Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Book Review: The Lost Dogs

September 2010:
(published October 5, 2010)

The Lost Dogs:
Michael Vick's dogs and their tale of rescue & redemption
by Jim Gorant
Gotham Books (375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014), 2010.
287 pages, hardcover. $26.00.

The Lost Dogs, like a Three Stooges film, should open with the warning, "Don't try this at home, kids."

Yes, the American SPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, and several other partner organizations were able to avoid euthanizing 47 of the 51 pit bull terriers who were confiscated from football star and dogfighter Michael Vick in April 2007. About two-thirds of the dogs were eventually placed in homes; the rest remain in sanctuary care.

But, contrary to hype, this does not mean anyone has achieved magical advances in handling authentic fighting pit bulls. Little was done that might be within the means of local animal shelters. Much as the chairs that the Three Stooges smashed over each other's heads were made of balsa wood, most of the Vick dogs were not elite fighting stock. Most were barely more than puppies. The one dog who was a confirmed fighting champion was euthanized.

"Breeding no doubt plays a role in dog behavior," admis Lost Dogs author Jim Gorant. "There are border collies who are better at herding and retrievers who are better at retrieving because they have been carefully selected to perform that task over time. By the same logic there are pit bulls--so-called game-bred dogs--who are more inclined to fight and are potentially better at it than others. The Bad Newz crew, it seemed, had not been willing or wise enough to spend the thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars more it cost to buy dogs from elite lineages."

Vick and associates had ordinary pit bulls, not confirmed killers. The ASPCA and Best Friends, meanwhile, are among the wealthiest and best staffed humane societies in the world. They collected $1 million from Vick as part of a court settlement, and enjoyed national publicity that afforded them the pick of thousands of prospective foster caregivers and adopters.

More than 80% of the animal shelters in the U.S. have less funding per year for all of their programs combined than was invested in the Vick dogs. Probably fewer than 5% have as many volunteer and adoption applicants per year.

Understates Gorant, "Because there might be resources available to support them, it could be possible to save dogs who would otherwise probably not make the cut."

The success--so far--of the effort to save the Vick dogs has escalated the pressure on shelters to save every dog. The ASPCA itself felt the heat after euthanizing a pit bull named Oreo who recovered from physical injuries after being thrown off a rooftop, but proved excessively reactive.

Any of the Vick dogs may yet crack under stress. The odds are against it, but each year about one pit bull in 100,000 kills someone, compared with one dog of other breeds in about 10 million. About one adopted pit bull in 30,000 kills or disfigures someone after passing behavioral screening.

The ASPCA, Best Friends, their partners, and the Vick dogs themselves have all enjoyed a long run of good luck. But a more indicative case may be the disposition of more than 500 dogs who were seized from a fighting ring by the Humane Society of Missouri in October 2009. Through extraordinary effort, with more resources than most humane societies but still just a fraction of the resources available to the Vick dogs, the Humane Society of Missouri has also saved about two-thirds--and has had to euthanize more than one third.
--Merritt Clifton

craven coverage of "rehabilitated" fight bust dogs:

another less than stellar book review compliments of Mark Caro and the Washington Post.


Anonymous said...

Clifton, one of the few journalists willing to tell the truth and who hasn't been drinking the kool-aid. I wonder if he'd be willing to donate for spine grafts? I hear Lockwood has been in the market for one lately.

Anonymous said...

You're second sentence is not totally correct. Michael Vick is still a football star, but he was never a dogfighter. You need to check your source on that. He might have bank rolled his idiot friends and family but he never conditioned, showed, or gave aftercare to any of his dogs.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Anonymous said...

That's rich. A dog fighter shows up to call fighting dogs "showing dogs."

They are all around us, folks. They call themselves "show dog breeders" "pulling dog breeders" and all the rest, but they are game dog fighters!

Anonymous said...

The article doesn't mention that some dogs were killed by the so-called "rescuers" and "rehabbers."

One got hit by a car thanks to that tattooed idiot that made a propaganda "documentary" about pit bulls to try to make more money for himself. Brent something?

One died at Best Friends, didn't it?

And reports surfaced recently about the fake pit bull rescue (actually breeders) that took one of the Vick dogs, bred it, and then let it die due to neglect.

Also Best Friends didn't just cash in directly from Vick, they illegally and against the judge's orders used the Vick dogs to make more money and fundraise, including selling merchandise whose proceeds went to the private company that the founders own that takes in the cash from merchandise sales for their own personal use.

Best Friends also refused to take pit bulls from their own state while they were busy using the Vick dogs illegally to make money

Bad Rap also illegally used the dogs for fundraising to line their wallets

A lot of "rescue" people made a lot of money off the Vick dogs telling a lot of lies, just like the dog fighters make money off their activities.

That's what pit bull "rescue" has become, just another get-rich offshoot from dog fighting that supports it. These "rescuers" are just selling off fighting dogs using emotion, and propping up dog fighting and breeding.

Then these dogs just disappear into the vapors.

scratch said...

Anon 5:14

Read the transcripts, Vick participated, owned the dogs and the property they were kept on, bankrolled the enterprise, and personally participated in killing dogs considered unworthy. One might consider that "aftercare."

Dude I Bagged Ur Pit said...

@ Anon 5:14
"Hudson said evidence, including statements by the co-defendants, showed Vick was more directly involved than he admitted. Hudson also mentioned that Vick had been deceptive on a polygraph test. Though that evidence was not admissible in court, the results were discussed.

"He did more than fund it," prosecutor Michael Gill said, referring to the "Bad Newz Kennels" dogfighting operation. "He was in this thing up to his neck with the other defendants."

The judge agreed."

And there you have it. Vick's hands were as dirty as anyone’s. Vick lost credit in sentencing because the judge felt he had not offered full disclosure and had not taken full responsibility. Regardless of whether evidence failed to place Vick in the ring or not, the fact that Vick was given more time than any co-defendants tells you everything you need to know. Claims that Vick played a lesser role was nothing but defensive legal maneuvering and a dodge of the facts.

Anonymous said...

There is no real way to know how successful the Vick dogs really are...they are cash cows for Bad Rap and Best Friends fundraising efforts, and there is far too much money at stake to admit failure...also, a lot of big egos involved. Remember, the two artists who run Bad Rap, Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer, make a combined $150,000.00 a year plus in salary and benefits running their "charity". They found a meal ticket in the Vick dogs, and have masterfully controlled the PR for them with carefully orchestrated photo ops and appearances.

Do you really think anyone involved with these dogs would report it if one of them growled and lunged at another dog while out on a walk? Do you really think Donna Reynolds would ever admit, that, yeah, she is not quite the dog expert she claims to be, and that she was wrong about a particular dog being rehabilitated? All we see of these dogs are very carefully controlled press releases. Any failures or regression of the supposedly rehabilitated Vick dogs will be hidden from the public, because they are worth so much money to so many people....they are still being used as fundraising tools.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny how we never heard anything more of the "Vick beagles"? If you recall, Vick also had about 9 beagles who were also neglected, abused, and used as bait dogs. Amazingly, all 9 went quietly to a Virginia shelter and were put up for adoption. They didn't seem to need the extensive rehabilitation that the pit bulls did, huh? Why do you suppose the beagles have not been in the news? I guess no one could make any money off a story about the "Vick beagles".

We wouldn't want to draw too much attention to the fact that a beagle subjected to isolation, starvation, and abuse, is simply not as dangerous as a pit bull subjected to the same. It might make people question why the beagles didn't need huge amounts of cash, training, and rehabilitation to be considered safe pets.

Anonymous said...

If you needed just another piece of evidence that these "pit bull rescue" profiteers are just helping and backing up the game dog, fighting dog industry, then here's a gem

Oh and Deirdre Franklin works for the state of New Jersey. You NJ taxpayers are helping Deirdre help the dog fighters and the dog fighter breeders breed more dogs to abuse. Even if Deirdre doesn't care about the citizens (that support her ass) that pit bulls are attacking, you would think she wouldn't want to help the BREEDERS and dog fighters that are overbreeding these dogs and preying on them?!

Hell no! Deirdre uses them to promote herself.

Best Friends is in on this GAME too!

No one who even pretends to be interested in the humane treatment of pit bulls calls them "game dogs" or has anything whatsoever to do with the game dog, dog fighting crowd.

If the game doggers support you, then you are supporting the dog fighters in some way and helping them. And look at all the ways that Deidre Franklin is helping them!

Deirdre Franklin is helping them promote fighting dogs, fighting dog sales, fighting dog breeding, oppose regulation, and they love it!

Dirdre says she is working full time on this
"help the game doggers" project, so guess what? She's pulling money out of her "charity calendar sales" for herself.

What a bunch of scammers. And the pit nutters let themselves get cheated blind. is

Anonymous said...

"Any failures or regression of the supposedly rehabilitated Vick dogs will be hidden from the public, because they are worth so much money to so many people....they are still being used as fundraising tools."

You are right "on the money" so to speak!

I would be willing to bet that the "adopters" signed contracts with these scammer rescues that if there's a problem with the pit bull, they are to tell no one but the scammer rescue!

The adopters also have no idea that if one of these Vick pit bulls does hurt someone, and it leaks out, the Ledy VanKavages of the world will start blaming them!

We have heard from volunteers at Best Friends that these dogs are VERY aggressive, tried to bite, did bite at least one staff member, and try to kill other dogs.

The truth leaks out but only in very small amounts. Much gets hidden with the million dollar public relations net these organizations have thrown over this whole Vick dog scam.

Anonymous said...

A comment left on some posting about the death this past year of one of the Best Friends founders, Paul Eckhoff.

The article didn't mention that Best Friends has dumped, in the last year or so, at least 250 of the dogs they promised to care for eternally.

"This man, in reality, was simply a well funded "collector". The dogs at Best Friends are living in what I call an "Above Ground Cemetary". They have no owners, no point in life... they just survive so people can feel they are doing "good". These people took on the Vick pit bulls only because of the $18,000 that came with each dog... they put up 10 x 20 kennels with all that money and are so uneducated about the breed they think the dogs are suffering from "post traumatic stress disorder" because they play hard with their toys! Oiy Vey! Truth is, these guys founded BF after their weird church failed. This is a great way to make money. Again, when someone keeps more animals than they can give a meaningful life to, they are called "collectors". When someone with funding does it they are called "a sancuary". In the end, however, the dogs are still the ones that suffer"

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:13

It's sad that many people seem to give two shits about his other dogs... and I agree - I find it odd that you hear nothing more of them since being placed.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:00 PM

I couldn't agree more!
Although I don't want the news to make up any false stories on the dogs. I would not find it surprising if the owners and people were withholding some valuable information on how they're really acting.

Anonymous said...

The dog that Bad Rap keeps trotting out as an example of how wonderful the Vick dogs are is Johnny Justice. They keep crowing about how Johnny Justice "works with children", and many hint that he is actually working in schools. The reality is, Johnny Justice is a "therapy dog" with Paws for Tales, a program sponsored by the Pennsylvania Humane Society and SPCA. The group works with local libraries, NOT any school department.

Johnny Justices "handler" is a manager at a car dealership...not a professional dog handler or trainer. If you look at the video of Johnny on the Bad Rap blog visiting the group of kids, his handler uses treats to keep him completely focused on him and not the kids. He is not behaving the way a therapy dog should behave....totally relaxed and "bomb-proof, and able to focus and interact with kids without being plied with treats. Also, the still photo ops reveal that his handler is always VERY close, and holding his leash. These photo ops are a huge part of the continued fundraising campaign for Bad Rap. Remember, this is the same dog that appeared on Rachael Ray, and the audience was told NOT to clap or make any sudden noise!

It is unlikly that many of the parents of the children involved in these library programs know that their kids are being used as part of a pit bull PR campaign. Most parents I know would not want their children around a pit bull, especially an ex-fighting dog, under ANY circumstances. I am also sure that the city solicitors in the towns of participating libraries are unaware of these programs, because if they knew, thge liability of putting pit bulls, rehabilitated by amateurs, with kids, would be astronomical. While most humane organizations seem to have abandoned all pretense of caring about human safety, the municipal attorneys should be made aware of what is going on right under their noses.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

thanks for bringing up jonny justise. i completely with your observations on justice and the treats. i saw the pit bull PR stunt you were referring to last month and i forgot to blog about it.

Anonymous said...

Is Penisula Humane Society the one that adopted out the pit bull that killed a child and is now being sued?

Sould someone direct me to information about this, if you have it handy?

Anonymous said...

I have volunteered for youth organizations in my community for over a decade, and consider my self an advocate for children and education in my community. I also support my local humane society. Last year, a member of my School Committee asked if I could direct a reading teacher to any information regarding guided reading programs with therapy dogs. I gave her the contact info of a local group that certifies and bonds therapy animals, and cautioned her that she should ONLY deal with this group and no self-professed "dog experts" from any other organizations.

Ultimately, the program did not come to fruition..... I imagine it would be very difficult to get the school department attorney to support any program like this within a public school. The potential issues surrounding liability would be too great. And we are not even talking about pit bulls, we are talking about a legitimate organization which, from what I see on their website, does not use pit bulls for therapy work.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

i am sorry but i am not familiar with the fatal attack you are inquiring about.

Anonymous said...

One more comment....I find it deplorable that children are being used by these self-serving adults as props in their PR fundraising campaigns. As a youth volunteer in my community, I am required to have a CORI check (criminal background check) every few years. As a parent, I have to sign off on permission slips for every trip outside of school, even if it is only to a local library. I have no idea how the Penninsula Humane Society is able to legally expose children to a pit bull/ex-fighting dog without some sort of formal parental permission. They need to explain that the dog's owner/handler is a volunteer with no formal expertise in dogs, and that no one involved in this dogs "rehabilitation" has any formal credentials as a behaviorist. In fact, you won't find anyone with a Doctorate in Applied animal behavior willing to put their career on the line and state publicly that this dog is bomb proof and perfectly safe to have around children.

I am outraged by the fact that parents have been denied this information.....these people are deliberately witholding information regarding a potential threat to their children's health and safety. Let parents decide for themselves if they want a "Vick Dog" near their kids.

This is morally and ethically wrong, and probably illegal. These libraries need to be notified, as well as the city legal departments, as to what they are doing.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
scurrilous amateur blogger said...

there was a phd who was sued after the aggressive franknemauler that he was working with bit a man in the genitals.

Anonymous said...

Some good news:
Michael Vick Injures His Hold-a-Dog-Underwater-Until-It's-Dead Muscle

Anonymous said...

Well at least 2 journalists have the integrity to stand up to the pit bull machine.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a follow up on the the Beagles that Vick "raised" for baiting these Pit Bulls...Notice how they were quietly absorbed by the Beagle community?

Anonymous said...

Future predicted. Death, blood, and mayhem at Best Friends thanks to Vicktory pit bulls.

Are the reviewers of this junk book aware of this?

I wonder if other dogs have been killed at Best Friends by these pit bulls?

It looks like in this case the employees were going to go public about the insanity at Best Friends.

vintage said...

Update...Since the Vick Bust in April 2007, 136 Americans have been mauled to death by Pit Bulls. Another 220 or so mauling victims have been poured into Life-Flight helicopters.

Zero Americans have been killed by Beagles. Life-Flights are not associated with them either.

I am repeatedly told breed doesn't matter though!