Michael Vick’s dogs changed the way fight animals are treated

Instead of being euthanized, the dogs rescued from Bad Newz Kennels were given a second chance

It’s been a dozen years since police discovered a dogfighting operation on property owned by Michael Vick, who at the time was quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.

Nearly 50 dogs were rescued from Bad News Kennels. But instead of being killed, the animals were rehabilitated and adopted throughout the country.

The dogs, as the Washington Post recently reported, became ambassadors for how these kinds of rescued animals are viewed.

» Michael Vick's letter to Atlanta

“While Michael Vick (was) a deplorable person in a lot of ways, the fact that he was the one that got caught was a really a big boom for this whole topic and for these animals,” Best Friends co-founder Francis Battista told the Post. “It just catapulted it into the public eye.”

The animals were taken in by eight organizations, the Post reported. Some animals were placed in foster homes, but Best Friends gave the 22 most challenging dogs a place to recover and a permanent home.

» Photos: Michael Vick's former dogfighting property transitioned

“Michael Vick brought dogfighting into the living room of every American,” Heather Gutshall, who adopted Handsome Dan and later founded a rescue organization that aims to help survivors of dogfighting, told the Post. “Am I glad it happened? No. Am I glad, that if it was going to happen, that it happened the way it did? Absolutely. They changed the landscape.”

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Vick initially denied any involvement in the operation, the AJC reported. Nearly four months later he pleaded guilty to a federal felony dog fighting conspiracy charge. He served nearly two years in prison.

Vick took sole responsibility for not ending the illegal dogfighting ring.

"I wasn't a leader," he told CBS sports analyst James Brown in a 2009 interview on "60 Minutes."

“I should have took the initiative to stop it all ... I didn’t. I didn’t step up.”

Vick was given a second chance when he left prison. He played five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, and one season each with the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

» Falcons history changed with discovery of Michael Vick's dogs

His dogs also received a second chance. Their rehabilitation shattered the belief that severely abused animals would never be able to live with families as pets.

One of Vick’s dogs, Uba, lives in northern Virginia with a rescue from a 2013 multistate fight bust in which 367 dogs were seized, the Post reported.

And Ledy VanKavage, a senior legislative attorney for Best Friends, adopted a dog, Karma, rescued from a 2009 seizure of more than 400 dogs.

“(T)hank God it happened after the Vick case,” VanKavage told the Post. “(Karma) would be dead but for the Vick dogs. I have no doubt. They were game-changers.”

The Washington Post tracked down all 47 Vick dogs. Only 11 are still alive. But each has a bio about life after being rescued from Bad Newz. You can read the Post's full story and see the dogs' bios here.

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