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Michael Vick's Pit Bulls - Turn Fighters to Lovers

Updated on September 8, 2012

Saving Michael Vick's Dogs

Mention the name Michael Vick, and it brings up a vision of a highly paid sportsman who plead guilty of conspiracy of orchestrating a dog fighting organization. All recollections of his fame as a talented football hero vanished, but for weeks all news shows and news stations reported on Michael Vick.

There were nearly 50 dogs found on Vick's properly, and you rarely saw them on the news. To the media, these dogs were just the same as any other Pit Bull in a family home- vicious time-bombs waiting to kill... It took Vick's imprisonment to shift the focus on the dogs and their destiny.

When the dogs were seized and transported to the holding facilities, the media reported that they were menacing. Everyone assumed that they would all be euthanized, since that's what happens with all other dog fighting busts. But, surprisingly, justice and compassion saved them. The U.S. district judge, Henry E. Hudson, gave Vick's dogs a second chance and ordered that each dog be evaluated individually. Hudson also ordered Vick to pay near one million dollars to pay for the lifelong care for those dogs who could be saved.

Of the 49 pit bulls that were seized, only one of them was deemed too vicious and was euthanized and another was euthanized because it was sick and in pain, but 25 of the dogs were evaluated and sent directly into foster homes and a handful of them were adopted. 20 of the dogs were deemed potentially aggressive toward other dogs and were sent to an animal sanctuary, and 2 of the dogs died of illness. Some, after extensive training and re-training, have been moved to foster homes and will be adopted to very educated owners.

Leo the therapy Pit Bull

After just one year after the seizure of the dogs, there have been many adopted out and living in permanent homes.

  • Leo, a tan and muscular male Pit Bull wears a colorful clown collar when he visits cancer patients as a newly certified therapy dog in California
  • Hector, another male dog with deep scars on his chest and legs, is training to be a national flying disc competitor in Minnesota.
  • Teddles takes orders from a 2 year old child.
  • Gracie is a lazy, couch potato in Richmond, living in the house with cats and sleeping with 4 other dog breeds.

Michael Vick's Dogs

Rehabiliting Pit Bulls

But, how can the dogs who were trained to fight now living in homes with children, working with the elderly, habituating with cats and other dogs... It's absurd considering rare dog maulings and the occasional dog bite or attack by an alleged pit bull makes international news, yet these dogs trained for dog aggression are living with other dogs without problems.

I mean, pit bulls are one of the few dog breeds that are thought to be so dangerous that we need to create breed bans against them.

Well, in regards to Vick's fighting dogs, Frank McMillan, a veterinarian who is studying the recovery of some of the Vick dogs says that "we don't know. We've assumed all pits are the same, and they have never let this many fighting dogs live long enough to find out" why these dogs are adjusting so well to family and pet life. There are next to none that have been confiscated in order to be studied because these dogs are always immediately euthanized.

Classic fighting pit bulls have thought to have been red to be friendly to people and aggressive with other dogs, but in modern street fighting, urban gangs encourage their dogs to go after people, which is why evaluators said that when they would walk into the kennels where Vick's dogs were housed, they weren't quite sure what to expect.

Instead of finding dogs who would run and lunge against the cage to get to the evaluators or anyone else as they walk through, the evaluators found dogs with great behaviors, some of which would lick human hands, but would lunge at other dogs. Some of the dogs even went straight to play mode with other dogs, wagging their tails and crouching down on their front legs in a bow. "Some actually perked up and developed more confidence only when around other dogs," observed a law professor and animal law expert who was appointed by the court to oversee the evaluations. "They actually seemed happier around other dogs."

Throughout the evaluations, it was determined that the dogs' main problem was not aggression but isolation.

A dog fighting "expert" with the Humane Society and proponent of euthanizing seized fighting dogs is skeptical of the emerging reports of the Vick recoveries, claiming "Fighting is in their blog. Retrievers retrieve, Shepherd herd, and fighting pit bulls fight. The behavior is bred into them. They should never be left alone with other dogs. Others disagree with this statement, as many have been able to successfully re-train and rehabilitate fighting pit bulls to habitat in loving homes with other people and dogs.

One founder of the Bay Area Dog Lovers Responsible About Pit Bulls (BADRAP) has evaluated and re-trained over 400 pit bulls in the bast decade. BADRAP even received half of the dogs seized from the Vick incident. The founder believes that, "Yes, there are pit bulls who have fought, attacked and mauled other animals and people, but so have other breeds, incidents almost always have been traced to negligent, or abusive owners." He also remarks that, "It is not surprising that many of the dogs get along so well with other dogs. Just as the urge to fight is in their blood, so too, is the need to get along. You have 150 years of man trying to product a dog aggressive dog, but you have tens of thousands of years of Mother Nature preceding that. Dogs are pack animals; they survive because of their pack. It's hard-wired into their genes that they do no harm to each other."

Despite the image of the fierce pit bull that symbolizes the tough guy vogue, the American Pit Bull Terrier has earned the title and has been know as the All American Dog.

In the Civil War era, they were known as nurse dogs because they were so good with children. Pit Bulls sold war bonds, earned medals in WW1, were army hero's of various countries, and appeared in posters as idolized pinups. They have been ambassadors of good will. They are TV stars in many commercials of out present era, search and rescue dogs, drug sniffing dogs, therapy dogs, hero's in nursing homes, books, etc.

All the more reason for this present trend to look at each dog individually. One comment of a rescuer stated, "Every thoroughbred is not a great racehorse. Every hunting dog cannot hunt efficiently. All Labradors are not good swimmers. Every pit bull, even from an alleged fighting dog ancestry is not an aggressive fighting dog. There are no simple answers." "Pit Bulls are just dogs."

The legacy of Vick's fighting dogs has been far reaching. Laws have ben passed, restrictions have been enacted, and community actions have been argued. City councils have been sued by various owners. Happily, officials have asked for evaluations of the seized dogs rather than automatically euthanize them. But most of those arrested as dog fighters, do not have the kind of money that Vick had, so unfortunately, second chances are usually not given to even those dogs who are deemed worthy.

Michael Vick's Dogs: From Fighters to Family Pets

Summarized from the "Can The Vick Dog's Chage What They Think They Know?" by Renee Greenwood from the American Pit Bull Terrier Gazette; Volume 33, Issue 1; Fall 2008


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    • sippy-cup profile image

      sippy-cup 7 years ago from earth

      Awesome =)

      I always cite the Michael Vick's case when I meet someone who hates pit bulls. The only mean pit bulls I've ever met were owned by thugs who wanted them to be mean. The rest are loving, training, energetic, awesome dogs.

    • profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago

      Dogs of any breed are not born to kill or hurt in any way. The way they are raised and treated decides if they will be that way. There's always hope as long as someone is willing to try to give those dogs as well a cats the life they should of known from day one.

    • profile image

      JoyAnna 8 years ago

      It is quite sad knowing that so many pit bulls are not being given a second change for theirs lives. It isn't the dogs fault, nor the breeds fault. People only fight these dogs for their sick minds and so they can make money off of what could have been the sweetest dog ever. It is possible for fighting dogs to become very loving family members, but most people think that once it's a fighter, it will remain that way for the rest off its life, but in most cases that isn't true. If you go to a shelter the majority of dogs are pit bulls. Growing up my mother was so hatred of them that she bought several and brought them to a kill-shelter for no reason. I am most happy that some pitbulls today are having a chance to keep their lives and i myself own 16 pits myself due to having the space and money to care for them. Once again, very nice hub!

    • Ashley Joy profile image

      Ashley Joy 8 years ago

      The rescue organizations have done an amazing job of rehabilitating these dogs and getting them into a better situation. Of course we all need to remember that this is only one high profile case. There are many, many others who all need help being the loving dogs they are capable of being.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      If only more Pit Bulls were given a second chance. It may happen now that people know it's possible.

    • Eternal Evolution profile image

      Eternal Evolution 8 years ago from kentucky

      It's so good to hear that most all of his dogs were able to be saved. I wish everyone could learn to judge a dog based upon it's own personality and not just soley upon it's breed. It's just like raceism in humans, It just happens with breed instead.

      once again another wonderful blog

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      Yes. I agree. And, I have many hubs about the good of the breed.

    • profile image

      Taylor 8 years ago

      Finally people start talking about pittbulls right.People always say that they are trained to kill or it is in their blood....Well you know what I have to say,shut the hell up!!!Pittbulls are not fighting dogs it just all depends on the owner and how he or she treats the dog.....The most important thing when you have a dog of any breed, is that you have to give it a lot of love!,and if you dont, and you treat them bad, than you are just like another peice of shit, Michael Vick. :)

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks fo rthe comment. The breed is highly feared for minimal concern. If they were better understood and properly protrayed in the media, there wouldn't be as much fear about the. Yes, they are a powerful breed and yes they can kill, but that doesn't mean that they're inhereted that trait.

    • apollo17 profile image

      apollo17 8 years ago

      Great hub, I have a pitbull and a lot of people ask me if im afraid hes going to turn on me and become agressive, I hate when people do that because "Pitbull" is just a name of a great dog that has been overlooked and is now thought to be harmfull and agressive. I mean seriously give them a chance, My pitbull is a great dog and is nice to everyone and everything, he loves other animals and wouldnt hurt a flea. When people meet him they realize that he is a good dog and that, "pitbull" is just a name, it doesnt mean anything at all about the dog it is categorizing. Im just glad some people see this the same way.. Great hub.. :]

    • Guardian1 profile image

      Guardian1 8 years ago

      It's really nice to hear that some of the dogs could be saved. So often people just give up on them, but I've worked with feral and stray animals and I've seen how they respond to compassion. It's great these dogs were given a second chance. Great hub

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      I have one on Sgt Stubby I'm working on. Thanks

    • droj profile image

      droj 8 years ago from CNY

      Nice hub! Vick is a prick. It refreshing to see there are centered, rational people involved with the fate of these dogs. You should do a hub on a couple of those hero war dogs! :)

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks. I agree with you, and I'll admit to getting a little teary eyed at the 2nd video I posted. It just upset me that someone did, or let people do on his property, these terrible things to such great dogs, and at the same time I was happy that the judge gave these dogs a second chance.

      I've seen dogs rehabilitated from fighting lives, and it's a great thing.

    • profile image

      Janetta 8 years ago

      Great hub! I have been watching stuff about this on TV. People so easily forget that it was not the dog itself, nor the breed of the dog that made it fight. Pitbulls have recieved such a sulied reputation because some people are just plain stupid and don't know how to treat an animal. It is amazing that there are people out there that will take the time and put in the effort to rehibilitate these dogs. Just goes to show ya, there's no bad dogs, just bad owners. :)