Cock fighting penalties bill dies in TN Senate - WSMV Channel 4

Cock fighting penalties bill dies in TN Senate

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV-AP) -

Legislation that would toughen penalties for animal fights and the people who watch them is dead this session after failing to pass the Tennessee Senate.

The proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro received a vote of 15-8 on Monday evening, short of the 17 votes needed to receive a majority.

Under the bill, a first offense for cock fighting would have remained a misdemeanor. But a second offense would be considered a felony punishable by six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.

Opponents of the legislation say it didn't specifically say that raising such chickens would not be a crime and could cause problems for farmers and others in the poultry business.

Animal fights are already illegal in Tennessee, and State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, said a misdemeanor charge is harsh enough.

"It is a blood sport," said Leighann McCollum, Tennessee director for the Humane Society of the United States.

McCollum said the illegal animal fights happen more than many people probably think.

"Unfortunately, animal fighting is so prevalent across the state of Tennessee," she said. "These people are paying admission fees, they are promoting the fight by word of mouth and then they're there to gamble."

Tracy said while he does not support animal fighting, making it felony is too harsh a penalty.

Currently, Tennessee is one of nine states in which cockfighting is a misdemeanor and not a felony.

"I would be voting, 'no.' I just think that is probably too harsh a penalty for this right now," Tracy said.

"We are always stunned at some of the arguments we hear as to why this bill shouldn't pass. There's no justifiable reason," McCollum said.

Ketron said he's not sure if he'll introduce the legislation again next year.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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