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December 3, 2009

Vick's Return to Newport News

Shares new view of dogfighting with students

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Michael Vick spoke to attentive audiences in Va. and N.J. Martin Montorfano/The HSUS

by Ariana Huemer

"If it was like, a normal person, then it wouldn't have much effect on me. But since it's Michael Vick, it's like—it's major."

So said one youthful member of the audience at Michael Vick's anti-dogfighting speech, summing up why Vick is an invaluable part of the push to end dogfighting in inner cities.

Revisiting the Past in Newport News

On Monday, Vick returned to his former hometown of Newport News, Va., as part of his work with The HSUS' End Dogfighting campaign. More than 400 Huntington Middle School students sat rapt as Vick spoke to them about the evils of dogfighting and the toll it takes on both people and animals.

"I was influenced by so many people when I should have been a leader, not a follower," Vick told the auditorium of students. "I didn't choose to go the right way, which led to 18 months in prison, which was the toughest time of my life...and I wish I could take it all back."

At the end of Vick's presentation, one young student reported, "Before, I knew dogfighting was bad and didn't like it at all, and now I know it's even worse."

Next Stop: Newark

At Vick's next stop at the Newark Boys and Girls Club in New Jersey, he spoke similarly to youths about the suffering dogfighting engenders. 

"Where I come from, a poverty-stricken area—probably an environment where a lot of you may reside right now—it was a place where dogfighting went on all the time, and other forms of violence," Vick explained. "I was naive to it, but it's no excuse. I should've known better...use me as an example."  

After Vick's speech, one young man in the audience put it plainly: "The speech was very inspirational," he said. "There's just no reason to dogfight. None."

Part of a Larger Campaign

Vick's pit-stops in Newark and Newport News are a part of a long path he's paving across the country to denounce dogfighting. Previously, he spoke to students in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Chicago as part of The HSUS' End Dogfighting campaign, an orchestrated effort to reach inner-city youths who may be at risk of becoming involved in dogfighting.

Vick is a crucial component of the End Dogfighting campaign. While there are an estimated 40,000 professional dogfighters nationwide, there are an estimated 100,000 street dogfighters. Vick's voice affects those young people who might otherwise ignore anti-dogfighting messages. The response from students this week shows that Vick may be stopping some of them from entering the street dogfighting fray.

Ariana Huemer is cruelty case manager for The Humane Society of the United States

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