Houston SPCA caring for dogs seized from filthy trailer

Owner says circling UFOs made the animals unhealthy

By ANITA HASSAN
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

Dec. 13, 2008, 8:56PM

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James Nielsen Chronicle

Dr. Dev Rajan, of the Houston SPCA, holds one of the terriers seized from a trailer in Fayette County earlier this month.

Houston SPCA veterinarian Roberta Westbrook lifted a trembling toy English fox terrier into her arms Saturday afternoon to examine the dog’s emaciated body.

The spine and ribs of the malnourished terrier were visible. The dog’s nails were overgrown and her tiny paws were soiled from living in her own feces. The dog was among 42 terriers brought to the Houston SPCA Friday from the Gardenia E. Janssen Animal Shelter in Fayette County.

Authorities in Fayette County seized the dogs on Dec. 3, after they were found living in a 5-by-9 foot trailer — eating, sleeping and giving birth in their own waste — with a woman who claimed the terriers were unhealthy because UFOs were circling above her home, said Houston SPCA spokeswoman Meera Nandlal.

“We don’t know if she was breeding them or why she was living with them in such a small space, ” Nandlal said.

Authorities in Fayette County could not be reached for comment on Saturday. It is unknown at this time if any charges will be brought against the woman.

The animal shelter enlisted the Houston SPCA’s help to house and care for the 40 dogs, some of whom are as old as 10. The terrier Westbrook was examining gave birth to two female puppies since she was removed from the trailer.

Most of the dogs are in poor physical condition. Two of them are missing limbs for unknown reasons.

“They could be purebred, but not the best standard,” Westbrook said.

All the dogs will undergo medical and behavioral evaluations. After being cleaned and treated, healthy dogs will be put up for adoption, Westbrook said, adding that those who need more time to recover will be placed in foster care.

The Houston SPCA often sees many large animal seizures, Nandlal said. Recently, the organization took in 70 feral cats.

“Unfortunately, it’s not unusual, ” she said. “There are all kinds of animals that are put into situations they have no control of.”

Vick, co-defendants found humor in killing of helpless dogs

Posted: Saturday November 22, 2008 12:27AM; Updated: Saturday November 22, 2008 12:35AM

Michael Vick’s roots in dogfighting can be traced back to ’99 while at Virginia Tech

Vick recently moved from Kansas to Virginia, the site of his state dogfighting trial

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Michael Vick is currently serving a 23-month prison sentence for pleading guilty to two felony charges of dogfighting.
Courtesy of Getty Images

ICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Michael Vick put family pets in rings with pit bulls and thought it was funny watching the trained killers injure or kill the helpless dogs, a witness told federal investigators during the dogfighting investigation that brought Vick down.

In a 17-page report filed Aug. 28, 2008, by case agent James Knorr of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and released Friday under the Freedom of Information Act, a person identified as confidential witness No. 1 said Vick placed pets in the ring against pit bulls owned by “Bad Newz Kennels” at least twice and watched as the pit bulls “caused major injuries.”

The witness said Vick and co-defendants Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips “thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs.”

Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison in Dec. 2007, and is due to be released from the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan., on July 20, 2009. He returned to Virginia on Thursday and is being held in Hopewell pending his appearance in Surry County Circuit Court on Tuesday, where he is expected to plead guilty to two felony charges but receive a suspended sentence.

The report, which has some names and other information redacted to protect some of the parties involved, also details the killing of several dogs at property Vick owned on Moonlight Road in Surry County in mid-April 2007, just days before the first search warrant was executed on the property, turning a drug investigation into the one that sent Vick to prison.

It says Vick was administered a polygraph test by the FBI in October 2007 and denied taking part in the killing of dogs in mid-April. When told he had failed that part of the test, Vick recanted his story and admitted to helping hang six to eight underperforming dogs.

The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, once the highest paid player in the NFL, has been suspended indefinitely by the league and his football future is uncertain. He’s also in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings with $16 million in assets and $20.4 million in liabilities.

Peace, who also was convicted in the case, said there were times he suggested that dogs unwilling to fight be given away, but that Vick said “they got to go,” meaning be killed.

The dogs were killed by shooting, hanging, electrocution and drowning, and in at least one instance, according to one of the witnesses, when Vick and Phillips killed a red pit bull by “slamming it to the ground several times before it died, breaking the dog’s back or neck.”

When he finally admitted to his role in the dogfighting operation, Vick also said he purchased his first pull bull, named “Champagne,” while a student at Virginia Tech in 1999. The dog was never used in fights, but was bred with other dogs, according to the report.

Champagne was among the 53 pit bulls seized from the home in a raid in April 2007.

Vick dogs featured on wine labels

Vicktory Dogs Wine Collection features portraits of 22 dogs confiscated

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Georgia, Handsome Dan, Curly and other pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation are getting a shot at fame as stars of a line of boutique red wines.

The Vicktory Dogs Wine Collection features colorful portraits of 22 dogs confiscated from Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels that now live at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah.

Enlarge this image

Dog Lovers Wine Club

Ellen is one of the pit bulls featured on the label for the Vicktory Dogs Wine Collection. Artist Cyrus Mejia painted the colorful portraits of 22 dogs confiscated from Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels.

• Bottles can be purchased through the Dog Lovers Wine Club

PHOTOS
See the paintings
Vick’s dogs find hope in Utah
Starting a new life

“As a signature collection, it’s through the roof,” said Matt Hahn, co-owner of Carivintas Winery, a Southern California company that combines wine selling and philanthropy.

Each bottle includes a portrait of one of the dogs on the label. On the back, instead of a description of the wine, there’s a brief story about each four-legged friend.

The pit bulls have been living at Best Friends since January while handlers try to reverse the mental damage done at Vick’s 15-acre estate in southeastern Virginia. Vick, a former NFL quarterback, is serving a two-year prison sentence in connection with the dogfighting operation.

Artist Cyrus Mejia, one of the founders of Best Friends, began painting the dogs after they arrived at the sanctuary. Gone in the portraits are any signs of snarling beasts fit for a fight ring. Instead, there are cocked heads, soulful eyes and floppy ears.

“I think he’s been able to capture the real personalities of each of the dogs,” said John Polis, a Best Friends spokesman.

Hahn and his small winery based in Buellton, Calif., jumped at the chance to use the portraits in creating the Vicktory Dogs collection. He said the goal was to show the dogs in a positive light.

Television viewers have come to know many of the dogs through the National Geographic Channel show “DogTown: Saving the Michael Vick Dogs,” which chronicles their life after being rescued.

“Everybody has their favorite and people are buying for different reasons,” Hahn said. “Some people will drink the wine, some will never open the bottle.”

The entire set, including 22 bottles and two others commemorating Best Friends’ 25th anniversary, costs $672. The set can also be split and each half sells for $380. Individual bottles go for $40.

Ten percent of each sale goes to Best Friends. The money will be used to oppose dog fighting around the country and to fight laws that target specific dog breeds, Polis said.

Hahn is also hoping the wines, which went on sale last month, are a starting point for people to talk about dogs and protecting animals.

“We really use these things as a way to push the discussion further,” Hahn said.