Clinton Portis, the running back for the Washington Redskins, has received a thorough education on the icky subject of dogfighting after speaking glibly in defense of Michael Vick last month.
Vick, the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, is the object of a dogfighting investigation in Surry County, Va., where authorities found 66 dogs on property he owns that was the residence of a cousin.
Portis, in an interview with WAVY-TV in Norfolk last month, said, "It's his property; his dogs. If that's what he wants to do, do it." "Just do it" is a counterproductive slogan where the law is concerned. It is a felony to engage in dogfighting in all but two states, Idaho and Wyoming.
Portis has made amends, of course. Although he maintains he was speaking in jest, he acknowledged that the comments were inappropriate.
Dogfighting is no laughing matter in a nation of dog lovers. It was Harry Truman who said, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."
The D.C. Council is now entertaining a measure that would make the mere act of attending a dogfight a felony. Dogfighting, a favored activity of gang members, remains prevalent in the city. Yet it is a difficult crime to prosecute for obvious reasons. No one is inclined to take ownership of the fighting dogs during a bust. The measure before the D.C. Council would eliminate that out. Those attending a dogfight would be just as guilty as those who orchestrated it.
That certainly would curb the despicable practice. Dog lovers, understandably, find it particularly abhorrent. Ours, after all, is a city of parks stuffed with dogs and their owners. If most dog owners in the city are guilty of anything, it is feeding their four-legged offspring too much.
Portis was perhaps being somewhat disingenuous when he said he failed to understand the serious bond between dogs and their owners. You do not have to be a social scientist to know the genuine affection many owners have for their dogs. Or how the death of a dog sometimes can rise almost to the level of a death of a family member.
The enlightenment of Portis was stoked by the outcry over his intemperate remarks.
He was trying to be amusing about an underground activity that has no redeeming value.
It comes as no surprise that those involved in dogfighting are apt to be involved in other nefarious activities, such as drugs and gunrunning. It takes a peculiar mind not only to raise fighting dogs, but often times to house them in inhumane conditions as well.
Vick, if guilty, would find no sympathy on Capitol Hill. You may recall the Senate hearings on contaminated pet food this spring. You may recall Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, blubbering to the panel that he has a Shih Tzu named Trouble, whom he calls Baby. You may recall other distinguished members of the Senate trying diligently to put dogs in their proper context in our society. The welfare of a dog is perhaps the only issue in Washington that has bipartisan support.
Portis concedes he is not a dog guy. Never has been. His idea of a pet is a fish.
"That's the easiest thing to keep up," he said.
A fish does not alert you when there is a stranger at the door. A fish does not wag its tail if you show your delight with it. A fish does not play catch with you.
But whatever. If Portis is a fish guy, then so be it.
And we'll leave the cat ladies out of it today.
Just remember not to mess with America's dogs.
That is a subject with nearly unanimous approval, with the exception of the dogfighters duly noted.