Before Clinton Portis opens his mouth again to make light of dog fighting, maybe he should know something about what he's defending.
Two dogs, bred to be hyperaggressive toward other dogs, nip and bite each other until one gets a firm hold. With its jaws firmly clamped, it will shake its head violently, ripping the other dog's flesh and tissue apart. This can go on for as long as two hours, the fight only ending when one dog is either dead or has quit. There's little difference, because a dog that quits is useless to its owner and is as good as dead, anyway.
The ``winner,'' meanwhile, doesn't escape unscathed. Gaping, bloody wounds, shredded muzzles and broken front legs are just a few of the usual battle scars.
``This isn't like when you're at the dog park and a couple of Labrador retrievers get into a quick tiff over a stick,'' John Goodwin, of the Humane Society of the United States, said during a telephone interview Wednesday. ``This is something organized, with dogs that are bred for this specific purpose, that just tear each other to pieces.''
According to Portis, though, there's ``no reason'' to go after Michael Vick for dog fighting. They're Vick's dogs and Vick's property, the Washington Redskins running back said. The man should be able to do what he wants.
Portis' comments were as offensive as dog fighting itself. They're the epitome of the permissive arrogance that turns people off to pro athletes. Spinning it, the way agent Drew Rosenhaus tried to do Wednesday, only makes it worse.
Let's leave Vick aside for the moment. Authorities are still trying to figure out exactly what happened at his former home in Virginia, and he's entitled to the benefit of the doubt until the investigation is finished.
But Portis is a different story.
During a TV interview Monday, Portis said if Vick winds up being punished, authorities would be ``putting him behind bars for no reason - over a dog fight.'' He added that dog fighting is everywhere, as if that somehow made it OK.
``I know a lot of back roads that got a dog fight if you want to go see it,'' he said.
There are a lot of things that are available in a lot of places. It doesn't legitimize them or make them any more palatable.
There's a reason dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states and a felony in 48 of them. It's a blood sport, and it's a death sentence for thousands of dogs each year. In Los Angeles alone, more than 2,800 pit bulls and pit bull mixes were euthanized last year, according to LA Animal Services. Even dogs that are ``rescued'' during raids often wind up being killed because they've been bred to be so aggressive.
Dog fighting is barbaric, reprehensible and cruel.
Some excuse it by saying it's similar to boxing. There's one big difference: Anyone who steps in a ring has made a conscious choice to do it.
``We're talking about live animals here,'' Goodwin said. ``If we're going to have animals in our home as our family members, we have an obligation to treat them right. I don't know if I can get that across, though, to someone who doesn't have a problem with dogs fighting each other to the death.''
As soon as his comments got some air time, Portis backpedaled at warp speed. In a statement Monday night, he said he would never condone dog fighting. Sure, just erase everything he said a couple of hours earlier.
The Redskins apologized on his behalf Tuesday. On Wednesday, it was Rosenhaus' turn.
``I like the fact that Clinton stood up for another athlete, but I want to clarify that he in no way, shape or form condones dog fighting or any type of illegal activity,'' Rosenhaus said. ``I spent the last day or so with Clinton trying to get that message out.''
Here's a thought: Maybe that time would have been better spent making sure Portis doesn't say something stupid in the first place.
There's no excuse for what Portis said, and he and Rosenhaus are making it worse by trying to find one. Some things are simply indefensible, and anything that spills blood in a vicious, violent manner falls under that category.
This isn't a hard concept to grasp. Senseless brutality is senseless brutality. Whether it's against a dog or a person is beside the point.
Nancy Armour is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to her at

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