JEFFERSON CITY - Catching fish would no longer put you at risk of being a felon, if Gov. Mel Carnahan signs a bill changing last November's cock-fighting ban.
Some lawmakers say that wording in the ban makes fishing a felony. Although no one in the state has been charged with such a crime, legislators moved to prevent it from happening.
"We have to change the law because under it everyone baiting an animal to fight is guilty of a felony," said bill-sponsor, Rep. Bill Ransdall, D-Waynesville.
The cock-fighting ban makes almost every activity with animals illegal and then exempts some actions, such as hunting and professionally sanctioned rodeos. Controversy has centered around unclear wording in the exemptions that many believe criminalize accepted activities.
The legislation now before the governor would maintain the bans on cock-fighting and bear wrestling while ensuring that fishing and rodeo remain legal.
Ransdall said small rodeos like the ones chambers of commerce hold are illegal under the ban because they aren't sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association. The bill leaves it to the Agriculture Department rather than the professional association to determine which rodeo activities are acceptable.
Sen. Larry Rohrbach, R-California, said the bill leaves too much of the ban's problematic wording unchanged.
Driving your coon dog to the vet would remain illegal, he said. "We'll have to wait until some screwy animal rights activist convinces a prosecutor to charge someone," said Sen. Larry Rohrbach, R-California.
Carnahan spokesman Chris Sifford would not say for sure whether the governor would sign or veto the legislation. But, he "can't imagine that we would have any problem with it," he said.
The timing of the governor's signature is important because the House passed an emergency clause to the bill, meaning it would take effect as soon as the governor signs it.
Ransdall said the ban's wording problems stem from its origins as a petition initiative, which means the law did not benefit from the legislature's expert staff.
Senate filibusters which blocked previous legislature attempts to ban cock-fighting forced the issue to take the initiative route.