It's been nearly six years since NFL quarterback Michael Vick made headlines off the field, for forcing dogs to fight. Vick was arrested. He's now moved on as the starter for the Philadelphia Eagles, but what about the dogs? ABC 4 Anchor Kim Fischer visits the "Vicktory Dog" reunion in Kanab, Utah.
Ten dogs, now known as “Victkory dogs” have been adopted from Best Friend's Animal Society. Six of them were back at Dog Town this week, as their families met and shared their experiences.
"It feels like as much of a growing and healing occasion for the people as much as it does the dogs," said Richard Hunter. He now owns a Vicktory dog named Mel.
These dogs were all rescued from Michael Vick’s infamous dog fighting ring and brought to this sanctuary nearly six years ago. One by one, they were adopted by these families. The owners have talked on the phone and through email over the years, but they've never met until this week.
"It's been amazing we're all staying in the same place so we have six ex-fighting pit bulls staying in the same place you'd never know that these dogs were born, bred, trained to fight, the furthest thing on their mind is fighting," said Paul and Melissa, owners of Cherry Garcia. They live in the Northeast, but to protect their dog, they did not say where, or give us their last name.
This trip was all about getting to know each other. The families spent the weekend together, but Monday, they decided to take time to talk to the media. They want the rest of the world to get a glimpse into their lives.
“We want to show the world that they can become adoptable and now we want to show the world that they can become normal dogs and be positive influences in their community,” Paul said.
But these families admit the process was not easy.
"These dogs have never experienced any home environment so it was very difficult for them to adjust because they were so shut down and so scared of the environment,” Paul said.
Hunter said his dog Mel had different triggers.
"All of Mel’s psychological challenges really revolve around new people," he said.
Both owners said their dogs, despite their fighting past, love children and other animals.
"He so great around other dogs and always has been it's sometimes easier for him to meet a new person if they have a dog with them," Hunter said.
The dog’s biggest issues have actually been confidence. The owners said being abused left the dogs scared and nervous for different reasons. They said removing that fear will be a lifelong journey. That's why these families are so happy to have each other.
"We really not only adopted a dog we adopted a family once we started talking we realized a lot of the dogs share commonalities," Melissa said.
These families share stories and methods of making their dogs more comfortable and confident. While it's been a slow go, each one of these families agree, these dogs live for affection.
"We have a phrase that he just loves to be loved because he just seeks affection and wants to be loved now and it's just been amazing," Paul said.
It's love that's not only given, but received.
"The dogs have gotten a second chance at a really happy life but I think as people we have all really grown in the process," Hunter said.
Of the 48 dogs seized from Michael Vick’s property in April 2007, the 22 toughest cases were taken in by Best Friends. This was the first time in history fighting dogs had the chance to be rehabilitated. And as you can see, they ended up having happy, healthy lives.