Position on Michael Vick’s Desire for a Family Dog
by Scotlund Haisley on Friday, December 24, 2010 at 1:21am
By Scotlund Haisley, former director of the Vick dog rehabilitation
Michael Vick says that his daughter would like a dog. In a recent NBC interview he spoke: “I miss having a dog right now. My daughters miss having one. And that’s the hardest thing, telling them that we can’t have one because of my actions.”
I personally cared for 11 of Vick’s previous dogs – the 11 who were deemed most behaviorally injured. I was then the executive director of the Washington Animal Rescue League (WARL). Weeks after Vick was arrested, the court-appointed guardian of the dogs contacted me. She had heard about our progressive facility and was asking my team to begin the rehabilitation process. I agreed and we at WARL committed ourselves to the special needs of these most vulnerable dogs.
Dog fighting is a horrific illegal blood sport but our 11 charges were victims of more than dog fights. The prosecutor’s record reveals that they lived tortured lives in a gruesome place. They endured agonizing training regimens and fights to survive. Those designated as bait dogs had all 42 teeth pulled while tied to a rape stand. The rape stand was also used to bind females so they could be forcibly bred. The need to replace dogs who died in fights or who were murdered by Vick and his gang was constant.
Vick himself pled guilty to drowning, electrocuting, hanging, shooting and beating dogs to death. Evidence reveals that some of the hanging victims died slowly – their feet barely skimming the ground. Some of the drowning victims were shocked too. Many were savagely beaten. Michael Vick was found to be directly responsible for fighting them, for breaking their bones and spirits.
My attention was focused on rehabilitating our 11 injured souls. WARL is one of the most open and progressive animal shelters in the country. We temporarily re-structured several living areas to help the victims feel safe, and in fact to ensure their anonymity during the judicial process. WARL received no money for caring for these dogs; we did it because it was the right thing to do.
When we assessed them to identify their individual needs we found dogs who were broken both physically and emotionally. Their bones were shattered - ears were cut off - lips were ripped and massive scabs covered their bodies. They bore homemade sutures. Their collars we so tight they had to be cut off. The bath water that washed over their scarred bodies ran black.
When I looked at the Vick dogs, they cowered and I could see the terror in their eyes – hoping and yet afraid to trust. One dog refused to eat for weeks, trembling whenever a caretaker approached her. Joy was unknown to her and she was wary of our kindness.
We began the painstaking rehabilitation process, immersing each dog with an individualized enrichment plan. Soon “the Vick Dogs” became our dogs:
Georgia, Lucas, Denzel, Willie, Meryl, Ellen,
Layla, Charlie, Sweet Pea, Sweet Jasmine, and Tug.
During the next several months, my staff and I came to know these dogs intimately. The cruelty that they endured is unimaginable; the healing power of genuine compassion – miraculous. I will always be in awe of their courage to risk trusting humans once again.
Michael Vick says that his daughter would like a dog. “I would love to get another dog in the future. I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process. I think just to have a pet in my household and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love and my passion for animals.”
I believe in second chances. I’ve learned about genuine forgiveness and rehabilitation from the best. "The Eleven" were given a second chance and I saw them heal.
Michael Vick? His words, though well-coached, still say it’s all about him. I’m still waiting to hear him say how sorry he is for torturing and killing dogs. I’m waiting for him to take personal responsibility for his crimes. I’m waiting for him to admit that childhood culture isn’t the cause of his ignorance. I'm waiting for him to say his deeds were truly unforgivable.
I am not qualified to determine whether a criminal is rehabilitated, nor am I qualified to talk about Vick as an individual. In my 20-year career in animal protection I have come across thousands of animal abusers and I still do not understand how their minds work, how they can possibly commit such horrific acts. I strongly believe that convicted animal abusers forfeit the privilege of caring for animals ever again. Heavy life-time restrictions are placed upon violent offenders towards humans; surely they should also be placed upon those who are violent towards animals.
My life’s mission is to elevate the status of animals – to be with them on the journey to their rightful place in our world. I believe in their right to live a life free from the suffering caused by human hands.
Some people are supporting Michael Vick’s desire for a dog.