SMITHFIELD, Va. (April 26, 2007) -- Police conducting a drug investigation raided a house owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and found dozens of dogs, some injured and emaciated.
Police also found items associated with dog fighting.
State Police Sgt. D.S. Carr said Vick's relative, Davon Boddie, 26, lives in the house. Vick owns the property, but doesn't live there and wasn't present when a search warrant was executed in a drug investigation April 25, Carr said.
Boddie was arrested outside a nightclub by Hampton police April 20 on charges of distribution of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute. The search warrant was executed by a multijurisdictional task force in a narcotics probe.
More than 60 dogs were found in three buildings. Some appeared malnourished, scarred and injured, officials said.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said the group has "heard troubling reports for some time that Michael Vick has been involved in organized dog fighting, and we fear that this investigation may validate that very disturbing allegation."
"We urge law enforcement to aggressively investigate this matter, and we further believe that anyone who harbors dogs for the purpose of fighting, deserves to be fully prosecuted for their crimes," Pacelle said in a statement. "Dog fighting is a barbaric activity that causes immense animal suffering and fosters violence in our communities. Our nation should have a zero tolerance policy for any form of staged animal fighting."
The Humane Society said dog fighting is illegal nationwide and a felony in 48 states, including both Virginia and Georgia.
The animal rights group PETA has asked Falcons owner Arthur Blank to suspend Vick pending the investigation and "to kick him off the team if it is found that dogs on Vick's property were neglected or used for fighting."
In a letter to Blank, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said it was the second time it was writing to the owner about one of his players and allegations of cruelty to animals. On Feb. 23, the organization wrote to him about defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux's felony charges in Georgia stemming from the fatal beating of a dog.
Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts said the team still was gathering information on the report and had no immediate comment.
A spokeswoman for Vick's foundation declined comment. Joel Segal, the quarterback's agent, and Larry Woodward, a Virginia attorney who has worked with both Vick and his younger brother, Marcus, didn't immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.
The probe at Vick's property is the latest in a serious of embarrassing incidents for the Atlanta quarterback.
He was named in a sordid lawsuit that accused him of knowingly infecting a woman with a sexually transmitted disease and using the alias "Ron Mexico" while seeking treatment. The case was settled out of court.
Last season, Vick flashed an obscene hand gesture to heckling Atlanta fans as he walked off the field following a dismal loss to New Orleans. He was fined $10,000 by the NFL and donated another $10,000 to charity.
In January, security officers at Miami International Airport seized a water bottle from Vick that they said smelled of marijuana and had a hidden compartment. Authorities later said there were no drugs in the bottle, and Vick explained that he used the secret compartment to carry jewelry.
Just this week, Vick came under more criticism when he failed to show for a lobbying appearance on Capitol Hill in support of increased funding for after-school programs. He missed a connecting flight in Atlanta and didn't turn up for a later flight.
Vick and two other former Virginia Tech stars -- Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall and former Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith -- are scheduled to join Hokies football coach Frank Beamer and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a pre-draft ceremony in New York on April 28 to honor the victims of the recent shooting at the Blacksburg school.
Other athletes have been linked to dog fighting.
The NBA's Qyntel Woods pleaded guilty in January 2005 to animal abuse and was sentenced to probation and community service, in addition to pledging $10,000 to the Oregon Humane Society. Former NFL player LeShon Johnson has twice run afoul of the law for ties to dogfighting.