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Michael Vick Backs Tougher Dogfighting Penalties on Capitol Hill

Michael Vick may be better known as the guy who spent a year-and-a-half in jail on dogfighting charges than for his talent on the football field. Now two years out of jail, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback is eager to change his image and his ways.

Vick has teamed up with the president of the Humane Society, Wayne Pacelle, to help kids think about the harmful nature and morality of dogfighting, an activity that is prevalent in underprivileged communities. He wants to penalize people who attend animal fights, making a year in prison a mandatory punishment, three years if the person brings a minor.

On Tuesday, Vick and Pacelle sat down with Fox’s Greta Van Susteren to talk about his redemption from the violent “sport.” The duo explains that there is a surge of dogfighting in at-risk communities, stating that kids are “squaring up pit bulls in back alleys.” Prevention work, Pacelle says, is important.

Vick reveals in his new book, The Lost Dogs, that he got involved with dog-fighting at the age of eight.

“A lot of the older guys exposed myself and others to it. So it was just something that we learned to do. I didn't know whether it was right or wrong. We were just involved and never got any type of indication whether it was the right thing or wrong thing to do.”

Pacelle says it is not uncommon for a child of eight to witness an animal fight in poorer communities. People bring “a seven, or eight, or 10-year-old kid, a parent, to watch dogs fighting or roosters fighting.”

Pacelle and Vick are in Washington, D.C., this week to lobby against animal fighting. They have visited lower income communities and have spoken to the youth about the dangers of getting involved in a violent lifestyle. The duo is meeting with lawmakers on the hill and urging them to adopt new crimes for being involved in an animal fight.

The two acknowledged to Greta that they make an unlikely team. Pacelle says, “It was with a great deal of conflict I went out there, because our community and constituency was very down on Mike and what he did, understandably so. But I thought to myself, what are we about at the humane society? We are about change about not treating people in some static position and having them indefinitely in that place. We want people to be better and moving along to a better place.”

Since his release from prison two years ago, Vick has reached out to more than 10,000 kids one-on-one and has made great effort to change the atmospherics of the issue as well as the laws.

Greta pressed Vick on his claim to be an animal lover, “How can you convince me you love animals?” Vick explains he still asks himself why he let himself get involved with such a violent activity.

“And I hate to use it as an excuse. I know if you know better you are supposed to do better. I can honestly say I didn't know. I didn't think that I would ever get caught or get punished behind it.” He goes on to explain that because he got caught up with it at an early age, he just accepted it and didn’t question whether it was right or not.

“I'm trying to help more animals than I hurt. I think that's what it is about. The reason we were up on the Hill trying to keep kids doing the same thing, going down the same path and making change.”

Vick makes it clear that he doesn’t have to be doing this activist work. It is not part of any parole or probation condition, and he does not get paid. It is strictly voluntary.

“It is gratifying to see that we are making a difference in communities all over the world and helping masses of people,” said Vick.

It is illegal in 49 states to be a spectator at an animal fight; in 28 of those states it is considered a felony.

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