Almost nine years ago that police raided the home of famed NFL quarterback Michael Vick with a search warrant for drugs. Instead of drugs to their surprise they found 51 pit bulls and massive amounts evidence of a large-scale dogfighting ring! Some people felt the dogs were a threat and wanted them to be put to sleep.
There were 51 dogs on Vick’s property, sadly two died shortly after the raid and one was humanely euthanized after being deemed “too emotionally and physically damaged” to save. The last 48 became the first dogs that survived the dogfighting ring, and fortunately they were given a chance at life after their rescue.
Darcy Dennett, is a filmmaker and tells their story in her latest documentary, ” The Champions.” Below are five ways some of the dogs have spent their lives since leaving Vick’s horrifying lifestyle.
The sick children love working with them.
Above is Jonny Justice, who is a former fighter who volunteers as a therapy Cris Cohen, his caretaker says he’s not just a distraction, he’s “a little kid magnet,” bringing smiles and laughter to those who need it most.
Just look at that face. They’ve been honored for their bravery.
Therapy dog Jonny Justice was named ASPCA’s Dog of the Year in 2014. He even has a plush toy modeled after him. The dog in the photo above is named Mel, and he received an edible key to the city of Dallas, Texas. Just a few weeks after another city councilperson awarded Vick, Mel’s abuser, with the same honor.
They have so much love to give.
Contrary to popular belief, pit bulls aren’t any more or less dangerous than any other breed of dog. When the 51 dogs were rescued from the Bad Newz Kennels on Vick’s property, a large share of the dogs were ready to enter foster homes right away. The remaining dogs were placed with rescue groups and sanctuaries, where most of them learned to live peacefully with families. Twenty-two dogs went to Best Friends Animal Society in Utah and several dogs joined BAD RAP rescue in California to receive love and have time to heal.
In the photo above, Cherry Garcia, one of the dogs rehabilitated by Best Friends, loves to cuddle and be with people. He now travels the country with his adopted family as a spokesperson for Best Friends. They became the first fighting dogs to be saved from death row.
If Michael Vick hadn’t been such a public figure, many of them would of ended up like so many before them have, died… Outspoken, public and advocacy groups let these dogs become the first survivors to continue their lives after a federal dogfighting trial.
They were rightfully scared, but they still had a spirit that wasn’t completely broken.
“I don’t know how she survived or why she survived, but she did,” one dog’s caregiver says at the start of the film. Occasionally, some of the dogs will be frightened by a loud noise from the kitchen or even the sight of stairs, but for the most part, these dogs have learned to love life again.
In “The Champions,” Dennett decided to not include any graphic footage, or images of fighting or abuse. Instead, the film focuses on the bravery, strength and resilience it took for the dogs to move on. “The Champions” is now available for download at Best Friends Animal Society and the documentary websites.
Watch the trailer below.
Click and share with your loved ones and fellow animal lovers!