December 1, 2009
-- Lindsay Barnett
At a speaking engagement at a Boys and Girls Club in Newark, N.J., NFL star and convicted dogfighter Michael Vick said he wished he could have a dog again "more than anything in the world."
According to NBC New York, Vick told the assembled school-age children that he hopes to one day own another dog -- he's currently legally prohibited from doing so -- but that whether he'll be able to is "up to my judge at his discretion."
Interestingly, Vick declined an offer by BAD RAP, the Oakland-based rescue group that has worked to rehabilitate 10 of the dogs seized from his Bad Newz Kennels, to see the dogs when his team, the Philadelphia Eagles, played the Oakland Raiders in October.
During the Boys and Girls Club appearance -- which was arranged by the Humane Society of the United States, the group with which Vick has formed an unorthodox partnership on its anti-dogfighting campaign -- Vick also answered questions from the children about the Bad Newz operation and his part in it, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports.
"Everything you read and everything you heard was true -- except for the electrocution," he said, referring to the widely repeated accusation that he electrocuted dogs that didn't perform well as fighters. "That never happened." (He didn't attempt to discredit reports of his involvement in other instances of animal cruelty at Bad Newz.)
When the partnership between Vick and the Humane Society was announced in May, even Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said he couldn't be certain that the NFL star had noble intentions in working to combat dogfighting after his release from prison.
"I sat with the man, but I still don’t know what’s in his heart," Pacelle wrote on his blog. "He told me he did terrible things to dogs. He said he grew up with dogfighting as a boy, and that he never sufficiently questioned it as he grew into manhood.... He said this experience has been a trauma, and he’s changed forever. And he said he wants to show the American public that he is committed to helping combat this problem. He asked for an opportunity to help. I want to give him that opportunity."
Since his release from prison, Vick has made a number of appearances alongside Pacelle, advising young people to make good choices and avoid the pitfalls of peer pressure. Though he's referred to himself as "an animal rights advocate," the dogs he abused have rarely received more than a passing mention.