Thursday, April 03, 2008

Virginia makes a felony of cockfighting, so West Virginia could see more of the illegal fights

Recently, Virginia joined the 36 other states that make cockfighting a felony. Since cockfighting remains a misdemeanor in West Virginia, officials with the Humane Society of the United States warn that the crime could be on the rise there, reports Tom Searls of The Charleston Gazette.

"The national Humane Society rates West Virginia's laws among the most lax, along with neighboring Ohio and Kentucky," Searls writes. John Goodwin, the national Humane Society's manager of animal fighting issues, told Searls that the majority of cockfighting goes on in rural areas — such as the mountainous region along the Virginia-West Virginia border — where locals know what's going on. Thus, there need to major deterrents, Goodwin said.

Two bills dealing with cockfighting failed to gain traction in the West Virginia Legislature, one of which would have made any participation in cockfighting a felony. Ohio and Tennessee have considered strengthening cockfighting laws, but Kentucky has not. (Read more)

This week, a bill making cockfighting a felony passed the Tennessee House Criminal Practice Subcommittee, reports Tom Humphrey of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. "The bill, HB2143, would increase the penalty for active participation in cockfighting from the current Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, to a Class E, punishable by up to a prison term of between one and six years and a fine of $3,000," Humphrey writes. "A spectator at a cockfight can now be punished for a Class C misdemeanor, which has a maximum penalty of up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine. The bill would raise the crime of being a spectator to a Class A misdemeanor."

Leighann McCollum, Tennessee state director of the Humane Society, told Humphrey that supporters of cockfighting have been lobbying legislators to oppose the change. "We feel like they are cowering to the loud voices of the minority of people in this state who enjoy cockfighting," she said. (Read more)

The Humane Society ranks the states in order of cockfighting laws, with Arkansas, Kentucky, Idaho, Mississippi and Alabama at the bottom.

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