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'DogTown' returns tonight with focus on Michael Vick's dogs

September 5, 2008 |  8:21 am

Trainer Ann Alums works with Meryl, who’d been aggressive toward people since removal from Michael Vick’s kennel.

The two-hour season premiere of the popular National Geographic Channel show "DogTown" tonight focuses on "Saving the Michael Vick Dogs," and Times' television critic Mary McNamara calls it some of the most compelling TV this summer.

Here's the 411 on the show:

Last December, the Atlanta Falcons' star quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for operating an illegal dog-fighting venture on his Virginia property. Forty-seven pit bulls in various states of physical and psychological damage were found at Vick's Bad Newz Kennels; eight more corpses were buried nearby.

At the time, many animal rescue experts recommended that the dogs be put down; so traumatic had the abuse been, so long had been their imprisonment that rehabilitation seemed impossible.

Others, including the veterinarians and trainers at Utah's Best Friends Animal Society, argued that the dogs could be saved. A judge finally agreed, and more than half were turned over to various shelters and rescues; the 22 most troubled dogs were sent to Dogtown.

Located on 3,000 acres of canyon country in southern Utah, the Best Friends sanctuary is one of the largest and no doubt the most beautifully located no-kill animal facilities; Dogtown is its canine program. For the last two years, "DogTown" the show has chronicled the staff as it healed and trained various ill, hurt, abused, abandoned and behavior-issue-plagued dogs.

Ultimately, McNamara says, the show will grab you for how it tells the story, not just for the animal-related content likely to resonate with avid dog people:

So if you ever wondered how bad dog fighting is, here's your answer. To its everlasting credit, "DogTown" does not sensationalize the abuse; the histories of the dogs are simply pieced together from behavior patterns and physical evidence, which is much more chilling and effective.

Last month, L.A. Unleashed told you that the Best Friends sanctuary in Utah was nominated as one of the best "Secret Spots of the West" in our Travel section.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Molly Wald/Best Friends Animal Society

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