August 25, 2009: Team representatives from the Philadelphia Eagles met with members of numerous groups from the area that fight and raise public awareness about cruelty to animals in an effort to advance the situation regarding Michael Vick. The meeting on Aug. 24 at the team's practice facility, did not include Vick himself, who recently signed a deal with the Eagles after serving 18 months in prison for his role more than two years ago in a dog-fighting operation, or team owner Jeffrey Laurie.
The meeting between executives of the Philadelphia Eagles and representatives of animal rights groups regarding the Michael Vick situation drew mixed responses, according to reports out of Philadelphia. Eagles president Joe Banner and svp-public affairs Pamela Browner-Crawley represented the team at the meeting. Animal rights attendees included Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, with whom Vick is already working; Tom Hickey Sr., chairman and founder of DogPAC and a member of the Pennsylvania Dog Law Advisory Board; Bill Smith of Main Line Rescue and representatives of both the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia SPCA. Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham also participated.
The Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society said they would not work with Vick.
"Bringing Michael Vick to Philadelphia has put the Philadelphia Eagles in a position of learning a lot about what goes on with dog fighting," Browner-Crawley told reporters after the meeting, who were not invited in. "We absolutely intend to partner with organizations here in Philadelphia."
The meeting came as Vick prepares for the 2009, including the possibility that he might play in the Eagles' pre-season game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Aug. 27 in Philadelphia. It also coincides with a statement from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one of the most influential in the U.S. regarding the matter, blasting Vick not only for the situation that sent him to prison, but for what they see as a legitimate lack of remorse and compassion regarding his actions.
The ASPCA specifically focused on Vick's segment during CBS's 60 Minutes on Aug. 16, where he was questioned by James Brown. "60 Minutes provided a convicted criminal a national platform to selfishly focus on his own recovery when, in fact, the animals, the victims who cannot speak for themselves, should have received the attention," Ed Sayres, president and CEO of the ASPCA," said in a statement. "CBS did a grave disservice to the animal welfare community by failing to show the ugly truth of Mr. Vick's actions and the horrors of dog fighting and animal cruelty in this country. The continued attention paid to Mr. Vick is only reinforcing that criminal behavior does not destroy fame and fortune."
Vick has done some work with the Humane Society of the United States since his release, making public appearances in Chicago and Atlanta, with upcoming events with Vick being scheduled for Virginia and Washington, D.C. "Michael Vick admits that what he did to dogs was cruel and barbaric, but now that he has served his time, he wants to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem," Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement last week. "He has pledged to make a long-term commitment to participate in our community-based outreach programs to steer inner-city youth away from dog fighting. At events with Michael in Atlanta and Chicago, we've seen him deliver a powerful message against animal cruelty."
However, the ASPCA said it was the "first animal welfare organization given the opportunity to work with Mr. Vick" but turned him down. "[The ASPCA] simply not convinced that Mr. Vick has demonstrated compassion toward animals as living beings or the necessary remorse for his criminal actions against them," Sayres said in his statement. "Although Mr. Vick has served his time and is now entitled to employment, the ASPCA was strongly against him being able to immediately re-join the NFL, to play alongside highly paid elite athletes who are looked upon as our heroes and role models. Today, it is difficult to see him in the uniform of a Philadelphia Eagle because of the startling lack of judgment and moral character he has demonstrated over the past several years. It is questionable whether he will have any credibility as an educator on the dog fighting issue."
Sayres said that the ASPCA welcomes a national conversation on animal cruelty and especially dog fighting, but "questions Mr. Vick's ability to lead it . . . A true national discussion would focus not on one man and his crimes, but on a nation that allows dog fighting to happen every day without a national outcry. This is where the ASPCA will focus its energies in the coming months." Neither the Eagles or Vick have responded to the ASPCA's statement.