Michael Vick calls for stronger laws against animal fighting

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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NFL quarterback Michael Vick and the Humane Society called for stronger laws against animal fighting Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

At a House briefing, Vick and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) President Wayne Pacelle spoke in favor of a newly introduced bill, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act of 2011, which would apply federal criminal penalties — fines and up to one year in prison — to anyone attending or bringing a minor to an animal fighting event.

“I was a major part of [animal fighting],” Vick said. “I know the game in and out. It won’t stop unless there is major change. It will continue to evolve and grow.”

Entries and side bets are a major part of animal fighting exhibitions, and extending prosecution to attendees would close a major loophole in the law, Vick and Pacelle argued.

“If you just criminalize the practitioners, you’re missing 98 percent of the people involved in the enterprise,” Pacelle said.

Pacelle said the owners of the animals at the fighting exhibitions often slip into the crowd during a bust, making them hard to identify. (Martin Sheen, Matthew Perry push for drug courts support at D.C. event)

Vick was busted in 2007 for running a large dog fighting ring out of a house he owned in Virginia, where dogs were routinely abused and killed. He was sentenced to 23 months in a federal penitentiary.

At Tuesday’s briefing, Vick said he fell into dog fighting because of friends, and he neither had the guidance nor maturity to stop.

Of his time in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, Vick said it was “something I think I needed to go through.”

“I learned about why I did what I did,” Vick said. “It was a great opportunity to reflect on what I did wrong.”

Since his release from prison, Vick has partnered with the HSUS in speaking out against animal fighting.

Congress first passed laws against animal fighting in 1975. Those laws were strengthened in 2007 and 2008 to target owners and interstate transport of fighting animals.

The bill, H.R. 2492, is co-sponsored by Representatives Betty Sutton and Tom Marino, an Ohio Democrat and a Pennsylvania Republican, respectively.