Punishments Aren’t Supposed To Be Easy

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Punishments Aren’t Supposed To Be Easy

From The National Humane Education Society (NHES)
January 2011

Vick claims it is difficult to explain to his daughters why they cannot have a dog. NHES would like to remind Vick, “You are being punished for the heartless, vile things you did to countless dogs—possibly even your own family’s dogs.”

Perhaps the best answer to his daughters’ questions is the truth. He can ensure that the cycle of violence doesn’t continue by explaining why his actions were wrong. Then, he can take them to an animal shelter where they both can get their dog interaction and make a positive impact on the world.

You have probably heard: Michael Vick, convicted dog fighter/abuser and football superstar, wants a dog. He got back his freedom, his football stardom, and even his public admiration. Vick has received the second chance of a lifetime. Many have come out in support of him, including President Obama. Now he wants a second chance with a dog’s life. Vick is currently on parole and not permitted to buy, sell, or own dogs until 2012; but from the sounds of things, he is going to pursue a dog as soon as he is able. NHES won’t be adopting any dogs to Vick. Or cats, or any living things.

Supporters claim that owning a dog would help Vick with his rehabilitation. NHES worries more about the wellbeing of any dog who would find a home with Michael Vick. The level of cruelty demonstrated by this man, according to a USDA report, should stop Vick from ever owning another animal again. Would we give violent offenders guns and knives to help them in their rehabilitation? In fact, felons are barred for life from certain privileges, for instance, voting and gun ownership. Why, then would we risk a dog’s life for the sake of Vick’s rehabilitation? The very nature of his crimes—violent, ruthless, and without remorse—dictates that, like a felon banned from owning guns, Vick should never own another animal for the rest of his life.

According to the USDA report, Michael Vick was not just fighting dogs. He was viciously torturing and murdering them. He hung dogs, electrocuted them, beat them until dead. He threw family pets into the ring with seasoned fighters. He laughed and enjoyed the entire spectacle. FBI profilers and psychologists have asserted that this type of violent behavior is symptomatic of deeper psychological problems. These abuses are not casual pastimes enjoyed with friends or a cultural expression, they point to a serious deficiency in empathy. Rehabilitation can only go so far. Maybe Vick has learned that, according to our society, what he did was wrong. Maybe he is sorry that he almost lost his football career and his celebrity status. But deep down, where it really counts, is Vick sorry for what he did to those dogs? He has yet to personally reach out to the people working hard to give those pitbulls the second chance they truly deserve.

Now he speaks to schoolchildren about and campaigns against animal cruelty. He is, by all accounts, a humane educator. If he changes some minds and encourages kindness in the next generation, then good for him. Vick should be doing these things, but he doesn’t need to own a dog to continue making a difference. An alcoholic can lead meetings and help others heal, but he or she doesn’t go to a bar and drink freely. The temptation to relapse is too great, and the internal weakness is always there. Vick has been educated, and he knows abusing an animal is wrong; but can he be trusted to resist the temptation? It’s not fair to test that out on an innocent dog.

Vick claims it is difficult to explain to his daughters why they cannot have a dog. NHES would like to remind Vick, “You are being punished for the heartless, vile things you did to countless dogs—possibly even your own family’s dogs.” Punishments aren’t supposed to be easy—even for football stars. Hopefully, Vick continues to work toward helping dogs indirectly (it’s the least he could do) but refrains from bringing one into his private home. Perhaps the best answer to his daughters’ questions is the truth. He can ensure that the cycle of violence doesn’t continue by explaining why his actions were wrong. Then, he can take them to an animal shelter where they both can get their dog interaction and make a positive impact on the world.