Stories featuring the Vicktory dogs rescued from Michael Vick's fighting ring

Best Friends Animal Society was among the first national animal welfare organizations to advocate for the former fighting dogs rescued from the property of NFL quarterback Michael Vick. In 2008, 22 of the most traumatized dogs came to Best Friends, where the quest to rehabilitate them began. 

Their amazing resilience — and journey back to health and happiness — proved there's no such thing as "too damaged" or "beyond hope," that no dog is inherently vicious, no matter his or her breed or background. That every dog should be treated as the individual he or she is.

Today, the dogs rescued from Vick’s property are collectively known as the Vicktory dogs at Best Friends — and with good reason: They have overcome unimaginable abuse, and, with grace and courage, triumphed.

Here are their stories.

 
Curly and Mya the Vicktory dogs with Shell

10 years, three Vicktory dogs and one incredible journey

For Meryl, Mya and Curly, it’s been a decade of hope, healing and unconditional love at the Sanctuary.

Ethan receiving a kiss from Lucas the Vicktory dog

A decade of love with the Vicktory dogs

Ten years after the rescue of the fighting dogs from Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels, adopters and others reflect on the Vicktory dogs’ healing and progress. Read their individual stories.

Adopter Amy Egger with Georgia the Vicktory dog

My Vicktory dog story: Adopter Amy Egger

From the moment she met Georgia, Amy Egger knew she was the one. Their years together, and the stories of the other Vicktory dogs, inspired her to help other dogs live better lives.

Best Friends caregiver Betsy Kidder with Little Red the Vicktory dog

My Vicktory dog story: Caregiver and vet tech Betsy Kidder

Best Friends caregiver and vet tech, Betsy Kidder, shares her memories of working with and rehabilitating the Vicktory dogs, including fostering both Oliver and Shadow prior to their adoptions as well as narrating as Little Red played with Beefcake (another dogfighting bust rescued dog) at the park.

Lucas the Vicktory dog

My Vicktory dog story: Volunteer Betty Grieb

The first volunteer to interact with Vicktory dog Ellen after she received her purple collar recounts that special day and how Lucas remembered her.

Caregiver Carissa with Vicktory dog Oscar

My Vicktory dog story: Caregiver Carissa Hendrick

When the Vicktory dogs first arrived at Best Friends, they were fearful. However, given time the dogs settled in and caregiver Carissa Hendrick shares happy memories that have changed her life forever.

Cherry the Vicktory dog

My Vicktory dog story: Volunteer and visitor director Patty Hegwood

Volunteer and visitor director for Best Friends, Patty Hegwood, recalls when the Vicktory dogs first arrived at the Sanctuary, and as the dogs adjusted, her delightful outings with Ellen.

Adopter Rachel Johnson with Oscar the Vicktory dog

My Vicktory dog story: Adopter Rachel Johnson

It wasn't just Oscar the Vicktory dog who changed when he was adopted and discovered that he loved all things soft - especially the couch. His adopter Rachel Johnson realized his presence changed her life forever as well.

Kristi Littrell, Best Friends adoption manager with Lance the Vicktory dog

My Vicktory dog story: Adoption manager Kristi Littrell

As the adoption manager at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kristi Littrell got to know the Vicktory dogs very well. However, she learned true patience, working for four years to help her office dog Lance overcome his "text anxiety" to pass his canine good citizen test.

Lucas the Vicktory dog with Ethan

The Vicktory dogs: Nearly a decade later

In January of 2008, 22 dogs from the Michael Vick dog fighting case arrived at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Southern Utah to begin their process of rehabilitation, training and healing. They have made amazing progress, many have been adopted into homes, and all are living full and rich lives. Read about the journey of the Vicktory dogs.

Heather and Handsome Dan the Vicktory dog

The Champions film now widely available

The Vicktory dogs' inspirational story was captured in the award-winning documentary The Champions, which follows five of the dogs as they transition from life in a fighting ring to a life using their fighting spirit for a second chance.

The Los Angeles screening of 'The Champions' documentary

The Champions movie about former Michael Vick dogs

The Champions is more than just a film. Like many documentaries, it was made to give people a deeper look at something worth caring about — something worth changing.

Ray the Vicktory dog with his family

Ray the Vicktory dog inspires even after his death

Vicktory dog Ray leaves behind the many people who loved him with a message of resilience and hope. Jacque Johnson, Ray's adoptive mom, explains, "The day Ray came home was one of the happiest of my life. ... He enjoyed meeting new people, something that is difficult for me. But his insistence on being social meant I had to learn to talk to strangers. He helped teach me that some things are just not important. ... Just spending time together is all we really needed to be happy.”

Lance Vicktory Dog will always be remembered

Forever loved: Lance the Vicktory dog

Though Vicktory dog Lance has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, his adoptive family and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary caregivers and others celebrate his life and the happiness he shared with all who were fortunate enough to be part of his journey.

Lance the Vicktory dog

Vicktory dog Lance passes his test

Lance the Vicktory dog has crossed a huge milestone: he passed his Canine Good Citizen test! This is a multi-part test during which a dog must show that he can handle real-life scenarios and stressful situations well. Lance has now been cleared to be adopted by the couple who applied to adopt him several years ago.

Ray the Vicktory dog and his family

Vicktory dog Ray gets adopted

What would you sacrifice for true love? What big changes would you be willing to make in your life? Jacque and Kevin Johnson faced these questions six months ago when they fell for Ray, one of the Vicktory dogs (the dogs rescued from NFL player Michael Vick's dogfighting ring).

A smiling Georgia the Vicktory dog

Vicktory dog Georgia says goodbye

Georgia, one of the most well-known and loved of the dogs that Best Friends took in from the Michael Vick dogfighting case, lost her battle with kidney failure yesterday. To honor her, we'd like to share words from some of the people who knew her best.

Handsome Dan the Vicktory dog gets adopted

Rhode Island outlaws breed-specific-legislation

Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee signs House Bill 5671 into law that prohibits breed-discriminatory legislation. Handsome Dan, a pit bull terrier rescued in the Michael Vick dog fighting bust, inspired the bill by showing that dogs should be assessed on an individual basis, which keeps communities safer than discriminating against an entire breed.

Ray the Vicktory dog CGC test

Vicktory dog's future just got brighter

It goes without saying that the Vicktory dogs (the dogs rescued from NFL player Michael Vick's dog-fighting ring) have endured some dark days. But, for seven-year-old Ray, things have just gotten a whole lot brighter. He's following in the footsteps of Layla, the Vicktory dog who spent some time with the folks in Parrot Garden, passed her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test, and "graduated" into a six-month foster-to-adopt situation in February of this year.

Layla the Vicktory dog with Tess and Rowan

Layla the Vicktory dog goes home

Vicktory dog Layla recently passed her Canine Good Citizen test and became eligible for adoption. As luck would have it, a certified dog trainer who was scheduled to do an internship at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary fell in love with Layla and vice versa. Layla is now in a home, in a foster-to-adopt situation.

Layla the Vicktory dog with Tamara and Jacque

A victory for Layla the Vicktory dog

Former Michael Vick dog Layla passes her Canine Good Citizen test, which is a court-ordered requirement for all of the Vicktory dogs before they can be adopted into a family. Layla had severe fear issues as a result of coming from an abusive dog fighting situation that Best Friends trainers and staff worked with her to overcome, employing some innovative tactics.

Good Newz for Vicktory Dogs like Little Red

Former Michael Vick dogs living happy lives now

Since arriving at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the dogs who were forced to fight as part of Michael Vick's dog fighting ring have come a long way. Read an update on the pit bull terriers who have shown that all dogs, despite the abuse they have suffered, deserve a chance at healing, and to be the loving animals they were meant to be.

Handsome Dan, a dog rescued from Michael Vick

Handsome Dan the Vicktory dog with his family

Handsome Dan has been adopted into a loving family of his own. In this interview, Handsome Dan's dad describes what life is like for Handsome Dan now, how he loves his family and is a 'nanny dog' to the couple's toddler, and what people can learn from this former fighting dog.

Georgia, a Vick dog, couldn't have been any sweeter to me, trying to give me kisses up until the very end.

Georgia, a rescued Michael Vick fighting dog, says goodbye

Much-loved pit bull terrier Georgia passes away, leaving a legacy of love and hope. Her adoptive mom, a Best Friends trainer, and a Best Friends caregiver reminisce about how getting to know Georgia was a gift; how funny, goofy and stubborn she was; how hard she worked to pass her Canine Good Citizen test; and how she helped save the lives of other dogs from fighting rings and abusive situations by proving all animals deserve a chance at life and love.

Cherry, a dog from Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels, was adopted.

Cherry the Vicktory dog goes home

When Paul and his fiancé Melissa saw Cherry the Vicktory dog on the National Geographic show "DogTown," they fell head over heels in love. They wanted to adopt him, and they had the patience and dedication to make it happen. Today, Cherry is living happily with his family, which includes another canine friend.

Bonita was a very special girl rescued from Michael Vick

Vicktory dog Bonita leaves legacy

Bonita the Vicktory dog, abused as a bait dog in Michael Vick's fighting ring, passes away after a bad reaction to anesthesia. However, her strong and loving spirit and great desire to love and trust people again lives on.

Oscar from the Michael Vick dog fighting case

Milestone for Oscar from Michael Vick's dog fighting case

After regular training and socialization, Oscar the Vicktory dog passes his Canine Good Citizen test, a court-mandated requirement for all of the Vicktory dogs before they can be cleared for adoption into a home. Oscar is now ready for a loving forever family.

Dan, a former Vick pit bull dog, with his adoptive family and baby

Handsome Dan overcomes fear and anxiety in adoptive home

Former Michael Vick dog Handsome Dan makes spectacular progress in overcoming a lot of his timidness and fear with his new adoptive family, which includes a baby. His family helps other dogs who are struggling, and Handsome Dan serves as a role model for them. Dan also pays it forward in other ways.

Willie, an ex-Michael Vick dog, loves the jolly ball

Former fighting dogs get a gift from the horses: Toys!

Best Friends horses make a donation of balls to the pit bull terrier dogs rescued from Michael Vick's fighting ring. Many of the Vicktory dogs enjoyed playing with the new exciting toys, but a few were suspicious of the balls and hesitant.

Vicktory dog Handsome Dan's favorite treat: ice cubes or chips!

Handsome Dan's favorite treat: Ice cubes!

Handsome Dan is not motivated by traditional dog treats. He's one of those rare dogs who is not. However, trainers did find something that he is over-the-moon enthusiastic about: ice chips or cubes! These may prove to be a very effective dog training tool for Handsome Dan.

Changing the negative perception of America's dog, the pitbull

Best Friends combating breed-specific legislation

One of Best Friends' primary initiatives involves pit bull terriers and changing the often-negative public perception of these dogs. Some pit bull terriers are severely abused by being used in dog fighting, as was the case with the Vicktory dogs from Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels. Unjust and discriminatory breed-specific legislation also contributes to the dogs' stigma.

From dog fighting to dog snuggling

From dog fighting to dog snuggling

Handsome Dan and Little Red, two dogs who belonged to NFL player Michael Vick and were used in illegal dog fighting, become friends, playmates and roommates, proving some former fighting dogs can live peacefully with other dogs.

 

The Lost Dogs: Michael's Vick's Dogs and their Tale of Rescue and Redemption

'The Lost Dogs' book about Vick dogs

The stories of the 51 Michael Vick dogs, including the 22 who came to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, are detailed in Jim Gorant's book, "The Lost Dogs." The book discusses dog fighting and dog abuse in depth, as well as the negative public perception of pit bull terrier dogs. The important work explores how the Vicktory dogs are changing the stigma.

Two former fighting dogs, Beefcake and Little Red

"Never mind, Santa, I’m good," says Vicktory dog Little Red

Vicktory dog Little Red got her Christmas gift early this year. She got a new best friend named Beefcake, who was also rescued from a fighting ring. Little Red has been a little down since her pal Handsome Dan got adopted, so Beefcake is helping to cheer her up and make her season merry.

Life, a bowl of cherries for Cherry, a dog who once belonged to Michael Vick

Life, a bowl of cherries for Cherry the former Vick dog

Cherry the Vicktory dog, who was shut down after being rescued from Michael Vick's dog fighting operation, is doing amazingly well in his new home with his loving family, which includes a cat named Walker, who has become his best bud. In his spare time, Cherry is advocating for other pit bull terriers and animals in need.

Major the Vicktory dog wins for pitbull terriers

Major wins for pit bull terriers in 2014

Pit bull terriers and their advocates have much to celebrate. There were legislative wins against dog breed discrimination in Utah and South Dakota. And, inspired by the Vicktory dog stories, Delaware passes a bill giving canine victims of dog fighting an opportunity for rehabilitation and adoption.

Meryl the Vicktory dog

From Vick to Vicktory: How the Michael Vick dogs got sanctuary

In-depth history and discussion of how Best Friends acquired 22 of the most challenging dogs from Michael Vick's dog fighting operation. The advocacy of various people and organizations saved the former fighting dogs from euthanasia, allowing them to be placed with animal rescue groups offering sanctuary, healing and rehabilitation.

Mya the Vicktory dog socializing a puppy

Mama Mya: Vicktory dog becomes role model to puppies

Far from her former life as a fighting dog in the Michael Vick felony dog fighting ring, Vicktory dog Mya turns out to be downright motherly. She now serves as a role model, providing key socialization and training, for puppies at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Pitbulls: Everything you need to know

Pitbulls: Everything you need to know

Pitbulls, American Staffordshire terriers, pit bull terriers, bully breeds: No matter what you call them, here’s everything you need to know about these controversial dogs. This in-depth article covers pit bull rescue and advocacy; the pitbull dog breed and history; public perception, including myths and truths; breed-specific legislation (BSL), also known as breed-discriminatory legislation; famous pit bulls and famous people who have kept pit bulls.

 

Georgia the Vicktory dog in her new bed at the 'Ellen DeGeneres Show'

Georgia the Vicktory dog on 'Ellen DeGeneres Show'

Vicktory dog Georgia shines brightly during her appearance on the "Ellen DeGeneres Show," and gets a new bed to take back home to Dogtown. The purpose of Georgia's appearance was to raise awareness about the abuse endured by fighting dogs and to show how these abused dogs can be rehabilitated.

Good Citizens in the making. Little Red, a Vick dog, learns to accept and return lots of love.

Canine good citizens

Vicktory dogs Georgia and Little Red make the grade, impressing Dogtown staff by passing their Canine Good Citizen obedience test with flying colors. Per court order, the dogs rescued from Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels as part of the dog fighting investigation must pass this test in order to be eligible for adoption. Little Red and Georgia can now be adopted.

Layla, a dog from the Vick dogfighting ring bust

Layla the Vicktory dog hanging out with parrots

Layla the Vicktory dog gets help overcoming her fear and anxiety from an unusual place: the Parrot Garden. This area of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary provides Layla with exposure to a homelike environment. This strategy will help prepare Layla to pass her Canine Good Citizen test and become ready for adoption.

A warm welcome back for Lucas the Vicktory dog after his surgery

Lucas the Vicktory dog's medical issues

Lucas the Vicktory dog has many friends and fans who were thrilled to see him after his stint at the Best Friends clinic for exploratory surgery. He suffers from babesia, a parasite that is common in former fighting dogs, and during a recent checkup it was discovered he has several masses that needed to be biopsied. He is now on the mend, though!

Lucas, a pitbull mix from the Michael Vick bust

Lucas the former Michael Vick dog living happily

In the three years he's been at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Vicktory dog Lucas has become a happy-go-lucky guy. He absolutely loves people, and enjoys being around them and getting attention. He revels in all the enrichment activities caregivers and trainers provide him at the Sanctuary.

Squeaker and Oscar, two former Vick dogs

Former Vick dogs Squeaker and Oscar are best buds

Squeaker and Oscar have had different challenges since their rescue from Michael Vick's dog fighting ring. However, these two Vicktory dogs are the best of friends, and this has helped them on their journey of healing. They have formed a very strong bond since coming to the Sanctuary, and enjoy playing and hanging out with one another. They now share the same run.