Michael Vick didn’t play football for the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. And he may not be playing for a couple of years once the courts have their say…perhaps ever if fans care enough to quash NFL ticket sales or deplete TV ratings. Though the latter scenario is as unlikely as a conviction (given the mounting evidence against him), it’s clear the US has reached a tipping point with respect to how dogs are treated here. And a hearty Amen for that.

However, the point of this post isn’t to bash Vick further (he’s suffering his comeuppance as we speak—for which we’re all grateful) or to revel in his “dogman” dunce cap, for that matter. At issue today is how illegal animal activities are increasingly putting vets at risk.

Already, the so-called “dogman” talk on the Web has turned snippy on the issue of veterinarians. Most undertake their own medical care anyway (if you can call it that). It’s not surprising to hear of such trash talk when you consider that vets in some states are required to turn in suspected dog fight offenders.

Suspicious wounds at multiple stages of healing and a certain owner attitude tend to make the diagnosis of staged dog fighting a relative cinch. It’s this circumstantial evidence vets are required to make careful note of. In California, Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, Minnesota, West Virginia and Wisconsin, vets break the law if they don’t report it. Furthermore, standards of ethical conduct dictate that vets everywhere are compelled to act in such cases.

But what about our personal safety? I’ve dealt with such people (especially when I worked emergency hours) and I’m not sure I’d be willing to put myself and my family at risk—even for the pleasure of taking an active stand against these criminals. In fact, I don’t think I’d unlock the door for a group of thuggy types carrying a bloodied pit in the middle of the night. Do you blame me?

Veterinary lore has it that one Virginia vet’s two dogs were strangled and hung under a tree after crossing a dog fighting gang. Urban myth or not, no one’s going to convince me it couldn’t happen. And if they hang their own “sissy” dogs after losing a fight, I suspect neither of my two Frenchies would stand a chance.

(BTW, when discussing the issue with a friend recently, he suggested I’d be guilty of “racial profiling” if I denied services in such cases. Against whom? I wondered. The dog? The people? Gangsters in general? They sure don’t look like Michael Vick in my neighborhood but they’re dangerous just the same.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m no cop. I detest the concept of dog fighting as sport and wish all those who engage in it a speedy trip to a comfortless cell—but I didn’t go to vet school to play with handcuffs. I’d be willing to testify if I had to. My medical records are legal evidence I’d gladly submit if subpoenaed. But don’t force me to target potentially dangerous criminals in my office and make security-compromising phone calls. After all, I value my skin, too.