Thursday, July 19, 2007

Presumed Guilty

What a disturbing coincidence.

Exactly 20 years ago this month, the editors at Sports Illustrated lost their minds and branded a new Media Monster with this infamous cover. This, back when the doberman fad was big and most people had no idea what a pit bull was, much less the wanna-be thugs. Many will point to this issue's arrival as the pivotal moment when the bad guys of the world decided they had to get their hands on these bad ass, scary looking dogs that everyone seemed to fear. Talk about a status symbol!

Michael Vick was an eight year old kid when this issue came out. There's no way that this cover didn't make a lasting impression on him, or any young guy that looks up to SI as the final word in what's fast, cool and worth getting excited about.

The sports world has not been kind to pit bulls, starting with this 1987 character assassination. Numerous sports figures have since been linked to dog fighting, and even the tennis shoe moguls (Nike) found a way to exploit the dogs and make a buck off of graphic fight imagery. Why treat them kindly when they're really werewolves? ....And, here we are today, reading about the unspeakable torture of mans' best friend.

We don't need to detail how horrific the crime of dogfighting is. There's enough gore spinning around the Net to cover that angle.

But, we do need to remember -- the dogs. Where are the dogs in all of this?

We started wondering when the HSUS put out a public plea for funds "to care for the dogs seized in the Michael Vick case." We're not sure how the word 'care' is being defined ... toys and treats? kuranda beds? staff help for yard exercise? (doubtful)... although it's certain the dogs will be destroyed in due time. The HSUS has been staunchly opposed to re-homing abused pit bulls and will dutifully insist that each and every fight bust dog is damaged and dangerous. EDIT: The HSUS fundraising campaign "to for care the dogs" was a scam. Sources on the inside tell us that federal government officials, angered that their case was being endangered by a brazen call for funds, delivered a cease and desist letter to pull the solicitations. More info on the campaign and screen capture.

We know the judgements levied against dogs from fight busts are not altogether true.
We have dogs like Amy, Hiro, BB, Sadie, Lil'Bit, Pearl, Doe Koo, and even Little Man (right) - all from fight backgrounds - to remind us that the soundest of dogs really can and do rise above the harshest of beginnings. Even more astounding, many somehow survive the torture and starvation with their adoration for humans still intact. Talk about optimists. I can't fathom how this breed can possibly trust despite having seen the worst side of humanity, but they just keep surprising us.

Pity the Vick dogs. Had they somehow washed up out of their pens in the storms of Katrina, they would've been made into media darlings. Volunteers would've rushed to bathe and comfort them (many quite wonderful Katrina pit bulls came with fight scars from pre-storm misadventures). Some might've ended up in shelters willing and able to temperament test and offer the best for adoption. But no such luck -- they were doubly cursed when they were sold into that VA hellhole.

As far as we know, the dogs are not destined to receive a fair trial. For the sake of those dogs who may still be sane and hopeful and willing to trust, that really sucks.



Anonymous said...

Well said, as always, Donna! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Amen to all of this, Donna. I am appalled that the only two "animal welfare" (I say that with a cringe) groups to be quoted or even asked for national comment on this have been PETA (disgusting) and HSUS (ugh). I wish for once they would contact a group that actually knows a thing or two about pit bulls before throwing their names out there as "experts." The only thing those groups are good at is exploiting every situation they possibly can to splash their names all over the news :(

Owner of an ex-fighter & supersweet PB Lola,

Jennifer Curzon
Mid-America Bully Breed Rescue

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a thoughtful blog on this issue. Luckily, for whatever reasons of human nature, the Vick issue has brought out the point that these dogs are victims. Now, if we could only get organizations like the HSUS to follow through with this thought. They "save" these dogs only to kill them in the name of "humanity". Certainly - there are not enough responsible homes for "bust dogs" but wholesale killing is also not an option in today's "enlightened" world. There could be potential LawDogs in that group... potential loving family pets. Not all pit bulls that find themselves in the world of dog fighting WANT to be there...

Jane said...

It does suck! Keep up the good work, Donna. Here's hoping for lots of much needed donations coming your way.

Sandy said...

Donna, Daniel and I were just talking about Vick at lunch. Thank you for the blog post, I am going to link to it from the FETCH blog and add your blog to my links, as well. Cheers, Sandy from FETCH

Anonymous said...

I have a question. Where is HSUS keeping these poor dogs? My understanding has been that they only maintain Black Beauty Ranch, and that the vast bulk of their budget goes to any thing but helping individual animals. If they are in a boarding facility or a municipal shelter, what a sad way to spend their last days after what they have already been through. For HSUS to use these dogs in their prodigious fund raising efforts when they're only future is death is sad and troubling. An organization that claims to decry the "exploitation" of all animals should not be rewarded for doing the same

Jackelyn said...

Well said!

Mary Eisenhart said...

Amen. PETA's doing all this grandstanding, and they'd kill the dogs (or, to use their favorite evilspeak, "we're not killing them, we're ending their lives...") in a heartbeat. I just posted on the Chron's comments that whatever else happens, Vick must be required to fund a sanctuary where these dogs and other victims can be cared for for the rest of their natural lives. And, of course, the "adoptable" ones (to use the preferred weaselword, as if the dog's right to live depended on his convenience to humans) should get the loving homes they so richly deserves.

This issue needs to be publicly escalated, because you know damn well PETA, and to a lesser extent HSUS, won't.

Donna said...

Thanks for your comment, Mary. Unfortunately sanctuaries aren't always the best place for pit bulls....Being alone in a pen for years on end with only the most minimal contact with humans can be a cruelty of another kind. We would prefer to see them put to peace over that kind of lonely existence.

But if there are dogs within the group that stand out as stable and trustworthy, we would hope that they get a chance to prove themselves.

A more immediate concern is the kennel stress that can take a heavy toll on the dogs during this waiting period. Some dogs do okay during long confinement (many of the Katrina pit bulls stayed sane and happy for up to 8 months in an HSUS-sponsored prison shelter project). But some dogs will fall apart before that time.

None of these problems are easy to solve, but the fact that the country is willing to care about these dogs is encouraging. Looking at best ways to help them is a discussion worth having.

Anonymous said...


Since Badrap must have some reputation within HSUS because of Katrina, is there any way Badrap might use its influence to have someone like Diane have them tested for the LawDogs program??? You could pose it to HSUS that 'think of what great pr this would be for HSUS if you could find a way to promote the good side of our breed instead of the horrific news people are always reading (e.g. pitbull eats two year!)'. They get positive press, the bulls get some much needed image repair.

Agreed about no-kill shelters, of course. That's not a life for most dogs. But I say, despite our misgivings about HSUS, can't we find a way to leverage this tragedy as something FOR our bullies???


Donna said...

Hi Dina - LOL - Our only leverage dollars were spent at Katrina!

The Katrina rescue efforts created a fantastic situation for pit bulls though - because, for the most part, they were given the benefit of the doubt along with all the other dogs and no dog was labeled as 'dangerous' unless he was clearly aggressing towards people or completely unmanageable around other animals (few earned that title btw). It was so refreshing to see hundreds of pit bulls - many with old scars - treated as equals during that time.

We would love if the authorities in the Vick case would give he same consideration to these dogs and allow breed experts in to evaluate them before putting them to sleep. They haven't said 'No,' but, they've never said 'Yes' before -- so it would be a HUGE leap of faith for this organization to go there.

It may be true that all or most of the dogs are beyond help, and if so, the only answer would be to let them go back to their maker.

But I'm with you....What IF there was a dog or two in that batch that was destined to be electrocuted next week because he just didn't have the heart to fight? ..... Wouldn't it be awful to think he avoided death by torture only to end up destroyed by an unproven assumption?

We respect the people in the HSUS by the way and salute them for busting this case wide open. But of course, they see things from a very black and white perspective when it comes to the victims of these cases.

Let's hope that we can all help them look at the Grey Area in this situation.

Mary Eisenhart said...

I'm not buying into the false dichotomy that the only options for "unadoptable" dogs are death or cages, even though that's certainly the mainstream and accepted view.

To be perfectly clear, what should happen to these dogs, and to all other fighting dogs, is that they should be spayed or neutered and then live out their lives in the most homelike setting that can be created, with, if necessary, their own dedicated apartment and full-time resident human caregiver. If the homelike setting is surrounded by a 20-foot fence, fine. But the dogs get grass, trees, fresh air, and as much love and socialization as they can take.

If they're "dangerous," they only deal with their savvy caregivers. If they're "adoptable," fine. But whatever happens to them is driven by what THEY need, not what makes life more convenient for humans.

And all this is funded by seizing the assets of their torturers rather than letting said assets go into some governmental or charity slush fund.

And this is only going to happen if people start acting like it should.

Donna said...

I agree with you on principle, Mary....If society demanded that every homeless child and dog had a safe place to call home, we'd have a much nicer world to live in. And I love your idea of using abusers' assets to off-set the costs of care.

But for now, the dogs still belong to Vick, and they will continue to be his dogs until and unless the courts rule against him. So the best we can hope for is a quick trial so the dogs can avoid kennel stress, and a smart ruling in favor of justice.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the blog. However, i do hope that every person here who is condemning the killing of 'bust dogs' (which i oppose as well and am currently fostering a pit) are calling pit organizations and offering to foster some of these dogs....we can't gripe without coming up with solutions, and the lack of homes for these animals is the problem. so after you express your outrage at this horrific situation, make sure to offer your home as a foster home for these awesome animals.

Anonymous said...

Agree and if your home is already full of bullies (as mine is), SEND MONEY to, or or or or any other LEGITIMATE rescue that knows and understands American Pit Bull Terriers.

Write to HSUS and suggest that they find a way to partner with badrap; write to Sports Illustrated and tell them it's now their time to make up to our dogs, what they did to them 20 years ago. The dog on the cover could have been a German Shepherd, a Dobie or a Lab!


Anonymous said...

Donna - Wow, I never even thought about the fact that he could get the poor dogs back. That just turns my stomach. I pray that doesn't happen. Please tell me you think his chances are slim to none. I just can't even imagine what those poor babies would go through arriving back to that property.

Anonymous said...

I was not amazed about the Vick thing. A friend of mine in Atlanta, who breeds Bullies, had told me some 5 years ago that Vick hosted and sponsored dog fights.

I am a Bay Area native and we have two Bullies that we adopted from the SPCA in Martinez and Hercules. My mom was concerned at first because she said "Those dogs maul children"...I laughed. Her tone changed after about 5 minutes. She realized how loveable and sweet these dogs are. She actually said that these dogs are big lap dogs (Lucky Boy actually tried to climb on her lap...I named him that because I adopted him on a Saturday and he was scheduled to be euthanized on Monday).

I transferred from San Francisco to South East Georgia a couple years ago. My wife received a letter from the Humane Society (oxymoron?) asking for a donation. I asked my wife to call and see if they took in Bullies. They told her "NO"..we don't take those kind of dogs. Huh?

It is alarming that these organizations are allowed to pander for a donation, when most of the donations go to administartive things and not the animals.

Anonymous said...

It sickens me to think that people like Michael Vick is allowed to walk our streets of society! They only look at these dogs as money makers or kill them for not being a fighter. It's been proven that people with the mentality like Vicks', are a danger to our society as they too think nothing about hirting or murdering another person. Their views are that of a true predator that finds pain and death entertaining. I own two bullies myself, and find them to be very social and loyal. My neighbors at first were very concerned, however, have come to love and admire my two pits knowing that they also contribute to our neighborhood by keeping a presence that unknowning criminals will stay away. My two pits interact with toddlers, dogs and people extremely well. We have a neighbor with a 1 year old that can't stay away from the two dogs, and the parents are very comfortable with letting their young son play with the my two pits. On the street, new people that ask what breed of dogs they are, I proudly tell them that they've just petted, and been kissed by "PIT BULLS". The surprised look that I get is something to behold! I get lots of Q&A sessions about them and time to truely educate people on the breed and how misunderstood/ misrepresented the breed is. All this in a urban city with lots of bad people and things happening as a daily occurrance

Anonymous said...

hi guys. i would just like to say that these dogs deserve a much better life. i was into dog fighting myself, but now am totally against it. am trying to make it up for my deeds by devoting as much time to dogs as i can. currently ive got three dogs a labrador, spaniel and a ridgeback. now i can openly say that i am a dog lover and am very ashamed of my past. its very cruel to fight dogs. no matter how much i do i cant make it up for what ive done in the past, thaths how i feel. id like to make a suggestion regarding the future of such dogs in america. i know for a fact that these dogs will be @humanely ethanized' in the near future. another thing that could be done is that these dogs could be sent to different countries, like pakistan, india, africa. people do fight dogs over there as well. so you have to get in touch with the righ people in who could make sure that theses dogs will go into loving families. the reason to send these dogs to such places is that the way of living is different in theses countries. dogs are confined in the boundry walls of the house and do go out for walks but only in a leash with the owner. other than that since people have hughe houses there they can keep three to fourt dogs easily, without them being able to fight with eachother. they have hughe kennels as well.usually families love pitulls for their sharpness and their guard dog qualities. its only a suggestion. ive been clean fo years now and have no intentions of going back. when i do go back to pakistan for good will launch a campagin against people wh fight dogs and will bring it to an end. wish me luck!!!

Anonymous said...

p.s. a job well done donna. hope more people like you step up and save these innocent dogs...