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April 06, 2012

Talk Back: Watershed Moments for Animal Protection

Pit bull dog rescued from fighting in Florida
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

In the past week, I’ve written about two incidents that had a transformative effect on our movement: the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina that spurred advances in disaster planning for pets as well as bringing a newfound understanding of the power of the human-animal bond, and Michael Vick’s conviction for dogfighting that drew nationwide attention to the scourge of animal fighting and gave us an opportunity to fortify the nation’s laws to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting. In both cases, we’ve tried to turn tragedies into opportunities to help animals, and to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

Since the Vick case in 2007, we've helped to upgrade more than 40 state and federal laws on animal fighting, and we continue to press for stronger laws at the state and federal levels. It’s been more controversial, among some of our supporters, to work with Vick to speak to kids in urban communities about the evils of dogfighting. While many of you think we’ve made the right tactical move in reaching these young people through such an unlikely ambassador, others still can’t stomach the idea of us working with him. I give readers the floor with a sampling of comments.

Several readers wrote in about their personal experiences with pets after Katrina:

I was in Austin, Texas when Katrina hit and we were flooded with evacuees that had made the trek to our city with their pets and valuables in tow. I remember the rally in order to find temporary homes for people with pets by the city and how difficult it was to have places change their policy to become more pet-friendly in order to address this emergency situation. You bring up a valid point; we have more love and appreciation than ever, but there is still so much misunderstanding and rejection that takes place… ―Michelle

I was one of hundreds of volunteers to drive from across the country to help pull animals out of damaged structures in the days after Katrina. I saw firsthand how The HSUS took the lead, and worked with other agencies like AHA [American Humane Association] and ASPCA to deal with that GIGANTIC problem. Thank God you guys were there. Thank God you're still there, fighting the good fight for animals. ―Joy Falk

And many readers wrote in with strong feelings about Michael Vick’s work to speak out against dogfighting:

The video was extremely heartwarming watching the children learn the importance of respecting God's precious creatures, as well as learning the valuable life lesson of forgiveness. Vick is right, "We've got to face all our demons then put them in the past..." Amen! ―Pj Bertsch

I pray to God that Michael Vick is actually being truthful with every word he spoke. I love the part when he said he made a vow to help more dogs than the number of dogs he brought harm to. I choose to believe he has a change of heart and really does realize that dogs have feelings. ―Vicki Wisehart

…I’m all for forgiving and using Michael Vick to deter dog fighting, but WHEN has he ever shown any remorse[?] You forget, he’s sorry because he got caught. ―Connie

I confess that when the Vick story first broke, I was very angry. And I carried my anger for a long time. But I'm not angry today, and I can see the good that Vick's partnership with HSUS is bringing to animals. It also opened my eyes to the reality of the animal welfare community. It makes me sad that people who cannot forgive are causing rifts in our community. If they were only hurting themselves it would be bad enough, but they are also hurting the cause. I pray that healing can come for them. ―‘RumpyDog’

This is one decision that I and many others, wish you had not made. He hurt those animals and didn't care as they suffered. He has no empathy. He can tell these kids not to engage in dogfighting, but many out here will never be convinced that he is sorry for those poor dogs that he had a hand in killing. Just sorry he was caught... ―Amy/Bryan Mackora

I am sorry, but Michael Vick is a hypocrite and would NEVER have spoken for these poor animals without being caught. I know HSUS is trying to help the situation but this is just ludicrous! I will NEVER forgive him, my opinion. ―Sadie L.

I appreciate this update. My feeling about you is that you go with your heart both with saving animals and the earth, but also with people, who are headed the wrong way, if possible. Makes perfect sense to us… ―Fran and Kurt Kremlick

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