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October 25, 2012

Our Commitment to End Dogfighting

For those of you who follow this blog, you know that public-relations hit man Rick Berman has raised a lot of money from animal-abuse groups to conduct a brand attack on The Humane Society of the United States through his spider web of front groups, including the Center for Consumer Freedom. We’re not alone among nonprofits in being a target. He’s attacked anti-smoking groups on behalf of Big Tobacco. He works for the alcohol industry. For junk food makers. For tanning bed companies. But given the focus he has on The HSUS, some of his most lucrative work is no doubt on behalf of animal abusers.

Michigan dogfighting rescue 2012
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
One of many dogs we've helped rescue from fighting.

Let’s face it: it’s perfectly logical that a guy like Berman would attack The HSUS. We are the greatest threat to animal cruelty. And the people who profit from cruelty don’t want us to make progress. This just comes with the territory.

While not unexpected, we won’t hesitate to call him out, or anyone else who stands in the way of progress for animals. Berman has taken out dozens of full-page ads in national newspapers and in other publications attacking us, under the banner of the Center for Consumer Freedom and its HumaneWatch project (spending millions in the process). It’s all been very lucrative for Berman, who lives in an enormous mansion and siphons off a huge share of funds directed to his phony “nonprofits” for himself and his for-profit PR company, Berman and Company.

So today one of Berman’s groups dropped another $100,000 or so to attack us for putting Michael Vick to work against dogfighting. He could have put that money into rewards programs for dogfighting, or rehabilitating fighting animals, or paying for investigations of illegal animal fighting operations–as The HSUS does every day. But helping animals isn’t his thing–in fact, it’s just the opposite. 

Three years ago, I knew it would be controversial to enlist Michael Vick in our outreach work in inner-city schools. But today this is hardly news, since I’ve talked about it on 60 Minutes and ABC's Nightline, wrote a chapter on it in The Bond, and discussed it in so many other platforms, as a way to raise awareness of the problem of dogfighting in our society. Since Vick's case came to light, we’ve upgraded laws against animal fighting in 40 states, and passed a new federal law to ban possession of fighting animals and to make it a federal felony.

I’ve also spoken, together with Vick, to thousands of inner-city kids about the evils of dogfighting. The point was to have a guy like Vick, who grew up on inner-city streets and got drawn into the world of dogfighting, warn these kids away from the activity. His target was not our base of supporters, but kids and others who don’t normally get exposed to our messages. Now those kids have become converts to our cause, and many of them are speaking out against dogfighting in inner-city neighborhoods and starting animal protection clubs at their schools.

Now Berman is trying to make an issue of Vick acquiring a dog for his daughters. The HSUS had nothing to do with Vick getting a dog, and we didn't know about it until it was reported in the media. But Vick’s probationary period is over, so he is legally allowed to get a dog.

There are thousands of dogs still suffering in fighting pits who need our attention. The HSUS works every day to put dogfighters in jail and to protect tens of thousands of dogs chewed up in this industry, pulling dogs out of fighting rings and working with our partners in the pit bull rescue community to give them care and new homes. We work to protect millions of dogs suffering in the puppy mill trade. And we are working to end euthanasia of dogs by promoting spay-and-neuter and shelter adoption.

There are millions of dogs at risk, and we need to focus on them. It’s understandable to be upset about Vick’s crimes that led to his arrest. What he did was terrible. We were also outraged, and that’s why we demanded his prosecution. There is nothing more that can be done with regard to Vick’s crimes, and we need to refocus our anger and turn our attention to efforts to help the millions of animals still at risk due to the ongoing issues of animal cruelty in our nation.

Rick Berman has opposed our campaigns to end seal clubbing, factory farming, puppy mills, and just about everything else we do. He’s shilling for corporate entities that don’t like our agenda to take on the biggest forms of animal cruelty in the world.

No discerning person should get caught up in his con or masquerade. Join us in fighting ongoing abuses that matter and kick him and his silly little stunts to the curb. 

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