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DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - The owner of a tavern in rural Iowa who said he ran mouse races on Sundays for fun, was cited by local police for allowing patrons to bet on the rodent running.
"It's a blast," said Scott Beach, 49, who ran the mouse races at the Bucktail Lodge in Danville before being cited by the Des Moines County sheriff's office.
"The state's taking the fun out of it," he said, adding that he would be pleading not guilty.
The sheriff's office confirmed Friday that Scott Beach and his wife Jan Beach were cited for knowingly permitting criminal activity on licensed premises.
Bar patrons pick a mouse for a dollar, and whoever picks the winning mouse gets the payout, Scott Beach explained. He said the tavern made no money out of the betting.
Beach said he was told ignorance of the law was no excuse.
The mice run on an eight-foot-long flat track, with each mouse racing in its own lane. Asked if he needed to put cheese at the end of the run to tempt the mice forward, Beach said, "No, they're in their cages all day. They're ready to run."
He said he plays racing music for the mice, like "Wipe Out," "Rawhide," or George Jones' "The Race is On."
The Beaches held the mouse races for about two years, and then suspended them after most of the mice died.
The deaths were not racing-related -- the mice were accidentally left in the sun too long.
The races were restarted with new mice about two and a half months ago, Beach said.
Danville is a town of about 900 in southeastern Iowa.
Writing and reporting by Mary Wisniewski with additional reporting by Kay Henderson; Editing by Greg McCune