On Aug. 22, AVMA President Gregory S. Hammer sent a letter to Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League, calling on the league to discourage its players, coaches, staff, and fans from violence toward animals.
The letter was prompted by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's guilty plea to a felony charge of conspiracy relating to a dogfighting operation on property he owns in Surry, Va. Vick, who has apologized for his connection to the dogfighting ring, has been suspended indefinitely without pay by the NFL. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10.
Dogfighting is illegal in the United States. Earlier this year, Congress cracked down on animal fighting with legislation ascribing felony-level penalties for activities in interstate or foreign commerce promoting the illegal activity (see JAVMA, May 15, 2007).
In a recent public appearance, Dr. Hammer said, "It is incredibly disheartening that the 'blood sport' of dogfighting has been allowed to thrive in a nation that clearly recognizes the importance of animals in our lives and places such a high value on the human-animal bond. What was done to the dogs involved in the Michael Vick case was unconscionable, but not unique. Unfortunately, these acts are considered 'standard procedures' in the world of dog fighting. Michael Vick's notoriety has momentarily captured our attention, but his involvement is just a symptom of a larger problem for which long-term solutions must aggressively be sought."
"The Vick case is a wake-up call for professional athletes and their organizations," Dr. Hammer continued. "We encourage the NFL and other professional sports organizations to consider the impact professional athletes, coaches, and staff can have as role models, and to develop consistent, enforceable punishments for those involved in violence against animals."