A month after the controversial signing of convicted dogfighter Michael Vick, the Eagles yesterday circulated a draft plan to animal-rights groups that calls for an immediate, widespread campaign to combat animal abuse in Philadelphia.
According to the proposal, obtained by The Inquirer, the team plans a range of new animal-welfare activities, including deployment of Eagles players and cheerleaders to schools and community events and a mobile animal-care van to at-risk areas. The van could be called the Pet Mobile. The team also plans to print trading cards that feature Eagles players and their pets.
Grants and public-service announcements would promote the adoption of homeless animals, encourage citizens to report animal abuse, and assist fund-raising to expand spaying and neutering services.
The Eagles were widely criticized by animal-welfare advocates - several of them angry Eagles fans who turned in season tickets and tossed their team jerseys - following news of the Vick signing.
Team president Joe Banner pledged at the time to invest resources in animal-welfare efforts. He has held two meetings with area shelters and rescue organizations to find ways the Eagles could help combat dogfighting and prevent animal abuse.
Eagles spokeswoman Pamela Browner-Crawley declined to comment.
According to the document, the team will begin implementation of its plan with the start of the regular season Sunday.
Among the plan's highlights:
Dispatching Eagles players and cheerleaders to schools and community events.
Making Eagles team members and others available to animal-welfare groups for fund-raising events.
Printing trading cards featuring members of the Eagles and their pets.
Outfitting and deploying a community animal-care van, tentatively named the Pet Mobile, to at-risk areas.
Providing grant funding to animal-welfare groups.
Launching public-service campaigns focusing on spay/neuter programs and urging people to report animal cruelty.
Melissa Levy, executive director of Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which rescues pit bulls scheduled to be euthanized at the city's animal-control facility, said the plan showed a sincere attempt by the Eagles to listen to local shelters and rescues.
"We're very encouraged at how much in the plan reflects our conversations," rather than trying to "dictate their will," Levy said, noting the plan's emphasis on spreading the adoption and spay/neuter message. "It has the potential to make an impact."
Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue of Chester Springs, praised some of the ideas but predicted that others, such as offering up Eagle players for fund-raisers, would not work.
"They have to get players out to prove they love animals?" Smith said. "Last year, the Eagles didn't care about helping animals."
Notably absent from the plan was any mention of Vick, who spent 18 months in federal prison for his role in an interstate dogfighting ring. Vick has made two appearances on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States outside Philadelphia.
HSUS president Wayne Pacelle, who enlisted Vick to participate in its national anti-dogfighting campaign, has said he planned to announce details of Vick's first Philadelphia-area appearances soon.