Eagles reach out to animal groups

"You want to squeeze what good you can out of it," Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Human Society, said, above. At left, DA Lynne Abraham called dogfighting a "fat business."
"You want to squeeze what good you can out of it," Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Human Society, said, above. At left, DA Lynne Abraham called dogfighting a "fat business."
Posted: August 25, 2009

When the Eagles signed Michael Vick, owner Jeffrey Lurie said the quarterback would be measured not by his success on the field but by his contributions to the community.

By bringing Vick to Philadelphia, the Eagles have been forced to deal with social issues beyond football, mostly the lingering problem of animal cruelty. That prompted a scene such as yesterday at the NovaCare Complex, where the Eagles invited about 20 animal-welfare groups for a two-hour roundtable discussion.

"You want to take this terrible case and squeeze what good you can out of it," said Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. "I'm encouraged that the Eagles say they want to help address this problem. That's another ally in our fight against animal cruelty."

Eagles president Joe Banner and senior vice president for public affairs Pamela Browner Crawley represented the team at the meeting. Crawley called the meeting a first step to determine how the Eagles can use their resources to help.

Vick, who served 18 months in prison for running a dogfighting ring, has agreed with the Humane Society to participate in two events a month across the nation. The Eagles organization believed it was important to take local action in addition to Vick's work, Crawley said.

"We absolutely intend to partner with organizations here in Philadelphia," Crawley said.

Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham participated in the meeting but declined to repeat her views. She did, however, stress the importance of a wide-ranging effort to eradicate dogfighting, specifically in the city.

Abraham said a house in Germantown was raided Sunday night, and police found dead and injured pit bulls.

"Pit bull fighting is a countrywide, very big, fat business," Abraham said. "It is a multimillion-dollar for-profit organization. It is extremely cruel. It is a strictly a blood sport, if I can call it a sport at all."

Tom Hickey Sr., chairman and founder of DogPAC and a member of the state Dog Law Advisory Board, said he was encouraged by the meeting because the Eagles separated what Vick will do in the community from how the Eagles will contribute. He said 90 percent of the meeting was spent talking about the Eagles and not Vick.

Hickey attended the meeting after starting a petition Aug. 19 demanding the Eagles match Vick's salary in donations to local dog shelters and other organizations that protect dogs. Hickey said 3,200 people have signed the petition online.

"I was skeptical going in," Hickey said. "I thought they would have a plan in place to give a second chance to Michael Vick. I was concerned this meeting was just going to be telling us why they're doing it.

"I'm leaving with a good feeling they will focus on the local problem."

Vick's debut could come Thursday night in the Eagles' third preseason game. Eagles coach Andy Reid has not committed to playing Vick, but teammates have hinted at it.

Susan Cosby, CEO of the Pennsylvania SPCA, said her organization has no plans to formally protest the game. But she imagines others will.

"The games are for the fans," Cosby said. "I expect there will probably be some fans who have something to say."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.

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