KANAB, Utah (ABC 4 News) - It's been 5 years since NFL quarterback, Michael Vick, became not only the face of football, but the face of the vicious sport of dog fighting. He's since served his 19 months in prison. Now, if you turn on the TV any given Sunday, you can see just how Michael Vick is doing. Leading the Philadelphia eagles on the field, .living a normal life, he even has a new family dog.
That begs the question, how are his other dogs doing? The ones who 5 years ago, had an uncertain future. Beaten, forced to fight, then found in a dog fighting bust at the NFL super star's home. The story sparked a national uproar about dog fighting
Several of those dogs are right here in Utah. They’re being rehabilitated in Dogtown, by Best Friend’s Animal Society. The kennels are just a few miles outside of Kanab. 22 of Vicks dogs, now called Vicktory dogs, were brought here after they were found. Trainers say their lives have dramatically improved.
Despite the notorious animal abuse coverage, the people who now handle these dogs say Michael Vick actually helped pit bulls world wide.
"It really brought to light the whole atrocity of pit bulls and dog fighting and the fact that Michael Vick is still in the headlines all the time, it brings that to the forefront and keeps people aware” said Dogtown co-manager Michelle Logan.
Logan is one of the managers at dog town she has been with the Vicktory dogs since the beginning. She says rehabilitation has been a process.
"Most of them have come so far out of their shells, it's unbelievable to see, when they first got here most of them were shut down, they would cower in the back of their crates," Logan said.
Ray is one of 10 dogs still at Dogtown. All but two are waiting to be adopted.
"Lucas and Merrill will live here for the rest of their lives. The rest of them, according to the courts, can be adopted out," Logan said.
Lucas and Merrill were Vick’s prized fighting dogs. So the court thought it best to keep them out of society. But, as we saw, they still live wonderful lives.
"He's got a life of riley I mean he gets to do everything he wants he gets golf cart rides and walks and spends time in our CEO's office, everything you'd imagine a dog experiences in a home, he gets here at the sanctuary and more," said Best Friend’s Emergency Response Manager John Garcia.
10 other dogs have been adopted out. Some are now therapy dogs; others have been the catalyst for new dog rescue organizations. But most of them, like Hallie, are just good family companions now.
"It’s been fun for all of us that adopted Vicktory dogs we keep in contact with each other and share stories and it's been an amazing journey with these dogs," said Hallie’s owner Traci Madson.
Hallie now lives with Madson and her two dogs near Park City. Like many other Vicktory dogs, Hallie needed some socialization work.
"She was very, very shy. She was just really shut down. I would take her to work and sometimes she wouldn't even walk on a leash, she would just pancake on the ground and wouldn't walk," Madson said.
That fear has started to fade. As happy as Traci is with Hallie in her life, she can't help but be a little upset by the news of Michael Vick’s new companion.
"You know, we're all upset that he's been allowed to have another dog, we can't dwell on that, we just try and dwell on the good and how these dogs are doing and how well they're doing," Madson said.
As you've seen, no matter the environment, these dogs are thriving.
"There were a lot that thought that they should have all been put down and you know they're doing great," Madson said.
Proof that no matter the dog's past, they can overcome and have a wonderful future.
There are a few Vicktory dogs still at Dogtown waiting for their forever home. If you're interested in adopting one of them, click here.