Best Friends Blog

Vicktory dogs’ purple collars and golden hearts

The Vicktory dogs continue to amaze and defy the stereotyping that almost cost them their lives. Indeed, the life expectancy of the rescued canine victims of dog-fighting busts used to be shorter than their unfortunate kin who remained in the ring. That’s because as soon as dogs were sprung from the ring, they were killed by their rescuers because they were — choose your poison here — “bad by breeding,” “time bombs waiting to go off,” “game-bred dogs”… whatever description made killing them the ethical thing to do.

The Vicktory dogs changed all that.

Owing to the high-profile nature of the case, the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s hellhole could not be quietly and conveniently disposed of behind the scenes. The voice of Best Friends, and others who advocate for treating every dog as an individual rather than as a category, prevailed. The Vick dogs were individually evaluated, and to the surprise of naysayers, more than half of them were released to rescue organizations for immediate adoption to the public. The 22 most challenging of the dogs, those who had suffered the greatest trauma and neglect, those who needed more than just a little TLC, came to Best Friends and became known to the world as the Vicktory dogs.

The Vick dogs have been victims of and witnesses to mind-shattering criminal violence. They came with massive scars and other signs of physical abuse — some of the females having had their teeth removed so that they would be more compliant forced breeders. They also came with heartbreaking mental and emotional scars. Some were just too terrified to move in the presence of a human, and some were so reactive that they could only be handled at first by our most experienced trainers.

That was the picture of the Vicktory dogs when they arrived in January of 2008. At that time, the authorities in Kane County, Utah, where Best Friends Sanctuary is located, required us to keep the Vicktory dogs away from visitors and volunteers. Our visual coding for dogs with this staff-only designation is a red collar — one of three color codes for Dogtown dogs. Green collar dogs are easy for any volunteer of any age to handle and walk. Purple collar dogs have minor issues — often only size and strength. We require staff and volunteers to be 18 years of age and over to handle and walk them.

Last week, seven Vick dogs graduated to purple collars and are set to follow nine of their friends who have already been adopted, have an adoption application pending, or are in a foster home. It was a happy day at Dogtown.

While the court ordered that a couple of the Vicktory dogs spend their entire lives at the Sanctuary, I am confident that this class of purple collar scholars will be in wonderful homes before long.

They deserve the best because their hearts of gold have broken the stereotype of the canine victim of dog fighting as dangerous animal. Because of their intelligence and their desire to please the first humans who were kind to them, they earned the right for thousands of similar victims who followed behind them to be treated as individuals and given a chance at a new life. Dogs rescued from fight-ring busts are now routinely evaluated as individuals thanks to them.

The Vicktory dogs, unfortunate victims of cruelty that they were, turned out to be what we always knew they were … just plain old regular dogs, and they now have the purple collars to prove it.

To view a video of the purple collar crew, click here.


Francis Battista

  • Mikev9359

    I have two pitbulls that I rescued. One 5 years ago and another 2 yrs ago. The 1st, Powder, picked us. At the kennel when I walked in with my then 15 y/o Autistic son, Powder was the only one that did not bark. She laid on her belly and crawled to the cage door whining. Brain sat as her door opened. She ran straight to Brian, jumped in his lap and began licking his face and whining aloud as if he were her long lost best friend. She is ferocious when it comes to protecting him and all other times she is such a lovable, attention starved baby.
    Cocoa was very standoffish, didn’t care for attention. He was in a shelter for almost a year. His life was spared once when a Rescue org stepped up. But 6 months later he was once again on the list to be destroyed. I decided to foster him because he seemed so depressed and alone. After 4 weeks, the rescue org came by to check on him. They could not believe the changes in Cocoa. No longer was his ribs visible. He had energy, walked with a purpose. they marvelled at how he and Powder played together. 
    It’s a pity that the bad owners had made this dogs out to be villians. It’s also sad that other breeds that look like pitbulls have the same bad rap.

  • Beverly

    This is great!  Such wonderful people at Best Friends.  The Vicktory dogs deserve the best in life after what they went through.


  • Carolynred33

    Congratulations to the dogs on their graduation.  Congratulations to you on your long commitment to them which has resulted in their graduation.

  • We will be visiting in less than two weeks.  Hope we get a chance to meet these wonderful dogs.  What a great article.  Thank you.

  • Esi Emi Love

    SSuch a beautiful story. Thank you to all the people at this lovely organization for giving these beautiful dogs another chance at life. This time – a much happier one.

  • Shanna

    The only dangerous animals in this terrible story were the humans. These dogs are precious and their resiliency amazes me.

  • Sschroepfer

    Can you tell us what dogs the Court stated that must remain at Best Friends for the duration of their lives?

  • Anonymous

    No such think as a bad dog. Only BAD OWNERS. Thank you a million times for giving them love and kindness and a chance for a happy life.

  • Anonymous

    No such thing as a bad dog. Only BAD owners. Thank you for giving them a chance and not giving up on them. They so deserve respect and kindness.
    A very heartwarming story. Thank you a million times,

  • mark

    all you need is love

  • This is beautiful and wonderful news to hear.  Thanks to all the wonderful people at Best Friends’ Sanctuary for their dedication to these animals who have received false reputations….they are gorgeous (but banned here in Ontario, Canada because of the strength plus other issued – unfairly)  Kudoos to you all for the Vicktory dogs.

  • Diane Lee

    Thanks to Best Friends for providing the time, staff, money, space and visibility to show us what rescue can look like. A huge amount of effort and planning has gone into creating Best Friends so this joyful picture could be projected large enough for all to see.  

  • Dawn

    Purple looks beautiful on you, sweet dogs!

  • Celestine

    What an uphill battle to turn the bad rap image around that these dogs so unfortunately and unjustly got! Pitties are the best dogs, they only want to please and do anything for their human. I hope times are changing though, I think I see more pitbull adopters around my neighborhood in LA.
    What a twisted society we are, instead of punishing the dog fighters, we punish their victims. Glad that these dogs escaped this fate and can finally enjoy life like any other dog. Thank you for standing up for them!

  • Sssmason

    Great blog Francis.  I teared up reading it.

  • Sharonannbodnar

    Sometimes when bad things happen it opens a door…and the high profile of the Vick case has helped this breed so much. Almost Home Foundation, our animal rescue in Elk Grove Village, IL, has a number of pitties that are so sweet and mellow. The lovely Flower Bell even walked in a fund-raising fashion show this past weeked–that girl has the loveliest smile!

    So in a twisted way, thanks Michael Vick.

  • Pridefield

    YEEEEHAAAA You go guys and gals. The biggest VICTORY is that purple collar. I’m so happy for all the Victory dogs. 

  • Leonard-p

    I am happy to hear that these dogs are in a safe place and enjoying life.  I love the story of the women reading to the dog outside of the run until the day she got her purple collar.  What a great story.  I hope they all get adopted and live a great life with a happy family!

  • This makes me HAPPY!

  • Farmerfred7

    This is absolutely AWESOME!!!!!!   Thanks Best Friends for all that you do on behalf of the animals!!!!!!!!

  • NStarr

    This is why I love you Best Friends!!  Kudos on a job well-done!

  • Anonymous

    Which ones were given purple collars?

  • Sandraann827

    How wonderful!!!!  Can’t wait to hear their adoption stories!!!  Love following these dogs.  Did a speech in a Toastmasters club on Dogtown and the Vicktory Dogs and got a lot of people thinking about the way they look at animals!

  • Bravo! Can’t wait to see them in person … they are so AMAZING

  • Anonymous

    Great blog and thanks again for reminding the world about the amazing miracle story of the Vicktory dogs.  Truly great people with compassion and integrity and amazingly resilient dogs who still love people after what they went through.  A story that is full of hope and also reminds people how important it is to stop dog fighting as much as possible so that one less dog can be spared the hell they would experience in a dog fighting ring.  The Vicktory dogs are proof positive that all dogs are individuals and there is no one bad dog and how important having a knowledgeable, compassionate and responsible dog owner is in the life of any dog. Thanks again to Best Friends and all the other people who helped these amazing dogs and of course, thanks to the dogs, for just being a dog and all the wonderful unconditional love and resiliency that goes along with being a dog.