And killed the no-kill movement too, but the deaths were by suicide
WASHINGTON D.C.––National animal advocacy groups boosted by appeals playing off the 2007 arrest and conviction of former football star Michael Vick for dogfighting have so far made little mention of the 2022 fifteenth anniversary of the April 20, 2007 drug bust and April 25, 2007 police raid that brought the Vick dogfighting case to light.
Pit bulls ate Earth Day, too
One might surmise that the American SPCA, Animal Farm Foundation, Best Friends Animal Society, Humane Society of the U.S., and Maddie’s Fund were all too busy celebrating the 2022 Earth Day weekend, except that none of them did anything much about Earth Day, either.
Among the groups named, only the Humane Society of the U.S. engages much in environmental advocacy, or ever really did.
None of the groups named, while vigorously pushing pit bulls at every opportunity, have ever paid any visible attention at all to restoring the health and safety of the U.S. environment for humans and pets in regard to fatal and disfiguring dog attacks.
Laughing all the way to the bank
The 2007 Michael Vick case sent Vick to prison, all but ruining what had appeared to be a Pro Football Hall of Fame career.
The Vick case also sent pit bull advocates laughing all the way to the bank, building pit bull advocacy into a multi-million-dollar-per-year industry.
And, indirectly, the Vick case sent tens of thousands of human and animal dog attack victims to hospitals, veterinarians, and often their graves.
The deaths of four more human victims, at least three of them and perhaps all four believed to have been killed by pit bulls, were disclosed by law enforcement on Earth Day, April 21, 2022.
Shawna Jo Bell
Shawna Jo Bell, 42, a school teacher in Ethete, Wyoming, on the Wind River Reservation, was found dead on April 10, 2022, after the Fremont County coroner responded to a call about a death from “animal bites.”
Darrel Lonebear Sr., security supervisor of Northern Arapaho Housing, told Clair McFarland of the online Cowboy State Daily that when he “drove past the scene the morning after the fatality, he saw a pit bull with a rope around its neck that appeared immobile or dead.”
Fremont County chief deputy coroner told media that further information would not be released pending completion of an autopsy in four to six weeks.
Cyrus Talkington, 38, of Matfield Green, Kansas, died on April 20, 2022 in an industrial area of Wichita, Kansas, from a reported “medical condition” suffered after he received multiple bites on an arm and leg from a friend’s dog, with whom, police said, he was familiar.
Talkington, apparently a homeless addict who had worked in construction, was best known for a June 22, 2011 incident in which two police officers attempting to serve a warrant on another man, who was not present, encountered Talkington and a third man outside a single-family residence in Emporia, Kansas.
Talkington and the third man each had leashed dogs, of unidentified breed.
According to the Kansas Supreme Court review of the case, “Each man dropped the leash he was holding, and the dogs ran toward the officers,” while Talkington and the other man “ran to the back of the house. Shortly thereafter, the men returned to the front of the house and restrained the dogs.”
The officers subsequently found methamphetamine and marijuana behind the house, but the Kansas Supreme Court held the warrantless search to have been illegal and released Talkington from charges.
Maria Rachel Perez & Erin Beach
Maria Rachel Perez, 59, of Mission, Texas, was reportedly killed on April 21, 2022 by two family pit bulls. Her remains were discovered by her 10-year-old granddaughter when the granddaughter came home from school.
Erin Beach, 45, of Newberry, South Carolina, was killed the same day in her home by her own pit bull.
Such accounts have become commonplace.
Before the Michael Vick bust, they were markedly fewer.
Post-Vick, 580% increase in deaths, 1093% increase in disfigurements
Pit bulls had killed 114 Americans and Canadians in the 25 years preceding the Michael Vick bust, disfiguring 648.
In the 15 years since then, pit bulls have killed 434 Americans and Canadians, disfiguring 4,732.
That amounts to a 580% increase in the pit bull attack death rate per year, and a 1093% increase in the disfigurement rate.
More than 10% of the mayhem is from rehomed pit bulls
Pit bulls at the time of the Michael Vick case amounted to about 3% of the U.S. dog population, but accounted for 42% of the dog attack fatalities and 49% of the disfigurements.
Pit bulls today are 5.4% of the U.S. dog population, accounting for 71% of the dog attack fatalities post-Michael Vick, and 81% of the disfigurements.
These trends were already glaring evident at the 10th anniversary of the Vick bust and the mayhem following since then.
Becoming evident only since the Vick bust is that well over 10% of all the human and animal deaths and disfigurements are inflicted by pit bulls who have been rehomed at least once by humane societies and rescues, which usually have not warned unawares adopters about those pit bulls’ attack history.
“National Dogfighting Awareness Day”
The closest any of the pit bull-pushing national organizations has come so far to acknowledging their exploitation of the Michael Vick bust, and the subsequent consequences, was an American SPCA announcement that April 8, 2022 was “National Dogfighting Awareness Day, “an annual day,” marked by practically no one this year, “to raise awareness about the prevalence of dogfighting and to encourage animal lovers to act against this brutal form of animal cruelty.
“Throughout April,” the ASPCA said, “we’re asking our shelter and rescue partners to engage their communities on social media to help us #EndDogfighting!”
How prevalent is dogfighting?
U.S. law enforcement agencies in 2021 announced just two busts of organized dogfights, impounding 139 pit bulls in connection with the investigations.
Percentage-wise, that was a steep increase from 2020, when just one bust of an organized dogfights netted only 24 pit bulls, the only breed used in organized dogfighting.
By comparison, U.S. law enforcement agencies in the 10 years before the Michael Vick bust raised an average of 49 organized dogfights per year, arresting an average of 165 participants, impounding an average of 631 pit bulls.
In the 10 years after the Michael Vick bust, amid exponentially increased attention to dogfighting driven by animal advocacy appeals, U.S. law enforcement agencies raided an average of 55 organized dogfights per year, arresting an average of 164 participants, impounding an average of 985 pit bulls.
No big national group attention to cockfighting
The marked decline in dogfighting busts and impoundments in 2020 and 2021 could be blamed on COVID-19, if one believes dogfighters are deterred by masking requirements, but 2019 was also a slow year, as U.S. law enforcement agencies announced fewer than half a dozen raids on organized dogfights, arresting barely a dozen participants, impounding 168 pit bulls.
By contrast, the Illinois-based organization Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, assisted only by the Humane Farming Association, often investigates and exposes more cockfights in six weeks than dogfights are investigated and exposed by all U.S. law enforcement agencies and animal advocacy groups combined.
One might conclude that either dogfighting is now in steep decline, agencies and animal advocacy groups supposedly investigating dogfighting have become severely incompetent, or the animal advocacy groups have simply lost interest, allowing law enforcement to lose interest too.
The myth of the “bait dog”
What is increasingly clear, meanwhile, is that the vast majority of battle scars found on owner-surrendered pit bulls and pit bulls impounded for dangerous behavior, choking animal shelters and rescues even before the Michael Vick case, are not the result of organized dogfighting, or the alleged use of the pit bulls as “bait dogs.”
Rather, these are usually the scars of pit bulls from multiple pit bull households, just “playing” as pit bulls tend to do, by trying to kill each other.
National organizations engaged in pit bull advocacy did not mark the 10th anniversary of the Michael Vick bust either.
On April 26, 2017, however, Maddie’s Fund issued a media release celebrating the 30th birthday of the mini-schnauzer Maddie, for whom software entrepreneurs Dave and Cheryl Duffield renamed their private foundation in 1997.
Maddie, ironically, was just the sort of small, friendly dog who has become the most frequent victim of pit bulls in the decade since the Vick bust.
Projecting from the toll of 9,612 dogs per year killed by pit bulls, and 9,317 injured by pit bulls, discovered by ANIMALS 24-7 from 2013 through 2021, as many as 139,755 little dogs like Maddie have been ripped apart alive by pit bulls over the past 15 years, along with 144,180 dogs who survived their injuries, 47,190 cats killed by pit bulls, and 157,860 hoofed animals, poultry, and livestock.
Millions for pit bull defense, but not a dime for the victims
Maddie’s Fund, with assets of $297 million, is only one of the major players in the pit bull advocacy business.
Others include the Humane Society of the U.S., with assets of $321 million; the American SPCA, with assets of $470 million; the Best Friends Animal Society, with assets of $152 million, and the American Veterinary Medical Association, with assets of $82 million.
Animal Farm Foundation, the only one that frankly admits it exists to push pit bulls, has assets of just $3.7 million.
But all of them have prospered hugely through shedding alligator tears for the pit bulls impounded from Michael Vick, and other pit bulls brought to animal shelters ever since, while thoroughly misrepresenting what became of the Michael Vick pit bulls.
(See Pit bull wisdom & dog pound foolishness, by Liz Marsden.)
“The faces to show the public for fundraising”
The Vick case developed after police in Hampton, Virginia, on April 20, 2007 arrested Vick’s cousin Davon Boddie, 26, outside a nightclub, for alleged distribution of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute.
Boddie lived in a house belonging to Vick in Surrey County, Virginia. A multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force on April 25, 2007 raided the house, discovering what Surrey County Sheriff Harold D. Brown told media was “evidence of animal neglect and the possibility of dog fighting.”
The Vick case blew up from there.
As the criminal allegations eventually filed against Vick and several codefendants moved through the judicial system, “For charities like HSUS, the ASPCA, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Vick’s long-suffering pit bulls, freed from gladiator duty, became the faces to show the public for fund-raising,” summarized Noam Cohen and James Freed of the New York Times on November 12, 2007.
What became of the Vick pit bulls?
And that was just the very beginning of the pit bull advocacy fundraising onslaught.
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson deliberated for months over what to do with the dogs impounded from Vick: 66 in all, 48 of whom remained in custody after 13 dogs other than pit bulls were rehomed by local humane societies.
One dog believed to be a pit bull but later officially called “not a pit bull” was returned to an owner who was not charged in the case. Five pit bulls either died or were euthanized due to dangerous behavior.
Hudson eventually sent 22 of the Vick pit bulls to Best Friends and 10 to the pit bull advocacy organization BADRAP, “with stipends of $5,000 for each dog considered adoptable, and $20,000 for each dog considered so aggressive that it will have to spend significant time, if not its entire life, in a special facility,” reported Tim McGlone of the Virginian-Pilot.
Though reliable data is scarce, the latter appears to have been the fate of more than half of the Vick pit bulls.
Organized pit bull advocacy was positioned to exploit the Michael Vick case largely through the very quiet behind-the-scenes work of Andrew Rowan, now heading WellBeing International.
Rowan, as founding director of the Center for Animals & Public Policy at Tufts University, after 25 years of gradually increasing pit bull abundance and attacks, on July 17, 1986 convened a workshop entitled “Dog Aggression & the Pit Bull Terrier.”
Rowan followed up on September 19, 1987 with a conference entitled “The Pit Bull Terrier Revisited: How To Break The Vicious Circle,” focused on blocking or repealing legislation meant to prevent pit bull proliferation.
Rowan continued to advance pit bull advocacy, with eminent success, as a Humane Society of the U.S. senior vice president from 1998 until his retirement in 2018.
Blame enough to go around
It is likely that no individual in the entire 200-plus-year history of organized humane work in the U.S. has been the target of more invective and general opprobrium than Michael Vick.
Yet Vick caused direct harm to just five dozen pit bulls and other animals. Rowan, albeit indirectly, has contributed to similar harm to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, counting the many pit bulls who but for pit bull advocacy would never have been born.
But there is blame enough to go around for an entire generation of ostensible animal advocates who have made death by live dismemberment acceptable for animals and humans alike, if done by pit bulls.
This includes especially pit bulls rehomed to achieve a 90% “live release rate” at animal shelters, which thereby can claim to be “no kill,” regardless of how many animals (and humans) are killed by the pit bulls they push out the door.