Best Friends Responds to Fencing Issue

A blog posting regarding the death of a dog this week at BFAS elicited some comments from ex-staffers who basically stated that double fencing had been requested for certain dogs but denied due to cost.  In a post dated October 14, BFAS responds to this allegation directly:

For the record, there has never been a request for fencing that has been denied due to lack of funds, period.

So I guess that’s that?  The former staffers who spoke out to the contrary are all mistaken or perhaps dishonest?

My impression after reading the post is that there does seem to be a certain spin, including the title, to cast Beans (the dog who was killed by one or both of the Vick dogs) as the primary responsible party.  Your take may be different but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.


61 thoughts on “Best Friends Responds to Fencing Issue

  1. My thoughts…
    1) A good PR person can make anything okay
    2) Most people WANT to believe the best, not face reality
    3) Deny Deny Deny has been a game plan for more public figures than not at some point in their professional career
    4) Aren’t they doing exactly what ‘nutters’ are always accused of doing…blaming the victim?
    5) Maybe I’m completely wrong about all of this and there will be no fall out on the future of other fighting dogs.

    As someone said on the previous post related to this, had they NOT been fighting dogs the attention wouldn’t have been as profound (to sum it up).

    1. You are probably correct in the amount of attention the story might have received had it involved 3 Cocker Spaniel mixes taken in off the street for instance. I think what has so many people concerned is that one (or two) of the Vick dogs – who came with their own funding – got out and killed another dog. The allegations from former staffers that double fencing had been requested but denied due to $ seems outrageous on the face of it. And the story seems to have been spun against the non-Vick dog from the outset. That rubs me the wrong way and makes me suspicious.

  2. I don’t see the “blame Beans” angle at all.

    A “request for fencing” could be anything.. or nothing. BF spinners could determine that one or more caregivers expressing concern about inadequate fencing does not constitute a “request”.

    And remember, each dog came with $20k of Vick’s money… I sure remember all the videos of new kennels being constructed at the time BF first got the dogs. But that apparently was for “Dogtown” and that’s not where the Vick dogs are living…

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinion Emily. Just goes to show how the same information can leave a different impression upon different people.

      Regarding the “request for fencing”, I hadn’t thought of it that way but you are correct. We don’t know if that is meant to encompass the repeated pleading from ex-staffers and/or perhaps an official request form the organization might have.

      1. It seems to me that at least one of the caregivers said that she begged for double fencing. I think you are way off base here, EmilyS.

  3. Request can mean a lot of things. It could mean a casual “hey, I think we may need extra fencing for dog x,” to a coworker but never followed up with a supervisor. It could also mean that a caretaker put in a more formal request and it was indeed ignored. Not being an employee, I can’t say what BFAS’s procedure would normally be, but I know from experience working with animals at non-profits that a mix up could happen and information could fail to get relayed.

    It’s a tricky situation because basically, all we have is the word of one group against the other. In this case it’s even more tricky because one group (BF) has a lot to lose and the other group (the ex-employees) could easily be disgruntled for reasons that have nothing to do with the animals and be taking it out on their former employer – we don’t really know their motives. It could also be that no one is lying but their perspectives are just very different. We also don’t know who people are online and as conspiracy theory as this feels, the people who claim to be staffers could easily not ever have been.

    I do feel like there’s an air of “blaming the victim” in the way this has been handled, which is upsetting. Maybe it is because they’re trying to do damage control on saving former fighting dogs. I still don’t think it was the right approach. It’s upsetting this was allowed to happen in the first place, but it’s more upsetting that blame has to be placed on any dog.

    I’m looking forward to more facts coming out. Something is not right somewhere, that’s for sure.

    1. When you say you are “looking forward to more facts coming out” are you speaking optimistically or have you heard something specific about more facts being released? It would certainly clear up a lot of questions if the basic circumstances of the housing and subsequent breaches were provided.

      1. Optimistically, of course ;) The people I know who work for BFAS don’t work at the sanctuary at this time, and don’t seem to have anything to add. You know as much as I do.

  4. “Holly Smith Says:

    October 15, 2010 at 11:15 am
    It seems to me that at least one of the caregivers said that she begged for double fencing. I think you are way off base here, EmilyS.”

    well, in an organizational context, “begging for fencing” would not necessarily constitute what the organization considers a “request”. For example, the organization might require a specific procedure (such as submitting a form) or otherwise regard the “begging” just as employee noise.

    Now there’s this whole thing about whether Beans was decapitated…

    1. EmilyS, that’s very true. However, if we hear that caregivers were “begging” for fencing that would imply multiple requests, and wouldn’t it be only reasonable for us to assume that at least some of them would have been made in any formal manner required?

      As to BFAS not denying any such requests due to lack of funds, that statement does not mention if there were any or many such requests made, formally or informally. From their 990 form we know the funds were available, somewhere. We have also heard that caregivers there were given this reason for the denial.

      A logical conclusion here is that, if many such formal requests were actually made and refused, that upper management at BFAS actually denied them for other reasons. As BFAS has not commented, we can only speculate their management felt the requests could not be justified. This would then be compared against their history of incidents due to that decision.

      In the end there is no clear answer. However, those reading of this incident who also remember Blue Bear, Nicole and many others will form there own opinion on this.

  5. It could be that a request went in, someone higher up said, “We’ll do it when we can,” genuinely meaning that it would get done when constraints (time, money…) permitted.

    I can empathise with that as it’s what I’m having to do all the time – fortunately never with results this dire. $20K per dog is a lot of money, but to put it in perspective that’s roughly what was paid for the adoption block here:

    (hopefully due to pay for itself in the long run by increasing the rate of adoptions).

    1. Or, for another perspective, I earn less per year than what ONE Vick dog was allotted to make last for (perhaps) 10 years. And I am a human bean with car payments, medical care costs completely out of pocket, etc.

      And for yet another perspective, BFAS takes in tens of millions per year in donations.

      The bottom line is that, perhaps before anything else – even non-emergency veterinary care – the dogs should have had double fenced runs constructed for them – IMO. If I were to consider taking those dogs (I wouldn’t as I’m not at all qualified), that would be priority #1. It is NOT something I’d get multiple requests for over the years and put off and hear warnings about and then when something tragic happened be like “Gee, accidents happen but this is a teachable moment for all of us”.

  6. It is NOT the dog’s fault!!! No matter what. My take (and I read several of the other blog posts and sites that you linked to.) was that three dogs got out of three different pens and two were Vick dogs and they survived and the one dog that wasn’t a Vick dog died.

    All three dogs were aggressive…it is the caretakers fault that this happened!!! No matter what, it is the responsible human’s fault. The dogs are just dogs. That they want to paint the Vick dogs as less responsible than the “average” dog is sick (IMO). That the Vick dogs came with big bucks may mean we feel we can hold them MORE accountable, but I venture they spent the money the way they wanted, and not on fences for specific high-risk animals.

    I’ve seen little dogs gang up and kill one of their pack. It happens. But yorkie’s don’t usually come with a dowry, and the media doesn’t go nuts reporting about their activities.

  7. My partner wrote earlier, but now it is my time to write.
    I was good friends with several former caregivers: Roy, Mike, Vicki M, Vicki C, Marti, Jorge, Jim, Karen, Kathy, and others. Formal requests were made for double fencing frequently. The two main reasons given for denial were:
    (1) Faith considers such fencing unsightly
    (2) No money in the Dogtown budget right now.
    Here is what I suggest people do. Email John Garcia at and ask him directly:
    Were formal requests for double fencing ever made?
    Also, to the person who suspects that former caregivers are not really posting…Ask John Garcia or Patty H if Vicki McDonald was ever a BF dog caregiver. (She goes by her online name Vicki McDog.) Vicki M was one of the most respected caregivers ever. (She was also a dog trainer.) She was not fired; she left the organization to be closer to her family. Vicki asked for double fencing over and over (because she saw so many dogs getting hurt) and her requests were repeatedly denied. Check it out with John G or Patty H. Please post their responses here. Thank you.

    1. Sue, thank you. I have said so much here and elsewhere that I was really hoping that somebody else would lay this out as I know that this particular issue has been raised by many.

    2. That person who “suspects” is me, and I didn’t say I suspect. I simply said there’s no way for most of us to know. You posting a list of names doesn’t prove those people exist, especially when a Google search doesn’t provide results for them that I can tell to be accurate.

      For the record, I don’t doubt their existence. I simply live in a world of fact and I like to verify what I can, and like to point out to people that the internet makes it easy for people (including BF) to twist the truth.

      1. a BF staffer told me that “exfriender” was never an employee of BF. I have no idea if he is telling the truth.

    3. Sue and everyone thinking of e-mailing Mr. Garcia –

      His e-mail is set to auto-reply at the moment. The message says he’ll be out until the 19th.

    4. Hi,

      John, as you can imagine, is extremely busy in his role as co-manager of Dogtown. I just got off the phone with him and he said his email inbox is full and since he is here at the conference, busy with those duties for the weekend he is going to be unable to clear his inbox and respond to you in a timely manner.

      I spoke with Patty and she said she would like to make herself available for questions. She can be reached at

      Just on a personal note, this has felt very much like a damned if we do, damned if we don’t situation. We chose to be transparent because we are trying to learn from past mistakes where we clearly have not communicated the issues and were correctly criticized for that. Here we are transparent and are accused of lying. The baseless accusations from those with a clear “axe to grind” are also doing nothing to further what could be a constructive conversation. To question devotion from those who work at Best Friends is….like, unbelievable. I invite any of you to visit and see the place first hand and talk with those in charge of care. I think there might be a very different view of our commitment from those who are currently questioning it.

      Thank you,

      Jon Dunn
      Best Friends Animal Society

      1. The issues are not with the caregivers. I think we all agree that they do the very best they can. The issue is with management. Management’s whole focus is the all mighty dollar. Animal welfare and protection comes in a far distant second or even third.You are supposed to be a shelter for these poor animals. It is time that you started to act like one.

      2. Thanks Jon, I have e-mailed some questions to Patty.

        Speaking for myself, I hope I haven’t come across as questioning the devotion of the folks who do the hard work taking care of dogs at BFAS. What I’m questioning is the housing of aggressive sanctuary dogs and trying to sort out the claims that repeated requests were denied due to lack of funds vs. no they weren’t. Both of these things can’t be simultaneously true so there has to be more to the story.

        I hope you can appreciate that BFAS is held to a much higher standard than many other groups. The reason for that IMO is because people WANT TO SUPPORT Best Friends. That’s why it’s so disappointing when people who want to support your group feel they are being misled in one way or another. Believe me, if a dog was killed in PETA’s care (which happens thousands of times a year under the guise of a “merciful end”), people would simply roll their eyes and sigh because there is no expectation that dogs are safe in PETA’s care. Perhaps another way for you to view the current criticism is to be thankful that people have the expectation that dogs – even aggressive dogs that most people couldn’t handle – are safe in Best Friends’ care.

      3. John Dunn,

        Just on a personal note, I took you up on your invitation and tried to talk with those in charge that you so boldly speak of. That’s see, it has been over TWO weeks and I still have yet to get a response from your beloved/overworked John G. What a HUGE surprise! As for Patty H, it to has been over 2 weeks and still no response from her as well. So, John Dunn, your transparency angle seems too be just more BFAS BS! It is…like, unbelievable. I love it when you folks at BF contradict yourselves!

      4. Dear dwf, no response? Well, perhaps you aren’t as important as YesBiscuit. Or, maybe, BFAS is so busy answering thousands of others that you just have to wait awhile. So please update your status here in a few years…

        Now, as for Jon Dunn’s invitation to visit BFAS and talk with those in charge. It’s interesting that many of the people he’s ranting against are those who have been there, some for much longer than Jon himself.

        So, Jon, does your invitation there extend to Exfrienders also? I’ll even buy you lunch!

      5. With Shirley’s approval –

        Jon, I’m a bit late to the party (it’s Dec 5th!), but this messasge is for you in direct response to your above quote.

        A couple weeks ago I posted a “comment” on Patty’s blog, “Update From Dogtown” in which she dealt with Bean’s death. My comment appears under the name drdoolittle2800. I’d love to hear your response, okay?

        Here’s the gist of that comment and a further request for your and BFAS’ involvement:

        What I want you, John Garcia and Patty Hegwood to understand is that I am not asking you personally to reach out to my group. I am – through you and these kinds of contacts – asking Best Friends Animal Society to reach out to us.

        Who are we? We are people who excel at dealing with the challenge of rehabilitating very dangerous dogs. Most of the dogs we deal with will eat your face with some fava beans and a nice chianti! Most of Vick’s dogs were gentle compared to our guys.

        I’m going to flat-out state this opinion right here in black and white: BFAS is not the place nor the environment to take on this new field of work. You guys are in over your heads. I don’t even have to go there in person to know this. Fencing? Are you kidding me? This is what challenges BFAS? These are bush-league, rookie discussions.

        In contrast, to help further this new field of work I politely offered to get the nation’s top rehabbers together if BFAS would simply help us come together.

        What did I get from Patty? Stop by, I’ll show you around, then you can say your 3-minute bit and don’t let the door slap you in the ass on the way out.

        My God, the arrogance of you large organizations! She had the balls to tell me that BFAS consults with national humane organizations, certified behaviorists, blah, blah, blah. The very obvious implication was why would BFAS ever need to deal with unimportant people like us? Nothing but chest pounding to drive little guys like me away. Every single time I reach out.

        Jon, do you suppose when Patty referred to national humane groups, she meant HSUS and Wayne Pacelle, who INSISTED that every Vick survivor be killed?

        And how about that grand bunch of experts in New York called the ASPCA? Was Patty suggesting that BFAS consults with the renowned Dr. Emily Weiss and the ASPCA’s president, Ed Sayres? Wasn’t Dr. Emily the very same expert who INSISTED that little Oreo be killed because little sweet Oreo was far too dangerous?

        Who was that Gregory Castle guy who stood next to Ed Sayres and INSISTED that little LATE Oreo be, once again, given the finger by defeating Oreo’s Law?

        Are these the expert national humane organizations and nationally certified behavior experts Patty and BFAS turn to for advice on handling dangerous dogs?

        It’s no wonder, then, that Beans is another monument to arrogance like little Oreo.

        Jon, I’m not going to do this quietly anymore. I tried to deal quietly behind the scenes with Mike Harmon and Gregory Castle when you guys floated that silly useless program called “Community Training Partners.” I’ve reached out to several people at BFAS and all I get is the finger.

        I’m going to keep standing up publicly whenever I get the chance to INSIST that BFAS begins to reach out to this private sector group of genuine, real-life experts who know what the hell we’re doing. Dogs don’t die in our care.

        BFAS needs our help. And we need BFAS’ help to get our message out to this antiquated, backward industry.

        You guys at Dogtown at least reached out and offered help. I’d like to think it was because you saw an opportunity to help victims of human sadism. I hope it wasn’t just for the notoriety or the Vick $$$$$$.

        I represent a group being formed now comprised of leading rehabbers. We are Alan Papszycki, Steve Markwell, Brandi Tracy, Thomas Cole (yeah, me), Robert Cabral and several others.

        We are asking BFAS to put a tiny bit of that money you collect to help us put together some kind of training effort that will help end this annual slaughter in this industry’s shelters.

        If we can do successfully what we do with dangerous dogs, what could we – together – accomplish with minor issues?

        We cannot do this alone because we work by ourselves and do not have the means to accomplish this vital work. So we turn to you BFAS, and ask you, as a national humane organization, to recognize our expertise and invite us into the inner sanctum behind all those secret and closed doors.

        Much good could come as a result of this association. Or, you can keep fiddling with fencing and continue pretending to the world that you know what you’re doing.

        To reinforce my rather loud and bold position, I’d invite you to watch this one short video. This guy handles more than 70 aggressive dogs and he does it virtually alone. His dogs are not in separate cages. He doesn’t concern himself with monumental conundrums like single- or double-fencing. His name is Alan Papszycki. He lives with his dogs in New York. John and the gang at Dogtown could learn much from Alan.

        Here’s his story on Youtune =

      6. Yea for you Thomas. Unlike BF you deserve all the praise one could give. Best Friends just smells more every day.

  8. I’d like to know what Ann Allums has to say although I imagine she will not post here. When I was doing my research paper on bully breed adoption over a year ago and I wrote to Ed Fritz about the Vick Dogs, he referred me to Ann and we did the email thing back and forth. I know she has since left BF and I suspect she would not want to chime in and be put in a bad position. As a second, I’m wondering if John Sibley will chime in. I’m pretty sure he’s at the conference as we speak and have no doubt he knows about the death.

    In the end, I just feel like we have once again failed those who need us most. And the backlash for other dogs seized from fighting operations is sure to be huge. The naysayers will argue that if Best Friends cannot rehab dogs “like this” or keep dogs safe, no one can. I’d like Beans’ demise to bring about some good but am at a loss as to what that could be.

  9. I think this may be of interest to some. Someone from BFAS has posted in the comments of their post (in part):
    We are taking the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again, and rest assured, no warning signs were ignored here. It was a completely unpredictable event and it is disgusting that people are attempting to portray this situation otherwise.

    Beans was not found decapitated. Period.

    Jon Dunn
    Best Friends Animal Society

    1. In response to the above on that blog, I said in part:

      “While I stated that happening as a result of multiple direct reports, in retrospect I now realize that it was too inflammatory and really should not play any part in the larger questions. While I cannot, of course, retract it, I do apologize for that posting.”

      Whether true or false, it does not change the other questions and issues presented.

      1. posting that kind of inflammatory statement, especially when it is evidently untrue (I see no reason to doubt Jon Dunn) calls everything you have posted into question.

      2. EmilyS, I did not say it was false, but only inappropriate. Jon Dunn’s statement was nothing special but only a simple assertion. If you believe him on that basis, it may imply that you also believe all items from BFAS, for no more proof or detail was given elsewhere.

        Contrary wise, some of their statements have explicit contradictions and have been challenged by many others, some with direct prior knowledge.

        Yet, not once has BFAS ever admitted an incorrect or inappropriate item, which I just did. We all make mistakes, but only some of us will admit to them.

  10. I can appreciate that ‘accidents’ happen. What concerns me is the lack of ownership we’re seeing. Would I be happier if BFAS came out and said “OMG, we screwed up and it cost a dog its life!”? No, honestly that wouldn’t make it better, but might make it right.
    More concerning (as a PB rescuer/advocate) is the overall damage this ‘incident’ will have in the future. Its devastating to the campaign for reform of local ordinances and laws that include ‘fighting dogs’ in the definition of existing and proposed vicious dog laws! Since BFAS decided to cash in on the Vick dogs, launching them as the poster dogs of rehab-ing, this will not go unnoticed by those that were already hesitant or simply non-believers!

    Is it too harsh for me to say I don’t care HOW the dogs gained contact? It’s the WHY…why didn’t BFs recognize the importance of protecting not only these 3 dogs but the THOUSANDS that may suffer dire consequences as a result of their ‘lack of budget’? Where did the millions go that is raised each year? Salaries? Administrative Costs? Construction of ‘complexes’?

    As a rescuer, there are often times that I’m forced to say ‘no, I can’t take another dog at this time’…even though I want to take in the dog based on the background — but I KNOW my priorities, space limitations dictate the safety of the dogs, and the safety of the dogs dictate the well-being and futures of all dogs coming from similar backgrounds!

    I’m appalled that BFs, portrayed as the experts in maintaining these ‘type’ of dogs screwed this up!

    And just to be clear, I’m not pointing a finger at any single individual because I have no idea who that individual would be…but I sure hope they get a good nights rest knowing they’ve shrugged their responsibility and endangered more dogs than they will ever step forward to help!

    And, I’m finished with my rant…sorry!

  11. @Jon,

    If I hadn’t been told (extremely rudely, I might add) by Joy Moffat that “further emails from me would be deleted without being read” I might be inclined to email someone at Best Friends and ask someone. Some of the employees over there clearly need a refresher course in dealing with the public.

    Other than that all I can say is that no one is perfect, but Best Friends holds itself out to be more perfect than anyone else.

  12. Ok, so let’s pretend that this was in fact, a couple of cocker spaniel mixes instead of fight dogs.

    Would anyone argue after several years of rehabilitation and housing that the death of Beans proves that these dogs should not be kept alive.

    Animals that are this dangerous simply put a bad face on every rescue dog, past present and future.

    Surely we all agree that No-Kill is not literal. Even in the greatest No-Kill shelter on earth, there are animals that are going to be euthanized due to health or behaviour. Some are simply beyond help, and this incident should prove that these two dogs are in that category – I don’t care what breed they are.

    No-Kill advocates are always being accused of “warehousing” – and I think that term suits Best Friends quite perfectly.

    Under 800 adoptions a year? This says something about the condition of the dogs in their care, no?

    I think there is a fine line between sanctuary and warehouse. I believe that a sanctuary provides a permanent place for less adoptable animals to live – but all animals should be adoptable. If they are too sick or unstable to adopt out even YEARS after their intake, when is it time to say that enough is enough? That this animal suffered for so long at the hands of Michael Vick, and now is suffering a different kind of hell. These dogs are not living positive lives – they are simply living.

    To me, that’s the opposite to what the No-Kill movement is about. To me, it’s about giving everyone a chance at redemption. But not everyone can be saved.

    While this incident makes it clear that BFAS has to look over their fencing procedures, it also makes it clear to me that they need to look over their euthanasia policy as well.

    The housing model at BFAS also needs some real scrutiny. From my experience, a dog with a simple lack of social skills can develop into a dog killer when housed in these communes. It begins with simple frustration at being penned up all day long, which is exhibited by fence fighting. Things deteriorate from there as double fencing and finally solid fencing is used to further isolate this pack animal from interaction. The more the isolation continues, the more frustration builds – and blows up in scenes like this one.

    If an animal is so broken it is considered unadoptable for life, how pleasant are that dog’s daily interactions? Who exactly are we keeping these dogs alive for? Is it for the dog’s sake? Is it in their best interests? I don’t think so. It’s in BFAS’s interests, that’s for damn sure.

    What is missing in this equation is some common sense and a little responsibility. What animal lover would look at a dog with no hope of a life, penned up 24 hours a day with all the mental frustration and anguish that solitary causes and not want to end that animal’s life or improve its surroundings?

    When the dogs are this broken, and you can safely say beyond a doubt that things are never going to improve for this dog – that it is going to be housed in solitary for the rest of its life and is surely far too dangerous to be adopted – you need to be able to do the humane thing, and that includes euthanasia.

    I also want to say something about everyone’s concern regarding how this will affect future fight dogs. I can tell you right now that stories like this are HUGE ammo for groups like PeTA and HSUS to promote immediate destruction of all fight dogs. When groups can point to incidents such as this one and say quite clearly “This is what happens when we warehouse dangerous animals” this is going to affect future court decisions.

    The ONLY responsible thing to do is to euthanize these animals once it becomes clear that rehabilitation is not possible – or to search out other avenues of rehab. Simply sticking them in a pen somewhere is unacceptable. Believe me, BFAS and other such groups would have much more traction in the courts if they could show that they have a track record of being realistic when assessing individual animals.

    No judge wants to be the one to hand a dozen bust dogs to a sanctuary only to find out that harm was caused to or by the animals in question – just as no judge wants to categorically lump all fight dogs in the “DANGEROUS” category to be disposed of without individual assessment. Unfortunately, thanks to incidents like this one, that’s just the position that these judges have been put into. The rescue community needs to prove its ability to handle these animals, and if you ask me, so far they have not.

    1. Kim: no the whole point of the “fighting dog” rehab philosophy is that dogs should not be blamed for human mistakes/cruelty. The more dog-aggressive Vick dogs deserve this approach as much as any dog.

      Almost any dog will kill another animal under the “right” circumstance and stimulus. They are predators. Would you regard as dangerous a dog that kills a rat, a squirrel, a rabbit? What about a cat? Where are you drawing the lines about what other animals must be excused from the laws of nature? And BTW: do you have any problems with the treasured feral cats of the “no kill” equation killing rats, birds, rabbits, etc? If not, why not?

      Dogs that are dog-aggressive need special handling and training, to be sure. But they are NOT generally inherently “dangerous”. Fightbust dogs that are dog-aggressive are NO different from any other dog-aggressive dog. People deal with their dog-aggressive dogs every day. And few ever get into trouble.

      What we’ve learned is that NOT ALL fightbust dogs are dog-aggressive. What we’ve learned is that MOST of the rescued fightbust dogs are living normal, safe lives with their people and with other dogs. Even the ones that actually fought. Even the ones that don’t like other dogs and could, if the wrong thing happened, get into trouble.

      What we KNOW is that dogs kill other dogs all the time and no one gets hysterical about it (other than the victims’ families). No headlines about judges ruling that the dogs are “dangerous” (though they often are). Unless of course the press can identify the dog as a “pit bull.”

      I agree that this incident COULD become more ammunition for the pit bull haters and that concerns me a lot. I agree that BF has issued incomplete and confusing statements and that the incident seems to have resulted from horrific negligence. I agree that BF “owes” us a clearer, more comprehensive explanation

      But the b.s. spewed by exfriender, fluffysmom, DJSez and the others is arguably WORSE (e.g. the hysterical “decapitation” rumor). I actually believe that BF cares about the dogs. I’m not so sure that the anti-BFers care as much about the dogs as they do about hating BF.

      1. I fear you’ve carried your argument from the BF website over to this one and missed the point of my post.

        My point was that I don’t care what kind of breed this was – after two years of rehab for two dogs to escape their individual runs and enter the run of a third dog leaving one dog dead and two injured is a reasonable justification for euthanasia.

        There’s also no comparison of dog-dog aggression to an animal with high prey drive like a cat. Dogs are wired to NOT kill each other. Cats, on the other hand, are eating birds to survive. If Beans and the other two were starved, and resorted to eating each other, you’d have a comparison – but as it stands, you don’t.

        What I’m saying is that if No-Kill and BF in particular want to advance their cause, the warehousing of animals that are this dangerous is not the way to achieve their goals.

        What I’m saying is that we have to be reasonable and realistic when assessing these dogs. Many of the Vicktory dogs have proven that a good portion of these dogs can be turned around – can even be made examples of as breed ambassadors under the right circumstances. But other Vicktory dogs have proven that some of these dogs are simply too damaged to be fixed.

        I’m not blaming the dogs. In this case the blame is equally split between BF and Michael Vick, IMHO, but just because it’s not the dogs’ fault doesn’t mean that keeping them alive is the right decision.

        Deeply depraved humans almost always come from deeply depraved childhoods. Take a look at the truly heinous among ourselves and you will see that 99% of the time its not the fault of that individual either. Does that mean that they should not be held accountable, that they should be put in a position where they can cause further harm?

        I am not anti-BF, I am not anti-Pit. I train and rehab aggressive dogs and run a private rescue group. But I’m also not so focused on my goals that I can’t accept a lost cause when I find one. Have I taken on dog killers? A few. All of them were cases where size played a large factor however – where the bites inflicted would not have been fatal except for the small size of the other dog in the fight – and two of the three fights were caused by the smaller dog.

        However, when faced with a large, powerful breed that has killed a formidable opponent, I have to recommend euthanasia.

        Now, fight bust dogs are likely to have killed others – but under high pressure circumstances. Fight dogs have to be riled and coached even during a fight to perform at their best. What we have here, however, are three dogs who have been in rehab for years – three dogs who all managed to get around their barriers in three different buildings (btw, I’m with you on the possible conspiracy – this whole situation reeks). If they did it on their own, which is what is being suggested, then the future of these dogs should be re-evaluated by BF.

        I also want to add that if it’s true these dogs buried underneath their fencing to escape then this is extremely gross negligence on BF’s part. Even my back yard kennel has 18″ of fencing buried vertically with a 6″ horizontal lip of fencing directed inwards. This prevents even my three cattle dogs from burrowing out of the pen, and should be standard issue for any dog with aggression problems of any kind.

        They obviously don’t have the skills to rehabilitate these dogs, and they certainly don’t have the ability to house them safely. So we’re back to a warehousing situation with poor containment. This is NOT what No-Kill is about. At some point, someone has to stand up and admit that some of these dogs are not salvageable and that these resources could be better used elsewhere.

        And lastly, a dog-aggressive dog IS inherently dangerous. Not only towards other dogs, but potentially towards any other being that gets in their way or becomes a target of redirected frustration when the dog realizes it can’t reach its intended target. As long as that dog is showing dog aggression, that dog should be handled as a dangerous dog. To do otherwise is nothing short of criminally irresponsible. Are these dogs “fixable”? The majority, I believe, are. But with this responsibility we need to accept the reality that not ALL of them are – and we need to know when to admit defeat, mourn, and move on.

  13. Kim’s comments are very concerning to me. They sound like the argument made by the ASPCA to justify the killing of Oreo: that for extremely aggressive dogs, life in a sanctuary is a living death and so the animal is better off being killed. I do not agree with this. Sanctuaries choose to provide lifetime care in a natural setting (with walks and human interaction for certain and interaction with other animals whenever possible) for animals that are not adoption candidates — including those who are not “savageable” or “fixable” — and I support that purpose. Salvaging or fixing is something to strive for, but if it cannot be achieved, that is not the animal’s fault and the animal should not be punished. The animal should be cared for. The issue IMO is whether BF, as a sanctuary that so many people support and invest in both financially and emotionally, did a good job at providing the care they have chosen to undertake. I would not want to see them start killing dogs, even ones who are extremely dangerous . . . even those who are “not salvageable.” That would change their mission irrevocably. Salvaging or fixing these dogs is a desirable-to-have and I’m sure BF works at that every day and will continue to do so. The must-have is caring for them, and that includes the fencing that will protect them and others.

  14. I can appreciate your position, Karen – we’ll just have to disagree.

    I don’t believe that keeping these animals alive is doing anyone any good. How many more dogs at DogTown have to be victims of savage aggression before people realize that saving one life at the expense of others is not ok. When you can say, with a fair amount of certainty, that an animal will be an uncontrollable danger to either people or animals for the remainder of its life, it is time to put that animal to rest.

    Keeping these incredibly vicious dogs alive simply to meet some mission statement – at the expense of the safety of the humans and animals who are around them – is not acceptable.

    No, the reality of some of the Vick dogs is not pleasant. Yes, the dogs themselves are blameless. On that point we are in agreement.

    Where we don’t agree is where other animals are knowingly put in danger. This situation had a horrible ending for poor Beans – who I believe time will show was a victim of Tug – but it could have been SO much worse.

    What would have happened if it hadn’t been Dexter’s pen Tug broke into next? What if it had been a weaker opponent like Beans? What if he had gotten into a multi-dog run? Where would he have stopped? How many dogs have to die to save Tug?

    This isn’t ABOUT blame. This isn’t about a mission statement. This is about reality – and how bad it stinks sometimes, and forces us to make decisions we would rather not make. If only it were that easy – that every biting dog could find a home “on a farm” or in a sanctuary, where it would at the very least be safely contained.

    Unfortunately, we can’t safely contain these animals without such severe restriction that it would become inhumane to keep them in such conditions.

    What if Tug and/or Dexter had then redirected towards the caregivers who arrived on the scene? I imagine there’s one caregiver who gets there first – two pitbulls in a rage against an unarmed human – how do you think that would have ended?

    And how do you think this entire situation as it is is helping the plight of pitbulls all over the world? Is the keeping of dangerous individuals at the expense of the entire breed’s reputation an acceptable exchange?

    I agree that every dog should be judged as an individual – not only for its current state, but for it’s potential for rehabilitation. One of the Vick dogs was euthanized AFTER assessment. So obviously these organizations recognize that some dogs are not salvageable. Unfortunately, with these being Vicktory Dogs, there’s a price on each head for BF.

    Poor Beans. I’m sure if he could have he would have opted for a humane injection over being torn apart. Sometimes death truly is the most humane thing to give an animal, and to do anything else stems from an ideal that does not put the animal first.

  15. to Kim: I doubt your experience with “aggressive” dogs because you seem to know very little

    1) fight bust dogs are NOT “likely” to have killed another dog. Comparatively few dogs die in organized dogfights. Dogs of course kill each other all the time in other kinds of situations. I hear stories of obedience and conformation show dogs attacking other dogs, sometimes fatally. ALL breeds involved.
    2) there’s no evidence that dogs are “hardwired” not to attack each other.. in fact MANY breeds have been created to be dog-aggressive. How many dogs exactly do you want to kill? A dog in highly aroused prey mode (one of the speculations about this incident) really isn’t going to care much about which prey it goes after. Except, in the case of the properly bred APBT, it has been designed specifically NOT to redirect onto people. I have heard NO suggestions that Tug or Denzyl had any abnormal behavior and in fact BadRap seriously considered taking Tug who would have been fostered and then appropriately homed.
    3) Oreo was a HUMAN aggressive dog. There is no connection and no relationship to this incident. NONE of the surviving Vick dogs is human aggressive. People who say “oh he attacked a dog; he will attack a person next” are simply ignorant. The Vick dogs are either extremely fearful of people (which is what their “rehabilitation” is about) or typical love sluts like the average APBT.
    4) cats do NOT solely eat to survive. Well fed family and feral cats kill other creatures all the time.. it’s what they do. Your defense of cats is telling. Cats are allowed to kill. Dogs are not. Why is that?

    1. 1) Not true. Dogs are practiced on weaker dogs, cats, small animals and any other prey that can be used to condition them to win. This involves allowing the dog to kill, as often as possible.

      2) Dogs are hardwired not to kill each other. They are a pack animal, and disagreements are settled, 99.9% of the time by posturing and moderate displays of aggression – this is why most “dog fights” end up with little but spit on both dogs. Dogs that fight to kill (again, talking about dogs facing other dogs of similar size – it’s arguable whether some larger dogs recognize smaller dogs as dogs or simply prey) are a rarity. Dogs that constantly initiate fights of this level would not survive long enough to pass along their genes. Yes, the characteristics to fight, or to be easily triggered towards aggression, are exaggerated in some breeds, and this should be considered as well. No one said any different.

      Where you are wrong is that the APBT has been bred to be human friendly. This is not the case. The dogs have an over-exaggerated aggressive response, and this will be directed at whatever they have been trained to direct it at. Human aggressive pits who fought and won were FAR too valuable to be euthanized. No fighter is going to pull out his winning dog and kill it. Sorry, not buying it.

      3) I did not mention Oreo once. Not a single time. Did not suggest that he should have been saved or euthanized. And dogs that attack animals and then humans are well documented – it’s called redirected aggression. If you’re not aware of this, perhaps you should spend a more time reading about the subject and less time calling others ignorant. Try the Google, I hear it’s pretty easy.

      4) Did not defend cats. Merely said that the comparison was not an equal one. Also did not say that they killed solely to eat, simply that that was their main motivation, and unless we were discussing feral dogs, it’s irrelevant.

      EmilyS, I suggest a bit of time between your reading of a post and your immediate backlash response. Perhaps time to fact check your information… or even better, to make sure you’re properly quoting the person you’re trying to debate.

      Your attempt to take the discussion in a completely irrelevant direction is well noted though – as it has been on many other blogs as well. Your inability to form an argument and your doubts regarding my experience have also been noted. Move along.

      1. Kim sez “Dogs are practiced on weaker dogs [etc.].. . to condition them to win.”

        “Win”? Seriously?

        Do you REALLY believe dogs have an understanding of what “winning” is?

        “Dogs are hardwired not to kill each other”

        Apparently not, since there are plenty of dogs that will kill other dogs. Happens all the time — even among the fluffy-butt types.

        Faulty [hard] wiring? Spontaneous yet mysteriously wide-spread genetic mutation?

        Or faulting thinking on the part of the “Kims” of the world?

      2. On dogs killing each other, there does exist a genetic disposition that modulates conspecific aggression with regard to method, damage and killing. That was Kim’s reference, and it is well established in the literature.

        However, these dogs are now living in a genetically “foreign” environment, under pressures and conditions that did not exist in much of their genetic ancestry. As current actions do not depend on a single genetic trait but on a combination of factors, Kim’s conclusion on this cannot be taken as a general rule or characteristic.

      3. Err … humans are also hardwired — and very strongly — not to kill one another.

        Yet we do it all the time.* Most often in the heat of some strong emotion.

        Most people who kill other people, intentionally or in the course of a conflict in which there may not have been murderous intent, are not genetic anomolies. Most are not sociopaths.

        Dogs of all breeds — and wolves, wild wolves as well — will kill each other in fights.

        Q: If these dogs had somehow gotten into a three-way fight while there was a human being present to quickly break up the fight and take them off to the vet, and the result was that all the dogs walked away with some lacerations, what would this mean about the two Vick pits?

        *Meaning, not as often as people, say, take a dump, but significantly more often than they, say, are ordained as Catholic priests.

      4. Houlahan, there is a difference between making a statement, qualified as to frequencies and conditions, and stating a general rule to prove something, which I feel that Kim attempted to do.

        “We do it all the time.”
        True, yet over six billion people may not have personally experienced this, else one of us might not be here right now. And, of course, wolves and many others do kill conspecifics in fights, but these are far more the exceptions than the rule, other than cases such as certain predatory species where the male will kill prior cubs of a desired mate (, or possibly two humans seeking the same mate:-).

        Concerning the Vick Pits, I’m going to return to my favorite saying, “The dog is always right” in that humans were likely responsible for allowing this to happen and may have also contributed to its likelihood.

      5. “Do you REALLY believe dogs have an understanding of what “winning” is?”

        A dog who gets into fights and gets his ass kicked is less likely to pick a fight in the future. A dog who gets in a few fights and comes out the victor is not going to hesitate to use physical force in the future, because it worked in the past. While the dog may not understand the concept of “winning” in reference to our own definition, to suggest that the dog doesn’t gain self confidence and ability by succeeding repeatedly is ridiculous.

        You’re suggesting that they use bait animals for fun?

        “Q: If these dogs had somehow gotten into a three-way fight while there was a human being present to quickly break up the fight and take them off to the vet, and the result was that all the dogs walked away with some lacerations, what would this mean about the two Vick pits?”

        But this is not what happened. This wasn’t a chance encounter, this involved a dog chewing through at least three steel fences to accomplish its goal. What would your assessment be if tomorrow Rosie killed Cole? Would you consider that normal behaviour, even taking into account Rosie’s inherent evil tendencies (wink), or would you search out another cause such as an illness or injury that caused her to act in such a fashion? Would you consider her a safety risk? Would you do whatever was necessary to protect others from future attacks?

        My point is that fighting to the death is not considered normal behaviour in a dog by any standards. And while I believe that good intentions are behind those keeping these dangerous dogs alive, they have proven their inability to keep these dogs safely, time and time again. I was certainly one of their supporters and felt that they should be given a chance – but I don’t feel that this is appropriate at the expense of others’ safety.

        I don’t think my stance is all that radical.

      6. Kim (and others), when comments are fully nested or very long, I suggest you try to begin your text with the name of the party you are responding to, so that people don’t have to guess this from context or memory.

  16. “For the record, there has never been a request for fencing that has been denied due to lack of funds, period.”

    I found that interesting,.. never been a request for fencing that has been denied DUE TO LACK OF FUNDS.
    But it *may* have been denied for OTHER reasons.

    Of course, there probably isnt a sanctuary on Earth where a tragedy like this hasnt happened, so maybe we are making too much of it, with all due respect to the poor Dog who was killed, God Bless Him/Her.

    1. yes, I’ve noted that as well.
      This statement may be innocent.. but it absolutely leaves BF open to this kind of questioning.

      When proclaiming you want to be transparent, writing like a weasel is not a good tactic.

  17. uh. . . a “genetic disposition that modulates conspecific aggression” is hardly a smoking gun, is it?

    “Aggression” is a behavior. Behaviors, yours and mine, neurotic or healthy, canine, feline, whatever, are highly influenced by about a billion things.

    The “hard wired behavior” myth is certainly convenient. But like many butcheries of scientific method, it is typically used to isolate, stigmatize and ultimately kill the target.

    So have at it.

  18. Kim, you’re just mouthing the HSUS/PETA line about bait dogs and dogfighting. You really don’t know anything about dogs or dogfighting. And you certainly know nothing about the history of dogfighting and the creation of the breed, the APBT. Sure it’s true that there were some human-aggressive fighting dogs… and it was so rare, that fanciers talk about these few exceptions all the time. Every one who has worked with purebred APBTs knows about its tendency NOT to redirect on humans when pulled from a fight. They’re not ACDs.

    But whatever: Tug and Denzyl’s fighting history is NOT known. You don’t know whether Tugs and Denzyl were among Vick’s dogs that were fought, rolled, baited or ever engaged another dog in any way (most of them were not, from all available evidence). So your assumptions about why they got into THIS fight with Beans are completely off base… and irrelevant.

    (BTW: We don’t actually know yet whether the 3 dogs chewed through steel fences or dug underneath; we have conflicting statements from people claiming insider knowledge, who have demonstrated their unreliability, e.g. “decapitation”.)

    You continue to promote the notion that dogs that get into fatal dogfights are inevitably dangerous.. which is a belief that would destroy thousands of dogs, not limited to so called fighting dogs. And I repeat: if you don’t know of non-pit bull type dogs that have tried to kill each other then you have not been around dogs very much.

    Houlihan and Bluedogstate have tried to explain why you are just plain wrong. You want to believe the Vick dogs are irredeemably dangerous and should be killed.

    The more humane of us want the Vick dogs, other victims of dogfighting and indeed ALL dogs, to be given a chance to live normal lives.

    In the dog world, “normal” often means squabbles that involve teeth. It is the responsibility of the human caretakers to ensure dogs remain safe and don’t have opportunities to get into squabbles. BF’s failure to do this –not their custodianship itself– is the mistake.

    Tug and Denzyl are innocent. BF is not.

    1. Other than a few specific points, I’ve stayed out of much of this specific debate, but EmilyS’s reading deficiency and black/white, disingenuous stance is striking and obscures otherwise valid points she might be making.

      Kim concluded, “My point is that fighting to the death is not considered normal behavior in a dog by any standards. And while I believe that good intentions are behind those keeping these dangerous dogs alive, they have proven their inability to keep these dogs safely, time and time again.”

      And EmilyS read: “You continue to promote the notion that dogs that get into fatal dogfights are inevitably dangerous…”

      Yet, EmilyS herself has stated that “BF’s failure to do this –not their custodianship itself– is the mistake.”

      Putting these together, the main point of contention appears (to me) to be that EmilyS IMPLIES this is a solitary incident at BFAS, and Kim STATES that this is but one in a sequence of similar event. She therefore fails to reply to the case where Kim’s statement is correct, an opinion which has been presented by many others.

      I am not stating full agreement with Kim, only that EmilyS is arguing against what he didn’t say. That the real moral question here is what should we humans do when Kim’s above conclusion is valid, and I’ll leave that one open.

      1. Thanks, exfriender, for at least taking the time to read what I wrote before responding. ;O)

        To everyone who has accused me of everything from backing HSUS/ASPCA to being ignorant about dog behaviour, I suggest further education.

        I am NOT suggesting that every dog who comes from a fight bust should be euthanized, or that pit bulls are inherently dangerous, or that deaths DO happen – only that when truly dangerous individuals do pop up, euthanasia IS an appropriate course of action.

        Emily, your reference to pit bull “fanciers” says everything. You obviously have yet to do any in depth research into the true history of the breed. In addition, if this inability to bite humans was so strongly ingrained in them, we would not see pit bull attacks unless the dog had conditioned to do so, by your estimation. And yet, just like EVERY OTHER BREED, there are dogs who pose a danger to humans.

        I find it extremely telling that you are willing to suggest that breeding and genetics prevents these animals from being aggressive towards humans, and yet unwilling to admit that breeding and genetics has anything to do with aggression.

        My point is that in an ideal world every animal would get a chance like the one that Best Friends provides so many others. I don’t wish the Vick dogs any harm as a group – but I do think that individual temperaments and safety need to be considered rather than simply putting these dogs on a pedestal and trying to say that rehabilitation is always the right answer.

        There are millions of dogs who don’t pose a danger to other animals or people – millions who are euthanized every day because they are too old, too ugly, too black, too big, too sick, or just too many. Part of taking on these dogs is doing the best we can to keep them as safe and happy as possible while they are in our care, and when certain animals pose a danger to others I think this is where we need to draw the line.

        I’m not suggesting that bust dogs be euthanized. I’m suggesting that they be evaluated (once again, I point to the Vick dog who was assessed and euthanized due to severe behavioural issues) for rehabilitation and saved whenever possible. But NOT at the expense of others. And at some point it IS ok to admit that death is a viable option for those who can not be rehabilitated to the point of at least a certain level of safety.

        And not once did I say that I had never encountered a non-pitbull dog killer. In fact, in every case of fatal dog aggression I have worked on, not a single one of them was a pitbull. I’m not sure if you’re really not reading what I type, if you’re just making it up as you go along, or if there’s a deeper underlying issue here, but you continue to put words in my mouth and others.

        Exfriender, I appreciate all you’ve done to try and bring the issues at DogTown to light. As a proponent of No-Kill, I believe in sanctuary – but it’s ones like this that give real ammo to groups like PeTA, HSUS and the ASPCA. Speaking out against groups that are perceived to be “good” doesn’t make you any friends, especially in the beginning. When we first started speaking out against PeTA, and then the HSUS and finally the ASPCA, we were called all kinds of things, and quite similarly told that we didn’t know anything about the subject at hand.

        Of course, then PeTA was busted dumping dead bodies in the back of a Piggly Wiggly and the HSUS/ASPCA publicly cried for the death of newborn puppies.

        Suddenly, we were the voice of reason.

        My point in all this, and I’ll make it again and again, is that there are some individual animals who warrant euthanasia as a release – either for their own wellbeing or for the safety of others. I also believe that these dogs are rare – that the majority of them can be rehabilitated. The NESR rescue that we’ve all followed is a great example of taking a group of dogs that would have been quickly disposed of were it not for the tireless efforts of the rescuers. These dogs had deep emotional and psychological scars, and took an incredible coming together of specialists and just plain old volunteers to make their story such a resounding success.

        Now Heather, correct me if I’m wrong, but if a dog was evaluated by you and deemed to be dangerous and beyond rehabilitation, would you not recommend euthanasia? Would you agree with those who say that there is NO reason to euthanize an aggressive dog?

        My apologies for pulling you into this, but since EmilyS has chosen to use you as her “proof” that everything I have said is incorrect, I’d just like a little clarification from the source – and do know that I have an unlimited respect for what you do and this is in no way an attack on you or your abilities.

        I just don’t think things can ever be that black and white – this notion that you’re either “for us or against us” has got to go.

      2. Kim, here I do agree with you.

        I also do understand the negative potential of some information that I release, but there is no good choice here. I have still withheld much for that reason and, while some good is done at BFAS, consider the issues I’ve raised as only the tip of an iceberg. I have seen too many good people in tears.

  19. Sorry, Kim, but you are clueless.

    “There are millions of dogs who don’t pose a danger to other animals or people. . .”

    Unless you are trying to make a case for “millions” of toothless, clawless, severely arthritic or I dunno, maybe neonate pups, then YOU are the danger to animals and people through your denial of what animals will sometimes do.

    Kinda like what happened at the “sanctuary” in Kanab.

    “Aggression” is a vital behavioral component in all of us mammals. In dogs, the potential is increased if they are permitted to build up a significant frustration level (which long-term kenneling near a challenging dog can lead to) and/or they are permitted to pack up with another dog. I am betting both situations occurred at the “sanctuary” in Kanab, and yeah, BFAS was way negligent.

    You are making a value judgement about which dogs should die based on your own ignorance and HSUS/PeTA crappola.

    HSUS and PeTA want “pit bulls” dead, the sooner the better, and that is the objective of their various pit bull-related campaigns. Think about it.

    1. Oh, come on, bluedogstate. We BOTH know that there is a huge difference between aggression expressed between two frustrated dogs and a dog who has been assessed as a danger.

      I am making a judgement regarding euthanasia and responsibility when it comes to dogs who are assessed to pose a danger to others.

      I am not calling for the death of all fight dogs.

      I am not calling for the death of all pit bulls.

      I have spent the last 12 years of my life dealing with canine behaviour, and half of that as an animal welfare activist.

      READ before responding. My opinions have nothing to do with PeTA or HSUS, and this is the last time I’m going to address this. My opinion is based on 12 years of experience dealing with thousands of dogs through my work, my rescue and my clients.

      I just don’t believe that animals should be put in danger simply because we can’t accept that not all of them can be saved safely.

      I agree with you that BFAS is totally to blame here – but the situation wouldn’t have happened in the first place (nor would the multiple previous incidents there) if these dogs weren’t there in the first place. After two years in “rehab” if these dogs can’t even be subjected to the visual presence of another animal without reacting violently, I don’t care if they are cocker spaniels, it’s time to admit defeat.

      And for the record, you gain little respect from anyone here by throwing mud. Calling me “clueless” and then again failing to respond to what I’ve actually said and instead falling back on your HSUS/PeTA talking points makes a much louder statement than anything I could say in retort.

      1. Initially, I was reluctant to accept some of Kim’s statements as they could have been interpreted in an extreme manner. And, throughout this whole discussion, IMO there have been some valid points made by many others, even EmilyS.

        At this point, I feel Kim has refined his views to where I remain in agreement with him.

        Contrary wise, I feel bluedogstate’s comments on environmental influences on aggression and possible resulting behavior are being presented as a general rule to make a point, when that is far from the common case. And I don’t see Kim as
        “You are making a value judgement about which dogs should die based on your own ignorance and HSUS/PeTA crappola.”
        but only discussing and defending a realistic criteria.

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