NEWS

Vick has only himself to blame

Editorial

Not that long ago,  Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was proclaiming his innocence of  animal cruelty charges and his attorney said that innocence would be proven at  trial.

On Monday, facing the potential of additional and even more serious  charges, Vick decided he will plead guilty next week to federal dogfighting  conspiracy charges. The charges carry up to a five-year prison sentence and a  fine of up to $250,000 - though federal sentencing guidelines and his plea are  almost certain to keep any prison time well below five years.

In canine  terms, Vick had become a lone wolf. His "buddies" from "Bad Newz Kennels" had  all entered into their own guilty plea agreements, and it sounded as if they  were ready to convincingly contradict Vick's assertions that he had nothing to  do with the dogfighting operation or with the grisly execution of dogs that  would not or could not fight to their owners' sick expectations.

Some  people see the coverage of Vick's alleged crimes as overblown, but the  majority of Americans are truly - and understandably - sickened by the details  that have surfaced regarding Vick and his partners' involvement in dog  fighting.

In a nation that will spend more than $40 billion on its pets  this year, that should come as no surprise. Thankfully, it is a very small  number of people who still see nothing wrong with throwing two heavily  muscled, viciously trained dogs into a plywood-lined pit to watch and place  bets while the dogs rip into each other until one of the dogs is incapacitated  or even dead.

You need not be the type of dog owner who buys Fido's bed at  Neiman-Marcus in order to be troubled by the savagery of dogfighting. All you  need be is human. What Vick is alleged to have done certainly qualifies as not  only inhumane, but inhuman.

The federal indictment against Vick states that  the National Football League star not only fought dogs, he also executed the  less talented canine fighters with his bare hands. Vick's partners in Bad Newz  Kennels, Quanis Phillips and Purnell Peace, signed statements saying Vick  participated in executing at least eight underperforming dogs by various  means, including drowning, hanging and electrocution.

Much of America loves  dogs. We own about 61 million as pets. More and more of us think of them as  part of our family. We get them as pups. We make sure they are vaccinated  against disease. We buy them toys and provide good food. We take them to  schools for training. We grieve deeply when they are taken from us -  hopefully, after many happy years together.

No, they are not humans. They  are not children. But they are loving, feeling beings who for thousands of  years now have had a bond with mankind. There is a symbiotic relationship  between us. We may give them food and shelter, but we obviously receive  something in return.

We suspect Vick fed his dogs, too. He also watched  them kill each other and even killed them himself, if the charges are true.  The vision of a multimillion-dollar athlete slamming a dog to its death on the  ground or strangling it lifeless should horrify us and should be severely  punished. This isn't about a different culture or about being tough. This is  about snuffing out life with cruel abandon - no matter how much money you have  you can't put a smiley face on that.

But Vick's people will try. Even now,  with a plea on the table, Vick seems reluctant to accept blame. His lawyer  says Vick will pay a high price for allowing old friends to influence his  behavior.

Old friends can't make you electrocute a dog for not being  vicious enough of a fighter. That comes from your heart, or lack thereof. Vick  has earned all the derision that befalls him.