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Tag: dogfighting

Guggenheim, citing threats, pulls controversial pit bull piece from exhibit

The Guggenheim Museum in New York has pulled from an upcoming exhibit an “artwork” that features, on video, four pairs of pit bulls on treadmills charging at each other.

Real dogs are used in the piece, titled “Dogs Cannot Touch Each Other,” but it is a video version of a performance staged live when it first appeared in Beijing in 2003.

It and two other works condemned by animal welfare activists will no longer be part of the exhibit when it opens Oct. 6.

The charging pit bull piece — a seven minute long video — is by artists Peng Yu and Sun Yuan, a husband and wife team (let’s hope they treat each other with a little more kindness) who, in the original exhibit, lined up four pairs of pit bulls, face to face, on eight treadmills.

The dogs charge towards each other, but never get more than a few inches away. Still, they keep at it, panting and drooling and becoming more and more stressed out and frustrated.

The Guggenheim initially responded to animal welfare concerns by saying it had no intention of removing the work from the exhibit.

But, just four days later, museum officials reconsidered.

guggenheim-gallery-exterior-lightAccording to a report from NPR, the Guggenheim will pull the pieces from its upcoming exhibit, “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.”

The museum blamed “explicit and repeated threats of violence,” but provided no details.

An online petition demanding the museum remove the works garnered more than 600,000 signatures since it was posted five days ago, and protesters gathered outside the museum on Saturday, holding signs that say “suffering animals is not art.”

Even after that, the Guggenheim defended the pit bull video, calling it on Thursday “an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control. We recognize that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalization and the complex nature of the world we share.”

But on Monday the museum relented under the pressure and said it was pulling that work and two others, citing threats of violence and concern for the safety of its staff, visitors and the artists.

“Although these works have been exhibited in museums in Asia, Europe, and the United States, the Guggenheim regrets that explicit and repeated threats of violence have made our decision necessary,” the museum said in a statement. “As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art. Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim.”

In another of the to-be-removed pieces, artist Xu Bing tattooed meaningless characters all over the bodies of two pigs, a boar and a sow, who were put on display, mating, in a museum exhibit in Beijing in 1994. The Guggenheim was to feature the video of that “performance” as well.

Also removed was a work featuring live animals — reptiles, amphibians, insects — that are trapped in a glass enclosure and proceed to eat and kill each other for the viewing pleasure of attendees.

23 dogs seized from home outside of Charlotte in dog fighting investigation

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More than 20 dogs believed to be part of a dog-fighting operation were seized yesterday by police in Huntersville, N.C., as part of a joint investigation with the ASPCA.

“We’re not going to put up with that in Huntersville,” Police Chief Cleveland Spruill said.

Officers have questioned residents of the home on Statesville Road, but have yet to file any charges.

In addition to seizing 23 dogs, a treadmill and other items commonly used to train fighting dogs were also taken as evidence.

ASPCA Director of Investigations, Kathryn Destreza, said that 16 adult dogs and seven puppies were tethered to heavy chains and removed from filthy conditions.

“That’s how they live their life,” she said. “If they’re not fighting or being conditioned to fight they live their life on the end of a chain.”

According to an ASPCA news release, “Some were thin and exhibited scars, bite marks, broken teeth and other injuries commonly associated with dog fighting … Dog fighting paraphernalia was discovered, including conditioning and training devices, indoor and outdoor fighting pits, and medication common to treating wounds associated with dog fighting.”

dogfightingHuntersville police said that after receiving tips, they obtained a search warrant for the property.

It was executed with assistance from ASPCA investigators and Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s animal control department.

Police Chief Spruill said the puppies will likely be able to be adopted, but that will have to be decided by a judge.

“The ASPCA’s goal is always to rehab as many animals we can from any criminal situation,” the ASPCA’s Destreza said.

Where the dogs were being taken was not divulged.

Destreza said numerous dogs chained in a back yard is often an indication that dog fighting might be taking place.

A woman who described herself as the dog owner’s aunt told WBTV in Charlotte that the dogs were being raised to be sold. She denied that they were involved in dog fighting.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact Lt. Andrew Dempski at 704-464-5400.
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(Photos: ASPCA)

Former Vick dog Gracie dies

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Gracie, one of more than 50 dogs rescued seven years ago from NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s dog fighting compound, has died.

The black pit bull spent her final years in an adoptive household in suburban Richmond.

She died Monday morning, according to Amy McCracken, executive director of the Richmond Animal League.

“This morning, little, old, bow-legged Gracie passed away and got her angel wings. Any words we write here could never begin to express the profound, positive and lasting impact that this little, black pit bull had on so many people who encountered her or heard the story of her suffering and triumph,” said a post on the animal’s league’s “Gracie’s Guardians” Facebook page.

“We are and will be forever grateful for this little, broken black dog and everything she personified.”

The dog arrived at the Richmond in 2007 and was adopted by the group’s board president, Sharon Cornett.

“Gracie was very, very friendly,” McCracken told CNN. Gracie had been used as a breeding dog, as opposed to a fighter, in Vick’s operation, she said. “She loved people and was never aggressive to other dogs.”

With her new owner, Gracie attended conferences and meetings about animal welfare and visited schools to show people they have nothing to fear from most pit bulls.

Gracie was one of about 50 pit bulls seized by authorities in April 2007 when Vick, then a quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, was charged with operating an illegal dog-fighting ring, called Bad Newz Kennels, on his Virginia property.

Twenty-two of the dogs were sent for rehabilitation and long-term care at Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, while others went to Bad Rap, a San Francisco pet shelter, and a handful of other shelters and sanctuaries,

Created by the Richmond animal shelter, Gracie’s Guardians is an initiative dedicated to the welfare of pit bulls. The group chose Gracie as their namesake “in tribute to her perseverance and that of countless other pit bulls who have suffered or continue to suffer at the hands of people, yet whose spirits and love for humans remains untarnished.”

(Photo: from the Facebook page of Gracie’s Guardians)

Hector, the former Vick dog, passes away

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Hector, a pit bull rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, has died of cancer at his Minnesota home.

One of 51 dogs rescued from Bad Newz Kennels in 2007, Hector was rehabilitated at Bad Rap and, about a year later, adopted by new owners, Roo and Clara Yori in Rochester.

During the six years he spent with them he became a therapy dog, visiting local nursing homes and hospitals.

About a month ago, Hector was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

In recent weeks, his owners twice scheduled appointments to have Hector put down, but both times they backed out.

This week, as his suffering intensified, they went through with it, according to Hector’s Facebook page.

The Yori’s placed this post on that page Tuesday, written from Hector’s point of view:

“Hello everyone. Unfortunately my time has come, and if you’re reading this, that means that I have already passed. My last day was as good as one could ask for. The sun was shining, the frogs were out for me to chase at the pond, and I had Roo and Clara to carry me off the trail when my legs just couldn’t go any further. I called shotgun to assume my co-pilot position on the way to the vet, where I passed away surrounded by people who love me.

I think my past life caught up with me and caused my time to come a little early. However, I can proudly say that I gave it everything I had all the way until the end. To my Vick Dog family, and all the other dogs rescued from similar cruelty situations, keep carrying the torch! There are a lot of dogs out there that still need help, so keep proving they deserve their chance through our success…

“Please remember that dogs don’t really have a choice on where they end up, and some really good dogs end up in a bad spot through no fault of their own. Before you pass judgement, give them a chance to show who they are regardless of appearance or past life. You never know how it will turn out…”

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(Photos: Hector on his final hike, from his Facebook page)

Artist’s goal: Painting all 51 Vick dogs

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I’m not sure what I love more about this artist — her paintings, her name, her theme or her determination.

Levity Tomkinson is a Kentucky artist who has tackled a serious project — painting all 51 of the dogs seized from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation in 2007.

She’s more than one-fifth of the way there.

levityFinding herself struck by the resiliency of those Vick dogs who were rescued and rehabilitated, Tomkinson got the idea in 2012 and started what she calls The Re51lient Project.

Tomkinson had started painting dogs — beginning with her own, a pit bull mix named Rinlee — in 2010, when, after graduating college, she found herself without any good job leads.

After reading an article about Vick dogs who had been rehabilitated and adopted, the project began.

“I thought of the idea during a time in my life that was really unpleasant, where I was trying to find meaning and happiness and purpose again, and these dogs were absolutely a part of my healing process. They inspired me to be positive, to smile and look at the world and appreciate all different kinds of beauty …. I am forever indebted and grateful to these dogs for changing my life.”

Like many dog lovers, Tomkinson was moved how many of the dogs taken from the NFL quarterback’s Bad News Kennels managed to overcome the horrors inflicted on them there.

As she explains it on her blog, “I cannot begin to fathom the daily lives of the 51 dogs who were rescued, and those before who weren’t. I paint for the 51 …

“I paint for the dogs … that didn’t win in a fight they never wanted anyway, dying from injuries with punctured skin and a mauled lip and face that became raw meat. I paint for the dogs … with that were forced into a rape stall to unwillingly bring more dogs into the world of dog fighting. I paint for any dog who has been, is, or will be a part of this heinous world. The resiliency of the 51 is my courage, my push, my determination, and my love for this project.”

rayTomkinson, according to the Huffington Post, hopes to turn the project into a book, with portraits of all 51 dogs — those who were adopted and those who spent the rest of their lives in sanctuaries.

“Every single dog has importance and a story to tell, something to teach us, and either their passing or not being adopted doesn’t lessen their message or them,” she said.

“If Re51lient can empower one person to choose positivity over negativity, triumph over fear, allow them to let go of past hurt or add one more pit bull lover to this world, then my heart is happy. ”

(Photos: Lucas, a former Vick dog who died last year at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary; Tomkinson, from her Facebook page; and Ray, a Vick dog adopted this year)

Vick to speak at event honoring NC athletes; thousands express outrage with the choice

vickTens of thousands are expressing their outrage online over the selection of Michael Vick as the main speaker at an “Evening of Champions” event in Raleigh.

The event, held to honor local athletes, is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Officials with the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the event, say they’re reviewing the complaints that have flooded in online about the appearance of the quarterback, who was convicted and served time in connection with his dogfighting operation.

But they say they have no plans to disinvite Vick.

“There is a group of folks, who are very unhappy with Mr. Vick for a variety of reasons — and they are passionate about it,” said Harvey Schmitt, president and CEO of the chamber.

But, he added, “Mr. Vick has an interesting story to tell. It is one of an attempt for his personal redemption.” Schmitt also stressed the event isn’t about honoring Vick, but spotlighting local sports stars. “The recognition is not for Mr. Vick,” he said.

The announcement of the event on the chamber’s Facebook page has drawn more than 1,000 comments, almost all of them negative.

“If you want a few Champions to speak to your little group, how about inviting the people who had to rescue and rehabilitate the dogs that survived their experience with Michael Vick? Or lets hear from the people that had to deal with the bodies of the ones that did NOT survive Michael Vick? THOSE are the true champions,” wrote a woman who identified herself as Sandra Melvin.

A group organizing a protest at the event has seen 1,600 sign up to attend, according to its Facebook page.

Meanwhile, a petition demanding the chamber remove Vick from the program has been signed by nearly 70,000 people on the website Change.org.

Organizers say the event is an opportunity to “learn the real story about his incredible NFL career, his meteoric rise from poverty to riches and fame, his downfall, and his improbable comeback.”

The program is being held at PNC Arena, with tickets running as much as $75 each.

Chamber officials declined to say how much Vick is getting paid for the appearance, according to WNCN, which first broke the story.

Vick,  currently a free agent, played for the Atlanta Falcons at the time of his arrest and, after his prison sentence, was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Pit bulls returned to Eagles running back

Eight of the 27 pit bulls seized from a Wisconsin breeding kennel suspected of having connections to dogfighting belonged to a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s not Michael Vick.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce Brown is the owner of Eilis, and her seven puppies, all of whom were removed May 21 from a pit bull breeding kennel near Eau Claire, according to the Leader-Telegram.

Brown had sent Eilis to Northland Pits in February to be bred. After the pups were born, the kennel offered to whelp and wean the pups, and Brown sent them all to Wisconsin for that purpose, according to an affadivit in the case.

While they were there, the kennel was searched, and 27 dogs were seized by the Eau Claire County Humane Association. The owner of the kennel, Joseph A. Sudbrink, has been charged with mistreating animals and running a breeding kennel without a license.

The officer who removed the animals, BeKah Weitz, said the dogs at the kennel had contracted ringworm and possibly had other skin issues and were being kept in substandard conditions. She told the court she saw scarring on the dogs and believed the kennel operators were fighting the dogs. Prosecutors say they are continuing to investigate.

Both Brown and the kennel owner petitioned to get their dogs back, and on Friday a county judge ordered Eilis and her pups returned to Brown.

The 19 other dogs will remain in custody for at least five more days, under the judge’s ruling.

The kennel’s website says it is a breeder of “quality old family red nose pit bulls” and that no dogs are “bred, sold or used for any illegal activities.”

Brown, the running back, has no known connection to dogfighting. The Philadelphia Inquirer says he has friends who are pit bull breeders, and friends whose dogs engage in “extreme” agility training. He posted the video above, showing him and another pit bull, on his Facebook page, but said “I go to the park with them to be supportive … It’s not really my thing.” 

Sheila Kessler, an attorney who represented Brown and also serves on the Humane Society of Portage County board, picked up his dog and puppies from the shelter to return them to Brown.