07/31/07 — Offensive play: Cruel pastime incompatible with civilized society

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Offensive play: Cruel pastime incompatible with civilized society

There will be some who do not understand why the recent charges that Atlanta Falcons football player Michael Vick ran a dogfighting kennel out of his back yard are so serious.

They will recognize that an offense has occurred, but not be really clear as to why there is so much hoopla being made over a few lost dogs.

Dogfighting is a crime that happens in the shadows. It takes animals that are normally docile and loving and trains and breeds them to be vicious. And if they do not perform as their captors desire, they are executed — usually in an extremely cruel manner.

This is a man-made sport that defies nature and caters to the lowest of low on the human being level. To be a fan of this sort of cruelty, there has to be something wrong with you.

The allegations against Vick are not proven — and he is proclaiming his innocence. He claims to be a victim of circumstance, not intent. And until he goes to court, there should be no judgment of his guilt or innocence.

But if he is found guilty, the National Football League standout should face the penalty that would be handed out to anyone who was caught in a similar situation.

And that means a heavy fine and jail time.

Dogfighting and cockfighting and any other pastime like them are serious offenses not just because of the damage they cause and the side crimes they foster, but also because of what they say about this country.

Americans should not settle for allowing anyone to take advantage of another living thing and condemning it to a horrible death just for amusement’s sake. And a public figure — or anyone — who decides to be part of such a heinous exercise deserves to be lambasted for his or her poor judgment.

The idea that a society should be measured by how it treats the most needy and least influential of its inhabitants is especially important to remember here. This is a chance to set the bar for what we will and will not accept as a modern nation.

So, the courts should send a message to any other macho-wannabe who uses an innocent animal as a substitute for real strength and character.

Vick, if convictged, should get some jail time — suspended — pending completion of a hefty schedule of community service and the payment of a very large fine.

Some of that time should be spent at the local animal shelter, and some of that money should be spent helping care for and finding homes for homeless cats and dogs.

And in the meantime, education should continue about animal abuse and neglect.

Obviously, there are still a few who have not gotten the message.

Published in Editorials on July 31, 2007 11:07 AM