Severy thinks the stains on the cream-colored carpet are spattered blood. And she’s certain that the four large black buildings behind the house, with rusty chains, blacked-out windows and a discarded needle, were used for dogfights.
But much to the dismay of some neighbors, Dogs Deserve Better, a nonprofit organization opposed to chaining and penning dogs, wants to purchase Michael Vick’s old house.
Vick was the No. 1 draft pick in 2001 and was one of the NFL’s most electrifying players before he pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with a dogfighting ring in this rural Southeastern Virginia community, where dogs were drowned, shot and electrocuted.
His former property had been on the market for several years when the group — with a whole lot of fervor and not nearly enough cash — agreed to the $595,000 asking price. Now, with online contests, small wine-and-cheese tastings, a few people shaving their heads for donations and other scrappy efforts, the group and its 5,000 dues-paying members hope to raise enough money to close on a 45-day contract with the investor who owns the property.
So far, they have about $120,000 toward their goal: replacing the ugly memory of Vick’s dogfighting operation, Bad Newz Kennels, with the Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs.
Tamira Thayne, the group’s founder, would live in the mansion with the dogs, helping to socialize and house train them. The group would leave the line of concrete-floored, chain-link kennels outside and the narrow, scratched-up stalls in the sheds as memorials.
“The dogs deserve for this to be seen,” she said. “It’s an important piece of history.”
The symbolism apparently isn’t lost on Vick, who volunteered for the Humane Society of the United States after serving 21 months in federal prison. Through his publicist, Vick said he supported the transformation of his former property.
“I believe it would be positive and beneficial for a rescue group to purchase the property and create an animal sanctuary,” said Vick, who is a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles and was named the Associated Press’s comeback player of the year.
Hunting country clash
The symbolism isn’t lost on neighbors, either. This is hunting country, and up and down Moonlight Road, with its shorn cotton fields, piney woods, big houses, “no trespassing” signs and battered trailers, there are chain-link pens with plywood doghouses.
Many dogs in this tidewater area are working canines, not furry playmates or pampered surrogate children.
Some residents are suspicious — or incredulous — about Dogs Deserve Better’s goals and statements, including one on the group’s Web site that reads, “They live as prisoners, yet long to be pets.”