Animal fighting bill dies; issue doesn’t
FUENTE: REGISTER HERALD
28 / MARZO / 2010
By Mannix PorterfieldRegister-Herald Reporter
CHARLESTON — An effort to elevate to felony status the crime of cockfighting — or any bloodsport battles that pit animals against one another — once again died in the House of Delegates, but the war is far from over.
“I’m disappointed,” acknowledged Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, whose bill cleared his own chamber with one dissenting vote early on in the session.
From there, it moved to the House, where, for reasons not known, it was dished off to the agriculture committee.
“I don’t know what the rationale was over there,” Kes-sler said.
“It absolutely in my view had nothing to do with poultry farming or chicken coops, which is what agriculture deals with. It didn’t have anything to do with raising chickens. They wanted it to be dead on arrival. That was a good place to park it.”
Kessler’s bill would have made cockfighting or any venture involving the use of animals as combatants a felony offense, meaning prison time for violators.
Strapping sharp weapons on roosters and pitting them against each other in a ring is a felony offense in 39 states. And in 20 states, merely attending such a venue is considered a felony as well.
“We were very disappointed,” said Ann Church, senior director of government relations for the southeast region of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“We were hoping that this time it would actually make it through. I can’t give you a good explanation of what killed it. We cannot point to any one thing that killed the bill, except for just general apathy. They did not want to get moving on this, and we’re very disappointed with it. It’s a real problem in the state, and it needs to be addressed.”
Ultimately, she figures, West Virginians will realize the importance of the legislation.
“Every time there is a major bust of an animal fight, everyone goes, ‘Oh, my God, hasn’t this been totally banned and outlawed and everything done to stop this?’” she said.
“Federal laws are getting tougher. The state laws just have to catch up at some point. And we know it will happen. It’s inevitable.”
Kessler said he was disappointed the agriculture committee didn’t even bother to take up his bill.
“I wonder, for the life of me, if we had made it only applicable to pit bulls, would it have gone to agriculture?” he mused.
He said he intends to keep plugging away with the felony animal fighting bill until it leaves the full Legislature and goes to the governor.
“We’ll be back,” he said. “We’ll try again next year. Year in, year out.”
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