August Chairman's Report
As an organization of dog lovers, we have all been deeply impacted by the news of NFL quarterback Michael Vick's federal indictment for alleged involvement in the illegal and barbaric "sport" of dog fighting. While this story is distressing and brings up intense emotions in all of us, there is a silver lining. It is creating a national dialogue about dog fighting, illegal in all 50 states and a felony in 48, and often at the bottom of the priority list in terms of crimes that authorities investigate and pursue.
It's clear that the people engaging in this activity are often immersed in a culture rife with other illegal activities including gambling. More disturbingly, it has been found that anyone lacking enough conscience to torture and maim an animal is a likely candidate to perpetuate violence against humans. Hopefully the Vick case will serve as a beacon and bring more forces to bear on preventing and prosecuting this behavior.
Another issue which is being brought to light is breed-specific legislation. As municipalities around the country seek to address the issue of dangerous dogs, they often turn to this type of narrow and misguided legislation which bans the ownership of certain breeds. AKC, along with many other respected animal welfare organizations, has been beating the drum for many years about how this type of legislation is ineffective. The people perpetuating these crimes are not your average law-abiding pet owners. They use dogs as menacing weapons, as entertainment in a blood sport, and as a prop to sustain their "bad boy" image. Breed-specific legislation spreads the dangerous misconception that the dogs are at fault. The reality is that they are the victims, manipulated by "owners" to fulfill malicious purposes.
The AKC constituency is undoubtedly the most knowledgeable group of people in this country when it comes to canine breeding, training and behavior. Do not allow the Vick case to slip by without taking advantage of it as an opportunity to make your voice heard in your community. Write a letter to the editors of your newspaper. Meet with local legislators to ensure that this tragedy is not construed as a validation for more breed-specific and other restrictive legislation. Hold an AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day event this September. Volunteer to educate children via school presentations. It is not always possible to get a nation's attention so let's use this opportunity to advocate for the humane treatment of dogs.
AKC has issued a statement condemning dog fighting and sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (www.akc.org). AKC will continue to monitor this case and steer the dialogue in a productive direction to the best of our ability. Just this week press reports stated that two more of the co-defendants in this case are considering pleas and that there may be further indictments or a plea on the part of Vick. We will press for more resources to be invested in investigating and prosecuting crimes such as dog fighting so that we can demonstrate as a nation that our society will not tolerate these brutal and merciless acts against animals. With your help I am hopeful we can turn a tragedy into a learning experience for our whole nation.
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