California governor signs bill to save dogs seized in fight ring busts

I’m currently in Michigan to attend the Traverse City Film Festival for a screening of The Champions. (If you’re in the area, please join us. Tickets are on sale now.) The documentary that tells the story of the dogs from the Michael Vick dogfighting case has been seen by tens of thousands of people, and it has certainly changed lots of hearts and minds about what justice and fairness for these and dogs from similar circumstances look like.

It was once believed that fighting dogs were too dangerously aggressive by virtue of their breeding and birth to be saved. Policies at every level of government across the country often meant automatic death sentences for these dogs and puppies without any evaluation of their behavior. They were simply doomed as a category. When Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels was busted in 2007, the dogs who were seized would probably have been killed, too, but Best Friends and other organizations stepped up and suggested that, at the very least, the dogs deserved to be evaluated. In spite of objections from many other large and well-respected organizations, the judge agreed and 48 dogs were saved.

Their story is all about hope and second chances. Their resilience has shown the world that dogs from these backgrounds deserve a second chance, and it has helped define laws that give all dogs the opportunity at life that they deserve. We never believed dogs from fighting cases should be doubly victimized — first as prisoners in a dogfighting operation and then forced to face a death sentence because of the stigma associated with what they endured rather than for any offense they actually committed.

So we’re thrilled to announce that California governor Jerry Brown has signed Assembly Bill 1825, which changes the section of the state’s law that until now automatically labeled dogs seized from fighting cases as vicious. In January of 2016, a total of 12 states had these types of laws in place. Since then, Wisconsin and now California have changed their laws, bringing that list down to 10. We’ll keep fighting to bring that number to zero.

Every dog deserves to be treated as an individual. If a dog is truly vicious, then humane euthanasia should be considered. However, if resources exist to save them and they can be saved, then we should do everything we can to give them a chance for a new life. This law allows California shelters and rescue groups to do just that.

It’s another big win for the animals and we’d like to thank the bill’s bipartisan sponsors, Assemblyman Rich Gordon and Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, all the organizations involved in helping to get AB 1825 passed, and Governor Brown for signing the bill into law.

Together, we can Save Them All.