COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Legislation has passed through the Ohio House of Representatives that would make a deeper involvement in illegal cockfighting a felony offense.
The bill stipulates that anyone found to be employed by a cockfighting ring, betting on results, paying for admission to an event, possessing devices related to enhancing an animal’s fighting ability or allowing a minor to be present will be charged with a felony, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Engaging in cockfighting or any other instances of having animals fight will remain a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail.
The felony charge comes when an individual has a greater involvement in the offense.
“We’re saying something to the entire nation that Ohio will not stand for this,” said Rep. Heather Bishoff, a Blacklick Democrat and a prime sponsor of the bill.
Corey Roscoe, Ohio’s director for the Humane Society of the United States, said the bill helps stop cock fighters who “seek out locations with the weakest penalties to set up their criminal operations.”
Roscoe said two cockfighting rings in southern Ohio have been known nationally as “major circuit” pits and the state “runs the risk of becoming the continued place of refuge for this crime” without the legislation.
Rep. Nino Vitale, an Urbana Republican, opposed the bill because the mark of having a felony offense could hurt a young adult who made a mistake in attending a cock fight.
“While I’m totally against this horrible use of animal cruelty, I’m also for acknowledging that people can make mistakes and should not be punished for life,” Vitale said.
The bill now heads to the Senate for approval after passing the House vote 85-7.