This week, Vick’s dogs became the “property” of federal authorities, which means that they are no longer legally required to be held as they have since April, awaiting what is widely accepted as the only safe and humane fate for dogs bred, raised and trained to kill each other and other animals: a painless release from this world. Some people are saying “we must save the Vick dogs!” That sounds good, but let’s think for a minute. These dogs are not only hot fighting stock but a hot “star” commodity and will always be in danger of being stolen. For four months now, they have gone stir crazy in cages at animal control agencies around Virginia. Because they can’t be trusted to be around each other or any other animals, they are isolated, kept in solitary confinement, 24/7. Although this has likely been the only time in their sad lives when humans have shown them any kindness, life in a cage is no life. Some people have gone as far as to suggest that the dogs should have their teeth removed so that they can stay alive. Warehousing and mutilating these dogs is not the answer; it’s cruelty. Keeping them solitary and caged for the rest of their lives, no matter if in a “sanctuary” pen or in a pen in a yard, won’t be much different from how they spent their non-fighting time on Vick’s property. In this case, we must not only think about what makes us feel good. We have to think carefully about these dogs, the other animals, too, and perhaps children, who could well be at risk if “the Vick dogs” are released. Let’s also think about the tens of thousands of homeless dogs languishing in animal shelters at this very moment who desperately need our attention—the thousands upon thousands of dogs who can actually be walked or run in a dog park without fear of a mauling or worse; who are social and happy-go-lucky and won’t have to be kept isolated for life due to the unpredictable behavior that results from abuse.
Every day that these dogs remain in kennels at animal shelters is a day of increased euthanasia rates for the potentially adoptable animals that the shelters must put to death for lack of space. There is only so much space, and resources are limited. May I humbly suggest that instead of raising hell and raising money to try to “rehabilitate” these dogs, and instead of flying to Virginia to “save the Vick dogs,” we do less “heroic” but even more important things to save dogs’ lives. When it comes to euthanasia, every day’s real world choice is of which not if—making the choice to demand that fighting dogs be “saved” is a soothing fantasy, more about public relations and, in some obvious cases, about fundraising, than about truly helping the most dogs in the most productive ways. If you have been tempted to join the call to “save the Vick dogs,” please think about sponsoring a spay surgery instead. That simple wonderful act will prevent the births of countless homeless dogs who will never have to be “saved” because they will never be homeless, thanks to you. Or call your local open-admission shelter and find out how else you can get involved. It makes more sense and helps more dogs.