The Humane Society of the United States’ State Director for Tennessee, Leighann McCollum, released the following statement regarding the raid of a large cockfighting operation in Hawkins County:
“We commend the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department for raiding a large cockfighting operation over the weekend. Cockfighting is an extremely cruel bloodsport where roosters have razor sharp weapons tied to their legs before they are placed in a pit to fight to the death. However, because of Tennessee’s anemic laws on animal fighting, those apprehended for cockfighting only receive a misdemeanor penalty. Tennessee’s penalties for cockfighting are among the weakest in the nation, making our state a refuge for those involved in this crime. We encourage the General Assembly to bring our cockfighting law in line with the other 40 states that rightly punish all forms of animal fighting as a felony.”
The raid is the second incident involving animal fighting in the county in the last three months. In November, Hawkins County authorities uncovered a dogfighting and cockfighting operation while fighting a fire. Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, and Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, will soon introduce legislation to increase penalties for those convicted of attending a cockfight or dogfight in the state.
- Cockfighting is illegal in every state, and all animal fighting that affects interstate commerce is punishable as a federal felony under the Animal Welfare Act.
- Common cockfighting practices include breeding birds for viciousness, drugging them to heighten aggression, and fitting their legs with deadly weapons—that is, razor-sharp knives or gaffs, which resemble curved ice picks.
- Congress is considering legislation—the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act—to further strengthen the federal animal fighting law by making it a crime to be a spectator at a dogfight or cockfight, with additional penalties for bringing a child to the fight.
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