ATLANTA (AP) -A prominent animal-rights group called on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to ban players who are involved in dog fighting, saying it was especially troubled that evidence of the deadly activity was allegedly found at a home owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
The Humane Society of the United States sent a letter to Goodell on Thursday, calling on the NFL to ``collaborate with us in an organized effort to eradicate animal cruelty and illegal animal fighting activity from the ranks of the NFL.''
``We believe that the current situation involving Michael Vick is indicative of a larger subculture within the NFL of dog fighting and other forms of violence against animals,'' wrote Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer of the Humane Society.
While conducting a drug investigation last week, Virginia authorities raided a home owned by Vick, though he wasn't the one being targeted. The investigators reported finding dozens of dogs, some injured and malnourished, and evidence of dog fighting.
The Humane Society has alleged that veterinary supplies, blood-soaked carpeting, treadmills used for training, scales for weighing the animals and tools used to pry apart a dog's jaws were confiscated from the property.
Pacelle said his group ``tracks 10 underground dog fighting magazines and a laundry list of Web sites, and we can assure you that this is a major underground criminal industry.'' He also repeated the group's claims that it suspected Vick was involved in dog fighting long before last week's raid.
The NFL has said it is investigating the case, and Goodell summoned Vick to a private meeting while the quarterback was in New York last weekend for the NFL draft. An after-hours message left on the cell phone of league spokesman Greg Aiello was not immediately returned.
Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts said the team had no comment on the Humane Society's letter. Vick has maintained that he never visited the home, even though he owned it and allowed a cousin to live there. He blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity and said he felt like a victim too.
The Humane Society is skeptical of Vick's explanation.
``The problem of illegal animal fighting and other forms of animal cruelty is widespread, but they have a particular significance where high-profile sports personalities are concerned because of the influence the behavior and habits of these athletes have over fans,'' Pacelle wrote.
Vick isn't the only player facing the wrath of animal-rights advocates. Defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux is facing felony charges in the death of his girlfriend's dog. The player has denied responsibility.
``We hope you will collaborate with The HSUS to combat animal cruelty and animal fighting in order to send a clear message to the public that the NFL does indeed intend to hold its players to the highest standards,'' Pacelle said in his letter to Goodell.
``By setting an example of compassion for the public, the NFL has the chance to tackle the problem of animal cruelty and animal fighting from the top down and to truly make a difference for our communities.''
While Vick has denied involved in dog fighting, he does have an apparent interest in breeding animals such as pit bulls and Rottweilers. A Web site for ``Mike Vick K-9 Kennels'' includes a disclaimer that any of its dogs are used for fighting, which is banned nationwide and is a felony in 48 states including Virginia and Georgia.
Another Web site for an Atlanta-area breeder, Sanders Kennels, shows a picture of Vick holding a Presa Canario puppy, an animal that it says is ``bred for loyalty, protection, guarding, and peace of mind. They can and will protect.''
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On the Net:
-Vick K-9 Kennels: www.vicksk9kennels.com
-Sanders Kennels: www.sanderskennels.com/Presa-Male-Imports.htm

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