NFL quarterback Michael Vick got the celebrity treatment as he visited the state Capitol on Tuesday to lobby for a bill to help protect cats and dogs from being left in unattended vehicles.
The bill would shield first responders from liability for any property damage they cause when rescuing animals from unattended cars and trucks in extreme heat that endangers their health and well-being. Leaving a cat or dog in an unattended vehicle under such conditions would be summary offense under the bill.
"The bottom line is that all animals thrive (on) kindness and respect. They depend on us like our children depend on us," Vick said.
Dozens of fans applauded Vick as he joined several legislators at a news conference and crowded around him afterward seeking autographs and selfies.
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Vick was a star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons when he pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges in 2007 for his role in a dogfighting ring. He served nearly two years in prison. He has played in seven NFL seasons since, including five with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Hampton, Virginia, native is now a backup quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers and, off the field, an advocate for animal welfare.
He said he met separately with a group of children from York County before the news conference and urged the youngsters to talk about the importance of caring for animals.
"I know that I'm an enlightened advocate" for animal welfare, he said. "I was part of the problem when I was at my lowest. I made decisions to make change and I stand by them."
The bill was introduced in September and is pending in a House committee. A summary offense is the most minor type of infraction in Pennsylvania, usually punishable by a fine.
Seventeen states have laws making it illegal to leave pets in vehicles on warm days, according to the Humane Society of the United States.