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The continuing upside of the Michael Vick dogfighting bust

It’s a landmark day for dogs in the state of Delaware.

Today, the governor of Delaware signed into law a bill spearheaded by Best Friends that will ensure that in future, any dog seized in a dogfighting ring bust in Delaware will be evaluated as an individual and afforded the opportunity of rehabilitation and adoption rather than face an automatic death sentence.

We’d like to offer an enormous “thank you” to Representative Earl Jaques and State Senator Karen Peterson for their roles in passing this lifesaving legislation.

But there are also quite a few dogs we have to thank. In particular, the Vicktory dogs.

You may already know the story of the fighting ring bust that took place on Michael Vick’s property in April 2007. But what you may not know is that protocols at the time called for any dog rescued from a dogfighting ring to be killed because they were deemed dangerous by birth and by definition. Even though the vast majority of the dogs trapped in those rings never qualified as fighters and were, for the most part, frightened and abused victims.

Best Friends led a chorus of opposition to the “kill them all” policy that was about to claim the lives of the 49 pit bull terriers and pit mixes seized from Vick’s property. The general public, local grassroots organizations and pit bull rescue groups joined us in a clear statement that these dogs should not be re-victimized by the state after being so badly abused. And we were heard.

After the dogs were evaluated individually, only one was euthanized for aggression. Twenty-two of the most traumatized came to Best Friends for rehabilitation or permanent sanctuary and the rest were released to rescue organizations for eventual adoption to the public.

The Vicktory dogs, as the contingent that came to Best Friends was dubbed, became celebrities of sorts as their progress was documented on the National Geographic Channel’s “DogTown” series filmed at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Toothless and scarred Georgia, one of the dogs who was too cute for words, was a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show as well as Larry King Live.

Beyond the celebrity, though, the Vick dogs were — and today continue to be — champions for every dog trapped in dogfighting misery who finally gets rescued, only to face the bitter irony of a policy that deems them deserving only death. Because of their example, that policy is changing and we celebrate Delaware’s progressive stance on this issue.

Together, we will Save Them All.
Gregory Castle, CEO emeritus, Best Friends Animal Society Gregory Castle
CEO emeritus
Best Friends Animal Society