I can’t believe it, but it’s been nearly nine years since famed NFL quarterback Michael Vick helped put dog fighting in the public eye. Ahh yes, when police raided his home with a search warrant for drugs, they found 51 pit bulls along with substantial evidence of a gigantic dogfighting ring, all hidden in a wooded barn behind his home.

After the dogfighting ring was raided, many people called for the dogs to be put down. Which is the usual fate for dogs rescued from such situations. Of the 51 rescued from Vick’s property, two died in care shortly after the raid, and one was euthanized after being deemed “too emotionally and physically damaged” to save. The remaining 48 not only survived, but were given a chance at life after their rescue.

Usually dogfighting rings and any court cases involved, go on without any public knowledge or attention. Typical lifecycle of a ring goes as follows: dogfighting rings grow, sometimes get broken up, there’s a trial, and any surviving dogs get euthanized.

But since Vick was a celebrity, a lot of attention was placed upon the trial. These dogs would have likely had the same outcome as the thousands upon thousands before them: being kept alive as evidence until the trial ended, then put to sleep. Instead, outcry from both the public and advocacy groups, such as the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, allowed the dogs to become the first survivors to continue their lives after a federal dogfighting trial. michael_vick_sports_illustrated

Since their rescue, the surviving pup have gone on to do really great things

They work with sick children

vick's dogfighting ring survivors

Image via Champions

This is Jonny Justice, who now volunteers as a therapy magnet. According to his caretaker Cris Cohen, he brings smiles and laughter to all who need it and is a true “little kid magnet.” Jonny Justice was named ASPCA’s Dog of the Year in 2014 and even has a plush toy modeled after him.


They’ve been honored

dogfighting ring survivors

Image via Champions

The pup above is named Mel, and like his fellow survivor Justice Johnny, he was also awarded. He received an edible key to the city of Dallas.


They’ve been able to become lovebugs

dogfighting survivors

dogfighting survivors



They’ve become famous!


This is Handsome Dan. He has a dog rescue named after him and even his own Facebook page with almost 600k likes. Handsome Dan also received the 2014 Barkie Award for the Best Dog on the Internet.


They put a sweet face to the horrors of dogfighting

Image via Best Friends Animal Society

Dogfighting is now *finally* staring to get the attention and federal crackdown that it deserves.

They got to star in a documentary!


Image via BarkPost

In the documentary” The Champions,” filmmaker Darcy Dennet tells their story. The remaining 48 became the first dogs to not only survive a dogfighting ring, but be given a chance at life after their rescue.


“The Champions” is now available for download at Best Friends Animal Societyand the documentary websites.

Watch the trailer below.


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