I've been holding off on writing about this -- because, honestly, I have a collection of thoughts and not a lot of conclusions.
Yet, while there has been a LOT of discussion on the internet about HSUS's embarrassing support of Michael Vick, the ASPCA has quietly gone about it's own (what I think is) ethical dilemma...and no one is talking about it.
Last week, the ASPCA announced that it was appointing Terry Mills as their Animal Fighting Specialist -- to provide training to law inforcement officers on how to investigate "blood sports" such as dog fighting and cock fighting.
For those who are unfamiliar with Terry Mills, you may not recognize his name, but you will be familiar with his story.
A couple of months ago, a story was launched in several alternative newspapers around the country about Mills. In 2008, Mills worked for the FBI on their domestic-terrorism task force. As a part of the job, Mills spent 18 months under-cover in order to break up what became the largest dog-fighting bust in the history of the United States -- getting a couple of dozen people arrested, and saving more than 500 dogs from their dog fightin operations.
As a part of the undercover operation, Mills and his team became a part of the dog fighting culture...and as a part of that, began training, and fighting, their own dogs.
At the time, and even now, I wrestle with the ethics of their decision. While breaking up the dog fighting operation is certainly commendable, it's extremely hard for me to stomach the idea of the "good guys" training dogs to fight and forcing them to endure such torture. It just seems as if there had to be a better way without purposefully putting more dogs in the ring.
At the time when the article came out, Donna over at Bad Rap, who had some insider knowledge on the topic, posted her thoughts on situation:
"This topic has been especially hard for us. Yes, the investigators need a way in to the fights so they can gather the evidence needed to bring the f*ckers down, but when do you turn into one of the f*ckers in the meantime? It's been hard to reconcile."
And in the comments, I thought she had a great insight:
"Catching the bad gys can't be the motive in these campaigns....preventing the suffering of the victims HAS to be the motive if we're ever going to be able to turn the tide for these dogs."
Apparently the ASPCA has reconciled this for themselves - -and have not only embraced Mills, but have gone so far as to hire him.
"Terry's background will be a vital resource in training law enforcement to combat this cruel form of animal abuse," said senior director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Tim Rickey.
What the ASPCA didn't note in their press release was that Mills' background involved actually FIGHTING the dogs.
I'm sure Mills' knowledge of dog fighting will be valuable for the ASPCA as a training tool....but I'm also a bit concerned about what type of 'training' will be taking place here....and I find it a bit hard to believe that the ASPCA would hire someone who was involved in such a cruel, and ethically questionable activity (even if the intentions were good), without making any attempt to address the topic.
The whole thing is even more concerning when this occurred at the same time as HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle is out promoting Mike Vick's ability to own a dog again. It just makes me question at what point did the animal rights organizations be so quick to embrace those that have been involved in cruelty to animals that they're out hiring them and promoting them?