Pit bull terriers from Michael Vick case adjusting well to life at the Sanctuary

Twenty-two pit bulls have entered a witness protection program, of sorts, at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary's Dogtown. The best accessory in this special witness-protection program is not sunglasses, but fur.

Pit bull terrier dogs from Michael Vick's case

It’s a brand new day at Dogtown for these former Virginia "witnesses." The pit bulls, handed over in December to Best Friends by the court, now not only have fresh identities, but a different lifestyle as well.

In fact, life couldn’t be better! They’re eating healthy food, playing with toys, interacting with their caregivers and trainers, going for walks, learning how to walk on a leash, and acclimating to their new desert environs – all so these former fighters can learn how to be domestic pets and regular dogs.

The deplorable conditions the dogs lived under were used as evidence in a case involving suspended NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who is serving a 23-month federal sentence for a dog-fighting conspiracy conviction. Fifty-two pit bulls were seized last year from Vick’s estate in southeastern Virginia. Twenty-two of the dogs were placed at Best Friends and the remaining dogs were divided among a handful of other animal rescue groups.

Keeping dogs' identities secret

To ensure that publicity doesn’t compromise the proceedings, a federal court order prevents Best Friends from revealing details about the individual dogs and their conditions until a related case is brought to a close January 25. So, for now, the dogs’ identities remain a closely guarded secret.

Dogs are adjusting to new life

But, generally speaking, "Everybody’s adjusting very well and doing fine," says John Garcia, dog trainer and assistant Dogtown manager. "I’m really impressed with their progress." Part of that is learning what John calls "life skills."

Because of their background, the Vick dogs are being housed separately from the rest of the dogs. As Best Friends chief executive officer Paul Berry put it, "They deserve the very best that we can give them."

And that’s exactly what they’re getting. The dogs are living in individual runs especially designed for them and they’re receiving lots of tender loving care and one-on-one attention to improve their social skills.

The 22 new "witnesses" at Best Friends know a good thing when they have it, so they’re not spilling the beans on their exact whereabouts. For now, they’re out of the limelight and living a life of leisure. It’s not Miami, Palm Springs or Phoenix – the usual sunny spots for federal witnesses to while away the time. But for these sequestered canines, Dogtown is the perfect place.

Read more about the rescued dogs from Michael Vick.