Earlier this month, it was announced that one of the survivors of Michael Vick’s dog fighting enterprise is now fighting cancer – and animal advocates are rallying around the courageous canine.
Hector the Pit Bull is a beautiful golden boy who has lived his last years knowing only love and compassion – a far cry from his first two years of life. In the aftermath of the Michael Vick dog fighting case, many of the dogs who were forced into Vick’s dogfighting enterprise found loving new homes.
Hector was one of these lucky dogs. His Facebook page states:
I was one of the 51 pit bulls rescued from the Michael Vick dog fighting case. I was part of the group that went to BAD RAP out on the west coast.
Eventually, I ended up getting adopted by a couple in Minnesota. They’re pretty cool, and I get to spend my days hanging out with my doggie pals Angus, Mindy Lou, and Scooby Snack. I’m one of the lucky ones, and am enjoying my new life. I’ve passed the Canine Good Citizen test twice, and became a Certified Therapy Dog to visit nursing homes and hospitals.”
Hector’s Facebook page, which now has more than 200,000 likes, is a source of hope and inspiration for victims of dog fighting and other forms of animal cruelty. Another survivor, Handsome Dan, has more than 586,000 likes – and climbing. But years after the Vick case, what happened within this kennel of cruelty seems all but forgotten.
But not everyone has forgotten – or forgiven – what happened at Bad Newz Kennels.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Vick and three associates operated an enterprise called “Bad Newz Kennels,” which housed and trained more than 50 pit bulls, staged dog fights, and killed dogs.
From 2001 to 2007, Vick operated Bad Newz Kennels along with three associates: Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips and Tony Taylor. The quartet purchased dogs and a property for dogfighting and Vick became a registered dog breeder. The men then tested the dogs in fights. Those who did not perform well were then shot, electrocuted, or hung.
According to the Federal Indictment:
In or about April 2007, PEACE, PHILLIPS, and VICK executed approximately 8 dogs that did not perform well in ‘testing’ sessions … by various methods, including hanging, drowning, and slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.”
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigator provided further details on the dogfighting enterprise. stating that three dogs were hung “by placing a nylon cord over a 2 X 4 that was nailed to two trees located next to the big shed.” The men also “drowned approximately three dogs by putting the dogs’ heads in a five gallon bucket of water” and killed one dog by “slamming it to the ground several times before it died, breaking the dog’s back or neck.”
During the April 2007 state investigation of Vick’s dogfighting enterprise, he initially claimed to have never visited the property. The investigation revealed 54 malnourished dogs on the property, most of them pit bulls, and some with injuries and scars. Half of the animals were chained within sight – but just out of reach – of each other. Investigators found a blood-stained area and animal training and breeding equipment.
In July 2007, Vick and his associates were indicted by a federal grand jury. The men were charged with violating federal law 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture.
The charge, which was a felony, had a maximum penalty of five years prison. A charge under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) for animal fighting would have carried only a maximum penalty of one year per violation.
In Oct. 2007, 49 dogs who were seized from the kennels were evaluated by a team of animal behavior experts to ascertain whether the dogs could be adopted by families or if they would need to be euthanized. Of the 49 dogs evaluated, only one received a recommendation for euthanasia because of “extreme aggression.” It was determined that the other dogs could go to foster homes or sanctuaries.
On Dec. 10, 2007, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson sentenced Vick to 23 months in prison and three years’ supervised probation. During his probationary period, Vick was not allowed to buy, sell, or own any dogs. Vick was also fined $5,000 and ordered to pay $928,073 as restitution for the 53 seized dogs.
But today, almost eight years after this decision, many – including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) – are ready to forgive Vick. But should they?
In Dec. 2010, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Vick “would do a good job as a pet owner.”
Vick supporters have noted that his public case has illuminated the plight of dogfighting, animal fighting, and animal cruelty. While he has “done the time” and now appears to be trying to remedy his past actions, it’s just not enough for those who were familiar with the case – and with the dogs who suffered.
Dogs like Hector, who is now valiantly battling cancer, and like Georgia, who had all 42 teeth pried from her jaws – most likely to ensure that she wouldn’t injure male dogs when she was forced to breed with them.
ASPCA CEO and President Matthew Bershadker reminds people that Vick’s case was “not a crime of passion or a case of obliviousness. Michael Vick was fully involved in a six-year pattern of illegal activity that included dogs being savagely electrocuted, drowned, and beaten to death.”
So while many animal advocates can’t forgive – or forget – what Michael Vick did, animal lovers are urged to remember the names of his innocent victims: Hector. Cherry. Georgia. Halle. Handsome Dan. Little Red. Oliver. Squeaker. Mel. Oscar. And so many other dogs – some of which died unknown and unloved, and some of which overcame unspeakable cruelty and triumphed over their tragedy, earning the moniker of the “Vicktory Dogs.”
Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states. If you suspect that animal fighting is occurring near you, contact the authorities immediately. Animals rely on us to be their voice.
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