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An Elderly Senator Calls Out Dog Fighters

By: Carl Langley
EdegefieldDaily.com Guest Columnist

web posted July 30, 2007
GUEST COLUMN - West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd has filled me with pride for his fearless denunciation of the thugs who operate pit bulldog fighting rings.

“Barbarians,” cried Byrd as he stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate and lashed out at those he denounced for engaging in what most decent people regard as a horrifying blood sport.

Byrd, now in his late 80s and a dog lover all his life, was unsparing of his use of the words barbaric and barbarian. He repeated them over and over, and I hope the thugs who support dog fighting were listening.

The aged senator’s outrage was meant for the ears of Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick and others indicted for running a dog fighting operation from Vick’s property in Virginia.

I hope a man named Russ Smith of Grovetown, Ga., was listening. Smith wrote one of the most cold-blooded letters to the editor ever written that was published in the Augusta, Ga., Chronicle.

In his letter, Smith urged readers to forget about the abused, tortured and murdered pit bulldogs on Vick’s Virginia property and support Michael Vick. I say to Mr. Smith, how would you like to be put in Smith’s care in a hospice center?

I regard Smith as an ignorant, cold, uncaring person. He also is a fool, and like many of his kind slavish in his devotion to sports figures. His own words condemn him for his lack of compassion, and he should be subjected to the same treatment as the poor dogs that ended up on Vick’s property.

Byrd, a man as different from Smith as day is to night, condemned people like those caught by the FBI. The FBI alleges that Vick and several others had been indicted for running a pit bulldog fighting operation. These are the ones Byrd lashed out against.

Vick, who has been little more than a journeyman quarterback for the hapless Falcons over the past several years and is vastly overpaid, was named 51 times in the indictment of those alleged to have participated in this vicious business.

If they are found guilty in a trial scheduled to begin in late November I hope the presiding judge will impose the longest jail term possible on all of those convicted. To do less would send a signal to the thugs engaged in this blood sport that they need not fear retribution.

Cockfighting and pit bulldog fighting are the terrible hand-me-downs from a less enlightened age, but this evil affair, still being played out in the shadows of society, is proof that too many among us have not been freed from the inheritances of barbarism.

Over the years I have known people who engaged in cockfighting and pit bulldog fighting, and most of them I knew lived in Aiken County. Some of them talked openly about it, and one day some 30 years ago I got an invitation to attend a cockfight. I declined.

The participants I knew covered all racial lines, so claims already being made by some of Vick’s supporters that he is a target of racism will not fly. It isn’t racism when you catch someone fighting dogs, it is called law enforcement and it applies to all found guilty. I have even heard some idiots that being forced to learn simple math was racism. How stupid can you get!

When I was a child my family owned two pit bulldogs, Pat and Duke, and they were the sweetest, gentlest pets anyone could have. I can still see them curled up at my father’s feet in his country store or greeting customers with wags of their tails.

Those of us who have enjoyed the companionship of dogs are aware that any pet becomes what the owner makes of it from puppy to maturity, and it makes no difference if it is a tiny terrier or a pit bulldog. I once knew a family that had four dogs - a rat terrier, two large mixed breeds and a pit bulldog. Unbelievably, the terrier was the boss of the pack.

Unlike most of Vick’s supporters, I have read the indictment against Vick and those described as his co-conspirators. It is horrifying reading material, and it leaves one wondering how people can be so cruel to those animals that Sen. Byrd referred to as “poor, helpless creatures.”

I have read reports that the Nike sporting goods company, which devoted several lines of merchandise to Vick, has pulled its Michael Vick lines from the company shelves. It must have been a tough decision because companies like Nike profit from so many false heroes because of Americans‘ rapture with athletic teams and individuals.

The National Football League and the Falcons, as expected, are putting out the standard line these days, urging pet lovers and pet owners to cool down and let the justice system run its course. I have news for them, we are not going to cool down.

I will agree with these profiteers on one thing. We will let the justice system run its course, and if a jury finds these people guilty then the presiding judge should impose the maximum sentences and maximum fines possible. A lawyer on a television talk show said conviction could mean five-year jail terms and fines of up to $250,000, but I am willing to bet these levels will not be reached if Vick and his companions are found guilty. Vick and people like him are treated differently than run-of-the-mill folks.

While I have never been to a cockfight or a pit bulldog fight, I have heard the gory stories from the ones who attended. It is a not a pretty tale and I hope the jurors are shown the pictures of what investigators found on Vick’s property in Virginia. If that doesn’t turn your stomach nothing else will.

The photographs of filthy pens, chains and auto axles used as hitching posts, dead and dying dogs, emaciated dogs and all the other evidence of barbaric behavior should be sufficient to tell the story of what happened at that awful place.

If Vick and his cohorts are tied to that place, I condemn them for what they really are: nothing more than savages, no matter how finely cut the suits they wear, nor how shiny the shoes, nor how fancy the cars, nor how glittering the chains and diamonds that circle their necks or hang from their ear lobes.

They are what they are: uncaring beasts incapable of showing the slightest bit of affection to those less fortunate than they, unable to understand in their maggot-infested minds the worth of a single innocent life.

Can you who read this writing or watch the news reports on television begin to understand the vile, evil world that is populated by those who torture innocent animals, especially dogs. They are the only animals I know that seek out the love and attention given to them by humans. As I write this my four dogs are scattered about on the carpet near my feet.

When my wife and I leave the house for doctor visits or shopping our four dogs lapse into a mourning period. When we return the yelps and shrieks that greet our return to the door are bursts of joy that ring through the neighborhood. Truly, they love us if no one else will. The welcome home is not limited to our pets alone, for such displays are the basic nature of all dogs.

I doubt that Michael Vick and his followers have ever experienced such emotions, and they are the poorer for it. I say this because I have read the stories about the House of Death in Virginia, a place Vick claims he rarely visited while blaming the mess the investigators found on family members and friends.

I can’t believe the defense he has taken. I have seen the pictures that were taken by the FBI investigators who visited his property. I remind Vick’s apologists of the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In my heart and mind, I call him for what he is: a bold-faced liar.

I hope those who peddle his products have seen the pictures, especially the executives who run sporting goods stores and the moguls who run the National Football League and its teams. But above all, I hope the jurors who hear this miserable case remember that a picture really is worth more than all the words one can write. My only hope is that an intelligent jury is assembled, not a bunch of idiots like those who sat on the O.J. Simpson case.

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