The article is 3 pages long. This is the first page. Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/02/sp...tml?ref=sports. Can you tell I had a blast today with time to fart around reading on the 'net?
Given Reprieve, N.F.L. Star’s Dogs Find Kindness
Garrett Davis for The New York Times
John Garcia, a caregiver at the Best Friends sanctuary, tries to teach abused dogs to trust people.
By JULIET MACUR
Published: February 2, 2008
KANAB, Utah — A quick survey of Georgia, a caramel-colored pit bull mix with cropped ears and soulful brown eyes, offers a road map to a difficult life. Her tongue juts from the left side of her mouth because her jaw, once broken, healed at an awkward angle. Her tail zigzags.
Audio Slide Show Another Chance for Vick’s Dogs
Garrett Davis for The New York Times
McKenzie Garcia, a caregiver at the Best Friends sanctuary, with Squeaker.
Scars from puncture wounds on her face, legs and torso reveal that she was a fighter. Her misshapen, dangling teats show that she might have been such a successful, vicious competitor that she was forcibly bred, her new handlers suspect, again and again.
But there is one haunting sign that Georgia might have endured the most abuse of any of the 47 surviving pit bulls seized last April from the property of the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in connection with an illegal dogfighting ring.
Georgia has no teeth. All 42 of them were pried from her mouth, most likely to make certain she could not harm male dogs during forced breeding.
Her caregivers here at the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary, the new home for 22 of Mr. Vick’s former dogs, are less concerned with her physical wounds than her emotional ones. They wonder why she barks incessantly at her doghouse and what makes her roll her toys so obsessively that her nose is rubbed raw.
“I’m worried most about Georgia,” said the Best Friends veterinarian Dr. Frank McMillan, an expert on the emotional health of animals, who edited the textbook “Mental Health and Well-Being in Animals.”
“You don’t have the luxury of asking her, or any of these animals: ‘What happened to you in your past life? How can we stop you from hurting?’
“So here we are left with figuring out how to bring joy to her life,” he said of Georgia, known to lick the face of anyone who comes near. “We want to offset the unpleasant memories that dwell in her brain.”
Mr. Vick, once the highest-paid player in the N.F.L., is serving a 23-month sentence in a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., for bankrolling his Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting operation and helping execute dogs that were not good fighters. Dogs were electrocuted, hanged, drowned, shot or slammed to the ground, according to court records. Two mass graves with the remains of eight pit bulls were found on Mr. Vick’s property in rural Virginia.
Pit bulls seized from illegal fighting operations are usually euthanized after becoming property of the government. The Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recommended that Mr. Vick’s dogs be euthanized, but many animal rescue organizations urged the prosecutors to let the dogs live.
The government agreed to give them a second chance after Mr. Vick agreed to pay $928,073 for evaluation and care of all the dogs. They were seen by animal experts, who named the dogs, and were eventually dispersed to eight rescue organizations for adoption, rehabilitation or lifetime care in sanctuaries, where they have been neutered. Only one of the Vick dogs was euthanized for aggression against people.
Best Friends, which is caring for more dogs than any other organization, received about $389,000. Many of their dogs are expected to be adopted after they are rehabilitated and matched with the right families. Vick’s 25 other dogs are in foster care all over the country.
“This is a great opportunity to highlight the fact that the victims in the case are the animals themselves,” said Rebecca J. Huss, a Valparaiso University law professor, animal law expert and court-appointed guardian for Vick’s dogs.
Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls, or BAD RAP, which helped evaluate the dogs, has 10 in foster care. Donna Reynolds, the group’s executive director, said, “There are dogs that are able to handle and survive the past with a good attitude, then ones that are going to be shut down and not take it anymore.
“Best Friends got the dogs that pretty much aren’t going to do so well,” she added, noting that those dogs included the known fighters and Mr. Vick’s champion pit bull, Lucas, who, by court order, will live out his days at the sanctuary.