Vick’s sentence: What’s next for the dogs?

The sentencing of former Atlanta Falcon star Michael Vick to 23 months in prison for his role in a dog fighting ring drew a mixed reaction from some animal welfare groups. (Read more in Fighting for the underdog.)

“We’re disappointed he didn’t mention the dogs once in his statement,” says Donna Reynolds, co-founder of BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit bulls). “He apologized to his fans, family, and teammates, but expressed no regret for the suffering the dogs endured. That tells us that he still really doesn’t get it.”

Still, Reynolds is hopeful that even if Vick doesn’t get it, the public will–thanks to the media spotlight on the cruelty of dog fighting and on the dogs themselves. In addition to participating in the illegal sport for as long as six years, Vick, age 27, was found to play an active role in drowning, and hanging some of the pit bulls he kept on his 15-acre property in southeastern Virginia.

Next up: Life as companion dogs

BAD RAP teamed up with the ASPCA to temperament test 49 dogs. Only one has been euthanized for aggressive behavior. Several did so well, the group recommended they go to foster homes for training and observation, and then be put up for adoption.

Reynolds thinks seeing former fighting dogs in their new lives as loving pets may change minds about the breed as a whole.

“We hope the dogs will help people who are on the fence about the breed see them as companion animals who were being abused, rather than killing machines,” says Reynolds.

Ten pit bulls are currently being fostered by BAD RAP, and DogTime will feature their stories once the last defendant is sentenced, on January 25.

-December 10, 2007