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Old 08-16-09, 01:01 AM
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Eagles Barred SPCA and Utley's wife from Vick Intro and Utley's wife

Eagles Barred SPCA From Vick Intro

PHILADELPHIA - Security kept local SPCA leaders from attending the Philadelphia Eagles' introduction of Michael Vick on Friday to local fans and media.

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Philadelphia animal welfare organizations say no one - not the Eagles, not Vick himself - has gotten in touch with them, and local animal lovers are furious.

Fox 29 was there when the top leadership of the Pennsylvania SPCA tried to drive into the Novacare Complex on Friday morning.

The group wanted to attend the Michael Vick press conference and to kick-start a dialogue with Eagles management.

But they never got past the gate and security turned them away as the newest - and most controversial - Eagle made his press conference debut.

A small but dedicated group of dog lovers stood outside, protesting Eagles' stunning decision to give Vick a second chance.

“We fight animal cruelty every single day in this city,” said Jennifer Utley.

She is the wife of Phillies star Chase Utley, and a board member of the Pennsylvania SPCA, which takes in abused and neglected dogs by the thousands.

Utley and other SPCA leaders say they're dumbfounded no one from the Eagles contacted them before dropping the Vick bombshell.

“I think if you're planning on being conscious of a very sensitive issue it might be positive to do that.”

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he was horrified by Vick's behavior two years ago. But Lurie says he did plenty of soul searching and spent hours interviewing Vck.

He says the player displayed enough self-hatred to convince Lurie he deserved another shot. Lurie says Vick has a chance to help many more animals than he hurt.

“If we don't have an extremely proactive player here off the field, then this is a terrible decision.”

Fox 29 has heard some animal rights groups are making plans to picket at Eagles home games as the season gets underway.

Meantime, the online merchandising is already in full swing. Among other things you can already buy a Michael Vick chew toy for your dog, now available in Eagles green.

"I've done some terrible things, I made a horrible mistake. And now I want to be part of the solution and not the problem," Vick said Friday, referring to his conviction for his role in running a dogfighting ring.

"For the life of me, I can't understand why I was involved in such pointless activity," Vick said. "Why did I risk so much at the pinnacle of my career?"

Vick spoke softly during the 26-minute news conference, saying he felt remorse even as he was involved in dogfighting.

"There was a point in my life where I felt it was wrong and I knew it was wrong," he said. "To this day I have to live with that shame and that embarrassment."

Vick, who said he wants to be the "best ambassador to the NFL and community," said he hoped to play in a regular season game soon. He asked for a second chance, but expected he won't be easily forgiven by fans or the general public.

The signing drew fire from a local animal rescue group.

Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue in the Philadelphia suburbs, said the group will be renting three billboards near the Eagles' stadium blasting the signing of Vick.

Smith said he was stunned while listening to Vick at the news conference.

"I'm really shocked that he's coming to Philadelphia," Smith said. "He kept talking about second chances. His dogs didn't have a second chance. ... There are a lot of people out there who deserve second chances more than Michael Vick."

A national group said it would be watching to see whether Vick lives up to his pledge.

Ed Sayres, president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said in a statement that the group "expects Mr. Vick to express remorse for his actions, as well as display more compassion and sound judgment this time around than he did during his previous tenure with the NFL. We hope that Mr. Vick uses his stature for the betterment of the community and the advancement of the issue of animal cruelty."

Vick knows he might never be forgiven by some people.

"I understand to a certain degree, but our country is a country of second chances," he said. "I paid my debt to society. I spent two years in prison. ... That was a humbling experience. I can't explain how deeply hurt and how sorry I was.

Eagles Barred SPCA From Vick Intro
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