- Wright Thompson, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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Michael Vick recently accepted an invitation from PETA and attended an eight-hour course on animal cruelty at the group's Virginia headquarters, according to the animal-rights group.
PETA assistant director Dan Shannon said when Vick completed the course, he was given material to take home and study. Shannon said Vick returned to the offices on a later day to take a test on the things he'd learned, which he passed. Though PETA officials are still pressing for jail time for Vick, Shannon did say everyone was impressed with the seriousness with which Vick approached his classes.
"He seemed nervous at first," Shannon said, "but he seemed really interested."
Vick's attorneys were not immediately available to comment on PETA's account of Vick's attending the class. The NFL also did not immediately return a call for comment.
Vick, the disgraced Atlanta Falcons quarterback, faces up to five years in prison and awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in a federal dogfighting case. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10. He recently was ordered confined to his Virginia home after testing positive for marijuana -- a violation of the conditions of his release while awaiting sentencing. The urine sample was submitted Sept. 13, according to federal court records.
Vick also has been indicted on state charges of beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs and engaging in or promoting dogfighting. Each felony is punishable by up to five years in prison. His arraignment on those charges is set for Oct. 3.
Vick's representatives were first approached by PETA president Ingrid Newkirk. After an initial exploratory meeting involving Vick, Newkirk and Shannon, the quarterback agreed to attend a class, which he did on Sept. 18, PETA said.
According to PETA, Vick's day was specifically planned for him, and it focused on animal protection and empathy. First, he was given an overview of animal protection, then a session that laid out the scientific evidence for animals' ability to feel happiness, sadness and pain.
In the initial meeting, PETA said Vick had mentioned wanting to speak to school children, so he was shown the program they normally do at schools. He saw police training tapes that describe links between violence toward animals and violence toward humans. An entire session was based on Christian teachings about the treatment of animals.
"He seemed to get the most out of that," Shannon said. "He was blown away by how much the Bible had to say about animals."
Because of the impact PETA officials think the course had on Vick, Shannon sent a letter on Tuesday to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to make a similar course mandatory for all NFL players.
Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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