OTR Interviews

Michael Vick Seeks Redemption as He Pushes for Anti-Dogfighting Legislation: 'I Went Through What I Went Through for a Reason'

Michael Vick and Humane Society President & CEO Wayne Pacelle on their mission to end dogfighting, their initial uneasy alliance and the NFL star's regrets on animal abuse

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: He shook up the sports world. Convicted dog killer. And now he's an animal rights activist. NFL quarterback Michael Vick was on Capitol Hill today lobbying for legislation targeting the illegal sport of animal fighting. The bill would criminalize spectators and others organize the fighting.

As you may remember, Vick was released from prison in 2009 after serving 20 months at Leavenworth for a dogfighting conviction. And earlier today, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society, went "On the Record."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Michael, nice to see both of you.

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WAYNE PACELLE, HUMANE SOCIETY PRESIDENT: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Full disclosure, Michael. Everyone knows I'm a big animal lover. But I'm also a big believer in rehabilitation. You did your time and now you are working with Wayne that's a good endorsement, not mention Tony Dungy, who is a good friend of the program.

MICHAEL VICK, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES QUARTERBACK: Yes, I've been in great company since I walked out of those prison doors. It has been a great working relationship with Wayne and what we've been able to accomplish. And it is gratifying to see that we are making a difference in communities all over the world and helping masses of people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why are you in Washington now?

PACELLE: We are here to lobby. Greta, Michael and I have visiting a lot of cities and speaking to kids and young machine especially in at-risk communities, because there's been a surge in dogfighting. We call it street fighting. Kids are squaring up pit bulls in back alleys. And we think that prevention work is important.

But we also need policies that deter this activity and also frankly, bring people to justice when they knowingly violate the law and engage in this cruelty to animals. Mike and I were up on the Hill today meeting with lawmakers and urging them to adopt new crimes for being a expect day for or bringing a child to a dog fighting contest. Greta, people bring a seven, or eight, or 10-year-old kid, a parent, to watch dogs fighting or roosters fighting.

VAN SUSTEREN: In your new book, I didn't realize you got involved in dogfighting at age eight. I never heard of it until your case.

VICK: In the community I group up in it was prevalent. It was something I was involved in and exposed to. A lot of the older guys exposed myself and others to it. So it was just something that we learned to do. I didn't know whether it was right or wrong. We were just involved and never got any type of indication whether it was the right thing or wrong thing to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: You guys seem like an unlikely duo based on your history. I guess if you read the book, you stand you met him first in prison.

PACELLE: Mike reached out through some of his people and said he wanted to do some anti-dogfighting work with the Humane Society because we have the most developed programs on the law making and prevention side. Mike knows this. It was with a great deal of conflict I went out there, because our community and constituency was very down on Mike and what he did, understandably so.

But I thought to myself, what are we about at the humane society? We are about change about not treating people in some static position and having them indefinitely in that place. We want people to be better and moving along to a better place.

The other thing is the biggest problem we've been facing with dogfighting is this urban-based dogfighting. In the cities it became prevalent. I thought if Mike was sincere and going to put boots on the ground who better to reach these young kids than Michael Vick? And much to his credit it has been two years, more than 10,000 kids one-on-one, and now we are trying to change the atmospherics of the issue and try to change the laws.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is interesting in the book. Wayne writes that you love animals. And it is really hard, you have become the poster child for anything but loving animals. How do you sell someone that you will have animals? How can you convince me you love animals?

VICK: I understand it is a direct conflict. Like I've said over and over again, it is something I had to deal with over and over again, because, I know my love and passion for animals. But I still ask myself why get involved and why get so detailed in what I was doing?

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did you?

VICK: And I hate to use it as an excuse, but -- and I know if you know better you are supposed to do better. I can honestly say I didn't know. I didn't think that I would ever get caught or get punished behind it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you enjoy -- I don't want to get too graphic. I know you've done your time. Even Wayne writes about the fact that you tortured dogs, holding them underwater. To me it is unthinkable. How do you do that?

VICK: It is tough. And when you are caught up in the lifestyle and when you are being pro-active and involved, you are not worrying about what people think or what is right. You just react and doing it. You just kind of do everything unconsciously.

VAN SUSTEREN: The animals must have struggled?

VICK: It was tough. Like I said, it was tough. But my thing right now is just about making change. And that's the reason I'm sitting here with Wayne and that's the reason we have such a great relationship because I'm trying to help more animals than I hurt. I think that's what it is about. The reason we were up on the Hill trying to keep kids doing the same thing, going down the same path and making change.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't have to do this, right? This isn't a condition of any parole or probation, right?

VICK: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: This is totally because Michael Vick wants to do it?

VICK: Yes, ma'am.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you getting paid?

VICK: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: Total volunteer.

VICK: Yes. And whenever Wayne calls and there is something I feel like we can do outreach on, we talk about it and make it happen.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was prison like?

VICK: It was tough. I don't recommend it on anybody.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: First day you walk in, some people are big stars, were you a big celebrity walking into prison?

VICK: I did my first 60 days in solitary confinement so I didn't see anybody for 60 days.

VAN SUSTEREN: How was that?

VICK: It was tough. The only people I could call on was my mom and my sisters and my fiancee and the people who I cared about the most. But it definitely made me a stronger person.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why? I would imagine that was hell sitting alone for 60 days. People don't realize it is tougher to be in solitary than the general population.

VICK: Yes, because you have to find ways to make use of your time. And those are the things that I tell the kids out there in the world. You don't want to be put in that position because everybody can't handle certain things. And I think I went through what I went through for a reason. And that's the reason I'm trying to make an impact in the community around the world, globally, internationally. And I just think everything happens for a reason.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you ever feel sorry for yourself in prison? Here you were unbelievably talented making so much money, everything was so great.

VICK: I didn't feel sorry for myself. I was ashamed about what I had done to myself and to those animals. And it could all have been an avoided. And I got nothing out of it. The sad part was I was just about to walk away from it. But, I think it happened at such a time where I could be here doing what I'm doing now. And saving lives and helping kids.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now I have to switch. Why are you so good at football? What makes you so good?

VICK: God-given ability.

VAN SUSTEREN: How much is discipline?

VICK: It is a lot of discipline. A lot of things I had to learn over the course of the years to make myself a successful player. Things that I learned the last two years, and doing a lot of studying in prison made me a much better football player.

(END VIDEOTAPE)