In 2007, it was one of the most sickening, disheartening stories of the year — NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s arrest and imprisonment on dogfighting charges. Revelations of what transpired at Bad Newz Kennels showed just how cruel some humans can be.
By 2009, though, the story of Vick’s dogs had become one of the most heartening of the decade. What made the difference? Mainly, the dogs – the pit bulls. For despite what they’d been put through, despite being abused, trained as killers or used as bait, they were — once the decision was made not to euthanize them – amazing the world with their remarkable resiliency.
Saving and rehabilitating the former fighting dogs of Michael Vick was not achieved without a battle, and not without the efforts of a lot of dog-loving, self-sacrificing humans. But the silver lining that eventually shone through the dismal story was provided mainly by the dogs, who showed that, no matter how bad a human messes them up, there’s hope.
Once again, the irrepressible species was teaching us humans a lesson.
Vick’s former pit bulls have gone on to reside in new homes with young children, become cherished pets, serve as therapy dogs and, in many cases, serve as shining examples of what is right with and special about the much-maligned breed.
How all that transpired is rivetingly detailed in a new book by Jim Gorant, “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption.”
(For a preview, you can read an article by Gorant in today’s Parade magazine.)
In the book, to be released next month, Gorant expands on his 2008 Sports Illustrated story on the Vick dogs (the one that featured Baltimore’s own Sweet Jasmine on the cover), recounting how they were rescued from Vick’s estate and how — though euthanasia was routine until then for animals seized from dogfighting operations – they were saved from that fate by an outpouring of public appeals.
The outcry helped lead to a court order that Vick pay nearly a million dollars in “restitution” to the dogs — money used to allow a handful of agencies across the country to rehabilitate them.
The book recounts the ASPCA-led evaluations of each dog — and how, though there were a few hardened fighters among them, many more were dogs ready to be loved, ready to forgive and try to forget.
In “The Lost Dogs,” we learn more about Johnny Justice, the former Vick dog that participates in Paws for Tales, which lets kids get more comfortable with their reading skills by reading aloud to dogs; about Leo, who now spends three hours a week with cancer patients and troubled teens; and about Sweet Jasmine, who was coming out of her shell while living in Baltimore until she got loose and was hit by a car.
The book lists the outcomes for all 49 of the surviving pit bulls that were seized in April 2007 from Bad Newz Kennels, the Smithfield, Va., dogfighting ring run by Vick, then quarterback of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, now — getting a multi-million dollar second chance of his own — a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.
While experts were expecting only 5 percent of Vick’s dogs could be rehabilitated, only two, initially, had to be put down. One was excessively violent and the other was suffering from an irreparable injury. For the rest, though, there was hope, and no small amount of faith – which, more than anything else is what “The Lost Dogs” is about.
Rather than showing aggression, the Vick dogs tended to be “pancake dogs”— animals so traumatized that they flattened themselves on the ground and trembled when humans neared, much like our friend Mel, the former Vick dog we recently met in our travels through Dallas.
Many more seemed to be dogs with normal temperaments, but who had simply never been socialized.
Accomplishing that fell to the handful of animal welfare organizations that stepped forward, offering to take the Vick dogs in and work to rehabilitate them — among them Baltimore’s Recycled Love, California’s BAD RAP, (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls), and Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.
As Gorant writes in the Parade magazine article, “… rescuers argued from the start that rather than be condemned as a whole, the dogs should be individually assessed and treated — and this has turned out to be one of the great lessons of the Bad Newz dogs. Generalizations and preconceptions are as unhelpful and counterproductive for pit bulls as they are for people.”
Posted by John Woestendiek August 15th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animals, article, aspca, bad newz, bad rap, best friends, book, case, court, cruelty, dog books, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogs, euthanasia, good dog reads, jim gorant, lesson, lost dogs, magazine, maligned, michael vick, michael vick's dogs, nfl, parade, pets, philadelphia eagles, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, recycled love, redemption, rehabilitation, rescue, resiliency, saving, socialization, sports illustrated, sweet jasmine, temperament, the lost dogs, therapy dogs, vick, vick dogs
Subaru of America, Inc. has donated a custom-designed Outback to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), to help them collect and process evidence at animal crime scenes.
The modified 2010 Outback has specialized lighting, a radio, computer, exam table, roof rack and refrigerator in which to store evidence.
“We created the Subaru Outback CSI vehicle to transport the ASPCA’s Veterinary Forensics team to hard-to-access crime scenes,” said Todd Lawrence, promotions and sponsorship manager for Subaru of America, Inc.
“We needed a vehicle that allows us to reach some of the crime scenes where our larger unit cannot,” said Dr. Melinda Merck, senior director for Veterinary Forensics at the ASPCA.
Dr. Merck said the older unit was primarily used to examine animals, but the new response vehicle focuses more on examining evidence from animal crime scenes. The new unit will be based out of Gainesville, Florida, home of the ASPCA’s veterinary forensics program.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 20th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, american society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, animal cruelty, animals, aspca, car, crime, crime scenes, dogs, donates, donation, forensics, gainesville, investigations, news, ohmidog!, outback, pets, subaru, vehicle, veterinary
Dozens of New Yorkers have offered a new home to Spike, an 11-month-old English bulldog whose beating with a shovel was captured on a camera phone.
Spike was recovering Friday at the Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital from a broken hip, leg, teeth and injuries to his ears. He was left virtually blind in his right eye.
His owner, Maria Aguilar, 36, of Queens, was arrested for aggravated animal cruelty, the New York Daily News reported.
As of Friday, nearly 100 people had offered to adopt Spike, who can be heard howling with pain on the video.
Spike was not well enough yet to be put up for adoption, said ASPCA Assistant Director Joseph Pentangelo. The dog showed signs of earlier injuries, including a hip fracture, broken leg, three broken teeth and injuries to his ears.
“If this witness had not reported this cruelty to the ASPCA, Spike may well have continued to suffer abuse at the hands of his owner,” said Pentangelo.
ASPCA investigators were called to Aguilar’s house on Feb. 24 after witnesses reported hearing a dog crying. One of the witnesses used a camera phone to tape the abuse.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 14th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, animal cruelty, arrest, aspca, beaten, blinded, broken hip, bulldog, camera phone, english bulldog, howling, inquirires. maria aguilar, investigation, joseph pentangelo, new york, new yorkers, queens, shovel, spike, video, videotaped, witness
A stray South Bronx mutt who was “discovered” in a shelter and went on to appear in the hit musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” is enjoying his retirement in a posh home on the upper West Side.
Found wandering the streets as an 8-month-old pup, Fred landed at an ASPCA shelter in New York in early 2005.
There Bill Berloni, a theatrical animal agent who has trained stray dogs for Broadway shows for more than 30 years, found Fred, took him home and spent a year working with the dog.
Berloni, who also is a behavior consultant for the Humane Society of New York – a no-kill shelter that supports rescued animals — took Fred, a terrier mix, to try out against dozens of other canine hopefuls at the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” auditions.
The New York Daily News recounted Fred’s “wags to riches” story in an article today.
When the show closed in 2006, Berloni arranged for Fred (third from the left in the photo) to be adopted by Chris Grabenstein and his wife, J.J. Myers.
Grabenstein, an author of adult mysteries and childrens’ ghost stories, has created a character based on him. The couple also built a rooftop dog area, where Fred can continue to enjoy the bright lights of the big city.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: agent, animals, aspca, bill berloni, broadway, bronx, chitty chitty bang bang, chris grabenstein, dog, dogs, fred, manhattan, musical, new york, pets, rescue, shelter, stage, theater, theatrical, training, upper west side
The boyfriend of Broadway actress Ashley Yeater has been charged with whipping and kicking her Yorkshire terrier after the 6-pound dog bit him.
Joseph Graves, 30, admitted to investigators he beat the dog, named Emmit, in January, the New York Daily News reports.
“I flew into a rage. Emmit bit me, so I hit him with a belt buckle and kicked him,” prosecutors quote Graves as saying.
Graves took Emmit to a veterinary hospital two days later, after the 4-year-old terrier was vomiting and had stopped eating. Hospital staff, after determining the dog suffered six broken ribs and bruised kidneys, contacted the ASPCA. The dog also lost his left eye as a result of the Jan. 16 attack in Graves’ midtown apartment.
“The pet was nearly killed because a person couldn’t control his temper,” ASCPA spokesman Joseph Pentangelo said. “It’s inexcusable.”
Graves was arrested Monday and charged with aggravated animal cruelty, a felony, and criminal mischief.
Emmit was treated at the West Chelsea Veterinary Hospital and is staying with relatives of Yeater, who was appearing in a Florida performance of a “A Chorus Line” when the dog was beaten.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 3rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, actress, animal cruelty, ashley yeater, aspca, beat, beating, belt, bit, bitten, boyfriend, broadway, buckle, charged, cruelty, emmit, eye, joseph graves, lost, new york, terrier, yorkie, yorkshire
Virgin America flew 15 Chihuahuas from San Francisco to New York this week in an effort to aid the overcrowded population of Chihuahuas in California.
West Coast shelters, overwhelmed with Chihuahuas, have been looking for help from shelters on the East Coast, where there is a demand for the dogs.
Escorted by a veterinarian, the dogs were to arrive at JFK and be picked up by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which will help them find homes on the East Coast.
Virgin America’s Facebook page documented the flight, with videos and photos posted while in the air.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 7th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, airline, aspca, california, chihuahuas, east coast, facebook, flight, glut, homes, media, new york, pop culture, san francisco, shelters, shipped, surplus, transfer, video, virgin america, west coast
Owned by Clay Rankin, an Army sergeant who was injured in Iraq, Archie had been his service dog for four years, helping Rankin cope with physical challenges, post-traumatic stress disorder, and difficulty with crowds.
“Archie’s loyalty and perseverance in helping Sgt. Rankin accomplish his daily tasks has allowed the veteran to regain his confidence and independence, move forward with his life and continue serving the country he loves,” the ASPCA noted in bestowing the award.
Rankin, who serves as an advocate for other veterans, received the dog through Patriot Paws, a Texas organization that trains service dogs for veterans with disabilities .
(Photo: Rankin, Archie and Lori Stevens, founder of Patriot Paws)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 18th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: archie, aspca, assistance, clay rankin, death, died, dies, disabilities, dog, dog of the year, labrador retriever, patriot paws, service, veteran
Despite a last-minute barrage of pleas from animal rights supporters, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals today euthanized Oreo, a pit bull that survived a six-story plunge after being thrown off a Brooklyn rooftop.
Despite four months spent trying to modify her behavior, Oreo was too dangerous and aggressive to be put up for adoption, the ASPCA said.
Oreo was recovering from the two broken legs she sustained when she was tossed from the roof of a six-story apartment building in the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn. Her owner, Fabian Henderson, 19, pleaded guilty in State Supreme Court last month to a felony charge of animal cruelty and will be sentenced on Dec. 1.
But because of all the abuse she underwent as a pup, the 1-year-old dog was unfit to be around people or other dogs, the ASPCA said.
Shortly after she was euthanized this afternoon, and amid continued messages of outrage from those hoping the dog would be placed in a sanctuary, ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres issued a lengthy press release, which appears here in its entirety:
On June 18th, a one-year old Pit Bull Mix named Oreo was thrown off a 6th floor Brooklyn roof top by 19-year old Fabian Henderson. Oreo sustained two broken legs and a fractured rib in the horrific incident.
Amidst a flurry of media coverage and public outcry, Oreo was taken to the ASPCA hospital to be treated for her injuries, and Mr. Henderson was placed under arrest by ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Agents. The circumstances that led to this most difficult and heartbreaking of decisions are not widely known. In fact, details such as these are usually closely guarded. And yet, what is even more tragic about this story’s ending is that it is an all-too-familiar outcome in shelters across the country. It is the true face of the fight against animal cruelty.
Oreo was a victim of cruelty at the hands of Mr. Henderson. The details surrounding these incidents are largely unknown. However, after Mr. Henderson’s arrest in July, it was learned that several of his neighbors reported hearing the sounds of the dog being beaten for at least 20-30 minutes — and the dog whimpering as a consequence.
After arriving at the ASPCA’s facility, Oreo began to recuperate from her injuries, only to begin showing signs of extreme aggression — with little provocation or warning. As is customary at the ASPCA, the dog underwent a series of comprehensive behavior evaluations. This evaluation system has been used to assess many other dogs and is used to determine the rehabilitation programs needed to prepare them for foster care or placement.
In the case of Oreo, we also sought the assessment of an outside veterinary behaviorist. The outcomes of these evaluations were all the same: the dog was not able to be placed in a home.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 13th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, american society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, animal welfare, aspca, brooklyn, cruelty, dog, ed sayres, euthanasia, euthanized, fabian henderson, new york, oreo, pit bull, pleas, red hook houses, rescue, sanctuary, shelter
Army Sgt. Clay Rankin’s dog, Archie, was named 2009 Dog of the Year by the ASPCA.
Rankin suffered spinal injuries in Iraq, and Archie, who has been his service dog for four years, helps him cope with the aftermath of his war experience – post-traumatic stress disorder, physical challenges and difficulty with crowds, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“I think it was well deserved,” Rankin, who lives in West Virginia, said after accepting the award in New York City on behalf of Archie, an 8-year-old black Lab. “I think he’s Hero of the Year.”
“Archie’s loyalty and perseverance in helping Sgt. Rankin accomplish his daily tasks has allowed the veteran to regain his confidence and independence, move forward with his life and continue serving the country he loves,” the ASPCA noted.
Others recognized at the ASPCA awards ceremony were four men from Missouri who worked on the frontlines of the largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history; Alayne Marker, who along with her husband, Steve Smith, runs the Rolling Dog Ranch for disabled animals in Ovando, Montana; and Monica Plumb of Powhatan County, Virginia, who raised funds to purchase pet oxygen masks for fire departments across the country.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 10th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: archie, army, aspca, awards, clay rankin, dog of the year, dogs, iraq, labrador retriever, monica plumb, rolling dog ranch, sergeant, service dog, sgt., veteran, wounded warriors
Of 85 dogs in South Carolina that belong to the three breeds banned from Marine housing, only two proved to be potentially dangerous when tested by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
As a result, the other 83 were granted exemptions from the Marine’s worldwide breed ban and will be allowed to continue to reside at Marine bases until 2012.
The Marines this year banned pit bulls, Rottweilers and canine-wolf mixes because their “dominant traits of aggression present an unreasonable risk to the health and safety of personnel.” But owners who can show through assessments that their dogs aren’t dangerous may get waivers and keep them on bases through 2012.
Of the 85 dogs assessed by the ASPCA, two will have to leave base housing, according to the Orangeburg Times and Democrat. Two others showed aggressive tendencies but one will work with a trainer and another will be neutered.
The breed ban came after a 3-year-old boy was fatally attacked by a pit bull at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
The pets at the Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot, the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and the Beaufort Naval Hospital were assessed by experts from the ASPCA during three days of tests this week.
The tests seemed to confirm what most of us already know — breed-specific rules and legislation are sheer folly.
“We believe breed bans cannot be effective because of this. We found some really great animals and families,” ASPCA animal behavior expert Emily Weiss said. “We don’t think it’s a breed issue. We think it’s an individual behavior issue and what we saw at the base verifies that.”
Capt. Brian Block, a Marine Corps spokesman, noting what happened at Camp Lejeune, said “having one dog who would do that is not an acceptable risk from our point of view.”
Pet owners at other Marine bases can have their dogs assessed by veterinarians.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 9th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aspca, assessments, bans, bases, breed, breed ban, breed-specific, dangerous, exemptions, marines, pit bulls, rottweilers, south carolina, temperament, testing, tests, wolf hybrids