We all remember the horrors of Michael Vick's "Bad Newz Kennels", the most shocking case of illegal dog fighting in America.
It was a regular day in April of 2007 when our family news-watching time turned incredibly disturbing. I remember crying over the graphic photos and video footage of Michael Vick's estate, and the dogs that lived and died there. I loved dogs. I couldn't fathom the information in front of me. It didn't seem real.
It was that point in time where the harsh realities of dog fighting were exposed to the public eye, and we vowed to never let it happen again.
Out of countless dogs who lost their lives at the hands of Vick, 51 were rescued from the ring. Some of them were rehabilitated and re-homed, while others were humanely euthanized due to medical or psychological conditions. The fosters and adopters stayed in touch with each other, sharing stories of success, love, and heartache. As the dogs grew older, many passed away, and tributes were shared via social media.
There are a handful of Vick's dogs left, and thousands who remember not only them, but their past brothers and sisters.
In 2011, a rescue organization by the name of Dogs Deserve Better purchased the forfeited Vick estate in hopes of turning it into a rehabilitation center. They now have an incredible facility, built from the foundations of the original house. "Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs" is home to many dogs who were rescued from life outside. All of the dogs live in the house and roam the property throughout the day.
The estate has been transformed in many ways, but also maintained as a tribute to the dogs who lost their lives. The field, once known as a mass graveyard, is now a romping ground filled with beautiful dogwood trees. All of the trees were planted in honor of the dogs, and each has a plaque to commemorate them personally.
Recently, Ginger Girl, a former Vick dog, and her mom Stacey visited the estate to plant their own dogwood tree. They were joined by other parents of the survivors, where they toured the property and witnessed the original structures of "Bad Newz Kennels."
"I had a sense of dread traveling to the property," she wrote on her social media page. "Like most of you I saw a few photos from when the dogs were rescued and read about the horrors they experienced in Jim Gorant’s “The Lost Dogs”. Somehow, I have been able to separate Ginger, the companion I know and love today, from the situation she was rescued from. Visiting the property would make her past all too real."
Stacey continues to describe the property and her experience, as well as share photos of the fighting sheds and kennels, once used to house her very own Ginger.
"It was impossible to not shed tears at this point; these buildings were the background for so much horror and sadness for Ginger, for all of the dogs."
At the end of her post, she notes that, despite the treacheries of the former fighting ring, the "Good Newz Rehab Center" has been transformed into a safe haven for dogs. The crimes of Michael Vick have been removed, and the dogs living there will only ever know love and kindness.
"It would be so easy to dwell on the black sheds and continue to be sad and angry but this property has moved on and is now a place where dogs are getting second chance at life. The sheds are now just structures; some are used as storage some remain as they were found. The area that was once overgrown with trees that hid dogs chained out on tire axles, has been cleared is now covered with sweet yellow flowers and 51 freshly planted trees that will be a stunning sight when they come into bloom. Watching the Dogs Deserve Better staff and volunteers take their rescued dogs on walks on the property was so heartwarming to see."
We will never forget the events that took place, or the innocent lives lost at Michael Vick's "Bad Newz Kennels." That kind of blatant inhumanity can not be erased from our minds. However, we can use this experience as an opportunity to learn and move forward towards a better future. The kindness and compassion shown by those at Dogs Deserve Better is worth sharing, and reminds us that we can make a difference.
If you are interested in learning more about the "Good Newz Rehab Center," please visit their website at dogsdeservebetter.org.
A special thanks to Ginger Girl and her mom, Stacey, for sharing their experience.