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Tulsa World

Cockfighters deny democratic process
2002-11-15

As if there weren't already enough meddling, the state agriculture commissioner says he might dip into the cockfighting controversy. Even though no one has asked him to.

When is it going to get through the politicians' heads that the people have spoken? The ongoing controversy in the wake of the cockfighting ban, approved by a decisive margin Nov. 5, borders on the bizarre. Usually the losing side respects the democratic process, but cockfighters seem to think they are not subject to the democratic process.

State Agriculture Commissioner Dennis Howard says he might have to check with lawyers to "see what is legal" now. He also says that in his "personal opinion," cockfighters are being subjected to the taking of personal property as a result of the ban.

A more knowledgeable authority, state Attorney General Drew Edmondson, says otherwise. He has indicated there are no problems with the new statute, which is nearly identical to a dog-fighting statute that's been on the books for 20 years.

At least one lawmaker is contemplating legislation that would tamper with the ban, which makes cockfighting a felony. Such an effort by lawmakers would amount to thumbing their noses at voters, who made it clear they want stiff penalties for the activity in order to wipe it out.

Much is being made of determining intent. Under the new law, owning gamefowl is illegal only if the owner intends to fight them. Sheriffs aren't going to knock on doors and snoop in barns unless they receive complaints. And the question of intent will be answered during the criminal justice process.

Cockfighters and their supporters should accept defeat. The issue has been decided. Get over it, or move.