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Melissa Smith, executive director of the York County SPCA, was a Philadelphia Eagles fan until 2009.

That was the year the team signed Michael Vick.

The 35-year old quarterback, arrested in 2007 for his involvement in an illegal dog fighting ring, was drawing similar reactions from another Pennsylvania NFL franchise's fans this week after the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Vick to a one-year deal.

Smith said she was saddened that Vick keeps finding work in the league.

"My thought would be that his crimes against canines are unforgivable," she said.

Melissa Shortino, serving her third term as president of the Steelers Fan Club of York, echoed Smith's sentiment, admitting she criticized the Eagles when they signed Vick. She expects retaliation from Philadelphia fans.

"I thought (Steelers owners) the Rooneys had more sense," Shortino said, speaking on her own behalf and not on behalf of the club. "They seemed to always make a point to do things ethically, and this surprised me."

Shortino, a Steelers fan most of her life and self-proclaimed animal lover, said she's very disappointed in the signing, and "somewhat disgusted."

Shortino is far from alone in her opinion among Pittsburgh fans. A petition posted on change.org urging Steelers fans to "Say NO to Michael Vick on the Pittsburgh Steelers team" had nearly 13,000 supporters as of 1 p.m. Wednesday.

But not all Steelers fans share that disappointment in their team's ownership.

Larry Schultz, treasurer of the club, pointed out that the team needed a backup for starter Ben Roethlisberger — after incumbent Bruce Gradkowski was placed on injured reserve with a finger injury — and he trusts the coaches' and owners' judgement.

"Everybody deserves another chance," he said. "He did his time and paid the price."

Schultz, who has been a diehard fan since 1988, said that football players, because they're paid so much, should only be given one chance after breaking the rules.

Smith said she doesn't believe Vick's actions warranted a second chance, though.

"What he did were blatant acts of cruelty in my opinion," Smith said. "These athletes are role models for kids, and the league needs to show them that this behavior is unacceptable. Compassion toward animals needs to be embraced, and Vick is the opposite of that."

—Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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