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Associated Press

HAVRE (AP) - Owners of a Hill County game farm have filed suit in state court to challenge the constitutionality of the initiative that bans such farms in Montana - the same challenge they lost in federal court.

Kim and Cindy Kafka's suit, filed last week in state District Court here, names the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks because it is the agency that enforces Initiative 143.

I-143, adopted by voters in November 2000, bans the licensing of new game farm operations, expansions of existing game farms or the transfer of licenses, and fee shooting of the farms' animals.

"The Kafkas have been suffering under this for more than a year," said their spokesman, Henry Kreigel of Bozeman. "Basically, they're saying I-143 is draconian in nature."

The Kafkas, who received a license for their game farm from the department in 1999, claim in the suit that they had a vested interest in their game farm operation. Removing their right to charge a fee to shoot the animals, without compensation, violates their rights to property and due process under the U.S. and Montana constitutions, Kreigel said.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Great Falls, last November, threw out a similar challenge filed early in 2001 by the Kafkas and Pat and Connie Corbett of Sidney on behalf of the game farm industry.

That suit asked for as much as $100 million in damages and claimed the law violates federal and state constitutional rights.

Molloy had refused earlier to suspend the part of I-143 that bans shooting of game farm animals for a fee. He called the prohibition a legitimate effort by the state to protect Montana's traditional hunting heritage and said the critics had failed to show it violated their constitutional rights.

Mark Taylor, a spokesman for the Montana Alternative Livestock Producers, said at that time that the law ruined 92 Montana businesses and the families that rely on those businesses for most, if not all, of their income.

As a result, Taylor said, the producers had to determine how to spend their limited resources, and continuing with the federal lawsuit would have been a protracted and costly undertaking.

Other suits against I-143 are still pending, including one questioning whether the ban prevents game farmers from selling an animal to a customer - making it the customer's property, not the game farm operator's - and then letting the customer shoot it.

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