Michael Vick: a model of courage? Yes, indeed. His Eagles teammates recently voted to give him the Ed Block Courage Award. The annual honor is given to NFL players who best represent the values of Block, a World War II purple heart recipient, who as an athletic trainer for the Baltimore Colts advocated for trainer education and was involved with charitable causes. Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan has a hard time understanding how Vick, who threw away a life of good fortune to operate a brutal dog-fighting ring for which he received a federal prison sentence, embodies Block's values of sportsmanship and courage.

Some of Vick's victims on the other hand... are demonstrating great courage in their back-from-the-brink recoveries. Hector, described as a "battle-worn pitbull," suffered abuse along with scores of other dogs in Vick's Bad Newz kennels. But, under the care of an adoptive family in Rochester, Minn., Hector has made a remarkable comeback. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Hector - now a registered therapy dog but still bearing the scars of years in the dog fighting ring - spent a recent day getting some love from a class of third-graders.

The human census is conducted every 10 years, but some New Jersey communities have, um, embarked, on a dog census every two years, the Inquirer's James Osborne reports. The biannual dog count and license check started with legitimate rabies concerns back in the 1950s, but now it's seen as a controversial revenue-raiser for townships. In revenue-hungry Pennsylvania, state dog wardens have conducted license checks in random neighborhoods, leaving warning notes posted to doors if they hear dogs barking inside. Some critics have labled the sweeps gestapo-like and imagine scofflaws forced to spirit their furry friends - Ann Frank-like - to the attic.

The new Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, confirmed by the state Senate just last week, issued a holiday message to anyone looking for a Christmas puppy. He urged people them to seek out shelter pets or, if they were set on buying, to do their due diligence and research breeders by - among other things - examining inspection reports for licensed kennels posted on the agency's Web site. But as one Philly Dawg contributor points out, that advice would be well and good if all the inspection reports - particularly those conducted after Oct. 9 when the new dog law went into effect for commercial kennels - were actually available online. The department claims that all 300 commercial kennels were to be inspected by Dec. 31. Philly Dawg wonders if the dog wardens lost the inspection reports under the Christmas tree or are revving up for a big pre-New Year's eve inspection blitz.

On the topic of puppy purchases, the Humane Society of the United States reports that more than 400 pet stores across North America have signed its puppy friendly pet store pledge. The pledge indicates the store's commitment to not to sell puppies, but instead support local animal adoption programs and educate customers about how to find a puppy from reputable sources. Pet stores are participating in 230 cities in 35 states. The HSUS applauds the retailers for not supporting the inhumane puppy mill industry which supplies most dogs found in pet stores. A list of "puppy friendly" pet stores here.

More animals are flooding shelters than in previous years, but prospective adopters can expect greater scrutiny when looking to take home a pet. That's what the Comcast Pet Adoptions On Demand Animal Shelter Survey 2009 found. Sponsored by cable provider, Comcast, Pet Adoptions On Demand is a service which provides video profiles of adoptable animals living in local shelters. The survey polled directors of shelters in its 25 partner cities to determine overall trends in adoption, particularly around the holiday season.

Here's what they found:

*50% of Shelter Directors say they exercise a higher standard of discretion when it comes to approving adoptions during the holiday season.

*91% of shelters have seen an increase in the number of pets coming into their shelters while 64% have seen a decrease in the number of adoptions.

*60% of shelters see holiday adoptions decreasing this year

*91% of shelters say cats are harder to place in homes than dogs.

*The leading factor shelters look for in a prospective animal adoptee is consistent pet history/lifelong commitment to pet care (44%), followed equally by responsibility/ reliability (28%) and lifestyle match (28%).

*60% of animals placed in homes are adults, while 40% are puppies or kittens.

*76% of people who adopt at shelters have adopted before according to the Comcast Pet Adoptions survey.

*54% of pet adoptions are a collective family decision, while 38% say mom has the most sway, and kids and dads trail with 4% each.

*70% of shelters say their adoption rate exceeds the monthly norm during the holiday months, while 30% see no difference in adoption rate. Comcast Pet Adoptions On Demand airs up to 30 profiles of adoptable animals living in shelters in 27 cities each month. To date, the series has profiled more than 17,000 dogs and cats at shelters coast-to-coast.

Court watch - Lawyers for former kennel owner Derbe "Skip" Eckhart threw a "Hail Mary" pass in a Lehigh County courtroom yesterday seeking to get judge thrown out for comments he made about Eckhart's honesty - or rather lack of it, according to the Morning Call of Allentown.  Eckhart, is facing hundreds of animal cruelty charges after withdrawing his guilty plea this fall. Eckhart, who owned the trouble-plagued Almost Heaven kennel until his license was revoked earlier this year, was the subject of multiple raids involving hundreds of animals since Oct. 2008.

A southwest Missouri pet supply dealer has agreed to pay a $56,632 civil penalty to the United States to settle allegations that it violated federal when it repackaged, relabeled and sold an insecticide meant for use on cattle and hogs as a flea and tick treatment for dogs. Hunte Kennel Systems and Animal Care, Inc., of Goodman, Mo., will pay the civil penalty under terms of an administrative consent agreement filed this week by the Environmental Protection Agency. The allegations stem from findings made by the Missouri Department of Agriculture during October 2006 inspections of the company's facilities in Goodman and Buffalo, Mo. The inspections found that the company had bottled the pesticide Prolate/Lintox-HD into different packaging and sold it as another pesticide, Paramite. During the inspections, the company was ordered to immediately stop selling the repackaged pesticide. Hunte Kennel Systems and Animal Care is part of the Hunte Corporation - the largest puppy broker in the nation selling to pet stores nationwide. Hunte was named in a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States against Petland, the nation's largest pet store chain, over allegations it was selling unhealthy puppies - a charge the company denies.