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Stiffer penalties considered for transporting game birds
By Chris Casteel
The Oklahoman

WASHINGTON -- A bill to toughen the penalties for transporting fighting birds across state lines was introduced Thursday in the Senate as lawmakers sought to restore the punishment intended in the original legislation.

Aimed at closing the loophole that allowed fighting birds to be raised in states where cockfighting is illegal, legislation passed by the House and Senate last year originally called for violations to be felonies. However, lawmakers who wrote the final version of the farm bill decreased the penalties to misdemeanors.

The law, which prohibits interstate transport and the exportation of birds trained to fight, is scheduled to go into effect in May.

Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., who sponsored the original legislation, said, "It is time to bring parity to the laws and give law enforcement greater leverage to enforce the animal fighting provisions."

"As a veterinarian, I view animal fighting as an inherently cruel and inhumane practice."

Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., are cosponsoring the bill.

Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, said, "Dogfighting and cockfighting are gruesome and barbaric activities that should receive no protection under the law. This legislation will put real teeth into the federal animal fighting law, and, if enacted, will go a long way toward wiping out these dreadful industries."

Oklahoma was one of three states where cockfighting was legal until voters approved a state question in November to ban the activity. The state question provided felony penalties for violators, but state legislators want to submit another ballot question reducing the penalties to misdemeanors. That effort has outraged those who organized the original petition drive to ban cockfighting.

According to the Humane Society, the federal bill introduced Thursday also would ban the interstate shipment of sharp metal implements designed specifically to be used in cockfights.