Lifestyle & Human Interest

Here's Where Some of the Dogs Once in Michael Vick's Dog-Fighting Operation Are Today


Most people remember the harrowing case from 2007 that involved a major bust on Michael Vick’s dog-fighting operation. There was disgust, outrage and concern expressed over the situation — and, thankfully, there was a happy ending for most of the dogs pulled from the black buildings hidden in the woods.

This particular case marked a turning of the tides in the protocol for dealing with rescued fighting dogs. In many prior cases, dogs from such fighting rings were simply euthanized after trials.

“Prior to the Michael Vick case, the traditional, historic treatment of dogs from fight busts was simply to regard them as damaged goods and to kill them,” Francis Battista, co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society, said, according to Parade.

“All along, we’ve been advocating for them to be given a chance. Our experience has shown that there’s no need to be afraid of the dogs or blame them, just because of the situation they came from.”

While 51 dogs were initially rescued, two died shortly after rescue and another was deemed “too emotionally and physically damaged” and was put down, according to The Dodo. Still, that meant that 48 dogs were in need of kind-hearted carers or understanding families.

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These surviving dogs have been the focus of numerous films and specials, and there’s something about their stories that just warms people’s hearts and brings them hope and joy.

One of the most recent specials is a segment on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Several dogs are prominently featured, and their transformations are a wonderful thing to see.

Jonny Justice is one black-and-white pup who not only recovered from his situation, but he also became a therapy dog and helped others recover. Cohen Long, who had fostered pit bulls before and had one of his own, took Jonny in, and his first impressions were that the dog was wired but adorable.

“Jonny was like most dogs that had been kenneled too long: He was tentative, scattered, and excited all at the same time. It was obvious that he needed to decompress,” Long said, according to Dogster. “Beyond that, he was sure cute!”

“Jonny was still technically USDA property and evidence,” he added. “We had no idea how the case was going to unfold and what the government would do upon conclusion of the trials. Prior to this, dogs like Jonny were consistently euthanized. That was the scary part — but we did the best we could regardless how it would turn out.”

It turned out that Jonny Justice became a permanent member of the Cohen family. He became a therapy dog, was named the ASPCA Dog of the Year in 2014 and even had a toy modeled after him.

Cherry Garcia is another pit bull who found his way into a loving family.

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He was very timid at first, and it took months of consistently positive experiences for him to stop fearing all humans — but he turned into a snuggle bug after being adopted by the Fiaccones in 2010.

“Watching him with our 2-year-old son and our newborn daughter is something more special than I could ever describe,” dad Paul Fiaccone told The Huffington Post. “He is always keeping an eye on them and he loves them so much. It’s hard to think of my son without having Cherry in the picture.”

Cherry has learned to love again, enjoying the company of other animals and humans, and is enjoying his old age with the family who has shown him love for the past decade.

Not all the pups were released to live the family life — but that doesn’t mean the others don’t have it good, too. Mya, Curly and Meryl are three of the 48 who lived out their days in the peace and love of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

According to a Facebook post from the sanctuary, Mya and Curly (who had a penchant for being cheeky) passed away at respectable ages this year, but thankfully these dogs knew kindness for the majority of their lives and not the cruelty of their earlier years.

“Considering where these dogs came from, that this quirky, frightened little dog could learn to love and trust another dog and people was remarkable,” the post reads. “We have a Curly-shaped hole in our hearts. But we know he and Mya are back together again, enjoying each other’s company the way they did here and being as ‘naughty’ as can be.”

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