Animal Welfare News item | PAWS Chicago

Dog Fighting Exposed

by Alexis Fasseas | Oct 31, 2007

The Story of Michael Vick

She was 35 pounds. They executed her by wetting her down and electrocuting her. Another was shot with a .22 caliber pistol. Murdered by Michael Vick.

 2001 was a banner year for Michael Vick. The Atlanta Falcons drafted him as the first overall pick in the NFL draft that April and things were only getting better. On May 9, he signed a six-year contract worth $62 million and received a signing bonus of $3 million. 

The next month, in June of 2001, Vick spent $34,000, presumably from his generous signing bonus, acquiring property in Smithfield, Virginia on Moonlight Road. This property became the main staging area for housing and training pit bulls, as well as a hosting site for dog fights. He also began collecting pit bull adults and puppies for the fighting operation, importing them from North Carolina, New York, and other locations in Virginia. Soon after, he established “Bad Newz Kennels.” 

At least four cooperating witnesses provided investigators with information on Vick and his compatriots in Bad Newz Kennels. It was common practice to “test,” determining which dogs were the good fighters and executing those who did not perform. Dogs who lost matches also usually lost their lives, either in the pit or at the hand of their angry sponsors who had bet money on bloody victory. Shooting, hanging, electrocuting, drowning and slamming bodies to the ground were all common methods of killing by Vick and his three co-defendants. 

It is estimated that between 20,000 and 40,000 people participate in the multi-billion dollar dog-fighting industry. Hundreds of people attend fights, with the average purse size at $10,000. Days or weeks after these fights, often in abandoned buildings, dead dog carcasses are found burned, skinned or hung. The brutality of the industry is unparalleled. 

Vick often played host at Moonlight Road to regular dogfights and “Grand Champion Fights,” which meant each dog was fighting for his fifth consecutive win. Fighters came from various places in Virginia, as well as Alabama, New York, New Jersey, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Maryland. Bad Newz Kennels also sponsored their dogs in fights in North Carolina, South Carolina, and New Jersey. The winners would walk away with purses that ranged from $2,000 to $26,000, even more according to anonymous dogfighters who spoke with journalists after the story broke. They claim Vick was a “heavyweight,” betting $40,000 or more on some fights. 

When Vick’s Smithfield property was raided this year, authorities found bloodstained carpet and dog-fighting paraphernalia, including a dog-fighting pit, a “rape stand” used to strap down females for breeding, a “break” or “parting” stick used to pry open fighting dogs’ mouths during fights, treadmills and “slat mills” used to condition dogs for the fight, and buried car axles that dogs could be chained to without getting tangled. Sixty-six dogs, most American Pit Bull Terriers, were also confiscated, some showing scars and injuries related to dog fighting. Carcasses were found buried across the property. 

For six years, Vick ran an inter-state dog-fighting ring, and it all caught up with him this year when he was convicted of federal felony charges. The government charged Vick and his codefendants with accounts of killing dogs, as well as frequently transporting them across state lines after purchases and to get to fights. 

Entering a guilty plea on August 27, he is awaiting sentencing on December 10, expected to be between one and five years. (It is presumed that Vick pled guilty to prevent the horrific details of his actions going public.) Most of his product endorsements were suspended or terminated by the end of August, and he was suspended from the NFL. 

On September 25, a Virginia grand jury in Surry County indicted Vick for two additional felony counts under state law: for beating and killing an animal and for dog-fighting charges. If convicted of these state charges, Vick faces a sentence of up to 40 years. 

In 2004, Vick signed a 10-year contract extension for $130 million, the most lucrative in the history of the NFL. The Falcons have already recovered $19.9 million of the $37 million in bonuses paid to Vick under terms of his contract extension. He also may be banned from the NFL permanently, since NFL rules do not permit any form of gambling and Vick admitted to funding the gambling side of his group’s dogfighting operation. 

Michael Vick has lost millions, his freedom, his career, his reputation and his future. Cruelty certainly doesn’t pay.


With the recent indictment of Michael Vick on federal dogfighting charges, many dog lovers want to help fight the fight. Here’s how you can help:


  1. Contact your alderman or local government representative and ask him/her to actively encourage the Chicago Police Department to increase their efforts against this heinous crime. 
  2. Become a court advocate. If in Chicago, sign up to be a court advocate in partnership with CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) and the Chicago Police Department. Court advocates are an integral part in fighting animal violence. Contact Stephanie Packard Bell, CAPS Court Advocacy Coordinator at (312) 747-9983 to learn more. 
  3. Help PAWS Chicago’s Community Outreach team working in at-risk communities and educating adults and children on the humane treatment of animals. PAWS Chicago works directly with the City of Chicago CAPS program. Email to get involved. 
  4. Call 911 immediately if you know of a dog fight in progress. Contact your local police if you observe activities that cause you to suspect that dogfighting or any other form of animal cruelty is occurring in your community. 
  5. Contact your local, state and national representatives and ask them to support funding that would allow for increased enforcement of animal fighting laws. 
  6. Write letters thanking those who have responded to the Michael Vick indictment.



Signs of Dogfighting


  • A large number of pit bulls or other dogs at the location, often chained to fixed objects. A constant flow of new dogs to the site. 
  • Dogs with scars on their faces and legs. 
  • Dogfighting training equipment such as treadmills or tires hanging from trees. 
  • The remains of dead animals near the suspicious location. 
  • A large number of missing pets in the neighborhood. (Cats and smaller dogs are often stolen and used as bait by people who are training dogs to fight.) 
  • People coming and going from the location at unusual hours