FW: Panel approves cockfighting ban
Panel approves cockfighting ban
April 26, 2006
By Mike Hasten
BATON ROUGE -- With no opposition, a Senate committee has voted to ban cockfighting in Louisiana.
Passage of the bill would leave New Mexico as the only state that allows cockfighting.
However, proponents of the legislation have a long way to go before Senate Bill 652 by Sen. Art Lentini, R-Metairie, could become law. It has to be approved by the Senate, which has defeated numerous bills that ban cockfighting, but also approved by the House of Representatives, which has never approved similar bills.
Lentini said he finds the blood sport embarrassing to the state and cruel to the birds. His bill originally sought to increase the penalty for cruelty to animals, but because Louisiana law doesn't consider chickens animals, it was amended to deal with cockfighting and to say that it is cruelty to animals.
Sen. Don Cravins, D-Opelousas, said the committee action is "just going to make for interesting debate on the floor" of the Senate. He said he and other cockfighting supporters "will certainly take our licks" from critics but the bill has "a slim chance of passing."
"It is barbaric," state police Lt. Rhett Trahan said, testifying in the Senate Judiciary C Committee. Birds that naturally fight each other, but are sometimes drugged to increase their energy levels, are thrown into a pit where they peck and claw at each other with razor-sharp spurs attached to their legs.
Trahan said he has seen bird handlers "pluck on their eyes to get the birds to continue to fight" and when a rooster is seriously injured or is killed and can't continue, "they throw the bird into a wastebasket or bucket."
Gambling is prevalent at cockfights, he said, and the bird owners often profit heavily from the wagering. He said one bird handler told him that if it weren't for the gambling income, he would get out of the business.
Trahan said he witnessed one fight where $250,000 was paid out and over the night, "more than $1 million changed hands." He said he saw a boy about 8 years old betting and then yelling during the fight "kill him, kill him, kill him!"
About two-thirds of the birds at some fights are brought in from other states, which is a violation of federal law, he said.
Cockfighting supporters say it is a traditional activity passed down from the founding fathers of the United States.
They say it boosts the economy of rural areas through the purchase of feed and supplies, including lumber and wire from hardware stores.
Under Lentini's bill, first offense for hosting or participating in a cockfight would carry a maximum penalty of $1,000 and imprisonment up to six months. Each violation is a separate offense.
A second or subsequent violation would be punishable with confiscation of all property used in hosting, promoting or participating in cockfighting.
April 26, 2006
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