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Michael Vick says he wants to have another dog

December 16, 2010 |  6:45 pm

Football star and former dogfighter Michael Vick's statements that he would like to own a dog as a pet have incited intense debate among animal lovers, football fans and water-cooler gossipers.

Vick told TheGrio.com that he "would love to get another dog in the future. I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process."

That comment didn't surprise us much, since Vick said pretty much the same thing -- that he wished he could have a dog again "more than anything in the world" -- at one of his anti-dogfighting speaking engagements more than a year ago. What did surprise us was the wording of a comment he made later in the same interview with TheGrio:

"I think just to have a pet in my household and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love and my passion for animals; I think it would be outstanding. If I ever have the opportunity again I will never take it for granted. I miss having a dog right now. I wish I could. My daughters miss having one, and that's the hardest thing: telling them that we can’t have one because of my actions."

Wait, what? Did Vick really refer to himself as having "love and ... passion for animals"? We're pretty sure we weren't dreaming. He explains the comment in the video above -- saying he's a big fan of animals including birds and, ahem, dogs -- and mentions that his experience getting caught for dogfighting has helped him grow, both as a regular-old person and as a football player.

Vick is legally prohibited from owning a dog at least until his probation is over. But he's worked since with the Humane Society of the United States, which arranges speaking engagements at which Vick urges young people to avoid dogfighting and make good choices. He has said he considers himself "an animal rights advocate," but his speeches don't typically include many references to the dogs he abused.

But he insisted his change of heart is real in an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday. "I really mean what I say. I don't have a problem. I'm not a psychopath. I'm not crazy. I'm a human being," he told the AP. "What happened in my past and what I did in the culture I grew up in doesn't shape and mold me as the person I am now. I said it before that I wish I can own a dog and I'll continue to say it. I'm not allowed to, but I'm just saying I wish I could because my kids ask me every day. It's more so for them than for me."

Writing on his blog Thursday, Humane Society president and chief executive Wayne Pacelle said it is "too soon for Michael Vick to have a dog. Pet-keeping is a privilege and he lost that privilege when he committed atrocious acts of cruelty in the months and years before his arrest in 2007. ... I do think that if his rehabilitation progresses and he handles the probation period flawlessly, it could be a good thing for Michael Vick's family to have a pet at the end of that process. To adopt a pet is the most cherished desire of countless millions of children everywhere, including Michael Vick's two little girls, London and Jada. It's the most natural thing in the world for a parent to want to grant that wish."

Another prominent animal-protection group announced, unsurprisingly, that it objected to Vick ever having a companion dog again. "PETA believes that no one who abuses dogs as Vick did should ever be allowed to have access to vulnerable animals again," Lindsay Pollard-Post wrote on the group's blog. "And really, being prohibited from experiencing the unconditional love of a dog is a tiny price to pay -- much smaller than the ultimate price paid by the dogs Vick abused and killed at Bad Newz Kennels."

Meanwhile, some of Vick's former dogs are finding their place in the sun: A well-received book, "The Lost Dogs," released earlier this year, tells the stories of the dogs who survived Vick's Bad Newz Kennels. (Learn more about "The Lost Dogs" in The Times' Books section.)

RELATED MICHAEL VICK STORIES:

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: TheGrio.com

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