Animal Law Expert Discusses Michael Vick Dogfight Case
March 26, 2009 — Rebecca Huss, the attorney who became the legal guardian of dogs rescued from the property of Atlanta Falcons football player Michael Vick, discussed the landmark case during a visit to Earle Mack School of Law on March 26.
A professor at Valparaiso University School of Law, Huss was appointed guardian and master of 66 dogs that were discovered on Vick's property along with evidence of an extensive fighting ring in 2007.
Huss, whose visit was organized by the Earle Mack School of Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, explained the legal and rehabilitative processes that unfolded as federal authorities took custody of the dogs through civil forfeiture.
Typically, animals rescued from fighting operations are presumed to be dangerous, Huss said.
"We didn't know if the dogs could be saved or if they were terribly aggressive toward other dogs or humans," she said, adding that animal-welfare organizations were identified that could evaluate the rescued animals' suitability for placement with families or in animal sanctuaries.
While one dog that was aggressive towards humans was euthanized, she said, most of them were socialized by volunteers and became friendly enough to people or other animals to live out their lives.
"We are very fortunate that the federal government was willing to do this," Huss said, adding that Vick was required to pay for veterinary treatment and social rehabilitation of the rescued dogs.
Huss said that Leo, an American Pit Bull Terrier rescued from Vick's property who now visits cancer patients as a therapy dog, proves that rescued animals should be evaluated as individuals.
"You've got to look at the dogs as individuals," she said, displaying an image of the therapy dog on a projector. "Look at Leo. He's giving back."
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