South Carolina eyes game fowl extermination
Proposed law would destroy all game fowl as potential cock fighters

By Christine Heinrichs, SPPA Publicity Director

Posted May 3, 2005: Members of the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities stepped up to oppose legislation that could damage small flock owners in South Carolina. Although the bill is still under consideration, they feel their efforts helped turn votes against it.

“We are in this fight for the lives of our fowl,” said Dr. Everett.

The proposed anti-cockfighting law, H3344, would allow any game fowl to be confiscated without a warrant and destroyed. SPPA Secretary-Treasurer Dr. Charles Everett was there on Monday, April 18, 2005 for the Judiciary Committee that was considering sending the bill to the full House for consideration.

John Foley submitted a written statement opposing the proposed legislation.

“I beg for mercy for the lives of the hens, chicks and roosters and their eggs,” he wrote.

Cock fighting has been against the law in South Carolina for 120 years. The proposed law, adapted from an existing law against dog fighting, makes cock fighting a felony punishable by up to $5,000 fine and up to five years in jail. It allows the confiscation and destruction of all game fowl, on the assumption that they cannot be safely kept and are kept for the purpose of cock fighting.

Many breeders and small flock owners keep game fowl for preservation and exhibition purposes. Those breeders never cross paths with cock fighters.

Dr. Everett, who has never had any connection with cock fighting, made several arguments against the proposed law:

Agriculture is the second-largest industry in South Carolina, and broilers are the single largest contribution to the industry. Small flock owners and breeders who keep game fowl are maintaining the repository of valuable genetic stock that may well be needed to infuse vigor and disease resistance to commercial meat and egg flocks in the future. Those game birds would be at risk if this law is passed.

Game fowl breeders would be subject to unannounced search and seizure of their birds, regardless of whether they ever had any contact with cock fighting.

The extreme penalties in the proposed law, up to $5,000 fine and five years in jail, would introduce disparity of law into the state. A first offense drunk driving charge carries only a single night in jail.

The bill was passed out of committee to the full House on an 8-5 vote. Before Dr. Everett spoke with some of the Representatives on the Judiciary Committee, the bill had only one opponent on the committee.

“My recommendation is that if they want to send a message about cock fighting, they should leave it a misdemeanor and increase the penalties,” said Dr. Everett. A $500 fine and a night in jail would make the state’s opposition to cock fighting clear without endangering game fowl breeders and their valuable birds.

“I’m really concerned about maintaining heirloom flocks of birds,” he said. “Game fowl were the common, everyday bird that most farmers in our history kept. They are vigorous and healthy, and their genes are in most of our domestic fowl today. Preservation and exhibition flocks need to be protected.”

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