Today, at an inner-city high school in Philadelphia, The HSUS unveiled a new public service announcement featuring Michael Vick that urges viewers to call our tip line (1-877-TIP-HSUS) if they have information about illegal animal fighting crimes. And we also unveiled a new two-minute video featuring Vick speaking directly to kids and highlighting our revamped Pets for Life Program, which provides services to people in underserved communities to improve the lives of their animals.
I introduced the videos to the 400 students assembled at Simon Gratz High School. And then I introduced Michael Vick, making his latest appearance in front of kids in support of our anti-dogfighting campaign. Vick has made a long-term commitment to turn around the problem of dogfighting, and so far has spoken to more than 15,000 young people and urged them not to go down this dead-end path.
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
One of many dogs rescued after calls to our national
animal fighting tip line, 1-877-TIP-HSUS.
It’s no small irony to have Vick, whose conviction put dogfighting on the national radar, urging people to report illegal animal fighters. That’s precisely the point. We are reaching a new audience, and Vick’s own story is front and center in opening up this discussion with young people.
He’s gone from dogfighter to dogfighting opponent. We want everyone who was on the wrong side of animal issues to join our cause. We revile the past conduct, but celebrate the movement in our direction. Indeed, that’s the very heart of the work of the humane movement.
I knew there’d be controversy in working with Michael Vick. But it was then, and it is now, the right strategic move for the cause of animal protection. While we’ve upgraded the laws and busted countless dogfighters, there is still much work to be done.
We must constantly develop new ways to deliver our message, and Vick is just the right kind of ambassador for the cause―a star athlete, disgraced because of his crimes, and now ready and willing to speak up and urge kids not to go down the same road he did.
Ostracizing Michael Vick won’t save one dog. But working with him in underserved communities will―by opening up the minds and hearts of young people. We have seen the impact his words are having, and we've heard from kids who were involved in dogfighting, or had seen dogfighting in their neighborhoods, and are now anti-dogfighting advocates. We are showing young people a better way and working to redeem the image of pit bulls.
Today, there were 400 teens who got an unexpected tutorial on animal protection. The school officials were thrilled to assemble their students to hear Vick’s message of human responsibility toward animals.
But he can’t talk to every kid directly and in person. That’s why we’ve released the PSA and video today, to reach a much larger audience with this message. Our hope is that millions of young people, especially in urban communities, watch the video and have their consciousness raised about animals. Our goal is to end dogfighting. And we’ll use a wide range of tools to get there.