Northside SF  

Political Animal
The connection between animal abuse and violent crime; Michael Vick receives a
‘Courage Award’; another SF/SPCA reject makes good

By Susan Dyer Reynolds

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome to the new Northside San Francisco column “Political Animal,” which will look at compelling stories about animals in the news, stories of animals and the law, and stories about animal justice – and injustice. There will be Action Alerts as well; ways that you can help effect change, because sometimes a simple phone call, e-mail or letter can make all the difference in the world. And I hope that you will send stories that you would like to see in this column by e-mailing me at
Why animals, you may ask, and not children or the elderly or the people of Haiti? Because, as Mahatma Gandhi said best, a nation’s moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. If we don’t start taking animal cruelty seriously, we will continue to see a rise in violent crimes against humans. In fact, the link between animal cruelty and human cruelty is well documented – more than 90 percent of serial killers in the United States have admitted they started with animals. “A much higher percentage of violent criminals have had animal abuse in their backgrounds than those that don’t,” said Arnold Baer, director of field services for the Humane Society of the United States, of studies done on incarcerated criminals. He also hopes that judges, prosecutors and district attorneys begin to see the connections and take them seriously. Had they been, many human lives may have been spared. But we don’t take them seriously.

Last month, in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, Michael J. Wondra, 25, was arrested for shoving a plastic spoon up the rectum of a nine-month-old yellow Lab. Police say the puppy was “screaming for a couple hours before a neighbor went to check.” The dog was euthanized because its intestine was punctured. The event took place on New Year’s Day, yet as of this date prosecutors have not pressed charges. Wondra is free on a $2,000 cash bond. I wrote a letter to the district attorney, and so can you:
This horrific case exemplifies another reason why we need to care about animals: like children and the elderly, they are helpless. They are even more helpless than some, because they don’t have the ability to unlock a door, go to the police, or tell authorities what happened. They are voiceless, and we must be their voice. …

In another stunningly ignorant move in the NFL, the players of the Philadelphia Eagles nominated backup quarterback and convicted dog fighter Michael Vick for the Ed Block Courage Award. The award’s namesake dedicated his life to ending the vicious cycle of pain and despair suffered by children at the hands of their abusers. Vick says he deserves the award. “No one has been through what I have been through,” he told reporters. I find it interesting that every time Vick opens his mouth he talks about what he has been through. What about what the dogs went through? What his NFL cronies, the Ed Block Foundation, and other Vick supporters like to downplay is that Vick didn’t just fight dogs (though that’s bad enough), he tortured and murdered dogs – and he enjoyed it. Vick clipped battery cables to the ears of dogs, threw them in the pool, turned the car on, and watched them desperately scramble to escape – he laughed while they were electrocuted. There are scratch marks all along the pool’s edges and bite marks in the metal, sick reminders of what a serial killer in the making Vick is. He also pulled family pets from the arms of his nieces and nephews and threw them in the pit with starved, abused dogs to watch them be torn apart – and again, he laughed. He hung dogs from trees – in one instance, when a dog miraculously survived through the night, he cut the dog down from the tree, dragged it to a bucket of water, and finished it off by drowning. And he slammed a puppy to the ground over and over and over until its skull cracked. These are just a few of things Vick admits to.

Please call the Philadelphia Eagles at 215-463-2500, and e-mail executives of the Ed Block Foundation to express your outrage:,,,,

I am certain that Ed Block, champion of abused children, is turning in his grave to think a monster like Vick will receive an award with his name on it. …

Speaking of Vick, Tuesday, Feb. 2, Black Entertainment Television began broadcasting a 10-part series called The Michael Vick Project. According to New York Times sports writer William Rhoden, in the first episode Vick says he is doing the series to reclaim his honor and “get everything back.” Delusional, arrogant, self-absorbed thug that he is, Vick continues to talk about what has “happened to him,” rather than what he did to himself (and hundreds of innocent dogs), stating, “There’ll always be a divot in my career because of what I’ve been through.” Yet Rhoden says in his article, “Vick has taken the blame and has also taken pains not to make excuses for what he did.” Is he listening to the same interviews I am? Even more shocking, Rhoden asks, “But when does he stop apologizing?” Rhoden goes on to say that Vick “has served his time and lost both his fortune and his status as the NFL’s most exciting player.” Is he kidding?
Write to Mr. Rhoden at

Riverside county assistant fire chief Glynn Johnson was recently convicted of felony animal cruelty for beating his neighbor’s puppy to death in front of witnesses. Johnson will be sentenced on March 8 and faces up to four years in jail. But as with all animal cruelty cases, there is no guarantee he will serve even one day. Remember, Michael Vick served 18 months for dog fighting, but not one day for animal cruelty. Please let the judge know that you want him to send a message to the future Johnsons and Vicks of the world by handing down the maximum sentence:

Hon. J. Thompson Hanks, Ret.
Riverside County Courthouse,
Dept. 55

4100 Main St.
Riverside, CA 92501

In Harney County, Oregon, some 70 dogs and puppies on the property of a hoarder will be hunted and shot to death on March 15 because the county does not have the money to “humanely euthanized them.” Foster homes, transporters, and funds are desperately needed. Donations can be made to any branch of US Bank (mention Harney County Save a Stray) or by sending a check to:

Harney County Save A Stray
P.O. Box 403
Burns, OR 97720

For more information, please call Melanie Epping at 541-589-1104. …

And to end on a happy note, we have a story about yet another San Francisco SPCA reject going on to a happy, healthy life. Rowdy – a young Border collie mix returned to death row at the Calaveras Humane Society after he was given to the San Francisco SPCA because they believed he was aggressive with his ball – has joined the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. Margaret Blair developed the Second Chance Program in 2005 to save dogs at shelters from being euthanized. She says that, unlike the SF/SPCA, she didn’t see aggression when Rowdy played with his toy, she saw something special: it turns out, dogs that have high “ball-drive” make great search and rescue candidates. Rowdy was recently scheduled to deploy to Haiti with his handler, Dave Stoddard from Sacramento, to search for live victims of the Jan. 12 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated the country.


Browse Column Archives

Bookmark and Share Print Page

September 2011 Issue


Horse Shoe Tavern Amici's East Coast Pizzeria


Alfreds Alfred's Steakhouse

Getting to know the Reillys June Top Picks
Copyright © 2005 - 2008 NorthSide San Francisco