In 2009, the SPCA investigated 903 cases of alleged animal fighting in Pennsylvania, most of them involving dogfighting in Philadelphia, Bengal said. That's more than three times the number of cases in 2008, when there were 245 investigations.
Dogfighting investigations had been on the rise before the Eagles signed Vick in August, but not as dramatically as last year. In Philadelphia, Bengal said, there were 85 dogfighting complaints in 2004, 109 in 2005, 111 in 2006 and 157 in 2007.
Vick's arrival in Philadelphia in 2009 is probably not coincidental. What is up for debate, though, is whether Vick's presence is a good thing or a bad thing. George Bengal, director of law enforcement for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says it's good:
"It has really brought this to light. People are definitely more aware or attuned to this type of activity."
There's an alternate theory, though. And by "alternate," I mean "ridiculous."
"By hiring Michael Vick(notes), the Eagles brought clear attention to a very awful thing that's done to animals," said Tom Hickey Sr., founder of the Pennsylvania advocacy group DogPAC. "But also by hiring him, they also said it's OK to do this kind of stuff."
Right, because dogfighting worked out so well for Michael Vick. I just have a very hard time believing that the whole Michael Vick/dogfighting fiasco turned anyone on to dogfighting. "Look! This guy became a national pariah, lost all of his money and spent a year in Leavenworth! Dog torture sounds terrific! Where do I sign up?"
There is no kid out there who thinks he'll get to be the Eagles' third-string quarterback if he makes two dogs tear each others' throats out. I refuse to believe that. That's like someone saying they're going to take up drinking because of all the wonderful things it's done for Mel Gibson.
Now, I might buy the "kids are doing it because Michael Vick did it" theory if Vick had done something to make dogfighting look cool or fun. But that's not the case, is it? We never saw Vick and his pals hanging out around a fighting pit and having a blast. We just saw him in handcuffs.
It's not like he did a public service announcement saying, "Hi, I'm Michael Vick, and I'd like to tell you about the joys of dogfighting." The only thing he demonstrated about it is that it can cost you everything.
Vick and the Eagles are off the hook for this one. If someone's fighting dogs, it's because they're a knucklehead, not because Michael Vick made it look like the thing to do.
- Michael Vick