Senate Examines Link between HB71 Proponent, 'Domestic Terror' Group

    We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States...We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California. Then we will take it state by state.
    - Humane Society of the United States Executive Director Wayne Pacelle

November 15, 2007
The Hannah Report

It was a "nervous" Senate Agriculture Committee chairman who took continuing testimony Wednesday on a bill that began nine months ago as dog fighting legislation but has since grown to include the related problem of cock fighting, a form of animal abuse that would seem on its face a logical extension of sponsoring Rep. John White's (R-Kettering) original concerns.

Chairman Larry Mumper (R-Marion) announced during the hearing that he had taken a call from the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), an original proponent of HB71 in the House, disavowing any link to domestic terrorism, a surprising proposition considering the group's benign name. That allegation took on greater clarity Wednesday when bill opponents from the Ohio Gamefowl Breeders Association presented Mumper with a photo of HSUS activist J.P. Goodwin with a tshirt bearing the words Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which has been declared a terrorist threat by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. Goodwin is generally reported to be a former member of ALF.

Joshua Codner of the Gamefowl Breeders Association, a self-described scientist with a B.S. in chemistry and a B.S. in physics, told Mumper and fellow committee members that the bill would only further the confusion of game fowl hobbyists with those who breed gamecocks for their traditional use in "blood sports," as he called them. HB71 is guilty of a sin of omission rather than a sin of commission, suggested Codner, in that the bill targets "cockfighting" without distinguishing birds destined for show from birds destined for the ring.

"We oppose HB71 specifically because it is intended to target our breed of poultry based on breed and appearance only; therefore, we are guilty until proven innocent...." he argued. "This type of legislation is...stereotypical in nature and has caused unnecessary harassment to law abiding citizens in other states where adopted, but we are already being harassed without HB71...."

Codner cited three incidents over the past two years in which members of his group were purportedly accused of cockfighting "without any physical evidence," a plea to burden-of proof issues that would dominate committee comments by Sen. Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland).

"The reason for the immediate impression of animal fighting based on appearance is due to the influence of the radical animal rights activists, mainly HSUS and their role in providing training information to peace officers," said Codner.

The committee had already heard from one such officer, Dog Warden Mark Kumpf of Montgomery County, and would later hear from a second proponent of the bill, detective Sgt. David Hunt of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, who noted his previous work for HSUS in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives.

...Hunt told the committee of his own connection to HSUS, identifying himself as one of the very consultants the group employs to train law enforcement in the investigation of dog fighting. After committee, he disavowed any connection to animal rights interests as such and any specific knowledge of Goodwin's involvement with ALF. "I'm here to put dogfighters in jail, period."

After Codner, a second opponent had reminded members of the considerable effort legislators had expended on animal welfare reforms in 124-SB221 (Goodman).

"That legislation was no sooner on the books than the animal rights organizations were back in the halls of our statehouse, lobbying for yet more changes to [Revised Code] Sec. 959, still claiming Ohio doesn't do enough to protect its animals," said Polly Britton of the Ohio Association of Animal Owners (OAAO). "This substitute bill...is an undisguised work of the animal rights contingent, and one which the OAAO, and hopefully this committee, must oppose...."

...After the hearing, Chairman Mumper met privately with Codner for further consultation, saying before leaving the committee room that he remained wary of HSUS's involvement, reassurances notwithstanding.

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