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My view: Vick's cruelty to animals overshadows his desire to own a pet

By Francis Battista

Best Friends Animal Society

Published: Sunday, July 29 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

In the administration offices at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Judah Battista enjoys a respite with Lucas, formerly a "vicious Vick dog."

Lee Benson, Deseret News

Pro football star Michael Vick has written a book that will be out in September, and he is promoting it on the talk and sports show circuits.

True to form, Vick and his handlers continue to offend and incense animal lovers and anyone else, for that matter, who is concerned about the sports/entertainment industry turning a blind eye to criminal brutality by players and other celebrities.

Apologists say that Vick has paid his debt to society by serving time in federal prison — that he should be allowed to get on with his life and his profession.

In truth, Vick served time for the federal charges of conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce for unlawful activities, including dog fighting. And, while dog fighting and death by hanging of some of his dogs were sentencing considerations, he did not serve one day for animal cruelty.

Since then, Vick has never expressed concern for the suffering he caused. Perhaps this is due to lawyerly advice to avoid self-incrimination, or worse, because of a basic void in his moral make-up. What infuriates those of us who rescue abused or abandoned animals is that Vick, despite torturing and killing animals, has never once expressed any remorse about it.

Rather, he talks about letting people down and making mistakes, and so on. He apologizes to the kids who looked up to him and to his family but never approaches anything close to being truly sorry for what he did and allowed to occur at Bad Newz Kennels.

By court order, Vick is barred from owning a dog for three years after his release from prison. With the three years about to expire, he says his kids really want a dog and, therefore, he should be able to have one.

Considering how well he cared for his previous dogs, you can imagine the response that this statement draws from the animal-loving public.

While his eligibility for dog ownership is a matter of law, imagine, if you would, what it would be like reading through a potential dog adoption application from Vick:

Have you had a dog before? "Yes"

If yes, how many? "Lots"

Do you still have a dog(s)? "No"

If you have had dogs in the past, please let us know their current disposition. "Dead or confiscated by federal authorities."

If you no longer have other dogs, please let us know what happened to them. "Some I sold to dog fighters. Some I had my cousin electrocute or shoot. Some I personally strangled, drowned or body-slammed to death."

Why do you want to get a dog at this time? "Because I served my time, and my kids want a dog."

OK, thank you, Michael. We'll get back to you on your application.

So how are the dogs, 22 of which were rescued and brought to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in 2008, doing four years after their arrival?

To begin with, some dogs suffer or have suffered from the effects of a hidden killer circulating through their blood. Babesia gibsoni, spread primarily through blood exchanges in dog fights, is caused by a protozoan parasite that destroys red blood cells. Virtually impossible to cure, its treatment includes debilitating, long-term steroid therapy.

Lucas, who was Vick's grand champion fighting dog, now battles a bigger opponent — babesia. He is a wonderful dog whose face bears the scars inflicted in the fighting ring. Despite all this, Lucas truly loves people and everyone loves him.

While surviving the fighting ring and the "tender mercies" of Vick and his cohorts, Lucas is struggling with a more lethal foe. It is painful to watch his decline and just another reminder of the actions of an unrepentant dog killer.

Please keep Lucas in your thoughts and prayers — and if you are inclined to ponder whether Vick, who inflicted such pain and suffering on his animals, should ever again have another dog, remember him.

Francis Battista, one of the 22 founders of Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, is a nationally known animal welfare expert whose articles and letters have appeared in newspapers across the country.

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