Eagles' Vick adds a 6-inch parrot to household

Michael Vick plays with a bird while shopping, but opted not to buy the one pictured here.
Michael Vick plays with a bird while shopping, but opted not to buy the one pictured here.
Posted: October 27, 2011

Philadelphia's most famous Bird now has a bird of his own - or at least his family does.

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who spent 18 months in federal prison on dogfighting charges, now shares his home with a baby parrot.

Vick's fiancee, Kijafa Frink, purchased the bird for her daughters, family spokesman Chris Shigas said Thursday. "The bird is doing fine," Shigas said. "She felt he would be good company for them when Mike is traveling."

His name is Rio, after the animated movie about a macaw who takes off on a South American adventure.

Todd Marcus, owner of Todd Marcus Exotic Birds Inc., said Vick and Frink came into his Delran store a month ago with their two children looking for a family bird. They decided on a six-month-old Caique, a small species of parrot - six inches tall - native to the rain forests of South America, for which they paid $1,100, he said.

Marcus said he was confident that Vick and his family would be good bird owners. "He is under a microscope," Marcus said. "If he did something to harm the bird, it would be insanity."

Under the terms of his three-year probation, which expires in May, Vick may not own a dog, but he is not barred from owning other animals.

The Eagles' decision to sign Vick straight out of prison in 2009 infuriated animal lovers across the country. In the Philadelphia area, some fans dumped their tickets, sold their memorabilia, and dropped their allegiance to their beloved Birds.

In response, the Eagles established a $500,000 fund to support animal welfare and have since spent about half of it helping shelters build spay/neuter clinics, provide mobile veterinary services, and train service dogs.

Vick was ordered to pay nearly $1 million in restitution for the four dozen dogs rescued from the Virginia compound where he admitted to drowning and electrocuting pit bulls that lost in the ring. After his release, Vick teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States to speak out against dogfighting. Since then he has lobbied against dogfighting on Capitol Hill and appeared at several dozen events in cities from Chicago to New Haven, preaching to young people about the evils of dogfighting and spreading the message of humane animal care.

In Vick's third season with the Eagles, the protests have ebbed. But animal-welfare advocates have not forgotten.

"I'm conflicted," said Karel Minor, director of the Humane Society of Berks County, whose shelter received $50,000 from the Eagles for a mobile veterinary unit. "We have to believe that people can somehow change their behavior and their beliefs. Whether that's the case with him, we don't know."

Minor said he was more concerned about the longevity of parrots. The bird's life span averages between 30 and 35 years, which means it may be alive when Vick is eligible for Medicare.

Marcus says he explained the life-span issue to Vick and said his store has taken back and found new homes for birds whose owners enter nursing homes or face financial problems and can no longer care for the birds.

Michael McAllister of Philadelphia, who owns six exotic birds, including a Caique, said he was angry that Vick bought an animal - even though it was allowed - before his probation was up. "I'm concerned about the bird, and I told the Eagles I was unhappy," said McAllister. "Dogs require a lot of care; so do exotic birds. They're like having a 5-year-old around."

Marcus said that he had felt the heat from bird lovers about the sale, but that he trusts Vick and his family to be responsible pet owners. "Nothing can be done about the horrible acts of the past, but he is doing things to prevent that from happening again," he said. "Who knows how many dogs he may have saved?"

Minor said in his 18 years in the animal-sheltering world - including as operations director of the Chester County SPCA - he has seen dogfighters become animal activists and people who starved dogs become responsible animal owners. He hope that will be the case with Vick, who has said he wants to own a dog one day.

"We hope he has changed," said Minor. "A proper relationship with a companion animal would do him good."


Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @inkyamy.

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