I Gave Hundreds of Tours through Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Sheds. He Deserves No Pro Bowl Honor.

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The property as I saw it on February 1, 2011

My nonprofit organization bought Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound in Surry County, Virginia, and transformed it to a rescue facility for formerly chained dogs. As such, I walked the grounds where his dogs were chained, fought, and died for four years.

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One of Vick’s footballs, abandoned in the weeds.

The black sheds where his dogs trained and ultimately lost their lives still stand today, serving as a stark and brutal reminder of the world of dogfighting.

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Our dog Sloan the day we bought the property.

What I remember about my first experience with the house and grounds of 1915 Moonlight Road was a stillness, a loneliness, an oppressive feel; yet underneath there was a yearning for more—a wish to be seen, to be heard. Did the land, the souls who remained on the property seek redemption for the blood spilled in their name? Perhaps.

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The sheds in 2013

I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to protect the ground and all those lying therein, a similar desire to what one might experience when visiting battlefields or other sites of tragedy—a wish to somehow “fix” the horrors of the past.

To me, the grounds and buildings there were never evil, but instead almost hallowed by the pain they’d been forced to witness. They were victims of the evils of man in a way similar to the dogs who suffered so greatly within them.

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Almost everyone who came to visit asked to tour those sheds, and during my four years I would lead hundreds of people through them, highlighting how each had been used in the dogfighting operation.

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Car axles dogs were chained to in the clearings.

I’ve cried and I’ve watched others cry, as they were so touched by the plight of the fighting dog and so moved by what occurred there that their emotions overtook them. Not a single person who went in there came out unaffected. That is the power of those sheds.

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Rusty chains left hanging in the sheds.

Dog lovers felt a need to see where the crimes were committed, to understand the depths of the depravity involved in dogfighting. Most left with a strengthened resolve to put an end to this horrific abuse of our “best friends”.

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Board where the carpet mill was placed to train the dogs. BNK stood for Badd Newz Kennels.

The buildings appeared hastily and poorly erected, especially compared to the pristine white house decorously built at the front of the property. Three of the four sheds had spray-painted black interiors, too—even down to the windows—to keep anyone from seeing inside.

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DDB employee giving a tour of the dark shed.

The far right shed consisted of darkened kennels for the injured and mothers with pups. This shed gave off a pervasively eerie feel, the walls scraped with claw marks by dogs desperate to escape.

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Old collar and ESPN mug in fight shed.

Finally, there was the two-story fight shed, closest to the house. There were still odds and ends left in this shed, almost like it had frozen in time. Anything that the feds hadn’t considered as evidence for their case against Vick and his buddies still remained as it was four years earlier. This included an ESPN mug, old collars, lots of rusty chains, some cement dog bowls, and, creepiest of all, a puppy calendar from 2007.

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Old jackets draped over camp chairs in the fight room.

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Old stereo on the floor of the fight room.

Upstairs, where the dog fights actually occurred, was like stepping into a time warp. There were two old sweat jackets tossed over camp chairs, an old stereo and speakers, cut out squares in the floor from where the feds tested the wood for blood, and old tan carpet remnants.

The windows were painted black, and dog scratches etched the walls.

If there is indeed a hell, I hope that this is one of the rooms dogfighters end up in, forced to fight for their lives day in and day out.

The man who had these sheds built, who planned and financed an elaborate dogfighting operation, who served not a single day in jail for the crime of animal cruelty, was none other than the man the Pro Bowl now seeks to honor with a captainship today: Michael Vick.

“Yeah fine. I killed the dogs. I hung them. I slammed them. I killed all of them. I lost f@*king millions, all over some f@*king dogs.”—Michael Vick, October 12, 2007, after failing his polygraph.

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We transformed it to a beautiful home for our rescue dogs.

The argument has been made that Vick served his time and he deserves our forgiveness. That he’s shown remorse.

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The axle the carpet mill was attached to. It was taken for evidence.

I would argue that the remaining physical evidence of his crimes instead shows a man determined to commit atrocities against our best friends, to use them in a way most heinous and slaughter those who failed him—and the only reason he stopped was because he got caught.

While even murderers may be worthy of God’s forgiveness, that doesn’t mean that they should be upheld and honored by man.

If Vick’s crimes against the voiceless aren’t enough for a lifetime of dishonor, what would be enough?

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Tamira Thayne,  chained in front of the PA state Capitol, advocating for a law.

Take Action: Have you signed any of the petitions yet?
If not,
please click here and start signing. Thank you!

—Tamira Thayne is the founder and former CEO of Dogs Deserve Better, and the author of the newly-released: “It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups”, now available from Who Chains You Books.

Some photos here courtesy of photographer Rita Thomas.

What Happens when Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound is Bought by an Animal Activist? Find out in “It Went to the Dogs”

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We’re Proud to Announce Our New Release,
from Who Chains You Books!

It Went to the Dogs:
How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups

by Tamira Thayne

What could possibly go wrong when a dog activist buys Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound? As it turns out…everything.

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The house sat empty, an eerie white sentinel against the flat winter landscape, now guarding only whispers of the past. A six-foot white metal fence with coded entry gate lined the country road, abandoning its purpose at the property line and allowing passage to all with the temerity and curiosity to walk around.

The bullet hole in the front window went unnoticed.

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Tamira Thayne was alone, parked across the street, and early for her appointment with the Hampton Roads, Virginia realtor. Today was the day she’d tour Michael Vick’s former dogfighting compound, something she’d never imagined nor particularly wanted to do.

It seemed pretty creepy, truth be told.

Tamira felt the whispers surround her, reaching out. The rescuer in her wanted to rescue the ghosts, too; embrace the broken dogs who lay undiscovered and probably buried on the property, assure them they weren’t forgotten. She shuddered, pulling herself together.

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The decision Tamira would make that fateful day in February 2011 would lead not only to a home for her nonprofit’s rescue dogs, but also to the most turbulent four years of her life: she faced down allegations of racism, community harassment, poisoning, and, ultimately, false charges aimed at driving her and Dogs Deserve Better from the county.

There was a reason Michael Vick felt he could get away with dogfighting in Surry County, Virginia—and why he got away with it for as long as he did…

With over 200 bw photos and documents.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-946044-67-9 • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-946044-69-3

Buy in Paperback from Amazon
Buy on Kindle
Buy in hardcover direct from printer
Buy a Signed Paperback Copy

About the Author

Tamira Thayne pioneered the anti-tethering movement in America, forming and leading the nonprofit Dogs Deserve Better for 13 years.

During her time on the front lines of animal activism and rescue she took on plenty of bad guys (often failing miserably); her swan song culminated in the purchase and transformation of Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound to a chained-dog rescue and rehabilitation center. She’s spent 878 hours chained to a doghouse on behalf of the voiceless in front of state capitol buildings nationwide.

Tamira is the author of It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups, the Chained Gods Series, the Animal Protectors Series, Foster Doggie Insanity, and Capitol in Chains. She’s the editor of More Rescue Smiles, and the co-editor of Unchain My Heart and Rescue Smiles. In 2016 she founded Who Chains You, publishing books by and for animal activists and rescuers.

Tamira is an Air Force veteran who lives by a river in the woods of northern Virginia, with her husband, daughter, one dog, six cats, and hundreds of outside birds and critters she adores from afar.

We Know What Happened To Michael Vick’s Dogs…but What Became of the Infamous Property? Read All About it December 1!

If you haven’t read the most recent Washington Post story on the Vick dogs rescued from his fighting operation in 2007, we urge you to read and share it with all your friends. After all, can there ever be enough happy ending stories from a tragedy such as this?

A Second Chance

Twelve years ago, 47 dogs were rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation and allowed to live. They’ve enriched the lives of countless humans and altered the course of animal welfare.

Even though most of the dogs have since passed on, many groups and families gave their all to chain-ge the lives of these dogs for the better. They deserve a place in history and our gratitude.  Read the full article and see the heartwarming photos here.

In addition, the article mentions that the nonprofit Dogs Deserve Better bought the property, and turned it from the Bad Newz Kennels to the Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs.

Did you ever wonder how that came to be?

On December 1st, from author and founder of Dogs Deserve Better—Tamira Thayne—comes the book many have been waiting for:

It Went to the Dogs: How Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups

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From the Introduction:

The house sat empty, an eerie white sentinel against the flat winter landscape, now guarding only whispers of the past. A six-foot white metal fence with coded entry gate lined the country road, abandoning its purpose at the property line and allowing passage to all with the temerity and curiosity to walk around.

The bullet hole in the front window went unnoticed.

**

I was alone, parked across the street, and early for my appointment with the Hampton Roads, Virginia realtor. Today was the day I’d tour Vick’s former dogfighting compound, something I’d never imagined nor particularly wanted to do.

Seemed pretty creepy to me.

I felt the whispers surround me, reaching out. The rescuer in me wanted to rescue the ghosts, too; embrace the broken dogs who lay undiscovered and probably buried on the property, assure them they weren’t forgotten. I shuddered, pulling myself together…

Stay tuned for more information, coming soon! To browse all of author Tamira Thayne’s current books, visit her author page.