Michael Vick and Dogs Aiming for New Life

Vick plans to campaign against dog fighting with the Humane Society of the United States. The Virginia resident is still discussing with Humane Society officials how he will spread his message and when he will begin volunteering. Humane Society officials are hopeful that Vick will help expand their anti-dog fighting campaign nationwide. The program operates in two Chicago neighborhoods and one Atlanta neighborhood. Advocates  intervene in matches when appropriate, mediate dog-fighting issues and offer obedience classes as alternatives to the blood sport, said Ann Chynoweth, a Humane Society of the United States spokeswoman.

Vick can share his life story with young urban men to tell them that dogs are not weapons, Chynoweth said. “He said he started to fight dogs when he was 8 years old,” Chynoweth said. “It seems to us if he had a program like this it could have turned him away from the dog fighting which led to dogs being abused and which led to Vick’s arrest.” After the Falcons released him in June, Vick hopes to resume his NFL career. But Vick must prove he is truly regrets his crime before he can return to the league, said Lindsay Rajt, a PETA spokeswoman. PETA officials are calling again on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to require Vick to have a full psychological evaluation – including an MRI and psychological testing – before discussing his reinstatement.

“Unless a trained neurologist is allowed to truly and honestly assess whether or not any remorse that Vick might express is genuine, there’s no way to know whether or not he will stop being a violent person, whether to dogs or to anyone else,” read the PETA statement.

Vick needs to prove he can express empathy and contrition before becoming a role model for young children, Rajt said. The more than 60 dogs seized from Vick’s property – most of them pit bulls – are also seeking a second chance thanks to rescue groups such as Best Friends Animals Society and Bad Rap.

Halle is the first Michael Vick dog to be adopted from Best Friends Animal Society, according to the group’s Web site. The black pit bull with floppy ears celebrated the finalization of her adoption Saturday after living with her foster family for six months. Halle will be a pal to another pit bull, Tacoma, at her forever home.  Another Vick dog, Handsome Dan, lives with a foster family and is doing well. Other Vick dogs are recovering at the Best Friends sanctuary, said John Polis, the organization’s spokesman. Best Friends took in 22 of the toughest cases, with some of the dogs displaying animal aggression. The Vick dogs at the Best Friend sanctuary were featured in a special episode of the National Geographic show “Dog Town.” Dogs that are not adoptable will stay at the sanctuary.

“The dogs had to learn what toys were, what treats were, what all the basics are,” Polis said. “They never had attention. They’re under-socialized but they’ve seen lots of improvement.” Bad Rap recently posted updates on 10 dogs who were adopted, in foster homes and earned Canine Good Citizen and American Temperament Test Society titles. One dog, Jonny Justice, is thriving in his forever home and is a therapy dog for a children’s literacy program. The successes of Best Friends and Bad Rap prove not all canines rescued from dog fighting rings are beyond psychological repair.

“As we suspected, dogs from fighting backgrounds can be evaluated as individuals,” Polis said. “They can take tiny steps toward improvement with good training and a lot of love.” When the Vick dogs were first discovered, national organizations such as the Humane Society and PETA were adamant the canines had to be euthanized because of their brutal past, Polis said. But authorities and rescue groups made the move to evaluate the animals to see if they can be rehabilitated. PETA officials did comment that the dogs would most likely be euthanized because they were raised for fighting and may be ticking time bombs, Rajt said. The Vick dogs were raised for fighting and lived in conditions where their kennel mates were shot, electrocuted, and drowned, Rajt said. Often it’s not possible to re-socialize animals exposed to that type of violence, she said.

Chynoweth said not everyone can adopt a dog from a fighting background and more than 600,000 adoptable pit bulls are in shelters waiting for homes. The Humane Society of the United States met with animal control agencies, rescue groups and other organizations to hammer out a new policy for dogs seized from fighting rings. Now fighting canines will be evaluated for their ability to be rehabilitated.

“Animals should be treated as individuals,” Chynoweth said. The new policy will help victims seized in a mutli-state dog fighting ring that spanned Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Authorities rescued 407 dogs in the early July bust. The Vick case raised awareness about dog fighting. The Humane Society has a new program that awards $5,000 to anyone who gives tips that lead to arrests and convictions in dog fighting. The football star’s plight also shed light on the enormity of dog fighting, Rajt said. “It is estimated there are 40,000 professional dog fighters,” Rajt said. “How many animals are there for every dog fighter? It’s horrifying; we still have a long way to go.”

Holiday Safety Tips for Dogs

Tis the season not only to be jolly, but to also make sure your dog is safe from holiday hazards.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers the following tips to ensure your pooch has a safe holiday season.

  •   Stick as closely as possible to your normal routine. Try not to vary your dog’s feeding, walking and playtime schedule.
  •   Don’t feed your dog scraps from the table. Cookies and pies, macaroni salads and stuffing, potato chips and fancy hors d’oeuvres are inappropriate foods for dogs and may make them sick.
  •   If you host a party, remember that some guests may be uncomfortable around dogs. Your dog may, in turn, be uncomfortable or frightened around a large group of unfamiliar people. You may want to confine him in a crate or a room that will not be used by guests. Otherwise, keep him by your side, or with another family member, to keep him from getting into trouble or underfoot.
  •   No matter how fun the party gets, never give your dog alcohol.
  •   Holly, mistletoe and poinsettia plants are poisonous to dogs. Make sure they are kept in places your dog can’t reach.
  •   Do not put lights on the lower branches of your tree. They may get very hot and burn your dog.
  •   Watch out for electrical cords. Pets often try to chew them and get badly shocked or electrocuted. Place them out of reach.
  •   Avoid glass ornaments, which break easily and may cut a dog’s feet or mouth.
  •   Do not use edible ornaments, or cranberry or popcorn strings. Your dog may knock the tree over in an attempt to reach them.
  •   Keep other ornaments off the lower branches; if your dog chews or eats an ornament, he can be made sick by the materials or paint.
  •   Both live and artificial tree needles are sharp and indigestible. Keep your tree blocked off (with a playpen or other “fence”) or in a room that isn’t accessible to your dog.
  •   Tinsel can be dangerous for dogs. It may obstruct circulation and, if swallowed, block the intestines.
  •   Keep burning candles on high tables or mantels, out of the way of your dog’s wagging tail.
  •   Review canine holiday gifts for safety. Small plastic toys or bones may pose choking hazards.
  •   Your dog may want to investigate wrapped packages; keep them out of reach.

16 Amazing Facts You Didn’t Know About Your Dog


You may already think you already know all there is to know about dogs, but here are 16 amazing facts about your favorite pet that may surprise you!

Did you know:

  1. A dog’s sense of smell can be 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than that of humans.
  2. Dogs have three eyelids — their third eyelid helps to lubricate their eyes and is called the nictitating membrane (also known as the haw). Ever wonder why it looks like your dog’s eyes are rolling back into his head? That’s actually his third eyelid closing.
  3. When a dog curls up into a ball to sleep, it is actually an instinct to protect his vital organs from potential predators.
  4. Smiling at a dog may be interpreted as a sign of aggression, as it looks as though you are baring your teeth.
  5. Dalmatian puppies are born completely white. They develop their distinctive spots as they grow older.
  6. Dogs drink water by bending their tongue and using it as a little cup.
  7. Although we humans love cozying up to our dogs whenever possible, snuggling can make dogs feel vulnerable, as they interpret a limb being positioned over them as a sign of dominance.
  8. Dogs can see in color. Contrary to the belief that dogs can only see in black and white, tests have shown that dogs can also see various shades of yellows, blues and grays.
  9. Having a wet nose is vital for dogs as it helps them to determine the direction that a certain smell is coming from.
  10. Dogs have lived with humans for approximately 14,000 years — almost twice as long as cats have!
  11. Greyhounds are actually blue. The name comes from a mistranslation from the German term “Greishund.” Although it looks like “grey hound” in English, it actually translates as “ancient dog.”
  12. Dogs can understand approximately 250 different words or hand gestures. It has also been suggested that they have the mathematical ability to count up to five in their heads.
  13. The average dog can reach speeds of about 19 mph. Greyhounds, however, can reach up to 45 mph.
  14. Dogs are born blind and deaf, but some grow up to be able to see in the dark (due to the tapetum lucidum membrane found in their eyes) and hear sounds from up to four times farther away than any human could hear.
  15. Dogs experience rapid eye movement (REM) when they’re sleeping, just like humans – which means they can dream! You’ve probably spotted your canine fidgeting or even barking in her sleep before; these are all signs that she is probably dreaming.
  16. At the end of the Beatles song “A Day in the Life,” Paul McCartney included a high-pitched whistle that can only be heard by dogs. He did so for the benefit of his own dog.