Best Friends Blog

A matter of fairness and justice

How long will the injustice of punishing the victims of the crime of dogfighting continue? How does it make any sense to rescue dogs from the tortuous abuse of a dogfighting operation only to turn around and kill them? Yet that is exactly what a new ordinance proposed in Orange County, California, would mandate.

Until the very high-profile Michael Vick case, the canine victims of operations such as his Bad Newz Kennels were not delivered to safe haven. Rather, they were automatically declared to be dangerous dogs and killed en masse. They would be rescued only to be killed. The crime and cruelty of dogfighting was compounded by the cruel injustice of killing the victims. At the time, it was also the recommended policy of two of the nation’s most prominent animal organizations.

Dogfighting is a crime. It is a repugnant activity with identifiable victims, who, under other circumstances would be household pets – a family’s happy, tail-wagging, face-licking best friends. Depriving these animals of that type of life and replacing it with pain and suffering in the fighting ring is a grave injustice and violates our sense of fairness. The public is rightly outraged when a dogfighting ring is busted, and no tears are shed if the perpetrator gets the book thrown at them – all too rare an occurrence.

However, there is no more of a sense of justice or fairness in turning around and killing the dogs rescued from such circumstances than there would be in prosecuting and killing child soldiers rescued from a warlord’s militia. Dogs, like people, are individuals with individual personalities and behavioral profiles – a fact that was made clear by the remarkable rehabilitation of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring.

Best Friends Animal Society took on the responsibility of providing sanctuary and rehabilitation for the 22 most challenging of the Vicktory dogs as the group came to be known. Twenty-five other pit-bull-type dogs sprung from Bad Newz Kennels who were deemed ready for adoption to the public went to an assortment of pit bull rescue organizations.

The Vick case was a game changer. His fame and celebrity status – he had an electric style of play and was the highest paid player in the NFL – made the whole case, including the dogs, front-page news. Normally, the dogs would have just been killed behind the scenes and with little notice, but there was nothing normal about the Vick case, and public pressure combined with common sense persuaded the federal prosecutors to give the dogs a chance.

While a few of the Vick dogs were indeed so damaged and traumatized by their experience under Vick’s crew that they will have to live out their lives in a controlled environment at Best Friends, the overwhelming majority of them have gone on to rich and fulfilling lives as pets and companions. They include therapy dogs who bring comfort to hospital patients while several others are now celebrities in their own right and act as ambassadors for the breed while making the case for other canine victims of dogfighting rings.

The blossoming of these dogs has been so persuasive that, to their credit, one of the national organizations that were calling for their demise when Vick was busted in 2007 have done a 180 and now advocate for the individual assessment of all fight ring victims.

I am proud of the groundbreaking work that Best Friends accomplished with the Vick dogs as the standard bearers of a new and enlightened relationship to canine victims of cruelty.

The glaring question remains, though, as to why those in positions of responsibility in a community such as Orange County, California, would opt for the dumbed-down, discredited approach to public safety that calls for the killing of any dog rescued from a dogfighting ring.

It is not fair, it is not just, and it is not necessary.

If you live in Orange County, California, please make your voice heard. Click here to send a message to your Board of Supervisors.

Francis Battista
Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Carolyn McDaniel

    I live in Atchison Kansas the very same town that Micheal Vick was from. My pitty mix baby was shot the other day by two police officers who were chasing her with rifles because she dug out of our fence in the backyard. Our dogs have been raised as loving pets and lived all their lives in our home. They are spoiled and watched over all the time. Our dogs have NEVER bitten anyone even when she was being hunted down to kill her. I need to speak to someone who knows an attorney as even after they unnecessarily shot and killed my baby (2 shots) now they are trying to charge me with having Vicious dogs. This is absurd and absolutely ridiculous and we have tons of people who can attest to the fact they aren’t nor were every considered vicious. Please visit our awareness page for my info and a photo . We would like to at least see some sort of good come out of a tragic and unnecessary situation in which our beloved and cherished family member was mortally wounded simply due to her supposed breed. We would like to have Kansas laws reviewed to include provisions for rights for dog owners to NOT have their family members killed due simply to false perceptions and or beliefs about their breed. This is a tragedy that could have been avoided if someone would have only used a little common sense and not brute and deadly force unnecessarily. They have caused so much pain and suffering to our family and friends and those of our dog family and now are continuing it by attempting to press charges that are completely unfounded and cannot be proven. Laws are suppose to protect ALL the people not just SOME of the people. Please visit our page for more info: Thank you so much. I look forward to speaking with you.

    Carolyn McDaniel

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Carolyn,

      We’re very sorry to hear that – it certainly sounds like a heartbreaking story. We’re unable to give legal advice, but would recommend reaching out to a local advocacy group and also consulting an attorney. Game Dog Guardian ( is an excellent local resource – they’re doing great things for safe and humane communities.

      Again, we’re so sorry to hear about this tragic situation.

      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

  • Marilyn

    is there a petition we can sign even if we’re not in orange county?

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Marilyn,

      There is no petition, but you’re welcome to contact Orange County Board of Supervisors and let them know what you think about the proposed legislation.

      Thanks for all you do for homeless pets!

      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

  • flufferton

    So is Best Friends offering a safe haven of last resort to all future dog fighting victims? Thanks from everyone, especially the dogs!

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi flufferton,

      What we’re suggesting is that each dog rescued from a cruelty situation like a dogfighting ring be given the opportunity to be evaluated as an individual – not lumped together and deemed “dangerous dogs” without so much as a behavior evaluation by a professional. As in past cases, we’ve seen that groups rally together to help save these victims of unspeakable cruelty.

      We hope this helps to clarify.

      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

  • Stop the killing NOW!

    That is like saying we should kill children who have been subject to abuse and torture, we should kill the victims of rape, etc. It makes no sense to kill the victims of any crime. They are victims and victims get help. I have a pit bull and he was chained in front of a crack house for the first 2 years of his life. He was beaten to a pulp every single day. Every time people drove by they expected to see him dead. He survived the beatings, starvation, living outside with no protection in NY during the winters. When he first came, if I reached for him, he would shake uncontrollably and pee on himself. Now he is great. He loves everyone and loves other dogs and cats.

    • lucascott

      Not really. These aren’t abused dogs in the sense of being hit etc. They have been trained to be aggressive. That is why cities etc are so scared of them, worry they can’t be untrained.

      To equate it to a human it would be like killing kids found in cults that promote violence. The kids have been brainwashed so they are a danger. So let’s kill them rather than spend time and money on them.

      Now I suppose if a true effort was made for like a year or more to rehabilate a dog and it wasn’t working ‘despite best efforts’ then, on a case by case basis, putting down the animal might be best. Better that than forcing them to live in a cage etc. But it needs to be shown that a true effort was made.

      What irks me is that they are making a blanket judgement that seems more about the costs than anything else


    These dogs “CAN” be good family pets!! I’ve only ever owned one pit bull. The only reason i took him in was he was severely abused.and forced to fight!! He was missing an ear, his jaw was dislocated, puncture wounds all over his body. I paid several thousands of dollars to save him. Now over the years I had many dogs however to this day , my pit bull “Boss” is the sweetest and most loving dog I’ve ever had!!!!!! I wouldn’t give him up for anything!!!!! You need more education reguarding this breed, ALL THEY NEED IS LOVE!!!! It is not the dogs, it’s the horrible people trying to make money off of them!!!!!

  • cliff

    People fear anything they don’t understand.

  • Corey Gal

    This political move will not solve any “problem” but opens the door and presents precedence for further BSL…

    Has anyone heard from Pasadena Humane on their position or why they aren’t offering community assistance programs for spay and neutering?

  • Dee Dee

    Are there no petitions we can sign & send? (And I thought living behind “The Orange Curtain” was bad for me!)

  • Terry

    I share my home with two beautiful dogs, one of which was rescued from a dog fighting operation. She is the sweetest, most gentle, most loving soul. How can anyone propose this? When will the cruelty to these animals stop? An individual assessment of a dog, that is not asking for the world. Give these dogs a chance. I know my life would not be as full or as happy, if my girl was not a part of it.

  • Kimberly Campbell-Marshall

    How does this bill make the rescuer’s any different than the dog fighter’s?? The innocent dogs will still end up dead!! Stupid stupid!!

  • 123tl78

    It is amazing after the high profile football player’s case that this still happens. But it does take room, money and people familiar with victims of dog fighting to help these dogs transition to a life as a pet. Obviously criminals, such as dog fighters put a burden on society when they commit crimes involving dogs who didn’t get to choose who owned them. The sooner they pass laws to seize the assets of the convicted dog fighter and anyone who attends dog fights and use that money to pay for the care of these victims, the better it will be for the victims of dog fighting. These dog fighters and those who attend make a lot of money off the suffering of these dogs. It’s the least they can do. Pay for the care of these dogs and for the resources needed to help these victims transition to a life as a pet. Not all can be saved but more can be saved if the resources are there. The victims of dog fighting shouldn’t have to pay with their lives because someone decided to make money off of the suffering of dogs.