Surviving Vick dog and new owner working to dispel "pitbull myth"

RENO, Nev. (KRNV & -- This week marks six years since police raided NFL quarterback Michael Vick's Virginia property and seized about 50 pitbulls that were part of his dogfighting ring. One of those dogs is now living happily in northern Nevada and his owner is working to raise awareness and dispel what he calls "the pitbull myth."

Mel is a seven-year-old pitbull and was just one year old when he was siezed from the property.

While he's still recovering from the trauma, his new owner Richard Hunter says Mel and the other survivng Vick dogs are living proof there's more to the breed than some people may think.

"I think that a lot of the sympathy for these dogs unfortunately was tempered by the fact that they were pitbulls," Hunter said.

Hunter adopted Mel just more than three years ago from the Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

"Before I had Mel I didn't have a bad opinion of pitbulls," Hunter said. "I just didn't have any opinion. I didn't have any experience."

Hunter says having Mel as a pet has taught him the stereotypes about pitbulls are just plain wrong.

"One of the worst parts about the pitbull myth is that they are inherently dangerous, and nothing could be further from the truth," Hunter said.

He says it's not the dogs' fault the myth exists, but the owners'.

"The pitbull's biggest problem is that sometimes idiots get ahold of them," Hunter said.

Mel is still afraid of meeting new people. Hunter says it's a psychological after-effect from being tortured. But he says Mel is great with other dogs - even the ones from the notorious Virginia dogfighting compound.

"[Mel] and myself and five of the other Vick dogs and their families all stayed in a cabin, one cabin, together for three days," Hunter said.

Six years later, Hunter says the dogs' circumstances couldn't have been more different.

"These six dogs [were] together playing, rolling around in the grass, being completely social and docile with each other," Hunter said.

They couldn't possibly have told anyone how false the myths about pitbulls were better than they showed them at the reunion.

"It's the same six dogs," Hunter said. "It's the people who are bringing them together who are the complete opposite from Michael Vick to now with six loving families that care for them."

Hunter is scheduled to speak before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday morning - on behalf of Mel and other pitbulls - in support of AB110. It's a bill that prevents breed- discrimination. Last week the assembly passed it unanimously.

Ten of the rescued Vick dogs are still waiting to be adopted from Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. For more information, click here.