Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The $100m man: Does Vick's mega-deal mean a pass on animals?

"No," says an emphatic Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. "We are continuing to look to do events with him."

The $100m man: Does Vick's mega-deal mean a pass on animals?

"No," says an emphatic Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. "We are continuing to look to do events with him."

Two years ago the Philadelphia Eagles signed Vick, shortly after he was released from federal prison, at the bargain basement contract deal worth a paltry $1 million, a mere one percent of his current salary.

In 2009, the animal welfare community was up in arms over the Eagles' decision. How could the team sign the world's most notorious animal abuser?

Then Pacelle stunned the animal advocates when he made the controversial announcement that Vick would be working with his group's anti-dog fighting campaign, taking their message to inner city kids whom they might not otherwise reach.

To Vick's credit he did what was asked - and still does. He speaks to rapt audiences of youngsters from Connecticut to Chicago, including several appearances in Philadelphia.

Vick's arrival in Philadelphia spawned a new charitable enterprise by the Eagles organization.

The $500,000 Treating Animals with Kindness (TAWK) program has helped fund spay/neuter clinics and other animal welfare programs in the city and beyond. (Though its website today appears stagnant and we wonder if the team has moved on. Or maybe what's left in the TAWK fund was raided to pay Vick's third-highest-in-the-NFL salary?)

 In July Vick - who served a prison term for running a brutal dog fighting ring where he and others tortured and killed the losing dogs - stood with Pacelle and others on Capitol Hill to call for tougher federal dog fighting laws.

Vick was ordered to pay $1 million toward the care of the four dozen surviving pit bulls rescued from his Virginia compound.

There has so far been no discussion of whether he will donate any piece of his new six-year contract to animal welfare groups, which privately say Vick could have a huge impact on the shelter pet population. Even a fraction of that money, they say, could go a long way toward saving thousands of animals.

HSUS is not talking money with Vick and he is under no obligation to continue his speaking engagements, said Pacelle, adding that Vick signed on "indefinitely" and "we hope to continue to use his profile to shine spotlight on issue."

"I feel good about continued participation of Mike to educate people in our anti-dog fighting campaign, said Pacelle.

Of the Vick experience Pacelle says, "it's been transformative."

And not just for Vick.

Anti-dog fighting laws are in place in 49 states and dog fighting arrests are up, said Pacelle, whose group is lobbying for penalties for adults who take minors to dog fighting events.

Pacelle says the experience changed the way his group approaches dogs who have spent their lives in the fighting ring.

"We changed our policy on seized fighting dogs," said Pacelle."We now support evaluating individual animals, rather than [immediate] euthanasia."

 

Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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