Washington, D.C. -- In light of his recent indictment and guilty plea for charges related to dog fighting, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) calls on National Football League (NFL) quarterback Michael Vick to immediately surrender $22 million of his signing bonus back to the Atlanta Falcons. The organization in turn urges the Falcons to commit at least $10 million to an independent, self-operating charity overseen by AWI.
"These funds would not be paid to AWI or other national organizations. They would help establish a nationwide humane education and rehabilitation program for children and adults so we can lessen the likelihood that others will commit violence against animals," said Chris Heyde, AWI deputy legislative director. "In addition to educating people about respect for animals, such funds would also be used toward local humane societies, SPCAs and other organizations that take in, care for and rehabilitate animals in need."
Despite the majority of America's outrage over this incident, little attention has been given to the actual crimes perpetrated upon the dogs in Vick's "care." More discussion has occurred over whether Vick will play football again, or whether the Falcons can recoup money from his signing bonus to be applied to the team's salary cap this season. As one CNN reporter noted at the close of a recent Falcons press conference, "it sounded like businessmen talking about a business plan."
Others have raised concern over why there has been so much outrage over Vick's charges, while many NFL players have faced a litany of criminal charges, including murder, spousal abuse, and drug and alcohol addiction. While such a worry is valid, it is not a reason to overlook the brutal actions Vick committed.
"The public should hold the NFL accountable for its practices," Heyde said. "Something is clearly wrong with our sporting industry when it is more of a crime to bet on a game than it is to murder one's wife or pit innocent animals against each other for entertainment."
Young people are exposed to an array of cruelty and it is well-documented that children exposed to animal abuse tend to become desensitized and commit crimes against animals and ultimately people. Fortunately, because of the current heightened public awareness, the humane community and the American public have been presented with an opportunity to take a positive step toward ending this cycle of brutality.
The dogs who suffered and perished as a result of Vick's actions cannot be brought back to life, nor will Vick ever be able to fully redeem himself. However, he can do something that will have a positive impact on those who once looked up to him as a role model. Likewise, the NFL and Atlanta Falcons can begin to promote and foster humanity toward animals. By doing what is right versus what is profitable, both animals and our society will benefit.
Chris Heyde (202) 446-214, firstname.lastname@example.org
For over 56 years, AWI has been a leader in the animal protection movement in the United States. AWI publishes books and other materials on humane education and initiatives aimed at reducing the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. AWI also lobbies Congress for better and stronger laws protecting animals. More information about AWI's programs is available at www.awionline.org.