Cheer the player AND the man

Had enough of Michael Vick?

Meet Will Witherspoon: former Philadelphia Eagles (!) player, now a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans. Witherspoon may witness an occasional tiff between terriers, but I imagine anything close to a dog fight is broken up swiftly and cleanly at the doggie daycares he owns.

Yep, you read that right. Witherspoon owns a couple of daycare and boarding facilities. On an NFL salary, it’s not exactly like he needs a side business. But the fact is, he loves dogs and wanted to create a place for his own pups to play and socialize when he isn’t around.

Perhaps even more surprising, Witherspoon also runs a farm. It’s home to about 250 animals, and in July of this year, the farm (called Shire Gate) received the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) certification.

This is not an easy seal of approval to earn. On AWA farms, for example, all cows raise their young (on most cattle and dairy farms, calves are taken from their mothers immediately after birth — an intensely traumatizing experience for both). Animals must have continuous, unobstructed access to pasture (truly free-range), and shelter structures must allow for stretching and moving in a natural and comfortable manner.

The standards for becoming AWA certified are extremely high, as they should be, in order to minimize suffering of any kind. In fact, few farms are able to meet their strict criteria. (For a comprehensive look at their explicit and extensive guidelines, click here.) But as Witherspoon says, “”I wanted Shire Gate Farm to be true to nature and true to the way things should be done. That means putting the welfare and care of the animals first.”

Will Witherspoon, DogTime salutes your success as a football player – and as a human being.

Go Titans.