The Oklahoma State Senate passed a measure Thursday that will give Oklahomans another chance to vote on the cockfighting issue. Senate Bill 835 by Senator Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, would reduce the penalty for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor.
"The law was not well written," said Shurden. "We send people to prison for far less time for crimes such as the rape of a child. The punishment doesn't fit the crime, and I don't think this is what the voters intended."
Under current law, people who simply own game fowl, or any equipment or apparatus designed for birds or fowl, can be charged up to $25,000 and 10 years in prison for each bird. Under the provisions of SB 835, only those individuals found participating in cockfights would be charged. The penalty would be lowered from a felony to a misdemeanor. For the first offense, violators could face up to six months in a county jail, a $500 fine or both; the second offense would be punishable for up to one year in a county jail, a $1000 fine or both; a third offense could lead to imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, a $2000 fine or both. Spectators would be charged no more than a $100 fine.
"These are normal folks just trying to make a living," noted Shurden. "If this law isn't changed hundreds of law-abiding Oklahomans will face felony charges unless they slaughter their chickens."
SB 835 now moves to the House where it should be voted on next week. If the House passes the measure, it will then go to the Secretary of State's office to be placed on the November election ballot.