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Richmond SPCA

Robins-Starr
Humane Center

2519 Hermitage Road
Richmond, VA 23220
804-521-1300

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Susan M. Markel
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Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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CEO Purrspective

August 2007

Dear Fellow Animal Lover:

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fascinating book called The Tipping Point. The premise of the book is that changes in social trends and norms of behavior often brew for a considerable time before something happens that makes large scale change happen quite suddenly.

I believe that the Michael Vick dog fighting case is a tipping point. Those of us in the animal welfare field have known for years that dog fighting was rampant and that it involved horrendous sadism and brutality. We have seen it flourish as an activity of gangs and organized crime while being ignored by the authorities who should be acting to protect both people and animals from this abuse. We have recognized how it diminishes people’s capacity for compassion. We have tried in so many ways to get legislatures and courts to take this matter seriously. We have listened to endless jokes from elected representatives and judges disparaging the significance of this issue and suggesting that we in animal welfare are just a little crazy to get so worked up about it. Well, nobody seems to be laughing about dog fighting and animal abuse any more.

While Michael Vick remains to be tried in the federal district court, there are already a great many people, Senator Robert Byrd being one, who are decrying the sadism of dog fighting. Politicians, columnists, sports casters and, of course, the NFL, are now loudly proclaiming how horrified they are to discover that sports figures, and many others, are engaging in this brutal, blood thirsty activity. The ones who used to call it a “sport” are not being heard to do so anymore. Now, they are using the words “crime” and “felony.” Everyone expresses horror at the depraved nature of this activity and the blood chilling nature of the allegations made in the indictment.

So, where have all these people been before now? It all reminds me of the inspector in Casablanca who announced that he was “shocked, shocked” that gambling was going on at Rick’s. If they did not know before that this depraved and sadistic behavior was going on in our own community and every other one in the United States, then they just have not been paying attention to what people in the animal welfare field have been saying for a very long time.

Yes, it is disgusting, depraved, horrific, sadistic and all of those other adjectives the politicians and writers are now throwing around. Had they listened to us before now, tens of thousands of dogs would have been spared unspeakable pain and suffering. While I am grateful that the Vick case has caused people to recognize dog fighting for the horrifying problem of massive proportions that it is, I find myself being frustrated and angry at the “gee, whiz, who knew?” nature of a great deal of the public commentary.

We all knew. And, while the public’s current outrage may help us to begin to conquer this problem, it will take a very long time to clean it up. More dogs will suffer in the meantime. This tipping point should have happened a long time ago.

 
Robin Robertson Starr
CEO