Lucas, one of the Vick pit bulls, learned to trust people again, like his trainer Ethan, at Best FrFriends Animal Socoiety.
Former NFL quarter-back Michael Vick let down fans when he was charged in September 2007 with “conspiracy to engage in dog fighting in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.”
Dozens of pit bulls were taken away from his Virginia estate, where they had been forced to attack one another for sport and gambling. The ones who did not “perform” well were killed.
What happened to the survivors? That’s the good news! Twenty-two of them, now called the “Vicktory” dogs, are living the good life at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah. Others, who were considered easy to place, have gone off to other rescue groups around the country.
Paul Berry, executive director of the sanctuary, said Best Friends is grateful that the court gave them the opportunity to do what they do best—provide a caring, rehabilitative home for abused, homeless animals. “These dogs deserve the very best that we can give them, and we are prepared to provide a safe place for them to stay for the rest of their lives,” he said.
At the sanctuary, maintenance crews retrofitted one of the Dogtown octagons to provide living quarters for the Vicktory dogs. Octagons provide indoor shelter and feeding areas, with dog runs fanning out from the building. Inside, caregivers can see all the dogs at a glance and keep an eye on their activities.
When they arrived at Best Friend’s Dogtown, a few of the dogs showed signs of the aggression that had been drummed into them. But most of them were more like wallflowers at the prom. With their eyes downcast and their emotions shut down, these dogs had a demeanor that said, “Why would anyone want to pay attention to a dog like me?” Staff veterinarians described them as suffering from post-traumatic stress, very similar to that of soldiers returning from a war zone or of anyone who has experienced extreme trauma and abuse. Many of these dogs had been forced to fight to the death—like gladiators in a primitive arena.
But all of that has begun to change. With space to run and play, and with loads of love and attention for the first time in their lives, they’re rediscovering their true doggie nature. And the sanctuary is working its magic on them.
Already, the Vicktory dogs are making progress: learning how to play, how to relax, how to love. Some of them will be adopted to homes experienced in dog care. Others will live out their lives in the beautiful natural environment of the sanctuary.
“We’ve worked with dog-aggressive dogs for many years,” says Berry. “And we’ve had very good success in rehabilitating many who have been as severely abused as these have. So we’re quite confident that in recovering their trust and then teaching them new life skills, many of them can be adoptable, given the right home environment. We’ll see how it goes, and take each one on a case-by-case basis, but our trainers are already making breakthroughs in just the few weeks the dogs have been here. It’s really amazing to watch them working together.”
Far from being “fighting machines,” these dogs are teaching us all, more each day, that love really can conquer all.
Thanks to Best Friends Animal Society for providing the information for this article. Read more stories about the Vicktory dogs and other rescued animals at www.bestfriends.org.
Animal Tracks is a series of articles from Noah’s Ark Animal Foundation exploring the human/animal bond. For information about dog or cat adoptions, visit www.noahsark.org or call (641) 472-6080.
To read more articles about pets and animal welfare, visit the Index.