Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was in Washington today, lobbying lawmakers to pass the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act.
The legislation would "prohibit knowing attendance at organized animal fights and impose additional penalties for causing a minor to attend such events."
In his opening remarks, Vick said, "I deeply regret my previous involvement in dog fighting. I'm sorry for what I did to the animals. Doing my time in prison, I told myself I wanted to be part of the solution, and not the problem. Ive been speaking to kids and urging them to be responsible, and to be good to animals and today, Im here to send a similar message: to help address the problem and break the cycle, of teaching these kids not to get mixed up in this crime.
"Dog fighting is inhumane, it's illegal, it's a federal felony and it's a felony in every state now. Since my case came to light, the HSUS has worked to upgrade the laws in 35 states. Its still happening in communities across the country, but we have an opportunity to create a meaningful change. These laws are not just to punish people, but to prevent people from getting involved in the first place. Thats why education is very important about this subject.
"I did not get involved for the money, and for me, money was not a big part of it, but for some people, it is. If you take away the profits, then you can eliminate dog fighting within itself. As Wayne said, this bill has two parts: Making it a crime for an adult to bring a child to a fight, and to make it a crime to be a spectator at the event."
Asked about his advocacy and why he is getting involved, Vick said, "I'm doing it for myself. I'm doing it for the Humane Society. I'm doing it for the animals, and I'm doing it for all the people out there who are involved, because there's so much more that you could be doing with your time. There's so many animals that could be raised in better households and used as pets and having happy homes instead of being used for pointless activity and being harmed. It took for me to be go through what I went through to understand, that the magnitude of the entire situation. Ive learned so much as time went on."
“Too many kids get involved in dogfighting, and it’s time to break this cycle. Animal fighting is a dead-end road for the young men, and there’s nothing but terrible outcomes for the dogs placed in a pit to fight,” Vick said. “Since my case came to light, the laws against animal fighting have been upgraded, and here's another opportunity to strengthen the law and establish an even stronger deterrent.”
From Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, speaking about Vick:
"A word about our principal guest. When he stands here, he's gonna look in tremendous shape. It's no illusion. He's running a 4.40 forty - those of you who knows what that means, that's Darrell Green's time. I was a lineman, which is probably no surprise to anybody looking at me: On the sidelines, your leader is the coach. But on the field, your leader is your quarterback. We now have a leader. This is a story of redemption. It's a story of leadership. Its a story of deciding to do good and making a really substantive, consequential difference in the lives of a whole lot of people and certainly among animals that would otherwise be mistreated. Michaels leading the way to get these animals adopted and treated properly. Our society is turning a corner, and hes leading it. We couldnt be more pleased that hes in that role and that hes here with us today."
From Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States:
"Michael Vick and I have been working together for more than two years now. He and I have been traveling around to schools and churches and speaking to kids in communities where dog fighting has been growing and emerging as a practice. And I think that his work on the front end with us to prevent kids from going down this road has been so important, and so significant. Together alone we've spoken to more than 10,000 kids in the schools and in the churches, and now by supporting this legislation, I hope were sending a message to every kid in this country and every adult, too, that going down the road to dog fighting is a dead-end street. There are no good outcomes for people who get involved in these enterprises and Ms own story has been a very powerful one in seeing him delivery this message to young kids across the country."
According to a press release, it is illegal in 49 states to be a knowing spectator at an animal fight. A majority – 28 states – impose felony-level penalties on spectators. The bill would impose federal misdemeanor penalties for knowing attendance and felony penalties for causing a minor to attend.
The law would not reach to individuals who are not aware they are present at an animal fight or situations where two animals fight without provocation by animal fighting organizers.