Welcome to Pit bull New Mexico, updated every Wednesday & Saturday, comments and suggestions are encouraged.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Six of One, Half Dozen of Another.

Well, now that the buzz has worn-off, it is time to take another look at Vick's Dogs in SI, and the publicity this group of dogs has been given in general.

Based on this post's title, it's fair for the reader to assume that I find the situation to have both an up-side and a down-side, which is nearly always the case in life.

The up-side, of course, is that a major publication (Sports Illustrated) gave the cover story to pit bulls taken from a dogfighting operation; as well as the television show DogTown, which is based on the dogs that went to Best Friends.

Sadly, every year, hundreds of dogs in the US find themselves in a similar situation but do not get the attention or treatment that Vick's dogs have been shown.

For the most part, dogs involved in dog fighting cases are euthanized, and for many (although not always good) reasons - this is a topic that I'll address at length in the future.

This may be a direct result of several influences, namely:

state laws that call for the automatic euthanasia of any animal involved in an animal cruelty or animal fighting case. (Many times the animals are destroyed before the defendant has been found guilty),


the HSUS and PETA claiming that any dog from fighting bloodlines and/or fighting operations is a dangerous animal. This does not come with a call to evaluate the animals as individuals, only that the dogs be destroyed.

However, the media attention (surrounding Vick's dogs) is showing the world that pit bulls from fighting bloodlines and fighting operations can be absorbed into society.

All in all, I appreciate this aspect of how Vick's Dogs have been handled and concede that many of the results are priceless. I also understand that without the folks that are giving these dogs a chance much of the positive press would not be possible.

Now for what I perceive to be the down side of the situation.

First order of business is to let it be known that I have not put hands on ANY of the dogs that have come out of Vick's operation. Not one. The information that has caused me to see a downside in this situation, is 100% based on a television show and news media depictions...and yes, this practice has been ruin of many a young boy.

That said, I found it troubling that several of the descriptions in the SI issue told of nervous, shy dogs. Additionally, I was also bothered by some of what I saw while watching an episode of DogTown. At least one of the dogs was so stressed by (and scared of) the world that the default setting was to belly-crawl.

Think on it for a moment:

a dog so stressed and scared by the world that it is crawling on it's belly.

Yes, this dog was not raised as a pet. Yes, this dog has probably known very little human interaction in it's life. And yes, this dog was not likely to have been treated with any type of dignity before heading to Best Friend's.

Yes, this dog is terrified of the world.

My concerns are these:

promoting the idea that "saving" extremely shy and un-sound dogs is doing right by the dogs,


normalizing the practice of keeping un-sound animals alive for the sake of publicity and/or the emotional interests of the humans involved.

From the television show, and now the Sport's Illustrated write-up, it seems to me that some of the dogs taken from Vick's property may have been better served euthanized.

Not because they are pit bulls.

Not because they are pit bulls from a fighting operation.

Not because they are a danger to society.

But rather, because some of these dogs are likely to spend their entire lives stressed out by the most novel conditions, which is no way for any dog to live.

Certainly, the idea that a animal can be better served via euthanasia is probably going to be an un-popular perspective.

And in a world of "fur-kids" and "doggie-daycare", many dog owner's and animal lovers, when faced with difficult decisions concerning their animals, are likely to be more inclined to act upon emotion, and disregard reason.

It is no surprise, given Micheal Vick's notoriety and finances, especially when coupled with the recent popularity of "no-kill sanctuaries" and the adoption of "special needs dogs", that even the most un-sound dogs from Vick's property have been kept alive in spite of their obvious stressed existence.

I don't have an eternal axe to grind with Best Friends or BadRap; some of their stances fall in line with my own. And in fact, my blogs link to the Vick Dog Blog written by the folks that adopted Vick's dogs via BadRap.

My contention is putting one's emotions ahead of reason and compassion.

In closing, I recognize that many will strongly disagree with this post and for many reasons. Yet, I beg those that find my perspective to be heartless, ignorant or mean-spirited to ask themselves: is keeping stressed and mal-adjusted dogs alive in the best interest of the dogs?

(note - the dogs taken from Vick's operation have been sent to several organizations and not just BadRap and BestFreinds. The SI story has much of this infomation.)


  1. I don't think any of those dogs are currently in the state you mention of crawling on their belly (correct me if I'm wrong). I think most are now functioning rather nicely as dogs.

    Certainly dogs that come from traumatic situations tend to be more or less shut down when they first get into a more normal situation. But over time, the vast majority adapt rather well with time and training.

    I think it is one of the wonderful things about the canine species -- they're WONDERFULLY adaptable to whatever situation, even really crappy ones, we humans throw in front of them.

    With the number of dogs out there in shelters, it definitely isn't practical to take some of these harder cases and and spend the time necessary to rehabilitate them when that time could be spent finding dozens homes. However, I think the progress these dogs made is a wonderful testiment to the ability of these dogs to adapt, and the power of good nurturing in determining temperament (which also shows that the reverse is also true, that bad temperament is also largely driven by nurture).

    And if we can continue to make progress in the no-kill movement, soon we will be in a situation where we WILL be able to use the resources to rehab these dogs -- might as well have shelters in the mindset it can be done by the time we get there.

  2. Brent, you make fair arguments about the resiliency of dogs. Although, it seems that you may have more faith than I do in the "it's all in how you raise'em" mantra. Genetics are a hell of a thing, and I tend to believe a dog when they show me who they are.

    All in all, the point that I'm wanting to make with this post is that we're at a point in dog ownership where those that take in un-sound dogs (physically or mentally) are celebrated for their "compassion" and efforts; a message that is likely to keep a lot of un-sound dogs alive. And some of the images and descriptions that have come out of the press surrounding Vick's dogs carry this message.

    Could it be that the dogs (not just Vick's dogs but in general) are being done a dis-service because of this push to keep stressed/disfigured dogs alive?

    As for how Vick's dogs are doing today, honestly, I have no clue. I'm only privy to what makes it to the internet/press. That said, I have a strong suspicion that the politics of the whole ordeal may cloud how and what is being reported.

    Nonetheless, I try to promote these dog as mostly a good thing for positive pit bull press, and voice my concerns in a respectful manner.

    That said, regardless of how well this group of dogs have assimilated into their new lives (and believe me, I hope they're doing GREAT) the message that I take issue with is being broadcast in a big way.

  3. I guess I have more trust in the people who did the initial evaluations than you do. The dogs were initially evaluated based on their "soundness" and the believed ability to be rehabbed. I think that obviously unsound dogs should be put down, for their own good and the good of the general public. I know that "sound" is a very ambiguous term -- that would be different for every set of evaluators.

    That said, in the particular case you mention, I trust the judgment of the people who did the evaluations, and the success of the dogs (from the ones I know about) seems to back up that their judgment was right on. But I do confess that if the message isn't about "sound" dogs being rehabbed, I understand the dangers if less experienced/trustworthy people made the evaluatioins.

  4. I agree with Brent. Any dog abused in such horrific conditions deserves a chance, but if they're pit bulls they rarely get it. We like to romanticize that a "real" pit bull ("his courage is proverbial" as the AST standard reads) would never become so fearful and shy, but the truth is proving otherwise. Were/are they "unsound"? Certainly there was only one that was human aggressive; I think it's asking too much to expect dogs so badly abused not to show mental scars.

    Yes, it's only because of Vick's money that his dogs were able to be saved (Pat Patrick's similarly shy dogs were killed), and yes, I mistrust how Best Friends is exploiting them. But OTOH, the dogs are teaching THEM.. and the public.. some of the truth about the breed. It's a unique case. I do think we owe it to the dogs to let them become what they will become. You may be right, though, that we're not hearing about dogs that remain fearful or that are fear-aggressive as opposed to just shy. Certainly we're only hearing routinely about 20 or so of the dogs, not all 50.

  5. Brent, Emily, thanks for bringing your thoughtful and informed comments to my little corner of the blogosphere. I hope you're finding my comments as respectful and honest as I am finding yours.


100% of the profits are used to support RAAP programs

Why Pit bulls?

As I work to provide positive, rational, and balanced information about pit bulls, and the virtues of dogs in general, I am often (read: ALWAYS) asked why I am so taken by this breed of dog. It is a fair question that isn't always asked in a reasonable manner.

In short, I find many pit bulls to posses the qualities that I value in a canine companion: great with friendly people, loyal, goofy, energetic, athletic, intelligent, and willing. To be sure, the run-of-the-mill pit bull is a lot of dog. It is all of these qualities in a medium-sized dog that has me so taken by pit bulls.

Alas, there are many aspects of pit bull ownership that are less enjoyable. Namely, dealing with the many negative stereotypes, and the constant battle to balance the mis-information provided by the breed's detractors.
...thankfully, it only takes is a few minutes of lovin' from my doggies and I am reminded they're worth the effort.

I hope this blog gives others insight into my life with pit bulls, and most of all, provides information on the breed in general; there are a lot of misinformed generalizations about these dogs.

Please contact me with questions or comments pertaining to dogs, pit bulls, BSL, etc..

All the best,

Donovan McBee

And don't forget to visit my other blog, No BSL NM.

The HSUS attempted to fund raise for the care of Micheal Vick's dogs, while at the same time suggesting that the dogs needed to be killed.

And to add insult to injury, they weren't even planning on taking possesion of the dogs.

Contact the HSUS and tell them this is unacceptable!