Vick and Cultural Change

by Mary Haight on December 15, 2009

the christmas tree of de bijenkorf (the hague)
Image by marie-llvia Flickr

Even without snow, I can tell it’s Christmas.  Suddenly all the annoying things you forgot to take care of rear their ugly little heads eating up your time (and money)—brakes on the car need attention, omg, I didn’t get a tree yet, get the tree, mixed with the fun things like people are coming Thursday night for some season’s greetings and Friday a friend on the other end the Chicago suburbs and I are celebrating our birthdays somewhere in between hers and mine, and the dog needs a bath.   And to top it off, I’m sneezing again!

Suddenly there’s no time at all–is it just me or does everyone feel this way during the holidays?  So as my dog dries out on his favorite blanket, and the tree settles in, waiting for the branches to relax and be ready for trimming, I’ve been thinking about a story I read the other day and a conversation I had and wanted to ask for your take on some rambling thoughts that it provoked. 

Main Line Animal Rescue in Philadelphia is the group keeping Michael Vick and dog fighting in the public consciousness.  Main Line put together the “sack Vick” program that benefitted dogs each time that happened on the playing field.  Now they are partnering with Petco Foundation to provide food to pets of handicapped senior citizens in every city that Vick plays.  And that’s a really wonderful cause.  Seniors with companion animals need a better support system.  But what about the core problem, the need for cultural change? 

It’s been two years since the revelations about Michael Vick and his deep involvement in fighting pit bulls. How have the handful of programs set up to deal with violence against dogs, street dog fighting, and the educational programs that teach children kindness to animals benefitted? Where are they, the people who work for cultural change every day, in all this publicity?

Groups like Safe Humane Chicago, run by Best Friends Cynthia Bathurst, (this year’s recipient of the AVMA Humane Award) worked with others to get domestic violence and animal cruelty cases cross-reported between police and social work agencies, to protect all members of the family efficiently and effectively. Safe Humane work to “reduce violence by showing people how compassion toward animals makes communities safer and more humane.”

And the Humane Society’s End Dogfighting Campaign which started in Chicago in 2006, was replicated by a group in Charlotte in 2008 and is now active in Atlanta and LA and is seeing some success.  There were reportedly 100 requests from cities in one day for help instituting this program.  This is a grassroots community-based program and works with proven violence intervention methods.  And don’t forget the $5,000 cash reward for reporting dog fighting providing information leading to a conviction. I believe this program is still active, though the link is not currently working.   Education of at risk children is one of programs run by both Safe Humane and the Humane Society of the US.  There are similar programs elsewhere, so Google your area. You might even want to start one!

Root causes are never sexy because programs applied to fix the problem are not likely to see quick results.  Certainly systemic cultural issues like dog fighting are the toughest of the tough to tackle and are long term and multifaceted.  These few programs alone won’t do the job. I know there are plenty I am unaware of, so please, share! (Especially if you are working for one.)  These programs need to be everywhere, and there should be more of them.  How about if we point fingers and shine the spotlight on them, beat the drum to get needed funding and volunteers for the hefty work of cultural change

Then there’s the program many revile…HSUS and Vick outreach to dog fighting neighborhood kids. It seems everyone uses Vick to suit their agendas, except the community organizations like Safe Humane Chicago that work each day to make inroads into hearts and minds.  Changing the face of the future, now that’s getting to the core of things. 

(Drat, I think it’s raining again!  Where’s my Christmas snow??)

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6 comments
Stephanie Feldstein
Stephanie Feldstein

There are also a handful of programs around the country (I believe originally modeled after Sue Sternberg's old Lug Nuts program) that set up weight pull competitions in at-risk areas to direct the sense of competition to a nonviolent sport. I think it also helps that pit bulls have been in the spotlight for the past couple of years as victims, as heroes, and as family pets. That helps take away the image of a fighter, both for people who fear these dogs and for those who want them for the tough guy image.

egoebelbecker
egoebelbecker

I wonder how much of the resistance to cultural change is rooted in the belief that these dogs are "bad" and "meant to fight?" Is it easier to accept dogfighting when you see some dogs as inherently vicious? I didn't know about the Safe Humane Chicago program. Cross-reporting the animal cruelty and domestic violence is really huge. That's great work.

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