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Vick’s Dogs in Sport Illustrated; Did They Deserve to Live?

The cover star is Sweet Jasmine, a pitbull rescued from Michael Vick's property.

The cover star is Sweet Jasmine, a pitbull rescued from Michael Vick’s property.

I don’t normally read Sports Illustrated but had to pick up the December 29, 2008 issue as the cover story was about the pitbulls rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels.

I’ve been debating the issue of Michael Vick’s case with a sportswriter whose book I represent. His argument is that Vick was the victim of the inherent racism in the media. I countered that there are certainly victims in Vick’s case, but According to another sportswriter, Robert Lipsyte, “Somewhere between Jackie Robinson and Michael Vick, things got all fouled up. ‘Street cred’ became the anthem of the modern black athlete, this misguided notion that the only way to appeal to the young demographic of the sneaker-buying public was to adopt the negative attitudes of the thug life popularized by black hip-hop/gangster rappers. Vick…got hijacked, and we all let it happen. We let it happen by passively condoning this mess.”

As quoted in SI article, Donna Reynolds, the executive director of BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls) said, “Vick showed the worst of us, our bloodlust, but this rescue showed the best. I don’t think any of us thought it was possible to save these dogs—the government, the rescuers, the regular people—but we surprised ourselves.”

The article raises a difficult question about whether pit bulls trained for fighting can, and should, be rehabilitated; SI‘s writer, Jim Gorant poses the question “Was it worth the time and effort to save these 47 dogs when millions languish in shelters?”

According to PETA spokesman Dan Shannon, “The cruelty they’ve suffered is such that they can’t lead what anyone who loves dogs would consider a normal life. We feel it’s better that they have their suffering ended once and for all.” The SI article notes that The Humane Society of the U.S. also took the position that Vick’s pit bulls, like all dogs saved from fight rings, were beyond rehabilitation and that trying to save them was a misappropriation of time and money.

Considering how many animals out there on the streets and in shelters are in need of good homes, it isn’t too hard to understand the position these groups take. But in reading about Sweet Jasmine, Zippy, Jonny Justice, Leo, Lucas and Sweet Pea, I couldn’t help feeling that these dogs deserved a chance at a better life than what Vick and his accomplices had planned for them as fighters tearing each other up in the ring or being used as bait for training.

Care to discuss your thoughts?


  1. Comment by

    happie kamper

    on #

    I would like to see Vic experience the same torture he put his dogs through.

  2. Comment by


    on #

    those dogs deserve to live and are beautiful and wonderful animals that are thriving now. yes, there are millions of animals languishing but to give up on the vick dogs would have been to give up on every dog that doesn’t have a home, love, is abused and neglected. why do they deserve less attention and care than any other dog in any shelter?

  3. Comment by


    on #

    PETA always sees things with the welfare of the animal first.
    In this case, they’re right again.

  4. Comment by


    on #

    I guess if you see a dog suffering on the street, you shouldn’t “waste” your time helping it, because there are so many animals already in shelters you could be helping?

  5. Comment by


    on #

    PETA was wrong. How much money and time is too much to save a life? Who gets to make that decision? There are lots of dogs in kennels, abusive situations and on the street that need homes and love, and this was an opportunity to do just that. If these were people it would be no question. Why is it okay to assume putting them down is a viable and compassionate option when time has shown that these dogs could be rehabilitated? With hindsight in place, i am surprised to hear anyone weighing in on the side of PETA.

  6. Comment by


    on #

    Alan. PETA rarely sees the interests of the animals whatsoever and has been in the forefront of putting down animals when so many no-kill options have been tried and demonstrated to work so effectively all over the nation. Killing is not humane.

    Why do you cite PETA and the HSUS, because they’re rich? Read Nathan Winograd’s works, PETA and the HSUS are some of the worst defenders of the rights of sheltered animals and constantly defend euthanasia when no-kill options work so effectively. It’s so easy to say irresponsible things like “The cruelty they’ve suffered is such that they can’t lead what anyone who loves dogs would consider a normal life.” There are homes for all the animals we have in shelters.

    You also consider a “difficult question about whether pit bulls trained for fighting can, and should, be rehabilitated” What’s so difficult about getting high-priced media lauded animals adopted out to the many homes available for these animals?

    We need to take a serious look at the defeatism that has become so popular and profitable in the HSUS and PETA which makes us think we have to put down animals.

  7. Comment by


    on #

    The dogs don’t present a danger to anybody, they have responsible families who love them, and the money used to heal them came from the abuser. What’s so wrong?

    PeTa should be ashamed of themselves. They don’t even want pit bulls rescued from shelters, so how can they say rescuers should focus on those dogs instead when they plainly explain that those dogs dead too?

  8. Comment by


    on #

    Regarding Vick and racism:

    Yes, I think racism played a role.I think the public’s reaction would have been different had he been white I think he was easier for some people to hate because he’s black.

    But no, his skin and his culture don’t excuse his cruel behavior.

    Regarding the dogs:

    They all deserve a second chance. Vick’s restitution rightfully went to help his victims.

    If PETA wants to save more shelter animals, they can cut some of the other campaigns to do that.

  9. Comment by


    on #

    the dogs will probably be fine with people, but i’d be pretty wary about them around other dogs. i don’t know how they’d react around other animals. so they could be happy living with remote families. from the cold calculus of purely logical objective reasoning, of course peta is right; there are so many immediately adoptable problem-free dogs being put to death every day that rehabilitating a problem dog is pretty wasteful. but people aren’t driven by logic.

  10. Comment by

    Laura Leslie

    on #

    If, with the same amount of money, you had to choose between saving one dog or saving one hundred dogs, surely you should save the one hundred at the cost of the one?

    Resources are not unlimited. Then again, the media attention given to this particular situation probably makes it an exception–no one would be paying attention at all if it weren’t for the fame of the abuser.

  11. Comment by


    on #

    These dogs were just as deserving as any other shelter dog to be saved and worked with. Many of the dogs went to an organization called Best Friends out in Utah that was able to work with them. Best Friends does not give up on or euthanize any animal no matter what kid of behavior problem they might have. They were able to rehabilitate the dogs and have the space and resources to do so. There is a show about Best Friends called Dogtown & they had an entire episode devoted to these Vick dogs. PETA was dead wrong in this case, and they have also butted horns with Best Friends when they have unnecessarily euthanized “problem” animals themselves. As someone who volunteers as an adoption counselor at a no-kill shelter, I have been able to successfully find homes for “unadoptable dogs,” including pit bulls who have suffered abuse and neglect and might be considered “dangerous” by some.

  12. Comment by


    on #

    “If, with the same amount of money, you had to choose between saving one dog or saving one hundred dogs, surely you should save the one hundred at the cost of the one?”

    But that’s never the actual choice.
    Every time someone kills a dog, they made a choice to kill a dog.

    “We have limited resources” is a problem with ALL issues, not just animal issues. KILLING isn’t the solution. Never has been and never will be.

    Imagine if the human homeless shelters starting putting people to sleep when they ran out of beds. Imagine if we came to Darfur to “rescue” people and then euthanized them. Imagine if we removed abused children from abusive households and then just killed them.
    It doesn’t make sense.

    Stop trying to justify the past and start working towards the future. The future of animal rights depends on creative humans finding ETHICAL creative solutions. We can’t just kill them whenever the money runs out – the money ALWAYS runs out. The problems are ALWAYS larger than the resources.

  13. Comment by


    on #

    Everytime Peta and HSUS make these kinds of comments, it makes me like them less and less. EVERY animal is worth saving, as is human lives. These dogs suffered horrible circumstances at the hands of an abuser and deserve to now live a good life. The fact that they were able to rehabilitate these pit bulls is further proof that pit bulls are not “villains” and in fact, amazing dogs. I am so sick of people villainizing pit bulls!

  14. Comment by


    on #

    No Kill Shelters do not have high stats of working effectively. And if these dogs were not owned by a celebrity they would be treated as any other dog in any shelter. These dogs were lucky that big hearted-oblivious people adopted them because of the media coverage of this case. All animals deserve to live and all animals do not deserve to live in miserable conditions, even at no kill shelters. There are very few No Kill Shelters that actually take adequate care of their animals. And it is virtually impossible to get people to save all animals in crisis. All animals deserve equal compassion-famous or not. Dogs-especially abused dogs-are less self-sufficient than humans when on the streets and will suffer a death much worse (on the street) than any euthanasia from a shelter.

  15. Comment by


    on #

    I agree with Elaine. Resources are limited. That’s always true. But killing an animal that has already had a tortured life – has never known kindness – is terrible. The dogs deserve a chance at a better life. And if these dogs had Vick’s money to take care of them, then why the heck not save them and rehabilitate? It’s not even a question of animal orgs putting in their dollars.

    In general, when the funds aren’t there, that’s harder. About half of animals (even adoptable) are killed, so what chance does a dog with a history of fighting have? Not much. If only all people who had dog fighting operations were forced to pay for the treatment of the animals. Wouldn’t that be sweet.

  16. Comment by


    on #

    no one in the AR community wants to see dogs ‘euthanized’. Unfortunately, since the supply of homeless dogs vastly exceeds the demand for adoption, the only alternative to killing dogs is warehousing them in kennels for the rest of their lives (a most cruel and unpleasant existence). I volunteered at a kill shelter and it was depressing as hell, 90% of the dogs they ‘put down’ were pits, some very aggressive, some sweet. If they were not putting down the dogs that were not getting adopted they would have literally had to set dogs loose on the street or turn potentially adoptable dogs away at the door.

    If you’re criticizing shelters that euthanize, first ask yourself how much of your disposable income you donated to your local animal shelter last year? Or better yet, how many animals have you adopted? Then ask yourself what the alternative to euthanizing is at this point in time? If you think like AJ.. in comment #6 that “There are homes for all the animals we have in shelters,” you are delusional and out of touch with the companion animal overpopulation crisis . There AREN’T available homes and that’s why animals are put down every day.

    PETA and HSUS are focusing on addressing the causes of the problem through spay/neuter education, encouraging adoption, and exposing dog breeders and puppy mills. If they spent their budgets on the lifetime care of unwanted shelter dogs and cats the problem will continue on forever. Industries (meat, fur, vivisection) that attack PETA on their euthanasia stance would love nothing more than to see PETA spend their entire budget on the lifetime sheltering/warehousing of unwanted cats and dogs. The animal exploitation status quo would thereby remain unchanged.

  17. Comment by


    on #

    i love the work that PETA does. in my own communication with them regarding whether or not an injured animal who has been in a difficult life situation should be automatically euthanized or given a chance…they voted for euthanasia. i understand where they are coming from, but i couldn’t do it to an animal who was not diseased or dying.
    yeah, it’s REALLY hard to find homes though…..

  18. Comment by


    on #

    This PIG is Deranged. This NEANDERTHAl deliberately inflicted such physical pain to these poor dogs for his pleasure and gain that it is hard to comprehend. Who could think of such acts except a true monster. If you or I were to have done this we would have a police record and could not even get a job. Now he is back making millions!!!! How can this be? As I see it now, the scales are not synchronized and it is our fault people….. It is truely a sad day and time. GOD HELP US. Put him in a CAGE where he belongs and feed him can dog food for the rest of his life. Death would be to easy.

  19. Comment by


    on #

    Ummm..I am Very Surprised re: Peta’s reaction..and re: The Humane Society..I think they must have gone thru a real Transformation since this whole thing happened because I just received one of the many heartwarming story’s/video’s that they’ve sent to me since I became a supporter re: their rescue and rehab or pittbulls..this one was about the latest Missouri Pittbull Ring..and this poor pup who had her lips severed..horrific…after a fight and was just recently placed in a loving home…:) I Love Happy Endings..:) So They ARE Finally OnBoard! I Do Know that many of the larger Animal Organization were ALL Totally Misinformed about this breed (as well as Rotts) until more recently…and they were rarely given a chance when they were found abandoned or when they were brought into a pound..usually they were euthanized almost immediately..unless someone ‘in the know’ would intervene.It is such a shame that these Large Dog Breeds they have gone thru such hell and gotten such a bad rep…they cannot defend themselves…and it is all because of Michael Vick and his ‘kind’ or green…and how they have used and abused them…now these poor things are actually outlawed in some areas..and you actually need insurance to own them! I have seen petitions circulating on by families, children pleading to get their pittbulls or pitt mixes back..dogs they have rescued that wee taken from them for no reason other than their breed! It’s horrific! They are the sweetest things..I have lived with them..with my kitties too..and they got along purrfectly! Why?? Because this pitt baby was raised with love and respect!I have made it a crusade t educate people about this now..because I know Animal lovers that are ignorant about them too!! THAT is how TOXIC Michael Vick and his kind are!!!
    AFTER RECEIVING MY LATEST HUMANE SOCIETY NEWSLETTER TODAY..TELLING ME HOW I HELPED TO SAVE THIS POOR PITTBULL’S LIFE..WHO’S LIPS WERE SEVERED OFF BY HER OWNER AFTER THEY WERE SHREDDED DURING A FIGHT (one of the puppies saved during the last Missouri raid..Thank You and God Bless!) I will go to The End Of The Earth to Get this (M.Vick) Piece Of Trash Inhuman SOCIOPATH Removed from Society..and Believe me..if Anyone Can Get This Done..It’s Me..With All Your Help!! You can find me @ Facebook under Rachelle contact me PLEASE!& We Will get this done..
    TRUST ME..!
    We will start petitions on the site..we will use The Humane Society who backed Obama..we will then send all the Petitons and letters to the Press..because we KNOW the NFL HATES BAD PRESS!! we will do it thru Every INTERNET BLOG & SITE available..thru FaceBook……then we will get All These Petitions and letters sent to Obama’s office.and to Oprah and to All The Talk Shows..We Will Be Heard..The Only Place I Want To See This Vile Inhuman Thing..who is so obviously Not a True Sociopath..the ‘clawmarks on his pool and throwing his own pets in the ring’..I got chills…(what’s next? his kids..he should not even be allowed to reproduce or be a Parent as far as I am concerned and would probably have his children taken away if he was in another socio economic class!)the only place I would want to see him…other than in a pit with lions or bulls attacking him!! (sorry folks…this brings out the worst in me..)is on some street corner washing my windshield!
    looking forward to hearing from you soon!
    ‘committ random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty’
    Rachelle Weisel