Gracie the pit bull became something of a goodwill ambassador for her breed
The bow-legged dog spent her final years with an adoptive household in Richmond, Virginia
Another of the dogs rescued in 2007 from NFL star Michael Vick’s dog-fighting compound has died after spending her final years in an adoptive household in suburban Richmond, Virginia.
Gracie, a black pit bull, died Monday morning, according to Amy McCracken, executive director of the Richmond Animal League.
“This morning, little, old, bow-legged Gracie passed away and got her angel wings. Any words we write here could never begin to express the profound, positive and lasting impact that this little, black pit bull had on so many people who encountered her or heard the story of her suffering and triumph,” said a post on the animal’s league’s “Gracie’s Guardians” Facebook page.
“We are and will be forever grateful for this little, broken black dog and everything she personified.”
The dog arrived at the Richmond no-kill shelter in 2007 and was quickly adopted by the group’s board president, Sharon Cornett, who renamed her Gracie.
“She had been used (at the Vick compound) as a breeding dog … not as a fighter,” McCracken told CNN. “She was in pretty good shape when she got here.”
According to McCracken, Gracie attended conferences and meetings about animal welfare and visited schools to show people they have nothing to fear from most pit bulls.
“Gracie was very, very friendly,” said McCracken, who estimated Gracie was 12 or 13 years old. “She loved people and was never aggressive to other dogs.”
Gracie was one of some 50 pit bulls seized by authorities in April 2007 amid charges that Vick, then a quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, was operating an illegal dog-fighting ring on his Virginia property. The case sparked an outcry over brutal treatment of the dogs, some of which showed signs of injuries and other abuse.
A federal judge determined the fate of Gracie and the other surviving dogs, who were taken in by animal sanctuaries, shelters, foster homes and adopters throughout the country. Twenty-two of the dogs were sent for rehabilitation and long-term care at Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, while another large group went to a San Francisco pet shelter.
One, named Georgia, made an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show before dying in 2013. Another, Hector, became a therapy dog and died of cancer in October.
Vick pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges involving illegal dog fighting and spent 18 months in prison before resuming his NFL career.
Created by the Richmond animal shelter, Gracie’s Guardians is an initiative dedicated to the welfare of pit bulls, which have attracted controversy because of isolated attacks on humans and the breed’s ties to dog fighting.
The group chose Gracie as their namesake “in tribute to her perseverance and that of countless other pit bulls who have suffered or continue to suffer at the hands of people, yet whose spirits and love for humans remains untarnished.”