Poster, claiming to be from the Virginia Beach SPCA, thanks Michael Vick, a US sportsman indicted on illegal dog fighting charges, for finding a home for 14 American Pit Bull Terriers rescued from Hurricane Katrina.
A poster, ostensibly from the Virginia Beach branch of the SPCA, is currently circulating as an email attachment and online. The poster, which features a photograph of US sportsman Michael Vick holding a puppy, includes a Virginia Beach SPCA logo along with the following text:
Special thanks to Michael Vick quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons for finding a good home for 14 American Pit Bull Terriers rescued from hurricane Katrina.
However, the claims made in the poster are untrue and it did not originate with the Virginia Beach SPCA. Nor is it in any way endorsed or condoned by the SPCA. It is, in fact, nothing more than a digital fake created by a person or persons unknown.
The poster uses a photograph of Michael Vick that was featured in an article published on FanaticKing.com and various other blogs and websites. The SPCA logo was copied without permission from the genuine Virginia Beach SPCA website along with the site colour scheme.
The Virginia Beach SPCA did help to rescue animals after Hurricane Katrina, but Michael Vick did not contribute in any way. Sharon Adams, Executive Director of the VA Beach SPCA, has denied any connection between the organization and Michael Vick. I contacted the director after receiving submissions about this hoax and she replied with the following information:
No, of course we didn’t give Michael Vick any dogs we rescued after Katrina. We don’t know him, never had any relationship with him and would not give any single person more than one dog at a time. Furthermore, we are extremely careful about the adoption of any pitt bull for a variety of reasons.
Michael Vick was indicted in July 2007 on charges relating to illegal dog fighting. A 17th July CBC news article notes:
Vick and three others were charged with violating federal laws against competitive dog fighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines.
Vick and the other defendants — Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips and Tony Taylor — were involved in an ongoing animal fighting venture based out of Vick’s home in Smithfield, Va., from early 2001 to April 2007, according to a statement released by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Vick faces $350,000 in fines and six years in prison if convicted of the charges.
The unconscionably cruel activity of dog fighting is naturally condemned by animal protection organizations around the world, including the SPCA. Thus, the prankster has apparently created the bogus poster either in a shallow and tasteless attempt to be funny or in a deliberate and callous attempt to spread misinformation.
Hoaxes such as this are far from harmless. They waste the time of charitable organization staff who must field many questions about such issues. They can also unfairly tarnish the reputation of charities in the eyes of the public. Sharon Adams notes:
As a private charity, that takes in 5000 animals a year, we must be very protective of our reputation. If a donor is turned away or skeptical of our practices, we lose that support and our work suffers. The person who stole our home page and banner and created this hoax has slandered us. He or she probably knew what they were doing because they have insured that this thing is as widespread as it could possibly be.
If you receive this hoax, please do not pass it on to others and ensure that you let the sender know that the claims in the message are slanderous and untrue.
Last updated: 1st August 2007
First published: 31st July 2007
By Brett M. Christensen
Michael Vick Indicted By Grand Jury