Eagles quarterback Michael Vick hopes to own a dog again.

In December 2008, the ex-Atlanta Falcon was sentenced to federal prison for running a dog-fighting and gambling ring in which pit bulls were brutally killed.

As part of his sentence, he was forbidden from buying, selling or owning dogs for three years.

But he looks forward to when that prohibition expires, he told The Grio, a news website aimed at African Americans.

"I would love to get another dog in the future," he said. "I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process. I think just to, you know, have a pet in my household and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love and my passion for animals, I think it will be outstanding.

"And If I ever have the opportunity again, I will never take it for granted."

The interview showed clips from Vick's voluntary talks to schoolchildren about the cruelty of dog-fighting.

The message is sincere, not some publicity stunt, Rebecca Glenn-Dinwoodie, Philadelphia coordinator for the society's End Dogfighting Campaign, told The Grio.

"Many things convinced us," she said. "His message, first of all, is very open. I think it's very important to remember that he approached us."

Society president Wayne Pacelle agreed. "I have been around him a lot, and feel confident that he would do a good job as a pet owner," Pacell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday.

But not everyone is so ready to forgive.

On Tuesday, 21 "animal-welfare supporters" from the Philadelphia area, expressed their continuing "disgust and dismay" about Vick being with the Eagles.

"We will never let Vick-supporting Eagles fans or the city of Philadelphia forget the innocent animals who suffered and died at Vick's hands," they said in a letter to the Eagles, that also described how protesters have been abused.

"Throughout the 2009 and 2010 seasons, we became targets of more than verbal abuse. Many of us were elbowed and shoved, and had our signs slapped out of our hands or into our faces," the letter said.

The lead signer, Romy Nocera, was shocked at the news Vick hopes to own a dog again.

"I was so stunned to see that that I honestly couldn't read it at first," said Nocera, who works in medical research that uses human volunteers.

"Would you put a foster child in the home of a former child abuser who said he was reformed? . . . Protect the animals, don't take this risk," she said.

Perhaps, if Vick volunteered at a shelter and proved he can be gentle and kind with animals, someday he might earn the chance, she added.

Vick told The Grio that prison changed him, and he didn't know any better as a youth.

"I hate to use our culture as an excuse, but it is what it is, and that's what happened and that's the way I thought about it growing up," Vick said. "This is something you do."

"I love animals. I love dogs. I love birds. I love all types of animals. But this is just the way we was brought up. . . ."

"Nobody ever told me that it was the wrong thing to do."

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.