shame on you, Petside.