Best Friends Blog

The continuing upside of the Michael Vick dogfighting bust

It’s a landmark day for dogs in the state of Delaware.

Today, the governor of Delaware signed into law a bill spearheaded by Best Friends that will ensure that in future, any dog seized in a dogfighting ring bust in Delaware will be evaluated as an individual and afforded the opportunity of rehabilitation and adoption rather than face an automatic death sentence.

We’d like to offer an enormous “thank you” to Representative Earl Jaques and State Senator Karen Peterson for their roles in passing this lifesaving legislation.

But there are also quite a few dogs we have to thank. In particular, the Vicktory dogs.

You may already know the story of the fighting ring bust that took place on Michael Vick’s property in April 2007. But what you may not know is that protocols at the time called for any dog rescued from a dogfighting ring to be killed because they were deemed dangerous by birth and by definition. Even though the vast majority of the dogs trapped in those rings never qualified as fighters and were, for the most part, frightened and abused victims.

Best Friends led a chorus of opposition to the “kill them all” policy that was about to claim the lives of the 49 pit bull terriers and pit mixes seized from Vick’s property. The general public, local grassroots organizations and pit bull rescue groups joined us in a clear statement that these dogs should not be re-victimized by the state after being so badly abused. And we were heard.

After the dogs were evaluated individually, only one was euthanized for aggression. Twenty-two of the most traumatized came to Best Friends for rehabilitation or permanent sanctuary and the rest were released to rescue organizations for eventual adoption to the public.

The Vicktory dogs, as the contingent that came to Best Friends was dubbed, became celebrities of sorts as their progress was documented on the National Geographic Channel’s “DogTown” series filmed at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Toothless and scarred Georgia, one of the dogs who was too cute for words, was a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show as well as Larry King Live.

Beyond the celebrity, though, the Vick dogs were — and today continue to be — champions for every dog trapped in dogfighting misery who finally gets rescued, only to face the bitter irony of a policy that deems them deserving only death. Because of their example, that policy is changing and we celebrate Delaware’s progressive stance on this issue.

Together, we will Save Them All.


Gregory Castle
Best Friends Animal Society

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  • June Stephens

    I enjoyed the TV show Dogtown, too and missed it when it was discontinued. I hope that it will be picked up again at Best Friends.

  • Marilyn

    SO happy to know that these dogs emerged victorious against all odds. Thank you to Best Friends and all the people who worked hard to change laws, change minds, rehabilitate and adopt these precious dogs. I

  • Excellent news and work from our friends and advocates at Best Friends. This 21h Century Witch Hunt known as BSL, endorsed and enacted by ignorant politicians must end and every action counts.


    Thank you DELAWARE. Now 49 more to go! We also have to stop puppy mills and make sure the owners get punished!! SEVERELY PUNISHED. GOD BLESS ALL FUR BABIES….they deserve FUREVER homes! Punish the dog fighter ring people too! SEVERELY

  • littlebee81

    This is so cool. Too bad Georgia never lived to see all this. She was my fave out of all the rescued Vick dogs. RIP sweet girl.

  • Thank you all SO MUCH! Your work on behalf of fighting dogs everywhere. I have loved following the Vicktory dogs 🙂

  • Judy Nolan

    Best you and all of Best Friends! You allow all of us the redeem the human race for those few who are less than human(e).

  • rkgnewyork

    GO, DELAWARE!!! So many thanks.

  • Julie

    Wasn’t there also a judge involved in the Viktory Dogs case who made the decision that these dogs would go to Best Friends and other rehabilitators instead of being euthanized? If my memory is correct, he also deserves many thanks for believing in them and you all.

  • Marina Martyniuk

    The Insurance Companies also make it difficult to place certain breeds as they practice breed discrimination and should not be allowed to do so.

  • PSC1974

    About a year ago, a foster dog I transported to the states over 10 years earlier for double hip and knee surgery, died of age-related disease (cancer). His adoptive family had a little girl pittie who had been a bait dog. The two dogs were inseparable. It’s unconscionable that this girl would have been killed just because she was taken from a dog fight situation, even though she was just thrown in the pit to give the fighters practice. She died a couple of years earlier and I’m sure both of them are very happy together once again. Thank you for the work you do.

  • miss

    I went to this place it is great. the kitty houses were the best

  • kim

    Kno matter what vick said i looked in his eyes he has no soul, theres nothing there. Only sorry he got busted. Once a dog killer always a killer. Hes evil rthrough & through!!!

  • Teresa Vecere

    The human scum who fight the poor dogs – and use dogs and other helpless animals as “bait” – should be killed – not the dogs.
    As usual, the perps have more rights than the victims. If these creeps knew that THEY would face a death penalty if they were caught fighting (torturing) animals, I bet the problem would be all but non-existent.

  • Sara m Murabito

    Is Denzel still alive?

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Sara,

      Yes, Denzel is still with us at the Sanctuary.

      Thanks for all that you do for homeless pets!

      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

  • Phillip Coker

    It is good to see continued police activity towards breaking up these dog fighting rings. But, are the animals really better off afterwards? Many cities, neighborhoods, and housing complexes have regulations against owning many of the more prevalent dog fighting breeds (pitbull, mastiff, rottwieler, etc). Also, the ASPCA and many other shelters put down many of these dogs because of the adoption difficulty and behavioral issues. So my question to ya’ll is….are the animals better off after the ring is shut down. Either way they suffer and in many cases die…in both scenarios.

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Phillip,

      Thanks for your note. We would argue that most certainly these dogs are better off after being rescued from dog fighting rings. Just ask any of the adopted Vicktory dogs (and their families), now living in loving homes. All this legislation does is provide each victim of cruelty the opportunity to be evaluated individually as a dog and not automatically handed a death sentence – something we wholeheartedly believe in.

      Additionally, we invite you to read about our Pit Bull Terriers Initiative, which aims to fight breed discrimination and breed-discriminatory legislation throughout the country:

      Thanks for all that you do for homeless pets.

      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

    • miss

      not if they go to Best Friends who treats them like family until they are re homed. even then the new homes are carefully screened. it is this kind of roll model that will hopefully reeducated the public



  • Tina Clark

    This is wonderful news!

  • Marleen Oetzel Lnf Dogs

    Being an animal lover/rescuer/advocate may I point out that while the dogs certainly deserve a chance — does that mean they will be shipped off & your expense since you have an endless supply of donations & land to house animals long term?

    • jondunn

      Wow, Marleen, not sure where to begin.

      Nobody is suggesting that every dog from a fight bust can or should be saved, but having a law that dictates none of them CAN be saved is totally wrong. Do you think it’s OK for a litter of puppies to be automatically killed, when a qualified rescue organization with the space steps up to save them? That’s what this law will allow. It doesn’t mandate that same litter of puppies to be forced on to a rescue that doesn’t have the space or ability to care for them.

      Dogs from these cases, as we’ve seen not just with the Vick dogs but with dogs from other cases too, are often fantastic dogs that deserve a chance.

      There were some very big steps forward for DE yesterday, beyond the signing of SB245. Here’s a good article that recaps some of the other big wins for the animals.

      This is cause to celebrate. I hope you’ll join us.

      Jon Dunn
      Senior Manager of Policy
      Best Friends Animal Society

      • Nelson’s mom

        I do donate to Best Friends and to Hearts United and also to local rescues. I agree with Marlene. While I support BF and Applaud Deleware for taking a step in the right direction… I know once the limelight is out, so then are the chances for the dogs in these smaller rescue organizations.

      • Nelson’s mom

        I do donate to Best Friends and to Hearts United and also to local rescues. I agree with Marlene. While I support BF and Applaud Deleware for taking a step in the right direction… I know once the limelight is out, so then are the chances for the dogs in these smaller rescue organizations.

  • gayle collier

    What happened to the TV show Dogtown that followed the Vick dogs? They followed many other dogs also, but it was on when that Vick deal happened. It was a GREAT program!

    • Lola

      I loved that show, too!!! It’s where I first learned about Cherry, and he has his own FB page, he’s come so far & love to see his updates….wish they would do an update….

    • MelissaLMiller

      Hi Gayle,

      National Geographic Channel, our partner in that program and the channel who both owned and broadcasted the show, discontinued it a few years ago. It was a wonderful experience for Best Friends and we appreciated opportunity to spread our message to a television audience. We are always investigating other opportunities to showcase our work and the animals here at the Sanctuary, but perhaps you can continue to catch some re-runs every now and then in the meantime.

      Thanks for your support and for all that you do for homeless pets!

      Melissa Miller
      New Media Coordinator

      • Sue Wilson

        I really miss that show!!