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Proving people can change

In 2007, football great Michael Vick was one of the most hated men in this country. That’s when information that he was a kingpin in a vicious dog fighting ring came to light. The dogs were so abused, many thought the only answer was to euthanize them.

Then Utah-based Best Friends, a nationally commended animal rescue group, stepped in to rehabilitate all but two of those dogs and found them homes. Their work was the focus of a National Geographic documentary shown on PBS stations a year after Vick’s arrest. Those animals weren’t the only ones to undergo rehabilitation. So did Vick, as he spent almost two years in a federal prison after his guilty plea, where he underwent mandatory counseling and sensitivity training.

Now back in the NFL, the Steelers’ quarterback is showing a turnaround and has been a vocal advocate for animal welfare and rights.

Since his release from prison, Vick has stepped up to lead advocacy efforts for animals and children. One of his most publicized acts happened when he threw his support to the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act that President Barack Obama signed a year ago. That act levels punishment not only on those who run dog fights, but those who watch.

This week, Vick started a campaign to get Pennsylvania lawmakers to support another bill. The bill would give law enforcement the right to rescue dogs and cats trapped in cars when there is soaring or freezing temperatures.

Not only is his action right because it protects animals, it also shows that individuals, with the right education, can change and become a force for good instead of greed and cruelty. Rehabilitation is possible. No one should be branded for past acts for life.