By Krystal Torres
Recently, an investigation into organized dog fighting and gambling in the Southeast, specifically Alabama and Georgia, resulted in 12 arrests and the seizure of 367 pits bulls. In addition more than $500,000 in cash has also been seized. This is one of the nation’s largest crackdown on the blood “sport”. (RAWLS, 2013) And with the spotlight back on dogfighting, it has got some of us here at the ARL wondering what happened to Michael Vick’s dogs.
Many people believe that animals involved in dogfighting should be euthanized as soon as possible because of the danger they may pose. However, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson ordered each dog to be evaluated individually. He also ordered that Vick pay $1 million to pay for the lifelong care of those dogs that could be saved. Of the 49 pit bulls animal behavior experts evaluated, only one was deemed too vicious to warrant saving and was euthanized and another was euthanized because it was sick and in pain.
“After being confiscated from Vick’s property, Leo, a tan, muscular pit bull, dons a colorful clown collar and visits cancer patients as a certified therapy dog in California. Hector, who bears deep scars on his chest and legs, recently was adopted and is about to start training for national flying disc competitions in Minnesota. Teddles takes orders from a 2-year-old. Gracie is a couch potato in Richmond who lives with cats and sleeps with four other dogs”. (Schulte, 2008)
Of the 47 surviving dogs, 25 were directly placed in foster homes. Another 22 were sent to an animal sanctuary in Utah and after extensive training and rehabilitation, are expect to move on to a foster home. A number of dogs have actually passed the American Kennel Club 10-Part Canine good citizen test. This may have people scratching their and wondering “why”; but the truth is, there are not many studies because dogfighting pits rarely survive. In the case of Michael Vick’s dogs, what was found was that the main problem wasn’t actually aggression; it was isolation. ‘ “I thought, if we see four or five dogs that we can save, I’ll be happy,” said Randy Lockwood, an animal behaviorist with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “If we had to euthanize the majority, then we could at least say we’d tried.” (Schulte, 2008)
Instead, they found dogs with behaviors that ran the gamut. Some would lick human hands but lunge at other dogs. Some almost immediately went into play mode with other dogs, wagging their tails and crouching down on their front legs in a play bow. “Some actually perked up and developed more confidence only around other dogs,” said Rebecca Huss, a law professor and animal law expert who was appointed by the court to oversee the evaluations and determine the dogs’ fates. “They actually seemed happier around other dogs.” ‘
And with the success seen in the Vick case, it has made a huge difference in how cases are being treated today. As mentioned before, in the past, animals seized in dogfighting cases would be euthanized, but these days, pit bulls are getting a second chance. In the Southeast case, the animals are currently being kept as evidence as the case progresses, but eventually the hope is to rehabilitate the animals and place them in a loving home. (RAWLS, 2013)
For more information on the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test, which we at the ARL offer, you can check out the following link: http://www.berksarl.org/services/canine-good-citizen/#sthash.1JRHp7Jv.dpbs
For more information on the recent dog fighting bust in Alabama and Georgia you can read the original article here: http://news.yahoo.com/dog-fighting-crackdown-nets-12-arrests-4-states-202323558.html
And for more of the back story on Michael Vick’s dogs, you can read the article at the following link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/06/AR2008070602351.html?sid=ST2008070602429