Michael Vick speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill about his support for a bill that will penalize criminals who finance and bring children to dogfights and cockfights. (Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick brought his anti-dogfighting message to Congress on Tuesday, backing legislation that would penalize those who knowingly attend animal fights and allow minors to attend.
Vick, who served 18 months in prison on dogfighting charges, said he wants to teach kids not to repeat his mistakes and to take profits away from sponsors of these events.
The football star has been speaking at churches and schools along with Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States. Pacelle told the news conference, "I had a lot of soul searching to do" before deciding to partner with Vick in efforts to stop animal fighting events.
"Help us to reach out to these kids before they go down the wrong path," Vick said.
The Hampton, Va. native said that while he became involved in dogfighting in his youth, he was unaware that more children are now attending these gruesome events. He said his own experience taught him that attending animal fights has an impact on children.
"It's up to the parents to take responsibility and make sure it doesn't happen," he said.
Sponsors of the legislation said the laws against animal fighting need to be strengthened.
It is illegal in 49 states to be a knowing spectator at an animal fight, while 28 impose felony-level penalties on those attending.
The bill would impose penalties of up to a year in prison and fines for attending an animal fight, and a penalty of up to three years in prison and fines for bringing or allowing a minor to attend.
The main sponsors of the legislation are Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., Betty Sutton, D-Ohio and Tom Marino, R-Pa