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– Gameness til the End
Oct. 27–CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A newly launched group says it will push West Virginia lawmakers next year to legalize cockfighting.
The West Virginia Association for Gamecock Sports announced Monday it is seeking legislators who would sponsor a bill to legalize, regulate and tax the sport, which is outlawed in all 50 states.
“It’s only illegal now because of the puritan sense of a few people who don’t find it an appropriate sport,” association spokesman Bradford Parker said in a telephone interview.
On Monday morning, a member of the group stood outside the Capitol dressed in a yellow and red chicken costume, passing out flyers and waving to cars on Kanawha Boulevard.
The person would only say his name was “Chicken.”
Parker, who lives outside of Weston and said he does not take part in cockfights, said the group started organizing about 18 months ago, but is just now launching its campaign publicly. It plans to open a Charleston office in January and hire full-time lobbyists.
The association is funded through donations, he said.
Parker said cockfighting is popular in rural areas and should be “brought out from the shadows.” Members plan to speak with representatives of the gambling industry about hosting cockfights in the state’s racinos, which are combined racetracks and casinos.
“We believe there would be millions in potential tax revenue,” Parker said.
The “chicken” outside the Capitol passed out flyers titled “Cockfighting at West Virginia Casinos!”
But West Virginia Racing Association president John Cavacini said he has never heard of the group and personally doesn’t think tracks would be interested in hosting cockfights.
“Until I have an opportunity to have a discussion with the board of directors of the West Virginia Racing Association, we do not have an official position” on the issue, he said.
The Secretary of State’s Office does not have record of the West Virginia Association for Gamecock Sports, said Jake Glance, spokesman for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. If the association has offices in West Virginia and solicits donations, it must register as either a non-profit organization or a charity, depending on how much money its raises.
Parker said the association is working on its registration material.
Its Web site, http://www.wva4gamecocks.com , consists of one page and links to a petition to legalize cockfighting in the United States.
For years, the Humane Society of the United States has lobbied for harsher penalties for cockfighting. West Virginia is one of 11 states where cockfighting is a misdemeanor offense. In the 39 other states, it is a felony.
John Goodwin, manager of animal-fighting issues at the HSUS, called cockfighting — where birds are pitted against each other for entertainment and gambling purposes– “a severe form of animal cruelty.”
“I’ve seen roosters that were still alive that had their intestines hanging out,” said Goodwin. “The injuries are tremendous.”
Arkansas, Kansas, Virginia and Wyoming have all recently made cockfighting a felony, Goodwin said. The HSUS is now pushing hard to do the same in Ohio.
Goodwin said he doubts that any Mountain State legislator would sponsor a bill to legalize cockfighting.
“I haven’t seen, in recent memory, any state legislators whose political instincts were so suicidal as to sponsor such nonsense,” he said.
Reach Alison Knezevich at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1240.
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