Handsome Dan: A Vicktory Story

Written by: Nicole Zalat

April 17, 2015

When Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring was shut down in 2007, many feared that the dogs who were rescued would be unable to find homes because of the trauma they had endured. Dogs who make it out of dogfighting rings often end up being euthanized.

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But for 22 of the dogs that were found at Vick’s operation, Best Friends Animal Society became a safe haven, despite being classified as the most traumatized of the dogs rescued from Bad Newz Kennels. With its motto of “Save Them All,” Best Friends became a place for these victims of cruelty to start a new life and prove to disbelievers that, even after a lifetime of violence, these dogs would be able to trust humans again.


One of the Vicktory dogs continues to inspire and work towards helping place other dogs in loving homes. Handsome Dan, the namesake behind Handsome Dan’s Rescue for Pit Bull Type Dogs, arrived at Best Friends with an obvious fear of humans.

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He got his name after Tim Racer, founder of a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting animal welfare called BAD RAP, decided the pup needed some confidence.


Winner of the “Best Dog on the Web” 2014 Barkie, Handsome Dan has helped show, along with the other Vicktory dogs, the transformative power of a second chance at a good home. “He seemed to be experiencing his lost puppyhood and loving every minute,” according to his bio on the Handsome Dan’s Rescue site.

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Though he is still fearful around strangers, Handsome Dan has come a tremendously long way since his days before rescue. Nowadays, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends in Rhode Island, enjoying his role as brother to two humans and pup sister Ocean.


He is also foster brother to Tillie, who is a survivor of the second largest dog fighting ring in US history and has her own #TeamTillie following of supporters.

Dan’s humans regularly update his Facebook page, where pictures and videos of Dan and the pups he helps rescue serve as undeniable proof that, given the safe space they deserve, all these dogs needed was a second chance. His owner Heather Gutshall, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and cofounder of Handsome Dan’s Rescue, specializes in fear-based issues and credits Dan for inspiring her. “Dan has helped me find my passion professionally, and is my best friend,” says Heather.


You can follow Handsome Dan on his daily adventures via his Facebook page. To check out the amazing rescue named after him, visit Handsome Dan’s Rescue. To learn more about the Rhode Island canine care company run by his humans, visit Outbound Hounds.

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Written by: Nicole Zalat

April 17, 2015

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