Michael Vick acknowledges he’s a dog owner

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(CNN) — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who served 18 months in federal prison for bankrolling a deadly dogfighting ring, now has a dog.

“I understand the strong emotions by some people about our family’s decision to care for a pet,” he said in a statement released Thursday. “As a father, it is important to make sure my children develop a healthy relationship with animals.”

He added that “our pet is well cared for and loved as a member of our family.”

“This is an opportunity to break the cycle,” Vick said. “To that end, I will continue to honor my commitment to animal welfare and be an instrument of positive change.”

In 2010, Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle told HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell that the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback shouldn’t get a pet immediately and should have to meet certain benchmarks whenever he did.

But Pacelle, whose group has worked with Vick in public outreach efforts, said it would be wrong to close the door to his ever having a dog again.

“He’s been going through counseling, he’s been speaking to kids twice a month, and he needs to interact with animals,” Pacelle said at the time. “If he continues to hit these markers, then if his daughter wants a dog two or three years down the line, … I’m saying that we should be open to that possibility.”

Under the terms of his conviction, Vick had been barred from owning an animal.

The NFL suspended Vick in August 2007 after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of paying for a dogfighting operation in Virginia. He returned the NFL in 2009.

CNN’s Khara Lewin contributed to this report

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