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

photo
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.”

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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.

How to train your dog to fight

  • Make sure when initially picking out your puppy that you choose the one that picks you. It will come to you immediately with an open and friendly attitude-This is very important to make certain you have a strong connection with your potential champion.

  • Take your new puppy around strangers and other animals as much a possible, also allow people to pet your animal and animals to sniff it and become acquainted.      The more your puppy becomes familiar with others the better. This will prevent any potential distractions in the fighting ring.

  • Give your puppy plenty of toys to chew on to strengthen his jaws and teeth.

  • Play fetch with your animal as much as possible this gives him the chance to learn to follow directions from his master.

  • Never chain or cage, hit or scream at your animal, this makes the dog submissive and insecure, you want an ‘ALPHA’ that is confident and unafraid.

  • Never ever play aggressively with your dog he must never see you as an equal, you must always remain boss.

  • Show plenty of affection and give praise in abundance -this is another confidence/ego booster strategy.

  • Research your dog’s diet carefully proper nutrition and supplements are vital to keep your animal strong and at it’s fighting best. Take your dog on long walks to build muscle and give the him endurance he will require during combat

  • Finally after completing all of the above instruction your animal will be ready and trained and hopefully by this point you will have spent enough time with your pet and developed a bond and won’t want to see your dog mutilated!!!! You now have a best friend for life don’t kill that.

Saving the Michael Vick Dogs -must see t.v.

If you missed it last season, here’s your chance.                                                           Be sure to check out this show dedicated to the salvation of the pit bulls that were confiscated from our famous football fiend ‘Michael Vick’

Saving the Michael Vick Dogs

DogTown Dogtown

Returning This September

Saving the Michael Vick Dogs

Remind Me Friday September 5 9P

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Meet the residents of DogTown

DogTown at Best Friends animal sanctuary

DOGS FIND HOMES

Best Friends sanctuary is their last hope. Visit Site

DogTown veternarian Dr. Mike

VET TALK

What it’s like being a vet at DogTown.
Watch Video

NAT GEO NEWSLETTER

Remind Me Friday September 5 9P Friday September 5 8P Friday September 5 7P Friday September 5 9P Friday September 5 8P Friday September 5 6P Back to Series

Trainer’s Diary: Michael Vick Dogs Update

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary's DogTown from the National Geographic Channel show DogTown Dog’s name: Meryl

Trainer’s name: Ann Allums

Initial diagnosis: Fearful of strangers, Meryl may lash out when meeting a new person if not properly introduced.

Training program: First and most important, Meryl is only introduced to new people through people she already trusts so that she does not lash out.  Trainer John Garcia and I have worked rigorously on introducing Meryl to other trainers, so now a number of us have gained her trust. We show her that the people who take care of her won’t hurt her. Additionally, I always seek ways to give Meryl a full and rich life with adoptive owners one day, which begins with learning basic commands such as sit, stay and come, and then moving up to agility training.

Status: Meryl has met new people and has a variety of caregivers who can walk her, play with her and snuggle with her. We practice agility regularly and Meryl loves it. When Meryl sees me coming she gets really excited — good things are going to happen! I also discovered that Meryl loves other dogs and now she has regular play dates with a variety of doggie friends!

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary's DogTown from the National Geographic Channel show DogTownDog’s name: Georgia

Trainer’s name: John Garcia

Initial diagnosis: When I met Georgia, she was very aloof with people, demonstrated food guarding issues and was aggressive to other dogs.

Training program: The first task was to show Georgia that she was loved — that we wouldn’t hurt her, and that in fact we would take care of her and bring good things to her life.  That didn’t take too long! After that, we focused on food guarding.  I started by feeding her by hand so that she had nothing to guard and rewarding her with a bigger treat when I wanted to take another food item away.  She has done a great job. Then we moved to basic commands like sit, stay and come.  I’ve chosen not to address her aggression against other dogs yet.  I don’t blame her for this strong reaction to other dogs after what she’s been through.  For now, if she doesn’t want to be with dogs, that’s fine; we’ll let her be with people — which is what she loves.

Status: Georgia is doing great.  She is enjoying time with me and with her caregivers and hasn’t shown any food guarding issues in a long time.  Plus she’s mastering the basic commands.  She loves her walks, her toys and the people in her life.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary's DogTown from the National Geographic Channel show DogTownDog’s name: Denzel

Trainer’s name: John Garcia

Initial diagnosis: One of the things I immediately noticed about Denzel was his energy level.  I know from experience that dogs with energy need plenty of exercise, so we would need to include exercise as part of the training program for Denzel.  He would also need a lot of mental and physical stimulation, and we would also have to establish boundaries early on.

Training program: Our training plans for Denzel were put on the shelf for a while because when he arrived at Best Friends, our vets discovered that he had a pretty severe case of anemia and an underlying disease — a tickborne parasite sometimes found in fighting dogs.  It took months to get him on track.  After that, it was on to basic obedience training and getting Denzel ready to pass our Canine Good Citizen test.

Status: Healthy, happy and energetic.  Learning new things every day and getting better and better at following basic commands.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary's DogTown from the National Geographic Channel show DogTownDog’s name: Cherry

Trainer’s name: Michelle Besmehn

Initial diagnosis: Shy and undersocialized, Cherry flattens to the ground when on a leash and doesn’t want to walk.

Training program: My plan for Cherry was to first get to know him and figure out what causes him stress, what makes him happy and what interests him, and then use those things to help him feel more comfortable and calm. When Cherry first arrived and we clipped a leash to him, he would completely flatten his whole body to the ground and stay motionless.  So one of the first things I did was to carry him outside for his walk and stand there with him, waiting for him to eventually start moving around a little bit on his own.  Even if he sneaked over to a place that he thought was a little safer, maybe near a wall or a fence line, that was an accomplishment because it was his own agenda.  He was still on a leash, but he realized it wasn’t so bad.  And it progressed from there!

Next, we wanted to introduce him to new experiences and help him to realize that not only will he be able to survive new experiences but he may actually be able to enjoy them.  Even touching him made him nervous, but if you started massaging him, he would start to relax. Cherry also seemed very interested in other dogs, so we carefully introduced him to them and found him a friend in Mel to play with, which has really brightened up his outlook on life.

Status: Cherry is becoming a much braver, more confident dog.  He interacts playfully with all of his caregivers and actively seeks our attention.

“The Michael Vick Case,” a one-hour special that tells the full story of Vick’s federal dogfighting drama.

*In the kickoff to a brand new series “Animal Witness,” Animal Planet presents “The Michael Vick Case,” a one-hour special that tells the full story of Vick’s federal dogfighting drama.

Premiering Sunday, Aug. 24, at 10 p.m., the investigative report offers an in-depth look at the NFL quarterback, the law enforcement officers who broke the case and the dogs who were traumatized in the dog fighting scenario.

The underworld of dog fighting is spotlighted, as well as the rehabilitation of Vick’s dogs under the care of some very dedicated dog lovers. Viewers will also witness rare underground dog fighting videos and see interviews with two of Vick’s boyhood mentors.

“Animal Witness: The Michael Vick Case” also aims to “challenge the misconceptions about pit bulls and shows viewers that vicious, fighting dogs can be transformed into lovable family pets.”

“It’s imperative to bring viewers compelling TV that exposes a horrific issue like the Michael Vick case and highlights the aftermath of its investigation,” says Marjorie Kaplan, general manager of Animal Planet Media. “Bringing to the forefront the entire case with firsthand accounts and rarely seen footage, Animal Planet hopes that this eye-opener has a strong impact on our audience and on dogs’ lives.”

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How Michael Vick is Paying back his debts…