Michael Vick’s involvement in dog fighting was widely rumored in certain organizations and circles long before he made his guilty plea last week.
A South Carolina police detective got a tip from an informant. PETA and the Humane Society of the United States both received tips about Vick’s possible involvement.
But these rumors were never shared with Vick’s employers, the Atlanta Falcons. They didn’t even share the rumors with each other. Animal advocates said they were afraid to tell the Falcons and authorities because they thought this would cause Vick’s dog fighting activities to go further underground.
Investigators said they lacked evidence to bring down Vick or considered him irrelevant to the cases they were following.
William Frick, a prosecutor for the South Carolina’s animal cruelty task force, said in late 2003 or early 2004, a confidential informant began naming dog fighters. And one prominent name came up: Michael Vick.
Frick said the informant claimed Vick had a “dog yard” in South Carolina where he kept dogs between fights. Law enforcement officials never investigated the report and did not find any evidence that Vick had been involved with any dog fights in South Carolina.
In Vick’s guilty plea, he admitted entering a pit bull named Big Boy in a 2003 fight in South Carolina.
But Frick said the allegations about Vick “just evaporated”, and if they had seen anything with Vick’s name on it, they would have pursued it.
The Humane Society and PETA also received reports that were similar to this South Carolina tip.
But the two groups didn’t share their reports of Vick with each other.
Since 2004, PETA received several anonymous tips saying that dog fights were being held on Vick’s Virginia property.
The tips were “not specific enough that we or anyone else could do anything else with it,” said Dan Shannon, PETA’s assistant program director. But “when the name Michael Vick is involved, it perks your ears up.”
PETA informed the law enforcement officials in Virginia. Police said there was not enough evidence to obtain a search warrant.
The Humane Society also heard Vick was involved in dog fighting from a paid informant first in 2004.
The informant described Vick’s interest in dog fighting and said he was the subject of widespread discussion in “the game dog world.”
Several other people contacted the Humane Society with similar reports. The organization was unsure of what to do because they thought if they alerted authorities, this would allow Vick to hide evidence. But if they didn’t say anything, Vick would be able to continue his criminal activities. In the end, the Humane Society didn’t say anything.
When officials in Texas were investigating a 2006 homicide of a dog fighter, they spoke to numerous people who mentioned Vick’s involvement in dog fighting. The Sheriff’s Office in Texas didn’t follow up on the allegations because Vick was not involved with the murder case.
The Humane Society said they had heard Vick had put his fighting dogs on “hiatus.” But in spring of this year, the organization received a tip from a carpenter who saw signs of dog fighting while working at Vick’s Virginia home. Once again, the Humane Society did not follow up with this information.
When authorities found evidence of dog fighting at Vick’s property in April, PETA’s Shannon said “it did not come as a surprise.