Sentence Vick, Punish Severely, Says Humane Society

DENVER - The American Humane Association, said NFL star Michael Vick should be sent to prison and banned from professional football, following Vick's guilty plea in a dogfighting case.

DENVER - The American Humane Association, said NFL star Michael Vick should be sent to prison and banned from professional football, following Vick's guilty plea in a dogfighting case.

Vick admitted his guilt to dogfighting-related charges as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. The Humane Association says Michael Vick should now pay for his role in those horrific activities. American Humane believes that price should be appropriately high, to fit the extremely serious nature of the crime.

American Humane is urging U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson and the National Football League to imprison Vick and ban him from playing in the NFL. But, the group believes Vick should be given the opportunity for rehabilitation and education, through mandatory, meaningful community service and through humane education and empathy counseling.

"The Michael Vick case is about much more than the horrors of animal abuse and dogfighting. It's also about empathy, compassion and humanity -- and what can happen when those qualities are lacking," said Marie Belew Wheatley, American Humane president and CEO. "Mr. Vick will be changing more than his uniform as he is held accountable for his crimes. In the public eye, he is also changing from role model to 'example.' We can only hope that he will quickly realize how inhumane his actions and attitudes toward animals have been. If he is willing to learn from his mistakes and chart a new, positive course going forward, he can still salvage his life."

"We also encourage the judge to include productive rehabilitation activities as part of the sentence," Wheatley said. "Those activities should involve community service in which Mr. Vick would educate his fellow inmates and the public -- and young people in particular -- that dogfighting is inhumane and terribly wrong. If he can use his influence to help prevent the next generation from engaging in dogfighting and going down the destructive path that he followed, he could yet regain the stature of a positive role model."


American Humane's director of public policy, Allie Phillips, who is a former assistant prosecuting attorney, was present when Vick entered his guilty plea today. "Although the prosecutor has asked the judge for a minimum sentence at the low end of the sentencing guidelines, the judge has the discretion to sentence Mr. Vick proportionate to his crimes," Phillips said. "We are confident that once Judge Hudson reviews all the information contained in the pre-sentence report, he will give Mr. Vick a sentence that speaks directly to his pattern of criminal behavior and lack of humanity to living creatures. We emphatically recommend that the judge prohibit Mr. Vick to own or be around animals for the term of his probation, as is currently the law in 14 states."

With Vick's formal admission of guilt in hand, and in light of Vick's earlier statements to his team and to the league denying any wrongdoing, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should take the next step and ban Vick from the NFL. The commissioner should also impose a substantial fine that could then fund humane education programs, both for players and the public, about the brutality and inhumanity of dogfighting. The NFL Players Association's Conduct Policy states, "Any Covered Person convicted of or admitting to a criminal violation will be subject to discipline as determined by the Commissioner. Such discipline may include a fine, suspension without pay and/or banishment from the League." American Humane encourages the NFL to use the entire playbook on this one.

Dogfighting is a brutal, inhumane blood sport that has no place in any society. It is illegal in all 50 states and is a felony in all but two. A recently signed federal law, the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, has increased the penalties for people who violate federal animal-fighting law. And newly introduced federal legislation, the Dog Fighting Prohibition Act (S. 1880/H.R. 3219), would improve the ability to prosecute dogfighting cases, would widen the net to include people who attend and otherwise support dogfighting activities, and would increase the penalties for those found guilty. American Humane strongly supports this legislation.

Although Vick pled guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiracy to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture, he has admitted to having been more directly involved in dogfighting activities in a Summary of the Facts document submitted by the U.S. Attorney and signed by Vick. This includes having "agreed to the killing of approximately 6-8 dogs that did not perform well in testing sessions...and all of those dogs were killed by various methods, including hanging and drowning." The signed document also states "in or about 2002" Vick and others "established a dogfighting business enterprise," and it lists specific dogfighting activities over a period of years. Therefore, in the interest of justice, we encourage the commonwealth of Virginia to proceed with its own case against Vick to fully charge him for his crimes.

The only positive outcome of the Vick case is that it has focused intense public and media attention on the brutal activity of dogfighting. Unfortunately, that attention may be short-lived. So, regardless of whether dogfighting stays on the front page or is quickly replaced by another issue, American Humane will continue working diligently to abolish dogfighting -- through public education, legislative advocacy and other actions that have been effective in protecting children and animals, promoting compassion, and advancing humanity since the organization was founded 130 years ago.

About American Humane

The American Humane Association is the only national organization dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Founded in 1877, American Humane is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year. Through a network of child and animal protection agencies and individuals, American Humane develops policies, legislation, curricula and training programs to protect children and animals from abuse, neglect and exploitation. The nonprofit membership organization, headquartered in Denver, raises awareness about The Link(R) between animal abuse and other forms of violence, as well as the benefits derived from the human-animal bond. American Humane's regional office in Los Angeles is the authority behind the "No Animals Were Harmed"(R) end credit disclaimer on film and TV productions, and American Humane's office in Washington is an advocate for child and animal protection at the federal and state levels. American Humane meets the strong, comprehensive standards of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, has been awarded the Independent Charities of America "Best in America" Seal of Approval, and has received a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator, America's leading charity evaluator. Visit to learn more.