Written by PETA
In a recent Houston Chronicle article, Rockets small forward Ron Artest openly admits that he doesn't have the best track record when it comes to animal care. In the article, he confesses that because he spends a lot of time traveling, he once left one of his dogs vulnerable to neglect. In a refreshingly candid admission, he says, "I was an irresponsible pet owner."
What sets Artest apart from other "irresponsible pet owners," though, is that he is man enough to admit that he's made mistakes, and he's now doing all he can to educate others so that they don't make the same mistakes he did. "PETA came and showed me how to be a better pet owner," he says. "I loved my dogs. You just need to be more mature and accountable for how you treat your animals. I had to be educated."
These days, Artest can be found volunteering his time to help the Houston Humane Society or lending his star power to PETA's campaigns. "I've told my people that whenever [the Houston Humane Society] need[s] me for something, they've got to make it happen," he says. "I've always loved animals. Now I've learned how to be responsible."
In a video that was shot behind the scenes at the photo shoot for his PETA spay-and-neuter ad, Artest talks about his passion for helping animals, and he also condemns dogfighting. (He has even placed a plea right on the front page of his personal Web site to urge people to spay and neuter their animal companions.) Check out the interview b-roll here:
Speaking of dogfighting, another star athlete who has had run-ins with the law over his treatment of dogs isn't exactly jumping through hoops in an effort to show that he's learned the error of his ways. Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback and convicted dogfighter Michael Vick did attend PETA's "Developing Empathy for Animals" seminar, but he has not gone out of his way to show the public or his fans that he feels any remorse for torturing and killing dogs.
Now, just as he is on the verge of being released from federal prison, Vick is reportedly shopping around for a book deal. It's pretty unlikely that his book will be subject to the "Son of Sam" law (which is a type of law that aims to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes) because Vick's victims were dogs. Unless the book basically consists of the words, "I was a sick, cruel, despicable jerk, and I'm sorry," and all the proceeds go to animal protection charities, we ain't buyin' it.
Written by Jennifer Cierlitsky
On September 18, 2007, I spent eight hours with Michael Vick at PETA headquarters. He was there to participate in PETA's "Developing Empathy for Animals" course as part of an education process that PETA hoped would ultimately lead Michael to speak out publicly against dogfighting.
In one segment of the course, Michael watched a police training video about the link between violence against animals and violence against humans. It contains graphic footage shot at a dogfight. I watched Michael grimace while watching this footage, in the way that any normal person would. At another point, the video shows a young person hanging a live cat from the ceiling and stabbing the animal to death with a knife. At this point, Michael closed his eyes and turned his head from the screen, seemingly disturbed by what he saw.
Michael also watched a slide-show of photos taken of neglected dogs. He was asked to describe what each animal must have felt in their situation. He aced this part of the course, pointing out that starving dogs living in garbage with heavy, rusty chains around their necks must be "lonely," "sad," and "terrified," and pointed to such indicators as the dogs' tails curled between their legs and their heads bowed in submission. You can see Michael's hand-written responses to the empathy test questions here.
I came away from that meeting encouraged. Even though I felt uncomfortable to be in the same room with a man who had tortured and killed so many animals, Michael seemed like an intelligent and thoughtful person who had made horrible decisions in his life but who regretted the consequences, both for himself and others, and who was genuinely trying to change.
However, despite pledging to become an "ally" in the fight against dogfighting, Michael and his camp have done little more than mouth assurances that he's learned his lesson. Since this meeting, they have only surfaced when Michael has been scheduled for court appearances—until now, when he is asking to get his old job back.
And there is more. Despite the hopes I had for Michael during our meeting, we now know that not only did he lie to the NFL in direct questioning about his activity, he also lied in his lie detector tests after his arrest—something that the recently released USDA report revealed for the first time. We need to know if Michael's post-arrest contrition was part of a flawed human being's genuine growth and development or just part of the machinations of a man with a clinically diagnosable anti-social personality disorder.
Until Michael agrees to submit to a brain scan and psychological evaluation, we have no way of knowing. And until then, PETA will refuse to be a part of a public service announcement that may simply be a public relations ploy from a convicted felon trying to manipulate his way back into the NFL. We hope that the NFL will take the same approach.
Written by Dan Shannon
Today, PETA sent a letter to the National Football League asking that convicted dogfighter Michael Vick be subjected to a psychological test as well as an MRI brain scan like the one now in use at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in order to look for evidence of clinical psychopathy or anti-social personality disorder. Based on the fact that Vick funded and participated in a massive dogfighting operation (playing a direct role in hanging, drowning, or shooting countless dogs—and even slamming dogs to the ground to break their backs), it might seem obvious that there's something wrong with the guy. But whether or not Vick is indeed a clinical psychopath is an important piece of a bigger puzzle.
For the past 18 months, PETA has been meeting with Vick's management and legal teams behind the scenes about having Vick deliver a strong anti-dogfighting TV spot. If Vick is truly remorseful for what he's done, as he's said publically and privately, then a message from him telling people to stop these crimes could get through to dogfighters who relate to him. However, that's a big "if."
The only way to know for sure if Vick can change his ways is for him to submit himself for a brain scan and psychological test. Based on a number of factors—such as the fact that the right side of the hippocampus is larger than the left in 94 percent of captured psychopaths—these tests can help determine if Vick can ever truly understand that dog fighting is a sick, cruel business. Or, they could suggest that he's doomed to repeat mean, violent behavior in the future—whether with dogs or other human beings. And given that Vick plans to be around a lot of kids, to give talks to them, and to be a star in their eyes again, the world deserves to know who he is inside.
Vick's lawyers have run screaming, but unless and until he passes such a test, PETA will not participate in the production of a Michael Vick anti-dogfighting PSA. We hope that the NFL will require such a test as a precondition to even discussing the possibility of Vick's reinstatement. You can click here to add your name to a petition calling on the NFL to stick to its guns and maintain Vick's suspension until he's taken and passed a brain scan and psychological evaluation.
This morning, Michael Vick appeared in court to enter a plea of "guilty." Of course, PETA was represented as well. PETA members were on the scene with new posters reflecting Michael's embrace of Christianity. The posters displayed horrific and tragic images of injured dogs used in fighting along with the words "Dogfighters, Repent." The message was that anyone else who's involved in dogfighting needs to stop—now—before they, too, end up in jail, with no friends, no money, and no respect.
Photos from the demonstration are posted below. Let's hope that Michael Vick's fallen star will be a permanent lesson to all would-be dogfighters: just don't do it.
Written by Amanda Schinke
Although the media are focusing their attention on other issues now that the furor over the Michael Vick case has died down for the time being, the horrors of dogfighting are just as present as they ever were—and there is still a long, uphill battle ahead for the animal protection community as we work to stamp out this cruel blood sport forever. Yesterday, at a hearing in Virginia to determine a trial date for Vick and his codefendants, PETA members gathered to remind the public that all dogfighters need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and that all dogs deserve justice—not just the ones who happen to be abused by famous football players.
Update: Click here to read PETA President Ingrid Newkirk’s Op-Ed in The Virginian Pilot about why PETA brought Vick into the office.
Contrary to recent news reports, there is absolutely no agreement with Michael Vick to appear in a PETA public service announcement. However, we are in discussion with his representatives to do a PSA that would take the issue of dogfighting head on, dogfighter to dogfighter. But it would be under the strictest of guidelines. The script we discussed was:
“Look at me. I have lost everything—my career, my income, respect, friends. I’ve hurt my family, and I am an object of scorn. My life is ruined. I have gone from being a star to the gutter, and now I’m going to jail. Don’t be a loser like me. If you fight dogs, stop. And if you don’t, don’t start.”
If Vick were to do this, we would be very pleased. Short of that, it’s not happening. But what do you think? Should Michael Vick do a PSA directed at potential dogfighters to send the message that if you fight dogs, you will lose everything?
I have a feeling that a lot of people would have been pretty surprised if they'd seen Michael Vick walking into PETA's offices recently—not once but three times. You'd think that would be the very last place on Earth he would consider spending time. But it happened, and here's how it came about: After Vick pleaded guilty to dogfighting charges, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk—a great believer in hammering away at the seemingly impossible—contacted him to ask him to hear about animals’ feelings, needs, and desires, and to hear firsthand why people are so outraged by the suffering of the dogs fought and killed in Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting pits. Vick confirmed our belief that he had never before been exposed to this kind of information, and, after a formal preliminary meeting at PETA HQ—during which we reiterated that we're still seeking a strong jail sentence and a lifetime ban on contact with animals—he left with study materials. He returned on September 18 to take an 8-hour course in empathy and animal protection. No cell phones allowed, no going out for lunch, just learning.
The full course that Vick took, which includes homework, workshop outlines, videos, and supplemental course materials, as well as the exam questions Michael Vick returned to answer under his tutor’s watchful eye, is available here. The class included scientific evidence that animals are thinking, feeling beings, capable of a range of behavior and emotions; presentations on the specific needs of dogs; and information about the well-documented link between acts of violence against animals and crimes against humans, which PETA shares with law enforcement officers every week.
I know people can see red when it comes to any mention of Vick, so I do want to be extremely clear about our position here: While we’re pleased to have been able to show Vick facts about animals—many things he’d certainly never heard before in his life—we are in no way going to bat for him. He may have passed our empathy course, but we have asked the judge to send him to jail and bar him from ever possessing or having contact with animals. We believe anyone who might consider abusing animals should see exactly how much a known animal abuser stands to lose.
We've also sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to make our “Developing Empathy for Animals” course a requirement for all NFL players. To help persuade Goodell to make humane education a part of the NFL's basic training for players, please click here.
Michael Vick's attorneys are reportedly engaged in plea negotiations with prosecutors, following the news that two more of his codefendants have stated that they will enter guilty pleas this week. Federal sentencing guidelines dictate that Vick will likely face jail time if he does reach a plea agreement.
PETA has written a letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gill asking that he include a provision in any plea prohibiting Michael Vick from owning or harboring any animal in the future. It's absolutely vital—though sadly often overlooked—that criminals who are convicted in animal cruelty cases be permanently barred from owning animals, since the likelihood for repeat offenses is extremely high with this kind of crime. This is especially true of dogfighting, and when you're talking about cruelty as gruesome as the charges against Vick and his codefendants allege, the number one priority of the prosecutors should be ensuring that these guys are never allowed near an animal again if they’re found guilty of dogfighting.
You can read our letter to the prosecutor below, and I'll keep you updated on any developments in this case as it proceeds.
August 14, 2007 Dear Mr. Gill: One small but vital matter with regard to Michael Vick’s possible plea bargain:We implore your office to include a provision prohibiting Mr. Vick from owning and/or harboring any animal.Our office is made aware of hundreds of cruelty-to-animals cases weekly. Some involve animal fighting, and involve dogs who have been forced to fight, cruelly trained, and set afire and/or drowned if the match is “lost.” One commonality shared by animal abusers and dogfighters is recidivism—we see this time and time again. By keeping animals from their hands, and off of their properties, your office is in the position to help ensure that Vick (if he pleads guilty) and his codefendants do not cause more harm than that which has already been alleged in the indictment against them. Further, any plea agreement, with respect, must also permit local officials to visit any suspect properties at their discretion, in order to determine compliance with the prohibitive provision. Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely,Martin Mersereau, ManagerCruelty Casework Division
August 14, 2007
Dear Mr. Gill:
One small but vital matter with regard to Michael Vick’s possible plea bargain:
We implore your office to include a provision prohibiting Mr. Vick from owning and/or harboring any animal.
Our office is made aware of hundreds of cruelty-to-animals cases weekly. Some involve animal fighting, and involve dogs who have been forced to fight, cruelly trained, and set afire and/or drowned if the match is “lost.” One commonality shared by animal abusers and dogfighters is recidivism—we see this time and time again. By keeping animals from their hands, and off of their properties, your office is in the position to help ensure that Vick (if he pleads guilty) and his codefendants do not cause more harm than that which has already been alleged in the indictment against them. Further, any plea agreement, with respect, must also permit local officials to visit any suspect properties at their discretion, in order to determine compliance with the prohibitive provision.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Martin Mersereau, ManagerCruelty Casework Division
About an hour ago, PETA campaigners and activists converged on NFL HQ in New York to urge Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL to suspend Michael Vick in light of his recent indictment for alleged involvement in the horrific cruelty associated with dogfighting—including allegations that he was killing dogs by hanging, slamming them to the ground, drowning, and electrocuting them. Surrounded by reporters and TV news crews, more than 75 activists lined the streets in front of the NFL building, holding signs reading “NFL: Sack Vick,” handing out stickers and leaflets to passersby, and making it abundantly clear—just in case Goodell hasn’t figured it out yet—that the NFL’s weak response to Vick’s case is unacceptable.
The massive turnout at this demonstration should be indication enough to Goodell that his decision to allow Vick to play in spite of these disturbing charges is going to be a major PR headache for the NFL, to say the least. Here’s what PETA President Ingrid Newkirk had to say about the NFL’s “wait and see” attitude in a statement to the media yesterday:
“Forget that unless space aliens were on Vick's property putting up an invisibility shield, it is impossible that Vick didn't know (let alone sponsor a fighting dog), that the house he built included designs for dog training facilities and that his relatives were fighting, kenneling, training, housing training equipment, and killing dogs there. There was a time when people under fire for corruption let alone criminal cruelty, resigned. That honorable moment has passed because of the Almighty Dollar. If he won't do the right thing by stepping down until this is resolved (and I'll put a sporting bet on his conviction), the NFL should suspend him. Is the new America only about money or do we still cling to some values? In the courts he may be innocent until proven guilty, and that's fair and fine, but in professional or political life, we have to have a higher standard than "hey, keep raking it in until we see if he gets off.”
The protest was covered on ESPN, and you can watch an interview with PETA’s own Dan Shannon that took place during the demonstration here.
I’ll let you know as soon as there’s more news, but in the meantime, you may want to get your very own “Sack Vick” T-shirt. Love it.
Please click here to contact Roger Goodell about this news and ask him to immediately take action. We're doing everything we can to ensure that the news of Vick's alleged involvement in this horrific cruelty is not swept under the rug. I can only hope that the high profile nature of Michael Vick's case helps to shed light on an epidemic that, too often, is not treated with enough gravity by law-enforcement officials, and that needs to be stamped out immediately.
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
Follow PETA on Twitter!
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.