In what can be best described as a head-turning change in public perception, NFL quarterback Michael Vick is now campaigning to help protect the welfare of animals. A controversial figure due to his past involvement in illegal dog fighting, Vick visited the Pennsylvania state capital in Harrisburg to lobby for the passage of a bill that would protect dogs and cats from being left alone in unattended cars.
According to various media reports, including this one on Philadelphia NBC affiliate WCAU Channel 10, Vick threw his celebrity status behind the bill that was introduced in September and is now pending in a state house committee. "The bottom line is that all animals thrive (on) kindness and respect. They depend on us like our children depend on us," said Vick
The bill, should it become law, would limit the liability of first responders from property damage caused by rescuing animals from vehicles in dangerous heat threatening their health, well-being, and possibly their lives. The bill would also make leaving a dog or cat in an unattended car a summary offense. "I've learned that animal rights bills don't get enough attention and I'm hoping this bill gets that attention," said Vick. "(T)ogether we can be instrumental in change."
After a prolific college career at Virginia Tech, Vick was taken as the top pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft, becoming to first African-American quarterback taken number one overall. In 2007, following his sixth season in the NFL, Vick was embroiled in a federal probe investigating his cousin, Davon Boddie, regarding possible drug activity. A search of Vick's property revealed the quarterback's involvement in an illicit dog-fighting ring on his property in rural Virginia. Vick was convicted and sentenced to three years in a federal penitentiary but received early release on July 20, 2009.
Since his incarceration, Vick has been a regular politically-active voice against animal abuse and dog fighting. In addition to the anti-vehicle bill in Pennsylvania, Vick publically advocated for the passage of H.R. 2492, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, a federal bill that would create misdemeanor penalties for spectators of animal fighting, and create felony penalties for any adult exposing children to such activities.
Despite his rehabilitation, Vick is still the target of many animal rights advocates for his history involvement in dog fighting, and, to his credit, faces his past head-on. "I know that I'm an unlikely advocate. I was part of the problem when I was at my lowest," said Vick. "I made the decision to change and I stand by that. Now that I can reach people that activists can't reach."
Vick spent six years as the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons prior to his conviction. Upon his release, he signed with Philadelphia where he spent five seasons with the Eagles. In 2014 Vick was the backup quarterback for the New York Jets and is currently Ben Roethlisberger's backup for the Pittsburgh Steelers.