“Zippy is not a big dog, but she’s a pit bull, one of the Vick pit bulls, and she’s up on her hind legs straining against the collar, her front paws paddling the air like a child’s arms in a swimming pool. The woman holding her back, Berenice Mora-Hernandez, is not big either, and as she digs in her heels, it’s not clear who will win the tug-of-war. ‘Watch it!’ she says to the visitors who stand frozen in her doorway. ‘Be careful. Sometimes she pees when she gets excited, and I don’t want her to get you.’ And just like that Zippy whizzes on the floor. Twice.” [...]
“she leaps onto the couch where Vanessa’s nine-year-old sister, Eliana, is waiting. Vanessa joins them, and over the next 15 minutes the two girls do everything possible to provoke an abused and neglected pit bull who’s been rescued from a dogfighting ring. They grab Zippy’s face, yank her tail, roll on top of her, roll under her, pick her up, swing her around, stick their hands in her mouth. Eliana and Zippy end up nose to nose. The girl kisses the dog. The dog licks the girl’s entire face.”
“Zippy is proof that pit bulls have an image problem.” [emphasis added]
The Sports Illustrated article continues in the story titled What Happened To Michael Vick’s Dogs? >>
But the story isn’t all smiles and roses. For one, it took an opportunity, on the first page of the article, to attack PETA and the Humane Society by making it personal: “PETA wanted Jasmine dead.” Sports Illustrated explains, but not very well: “The Humane Society of the U.S., agreeing with PETA, took the position that Michael Vick’s pit bulls, like all dogs saved from fight rings, were beyond rehabilitation and that trying to save them was a misappropriation of time and money.”
The same section of the article doesn’t say one word about Best Friends Animal Society, the organization that saved the Vick Dogs. Moreover, Sports Illustrated barely even acknowledged their own complicity in the dogfighting problem:
“The pit bull’s p.r. mess can be likened to a lot of teens driving Porsches — accidents waiting to happen. Too many dogs were irresponsibly bred, encouraged to be aggressive or put in situations in which they could not restrain themselves, and pit-bull maulings became the equivalent of land-based shark attacks, guaranteeing a flush of screaming headlines and urban mythology. Some contend that this hysteria reached its apex with a 1987 Sports Illustrated cover that featured a snarling pit bull below the headline beware of this dog. Despite the more balanced article inside, which was occasioned by a series of attacks by pit bulls, the cover cemented the dogs’ badass cred, and as rappers affected the gangster ethos, pit bulls became cool. Suddenly, any thug or wannabe thug knew what kind of dog to own. Many of these people didn’t know how to train or socialize or control the dogs, and the cycle fed itself.”
They reserved the front page blame for PETA, yet reminded readers of their own accountability on page two, and didn’t mention the good guys by name until the very last page of the article. If that’s not a negative spin on a very positive story, I don’t know what is.
What can we conclude from this? In my opinion, people are more willing to forgive Michael Vick, Sports Illustrated, and vicious dogs than they are willing to forgive misguided PETA spokepeople. Why? I think it has to do with the fact that PETA won’t back down. They are committed to their philosophy of utilitarianism. They continue, even now, to assert that killing the Vick dogs is the right thing to do.
I, and many others, simply can’t agree. I don’t think it’s “in an animal’s best interests” to euthanize them rather than try to save them, even if that means they live their entire lives in a kennel. I’ve seen the Best Friends kennels and they’re pretty nice. They have plenty of room outdoors to run and they have a safe, warm space indoors, too. It’s not even close to what PETA calls “a fate worse than death.”
AND, I think if you asked people in prison if they’d rather be sentenced to death or life in prison with a very slim chance of parole, they would vehemently disagree with PETA that some fates are “worse than death.” Granted, some would choose death, but the majority? NOPE. No way. They’d cling to the slim chance of parole. It’s human nature to want to survive. I think that’s dog nature, too.
Regardless of our position on euthanasia and the Vick Dogs, the euthanasia controversy is diverting attention. The real issue is dogfighting. There we can all agree: NO MORE DOGFIGHTING.
PS – You can send letters to Sports Illustrated here: letters@SI.timeinc.com
PPS – This article has been edited slightly since the original was published: I emboldened the most important points.