Cockfighting bans now extend to all but one state

Published on April 15, 2007
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New Mexico has banned cockfighting, leaving Louisiana as the last state where cockfighting is legal.

"We are, as a profession, happy to have this ban," said Dr. Michael Tomasic, president of the New Mexico VMA. "We wish it were stronger, but we'll take what we can get."

Dr. Tomasic said the NMVMA supported the original bill, and legislators passed a compromise version. The VMA made itself available for testimony and had a lobbyist active behind the scenes.

The original bill would have considered cockfighting to be a form of extreme cruelty to animals, a fourth-degree felony. The compromise was for the first conviction to be a petty misdemeanor, the second to be a misdemeanor, and the third and subsequent to be fourth-degree felonies.

Individual counties and communities in New Mexico had banned cockfighting before the statewide ban. Dr. Tomasic said legislators have introduced a bill every year for the past 18 years.

"I think it's just a matter of time," he said. "People are more aware of the issues, more in tune with what constitutes cruelty to animals."

Dr. Tomasic said the arguments for and against a ban haven't changed, but the response has. One argument against the ban has been that cockfighting is an important part of the local heritage.

"The general populace doesn't believe that any more," Dr. Tomasic said. "And, in fact, cultures do change. I think that's what we're seeing."

Louisiana also might ban cockfighting this year.

Dr. Mike Strain, a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, has filed one of several bills to outlaw cockfighting. The bills provide for varying time frames, from an immediate ban to a phase-out program.

"I think, at the end of the day, one of them will pass," Dr. Strain said.

He said legislators have introduced bills annually in Louisiana for years, but there is a lot more momentum and public pressure this year.

"New Mexico just added a little more pressure to it," Dr. Strain said.

While cockfighting has a strong following in Louisiana, he said, the public at large favors a ban. Dr. Strain's bill would eliminate cockfighting, with penalties including up to $1,000 in fines and up to six months in jail.

"We are going to be working hard this session," he said.

At the national level, Congress recently passed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007. The act would strengthen laws against interstate transport of animals for fighting by designating violations as a felony offense.

The House of Representatives and Senate approved identical versions of the bill (H.R. 137, S. 261) on March 26 and April 10, respectively. At press time, the legislation had not reached the president's desk.