Background: If you think a “Humane Society” allying with a convicted dogfighter is an odd couple, you’re not alone. Since 2009, the Humane Society of the United States has helped rehabilitate the public image of convicted dogfighting organizer (and NFL superstar) Michael Vick.
HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle even told theAtlanta Journal-Constitution in December 2010 that Vick “would do a good job as a pet owner.”
The Facts: The Humane Society of the United States’ relationship with Michael Vick has been shrouded in scandal from the very beginning. The day after Vick’s 2007 arrest, HSUS began raising money online on the false promise that it would:
… care for the dogs seized in the Michael Vick case … your gift will be put to use right away to care for these dogs.
A short time later, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle told The New York Times that his organization was not actually caring for Vick’s dogs and that HSUS didn’t know their whereabouts. Pacelle also recommended that authorities “put down” (euthanize) the animals. Most of the dogs have since been rehabilitated.
After Vick’s 2009 release from prison, his future earning potential as an athlete seemed to hinge on the rehabilitation of his public image. Almost immediately, he began speaking on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States. The Philadelphia Eagles, which signed Vick as quarterback, perhaps coincidentally awarded HSUS a $50,000 “grant.”
Pacelle’s shocking claim that Vick “would do a good job as a pet owner” came more than a year later, in December 2010. The national backlash was instant and furious against a “humane society” president who would dare to endorse a former dogfighting ringleader as a future pet owner.
The Bottom Line: The Pennsylvania SPCA’s director of investigations says there’s a connection between Vick and a recent uptick in dogfighting investigations:
Michael Vick in my view definitely enters into the equation. A lot of the younger generation looks up to him as an idol and they idolize him and try to mimic the things he had done, which is not good.