One of the problems with animal welfare policy—and public policy in general—is that demagogues on one side or another of a political issue make sleazy and unsupported attacks on the other. One of the scummier instances of this we’ve seen was during the 2012 election, when the lobbying arm of the misnamed Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) ran ads implying that Congressman Steve King of Iowa supported dogfighting.
A number of TV stations refused to run the ads, recognizing this HSUS bile for what it was. Essentially, King had wondered about whether it was worth passing a federal anti-dogfighting law when dogfighting is already illegal in all 50 states. But a question about state-vs.-federal resources gave HSUS the opportunity it needed to nip at his heels, even though King publicly clarified that yes, he is against dogfighting like every other sane person.
Unfortunately lies and rumors don’t die easily on the Internet, and last week a petition popped up slamming King for this (years-old) episode and closely tracking HSUS’s rhetoric. So far it has nearly 30,000 signatures.
It’s a good opportunity, then, to remind the public that HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle has helped more dogfighters than Congressman Steve King (who, like most people, has helped zero).
Pacelle developed a bro-mance with convicted dogfighting kingpin Michael Vick following Vick’s release from prison. After Vick got out of the slammer, Pacelle and HSUS rehabilitated Vick’s public image. Vick controversially signed with the Philadelphia Eagles to resume his NFL career, and—coincidentally, perhaps—the Eagles gave a $50,000 grant to HSUS.
If that’s not nauseating enough, Pacelle later told the media that Vick “would do a good job as a pet owner.” Vick has since gotten a dog.
Disturbingly, there was also a significant increase in dogfighting in Pennsylvania following Vick’s hookup with Pacelle and HSUS. According to the Pennsylvania SPCA, in 2008, while Vick was still in prison, there were 237 investigations of animal fighting in the state. In 2010, there were 1,177—an increase of 400 percent. According to the Pennsylvania SPCA, this uptick in investigations included “an increase in actual dogfighting.”
Pacelle’s alliance with a convicted dogfighter sure seems to have produced a lot of other Vick-tims. And as for the dogs Vick helped abuse? Pacelle recommended back in 2007, when Vick was indicted, that they be killed. Many or most are now rehabilitated and in caring homes.
Wayne Pacelle likes to claim he speaks on behalf of animals. If the dogs could talk, they might tell Pacelle they don’t want him. It could be deadly.