Now that Michael Vick has agreed to plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, animal advocates are hoping the NFL and others take action to continue working against dog violence.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said it was offering a reward for tips leading to the conviction of those involed in dog fighting, and other groups said they hoped the Vick case brought more attention to a practice they called barbaric.
``Since the Vick case ripped the lid off dogfighting, law enforcement and PETA are getting tips and leads on other cases across the country,'' said PETA spokesman David Perle. ``PETA is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in dogfighting, and we are working with law enforcement in a number of different jurisdictions.''
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has worked with police before to educate them about prosecuting animal cruelty as well as to train officers, hailed the news of Vick's impending plea.
``We salute the U.S. Attorney's office and the USDA in their dedication to pursuing this case,'' ASPCA president Ed Sayres said. ``It sends a clear message to those engaged in animal cruelty - that these acts are barbaric and unacceptable in a humane community.''
Although Vick faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, prosecutors will recommend Vick be sentenced to between a year and 18 months in prison, according to a government official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the terms have not yet been made final.
That would be a higher penalty than is usually recommended for first-time convicts, and reflects an attempt by the government to show that animal abusers will receive more than a slap on the wrist for their crimes, the official said.
The American Kennel Club, known as the organization that registers dog breeds and puts on the popular Westminster Kennel Club show, expressed concern that even that punishment could be insufficient.
``While we are pleased to hear that the Vick case is being settled through the criminal justice system, we remain concerned that the punishment will be inadequate considering the heinous nature of the crimes,'' AKC chairman Ron Menaker said.
Few NFL players had much they cared to say about the news on Monday. Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young understands how much attention is on a young, star quarterback in the NFL.
``You've got a lot of people that look up to you. You've got to watch every step, every move you make every time you step out in public. It's a risk for quarterbacks every day because a lot of people are watching,'' Young said.
Others said they hoped Vick could serve as an example of what not to do for NFL players.
``It's another one of those cases where you hope the young guys are paying attention,'' Jaguars defensive tackle Seth Payne said. ``There are a lot of people out there that can make you feel real guilty about not getting into a bad situation. You have learn early on who to say no to because it's a very slippery slope. It can lead a lot of people down the wrong fork in the road early in their NFL careers.''
Vick's former college coach expressed dismay.
``I, like all people who know and care about Michael Vick, was very disappointed and saddened by the news,'' Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. ``Although all the details are not known at this time, I am greatly concerned that Michael has put himself in this position.''
Beamer wasn't the only one concerned for Vick.
``This one of the worst sets of facts that as a criminal lawyer I've been asked to resolve,'' Vick's lead defense attorney, Billy Martin, said. ``The client is a person who seems to have done all the right things that have him prepared for this stage of life, and the mistake of allowing the influence of friends has him now responsible for this conduct.''
Martin said Vick is paying a high price for allowing old friends to influence his behavior, but he emphasized that his client takes full responsibility. He also said salvaging Vick's NFL career was not a consideration.
The president of the Humane Society expressed sympathy for the damage that may have been done to Vick's life.
``The resolution of this federal case is no cause for celebration - many dogs suffered terribly and a gifted athlete and his bright career have been perhaps irreparably damaged,'' Wayne Pacelle said. ``The only good that can come from this case is that the American people dedicate themselves to the task of rooting out dogfighting in every infected area where it thrives.''

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