A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

My Questions for Michael Vick. . .

They’re the ones he’s still never answered

By Michael Mountain

So here we go again. Another load of softball questions for footballer Michael Vick. In the latest interview, with Mara Schiavocampo of theGrio, Vick tells us that he’d like to have a dog, that his daughter wants a dog and that he’s ready to have a dog – which he’s banned from doing by court order.

“I love animals,” he says to her. “I love dogs. I love birds. I love all types of animals … I would love to have a dog in the future.

“You know, I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process.

“I think, you know, just to have a pet in my household and to show people that I genuinely care and my love and my passion for animals, I think it’d be outstanding.”

This is just the latest in a series of carefully orchestrated interviews in what Vick calls “the rehabilitation process.” While Vick was still in prison, his PR people started reaching out to major humane groups to start rebuilding his image. At that time, I was president of Best Friends Animal Society, and we’d been given charge of 22 of the dogs who’d been rescued from Vick’s dog-fighting kennels – the ones who were most traumatized and needed the greatest care.

As his release date approached, Vick’s PR people called to see if we’d like to invite him to the sanctuary as part of his rehabilitation. We turned them down, explaining that it would not be good for the dogs to be visited by their tormentor.

Apart from that, we also wanted to see, at very least, some true remorse on his part – not just a public relations campaign.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), however, took him on and has been working with him ever since. Asked yesterday about Vick’s remark that he’d like to have a dog, Wayne Pacelle, president of the HSUS, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution: “I have been around him a lot, and feel confident that he would do a good job as a pet owner.”

Lisa Lange, vice-president of PETA, strongly disagreed. “Just as convicted pedophiles aren’t allowed free access to children, anyone who is responsible for hanging, electrocuting, or shooting dogs and who causes them to suffer in other unimaginable ways should never again be allowed access to dogs.”

The first major interview Vick did after coming out of prison was with NFL Todayanchor James Brown. It was billed as “asking the hard-hitting questions.” Here’s an excerpt:

JAMES BROWN: And the operation, Michael, that you pleaded guilty to bankrolling, to being a part of, engaged in barbarous treatment of the animals — beating them, shooting them, electrocuting them, drowning them. Horrific things, Michael.

MICHAEL VICK: It’s wrong, man. I don’t know how many times I gotta tell, I gotta say it. I mean, it was wrong. I feel, you know, I feel, you know, tremendous hurt behind what happened. And, you know, I should’ve took the initiative to stop it all. You know, and I didn’t. And I feel so bad about that now. And I know, you know, that I didn’t I didn’t step up. I wasn’t a leader.

In other words, other people had been doing all these terrible things, and Vick simply didn’t intervene to stop them. But that’s not what had actually happened. The fact is, Vick had been right in the middle of it all, right there in his own backyard, torturing and killing dogs himself. Yet Brown never picked up on this in the interview. He simply swallowed the line about how “I wasn’t a leader” and went on to ask how Michael felt about it – as if that’s what mattered. And Vick got away with a carefully scripted response that appeared to take responsibility – but for something else altogether that evaded the real issue.

And so it has gone ever since in his interviews and other appearances.

Rehabilitation starts with acknowledging what you did. So here are some of the questions someone still needs to ask and that Vick needs to answer. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever asked Vick any of these in a formal, public interview. And if the HSUS is so close to Vick, and they really believe he’s a changed man and that he should have a dog, then they need to start by sitting their protégé down in front of a camera and doing the interview that needs to be done, once and for all.

Here are a few of the questions to get started with:

“Michael, describe to us some of the things that took place at your kennels. Let’s start with the dogs who had no teeth when they were rescued. Who pulled them out and why?”

“Many of the dogs were so terrified of people, when they were rescued, that they wouldn’t even walk on a leash for months? What had you done to them to make them so afraid?”

“Tell us exactly what you did with water to the dogs. Did you drown them? Explain how and why.”

“And what were the electric cables for? Did you electrocute them? Again, explain how and why.”

“Please describe what a rape stand is and what you used those for?”

“Tell us, in detail, some of the things you personally did to the dogs yourself. Tell us what, in retrospect, was the worst thing you ever did.”

Only when someone asks questions like these and gets some real answers – or, better yet, Vick steps up himself and tells us the truth without having to be prompted – can any true rehabilitation begin. Until then, we don’t want to hear any more apologetic drivel about how he’s a changed man.