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The Oklahoman

State senator seeks to change cockfighting law

A state senator wants to change the new anti-cockfighting law by reducing the penalties from felonies to misdemeanors.

Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, said Wednesday he'll introduce legislation in next year's legislative session to lower the penalties set out in State Question 687. Voters on Tuesday passed the question, 565,967 votes, or 56.2 percent, to 441,220, or 43.8 percent, according to unofficial state Election Board results.

Shurden has opposed the anti- cockfighting proposal, which will take effect Friday after the Election Board certifies returns.

Shurden said SQ 687 would make it a felony to raise the birds and that hard-working Oklahomans would be lumped in with murderers, rapists and drug dealers.

Janet Halliburton, head of the coalition that circulated the initiative petition to put the anti-cockfighting proposal on the election ballot, said, "There's not any crime or penalty for possessing a chicken."

She said cockfighters have been making that argument during their campaign to defeat the proposal.

"Their arguments are ridiculous," Halliburton said.

"It's not a felony to own a chicken. They know that's not true," she said.

Halliburton said the penalties are identical to the state law against dog fighting.

SQ 687 states it would be a felony to instigate or encourage cockfighting; keep places, equipment or facilities for cockfighting; aid or assist in cockfighting; or own, possess, keep or train birds for cockfighting.

Conviction would carry a penalty of one to 10 years in prison and a fine of not less than $2,000 or more than $25,000.

Shurden said his bill would eliminate the possibility of jail time for anyone convicted of crimes related to cockfighting.

He also would limit maximum fines allowed under the law, he said.

Shurden said Gov.-elect Brad Henry, a Shawnee Democrat, already has said the penalties are too severe.

Henry was asked about it Wednesday during a news conference with Gov. Frank Keating.

He said he would have to look at Shurden's proposed legislation but couldn't say whether he could support it.

Henry said the people have spoken, and he is going to support and enforce the new law.

Henry said his primary concern about the anti-cockfighting bill was that the cure was worse than the disease.