As an animal activist that focuses heavily on the eradication of dog fighting, I am often asked about Michael Vick and why people continue to hate him. Growing up I was taught that it was a bad idea to mix religion and/or politics into a conversation, and I’ve got to say that this advice as has served me well. However, over the years I have learned that the name Michael Vick should be added to the “do not mention” list. Either you’re “over it”, or just the name itself stings like a fresh wound. Either way, the one thing that I have found when prodded with questions regarding Mr. Vick, is that very few people understand the case in its entirety. In an effort to inform those that question my continued anger, I offer the following facts and brief history regarding the case and charges against Michael Vick, Tony Taylor, Purnell Peace, and Quanis Phillips.
It is believed that sometime around 2001, Mr. Vick along with 3 friends (Taylor, Peace and Phillips) started Bad Newz Kennels in Surry County, Virginia, on a 15 acre property owned by Mr. Vick. In a rare twist of fate, Mr. Vick’s cousin (Davon T. Boddie) was arrested in 2007, for distribution of illegal narcotics. Mr. Boddie gave Mr. Vick’s address (which was the same as Bad Newz Kennels) as his home address. A few days later, law enforcement conducted a search of Mr. Vick’s home and discovered evidence of dog fighting. Evidence included a rape stand (a stand which a female is locked into while a male dog rapes her. The ultimate goal is to impregnate the female to carry on fighting lines, i.e. more puppies to train to fight), a pry stick (a piece of wood that is wedged between the jaws of fighting dogs to release their grips on each other) pieces of blood stained carpet, a scale (fighting dogs must achieve a pre-determined weight prior to the commencement of a fight), treadmills (dogs are attached to these devices and forced to run at high speeds for hours at a time in order to gain fighting endurance and muscle mass) blood spatter on the side of a two stories high wall, performance enhancing drugs (steroids, etc), and documentation of dog fighting ventures (receipts). Over 50 pit bulls were found to be housed at Bad Newz Kennels on the day of the initial search, most of which presented with numerous bite wounds and scars.
In June of 2007, Mr. Vick was still denying his involvement in any illegal activity. It wasn’t until a fellow dog fighter (his name was withheld) was able to provide proof of having attended dog fights on Mr. Vick’s property, that there was finally enough evidence to charge Mr. Vick and his co-conspirators. The informant led investigators to three carcasses buried on the 15 acre property owned by Mr. Vick (eventually 9 total carcasses would be found). It is important to note that had it not been for this informant, many believe that the charges against Mr. Vick and his co-conspirators would have eventually been dropped as Mr. Vick had continued to lie regarding his involvement in any illegal activity.
In July of 2007, Mr. Vick, along with his 3 co-conspirators, were indicted by a federal grand jury for “conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venue”.
In August of 2007, after Mr. Vick’s three co-conspirators pled guilty and began cooperating with the investigation, Mr. Vick would also plead guilty. He would admit to funding a dog fighting operation but claimed to never have received any gambling monies from fights. Mr. Vick also admitted that he was aware of the dogs that his co-conspirators had killed and admitted to killing up to 8 dogs himself, those of which he viewed as “under performers”.
In September of 2007, a grand jury would bring two charges against Mr. Vick. The first count was for violating Virginia Code 3.1-796.124, which makes it a felony to promote dogfighting for amusement, sport, or financial gain. It also makes it illegal to train, transport or sell any dog intended for the purpose of fighting. The second count was for violating VA Code 3.1-796.122 (H), which makes it a felony to engage in the torture, ill-treatment, beating, maiming, mutilation, or killing of animals.
After the initial investigation, experts were brought in to assess the dogs being kept at the Bad Newz Kennels. Although I will spare the reader the bloody, gruesome pictures, the stories of the daily horrors that these dogs endured, demands to be shared. These acts clearly indicate the sick, demonic mind of someone who should not be seen or hailed as a hero to anyone.
In an article written by the New York Times, a dog named “Georgia” who was taken from Bad Newz Kennels is described as follows:
”A quick survey of Georgia, a caramel-colored pit bull mix with cropped ears and soulful brown eyes, offers a road map to a difficult life. Her tongue juts from the left side of her mouth because her jaw, once broken, healed at an awkward angle. Her tail zigzags.
Scars from puncture wounds on her face, legs and torso reveal that she was a fighter. Her misshapen, dangling teats show that she might have been such a successful, vicious competitor that she was forcibly bred…
But there is one haunting sign that Georgia might have endured the most abuse of any of the surviving pit bulls seized from the property of Michael Vick in connection with an illegal dogfighting ring. Georgia has no teeth. All 42 of them were pried from her mouth, most likely to make certain she could not harm dogs during forced breeding.
Having those teeth extracted, Dr. McMillan and other vets have said, must have been excruciating. Even with medication, dogs are in pain after losing one tooth, which may take more than an hour of digging, prying and leveling to remove.
Her caregivers at Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary, the new home for 22 of Mr. Vick’s former dogs, are less concerned with her physical wounds than her emotional ones. They wonder why she barks incessantly at her doghouse and what makes her roll her toys so obsessively that her nose is rubbed raw.”
In another startling publication, this one by Donna Reynolds, co-founder of Bay Area Dog lovers Responsible About PitBulls (BAD RAP), the women responsible for the rescue and rehabilitation of many of the dogs taken from the Bad Newz Kennels after Mr. Vick’s arrest in 2007, writes:
“The details that got to me then and stay with me today involve the swimming pool that was used to kill some of the dogs…Jumper cables were clipped onto the ears of under-performing dogs, then, just like with a car, the cables were connected to the terminals of car batteries before lifting and tossing the shamed dogs into the water.
We don’t know how many suffered this premeditated murder, but the damage to the pool walls tells a story. It seems that while they were scrambling to escape, they scratched and clawed at the pool liner and bit at the dented aluminum sides like a hungry dog on a tin can.
I wear some pretty thick skin during our work with dogs, but I can’t shake my minds-eye image of a little black dog splashing frantically in bloody water … screaming in pain and terror … brown eyes saucer wide and tiny black white-toed feet clawing at anything, desperate to get a hold. This death did not come quickly. The rescuer in me keeps trying to think of a way to go back in time and somehow stop this torture and pull the little dog to safety. I think I’ll be looking for ways to pull that dog out for the rest of my life.”
A 17-page report, prepared by the USDA’s inspector general-investigations division, dated August 28, 2008, states the following:
“Vick, Peace and Phillips thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs.”
The report also states that in mid-April of 2007, Vick, Peace and Phillips hung approximately three dogs who did not perform well in a “rolling session”, which indicates the readiness of a dog to fight. According to the report, the three men hung the dogs, “by placing a nylon cord over a 2×4 that was nailed to two trees located next to the big shed. They also drowned approximately three dogs by putting the dogs’ heads in a five gallon bucket of water.”
In all, Michael Vick admitted to killing a total of 8 dogs. However, his co-conspirators were able to recollect the following 11 deaths:
- 3 dogs were hanged (in the manner described above).
- 2 dogs were shot (1 shot in the head for jumping out a fighting pit)
- 2 dogs were electrocuted (as described above).
- 3 dogs were drowned (as described above).
- 1 dog was slammed to the ground multiple times before it died. The dog suffered a broken neck and back before finally succumbing to its injuries.
In December 2007, Mr. Vick received 23 months in prison. As for his three co-conspirators, Phillips received 21 months in prison; Peace received 18 months in prison and Taylor received 2 months in prison.
Mr. Vick NEVER served time for dog fighting, but rather for bankrolling dog fights. He served 18 months in Federal prison, and was allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence in his luxury home in Virginia.
Life After Prison:
In July of 2008, Mr. Vick filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, requesting protection of his personal assets, estimated to be worth $16 million. On July 20, 2009, Mr. Vick’s ankle monitor was removed, and just one week later, on July 27, 2009, he was reinstated into the NFL. In September of 2010, Mr. Vick accepted the position of starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, a position which paid him $5.2 million for the first starting season.
Many supporters of Michael Vick attempt to argue that Mr. Vick “served his time”. Those of us living in the United States of America, put our faith and fate in the hands of our justice system, and agree to be bound by the findings of that system. Unfortunately, our system doesn’t always get it right. All too often it gives murderous liars like Michael Vick a slap on the wrist and then releases them back into the public, with the twisted notion that because of their time served they have somehow been rehabilitated.
In Michael Vick’s case, he was released from prison and instantly welcomed back into the NFL. This action allowed Michael Vick to continue his celebrity platform, and monetarily speaking, pick up right where he left off. Perhaps worst of all, Michael Vick’s actions introduced a new generation to dog fighting, a felony “blood sport” that has seen a huge resurgence in the 21st century.
Michael Vick’s lenient sentence, the in essence wiping of his slate, his continued amassed wealth (including that of which he lied about in bankruptcy proceedings), and his until recently, employment with the NFL, have proven what animal activists have said all along, clearly the punishment did not fit the crime.
On July 11, 2017, Michael Vick was indicted to the Hall of Fame of his alma-mater, Virginia Tech. Amid controversy of their decision, a representative for Virginia Tech stated the following:
“Mr. Vick’s induction into the university’s sports hall of fame acknowledges his tremendous achievements as a student athlete—who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university. We understand that there are those who do not and will never agree with this decision. In considering Mr. Vick’s nomination to our sports hall of fame, the criminal activities in which he engaged, his subsequent conviction, and time he served for his crime were also considered. And it was informed by the remorse he has shown since that conviction, the work he is currently engaged in to advance animal welfare issues, as well as his efforts to help our current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives.”
What a sad hook to hang your hat on Virginia Tech.