On June 11, more than 100 agents from the FBI, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the IRS, and assorted state and local law enforcement authorities raided the Del Rio Game Club in Cocke County, Tennessee, reportedly one of the nation's largest illegal cockfighting pits. The raid netted 143 arrests, $40,000 in confiscated cash, and hundreds of seized fighting birds. U.S. authorities have filed papers in federal court to see that Del Rio and a second cockfighting operation, the 440 Pit, are forfeited to the United States.
The Del Rio pit is reportedly owned by Don and Donna Poteat, the former president and current secretary of the United Gamefowl Breeders Association. The UGBA is a tax-exempt organization that represents the interests of cockfighters nationwide, even though cockfighting is a crime in 48 states. In a letter sent to the IRS yesterday, HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle asked the IRS to revoke the UGBA's tax-free status because its leaders are deeply involved in promoting illegal activities.
The IRS grants a specific tax-exempt status to organizations whose primary purpose is the "betterment of conditions of those engaged in agriculture or horticulture, development of efficiency, or improvement of the grade of products." However, as Pacelle points out in his letter, raising birds to fight to the death is not a legitimate agricultural enterprise. The UBGA likes to align gamecock breeders with America's dwindling family farmers and even claims that cockfighting is a misunderstood and traditional part of rural agriculture. But even the most cursory review of cockfighting would show just the opposite: raising birds to fight for public amusement and gambling bears no relationship to traditional farming activities or values.
Part of UGBA's annual budget appears to come from individuals who engage in cockfighting, an activity that is illegal in all but two states. This money is used to fund efforts to defeat anti-cockfighting measures, such as the current federal bill in Congress to raise the penalty for transporting fighting birds across state lines or overseas from a misdemeanor to a felony. We hope the IRS will investigate UGBA and see what we do: that it is an agent supporting criminal activity, and that it does not deserve the right to operate tax-free. Click here for the full story.
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