Chicago Sun-Times
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Michael Vick's dogs star in their own TV special

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Even though Georgia is still excitable, the 6-year-old pit bull has progressed a lot after her arrival at the no-kill animal shelter north of Kanab, Utah, following her rescue from former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's dog-fighting operation.

And Georgia is not only learning social skills -- she's on the brink of stardom.

The dog, along with three other rescued pits, will be featured in a multi-part series airing on National Geographic Channel starting with a two-hour premiere Sept. 5.

''We just got back from Beverly Hills where she was getting belly rubs at a barbecue,'' said John Garcia, the assistant dog manager at Best Friends. ''She just laid around the pool.''

Michelle Besmehn, Best Friends' dog-care manager, said the dogs have made great progress since arriving in January.

''We have to meet the criteria to meet our responsibility for the dogs,'' she said.

A federal court imposed the criteria that gave the dogs to Best Friends after being rescued from Vick's Virginia dog-fighting operation.

The former NFL superstar was sentenced in December 2007 to serve 23 months in federal prison for his role in the conspiracy. He and three co-defendants raised and trained pit bulls for fighting. Poorly performing dogs were killed.

Besmehn said the dogs are slowly coming out of their shells after being treated for various problems.

Best Friends employees hope most of the dogs can eventually be adopted. To do so, animals and Best Friends staff are becoming better acquainted.

''The first several months we wanted to become more comfortable around them,'' she said.

The dogs receive a lot of attention from Best Friends trainers and became popular with the National Geographic Channel's television crews. The network began filming an 18-part series called ''Dogtown'' in May 2007.

Series producer Darcy Dennett, said this week that when Best Friends was awarded Vick's former dogs, the rescue effort dovetailed nicely with what the channel was doing.

''We were really fortunate to film the rescue from the beginning,'' she said. ''Garcia, who is an amazing trainer, traveled to the East Coast to assess the condition of the dogs and we followed him there and him bringing the dogs on a plane back to Kanab.''

Garcia said pit bulls, a mixture of several breeds including terriers, are wrongly considered vicious by nature. Instead, he said, they are no more likely to be aggressive than other dogs -- especially small ones.

''It's how they are trained that makes them aggressive,'' Garcia said.

He said that during a recent visit to Southern California, he took Georgia through the Beverly Hilton Hotel and people stepped aside to avoid the dog.

''Then I put a hot-pink collar on her and people came over laughing, saying how cute she was,'' Garcia said. ''I took her all through Beverly Hills with the collar on.''

He said the rehabilitation efforts are breaking new ground regarding how to meet social and behavioral needs of rescued fighting dogs.

''We hope what we learn here can be used to save thousands of dogs in the future,'' Garcia said.


Scripps Howard News Service

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5 Comments

I have a pitbull and my brother had two. The first one was abig baby all the time. The second was given to him from a breader of mean pits. It was very agressive to certain people but was freindly to others.
I now have a pit and a mix of shepard and charpe if that is spelled right. The pit has a way of taking over many things but is just another little baby. I believe that if you treat them correctly they are loving and protective at the same time. If you want them to be mean it would not be hard to make them that way but with lots of love and time they can and will be your best friend. Just whatever you do if you get a puppy have lots of treats hard chewy ones so they don't eat all your furniture.....

I have been saying for decades now what people keep needing to hear - pit bulls did not invent themselves, and they ARE the victims of the selfishness, bloodlust, and sadism of people. When someone gets bit and wants to blame the breed of dog, I say get to the root of the problem, which is people! We have the choice to create what we want, and if people choose to breed and brutalize other beings for amusement or for profit, don't blame the victims when they do what people programmed them to do!!!

any person that thinks pit bulls are naturally agressive realy does not have a clue ihave owned pit bulls for 23 years and the only one that bit anyone was the dog named lady who bit a burgular

I'll try not to say: "I told you so" when this same dog attacks at kid. Just ask Aimee Chappelle, another pro-pit bull champion who's own therapy dog attacked someone.

I'm still amazed at how many people will risk the lives of their children to make some sort of a political statement about the type of dog they own.

These dogs have the class, demeanor, amiability and respect for life that the malevolent and sadistic Michael Vick completely lacks. If he plays again for the NFL, I will not watch !

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on August 12, 2008 3:38 PM.

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