Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


December 31, 2009

Cockfighting: Time to make barbaric act a felony

Although it is prosecuted as a felony offense in 39 other states, cockfighting is still only a misdemeanor violation in West Virginia. It’s time for that to change.

Cockfighting is a savage, cruel and unacceptable act of criminal behavior. The fact that lawmakers in West Virginia have allowed this barbaric practice to go on for as long as it has is, quite frankly, appalling.

West Virginia is now one of only 11 states that doesn’t consider cockfighting a felony offense. By failing to make cockfighting a felony, lawmakers in West Virginia have essentially extended an open invitation to criminals in other states where cockfighting is a felony offense — such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina — to make the short drive to West Virginia to participate in cockfighting rings where the only threat of punishment they face, if caught, is a fine and a slap on the hand.

Thankfully, someone is now stepping up and taking a stand against cockfighting in West Virginia.

Summer Wyatt, a native of Mercer County and lifelong advocate for animals, has assumed the position of state director in West Virginia for the Humane Society of the United States of America. Wyatt, a graduate of PikeView High School and Concord University, gained national attention in 2007 when she was crowned Miss West Virginia.

Wyatt, whose public service platform during the 2008 Miss America Pageant dealt with animal cruelty and family violence, said her first priority as the new state director of the Humane Society of the United States is to convince lawmakers to pass legislation making cockfighting a felony offense in West Virginia.

Wyatt said Sen. Jeffrey V. Kessler, D-Marshall, has agreed to introduce legislation on behalf of the Humane Society that would make cockfighting a felony. We applaud Kessler for stepping up to the plate and agreeing to sponsor this legislation. We urge lawmakers across southern West Virginia to support him in the passage of this measure.

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