We have an early copy of Animal Planet's Animal Witness - Michael Vick Show in our hot little hands. Altho there are some concerns, we think this is an important show. Producers chronicle the case, from random drug arrest of Vick's cousin in 4/07 to the search of his home where dozens of pit bulls and fight evidence surprised investigators - to denial, confessions, apology, sentencing and finally, the current status of the dogs. A variety of interviews help outline the story, with the bulk of the focus staying on Vick and his downfall.
First, the Good: Viewers will "meet" a number of the foster-care status dogs in BR's Pit Ed class as well as Leo, looking great during his therapy work. We would've liked less Vick-footage and more focus on the dogs' trials and recovery, but the messaging is pretty darn clean and they come across well - just regular pit bulls stuck in a nightmare situation. Guardian Master Rebecca Huss is right on the money with her quotes and observations, and we weren't at all unhappy with our interviews, either. That doesn't happen too often, so, we'll take it. We were really happy to see Rose (right) included. Her story still needs to be fully told.
The Bad: It was odd to see PETA and HSUS reps interviewed for this piece. Outside of voicing (and, still maintaining) condemnation for the victims alongside their much-criticized fundraising campaigns, Animal Planet didn't seem to realize that these orgs were not players in the Vick case. Oh wait, we can't forget about the efforts to rehabilitate the fighting machine himself. (Not included in the Animal Planet taping - thank dog.) ASPCA forensic vet Melinda Merck was included however, and gives a short but interesting interview on her role in the case and collection of evidence. They kept details to a minimum (because the state trial is still pending?), but it was still fascinating to hear how science was used to help animal victims.
And the Ugly: Animal Planet was good enough to go back in and fix an error on the number of dogs sent to sanctuary for overt dog aggression (10, not 22). Thank you, production crew. But the show is peppered with way too much stock dog fight footage. Why do viewers need to see so much abuse, a la snuff film? A voice over tells: "Most dog fighters are amateurs and know little about conditioning or caring for their dogs. Many are inner city gang members where street fighting is common." Okay. The narrator then goes on to explain - in full detail - how to stage a dog fight. In case any wanna-be thugs are watching, they'll find the Cajun rules of dog fighting outlined here along with a perk for internet sites that sell fight supplies. That is SO not good.
Despite that bigger disappointment, we're endorsing this show because it offers a general message of compassion for the dogs. We're grateful to the film crew that we worked with. By the time they wrapped up (11pm -- a twelve hour day of filming. ugh), I'm sure they were more than ready to take a break from Vick-talk.Video