Gamecock Raid in Gamecock State

By on March 31, 2015 with 14 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

As they broke up an active cockfight this weekend in South Carolina, members of the HSUS Animal Rescue Team and local law enforcement came upon some horrific circumstances. Four birds had just been pulled from the pit, suffering grievous injuries inflicted by sharp knives strapped to their feet, and off to the side, there was a drag pit, where handlers continued to goad birds to fight, even after they had been removed from the main arena because they’d become injured and exhausted.

There was also a chained, emaciated female dog with 10 puppies, approximately three to four weeks old, inside a doghouse. Her ribs and backbone were sticking out, her gums pale pink–a sign of anemia. The dog and puppies were shivering from the cold temperatures, and with the female dog having barely any body fat and nursing puppies there was no telling how much longer she would have survived.


One of the injured birds rescued by our team during the cockfighting bust. Photo by Chris Keane/AP Images for The HSUS

Law enforcement agents and our team members found plenty of cockfighting paraphernalia and rescued a total of 122 birds that night. Thirty-six of those birds had been transported to the pit for the fight, some across state lines, and the remaining 86 roosters and hens appeared to have been part of a cockfighting breeding operation. The raid also resulted in the arrest of 27 suspected cockfighters. Some parents brought children to the event, and law enforcement officials located firearms and drugs during their search of the vehicles and suspected cockfighters.

Ironically, this cockfighting spectacle occurred on the same day that more than 150 South Carolina animal advocates met with their state legislators to voice concerns about anemic anti-cockfighting and animal protection laws. In South Carolina, cockfighting is only a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail. Two bills now in the legislature would crack down on cockfighting. H. 3408, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Long, would criminalize the possession of cockfighting paraphernalia and game fowl with the intent to fight and would criminalize bringing a minor to a cockfight.  S. 157, sponsored by Sen. Katrina Shealy, would make cockfighting a second offense felony.

Neither bill has received a hearing to date. Other states, meanwhile, are making progress on the issue. Just yesterday, Utah’s governor signed a bill making it the 42nd state with felony penalties for cockfighting, and the Tennessee Senate advanced a measure that increases penalties for spectators and makes it a new crime to bring a child to an animal fight.

Many birds and dogs found at the raid were spared a terrible fate, thanks to the Marlboro County sheriff’s office and our team. The birds have been transferred by law enforcement to the care of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue and the mother dog and pups have been taken to a local rescue where they will receive medical treatment and proper nutrition. But there is no excuse for South Carolina lawmakers to continue to stall on passing legislation that will, once and for all, clarify that fighting animals for pleasure—and bringing kids to these spectacles of lawlessness and violence – is a serious crime.

P.S. Great news from Arizona, where the newly elected Republican governor, Doug Ducey, last night vetoed a bill to weaken anti-cruelty laws for farm animals.  H.B. 2150, masquerading as an anti-hoarding measure, would have bifurcated the state’s anti-cruelty statute—creating one set of rules for companion animals and another, weaker, one for farm animals and horses. This power grab by Big Ag also would have taken away local control from municipalities, and badly complicated efforts by whistleblowers to expose abuse on factory farms. Kudos to Gov. Ducey for taking this principled stand and for defending animal protection.


Watch a video of the raid on the cockfighting operation below, and help save more animals in need:

Animal Rescue and Care

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  1. John Thompson says:

    The bill to make cockfighting a felony in South Carolina is introduced every two years (a bill has a 2-year life) and it never passes. Most of the time it never gets out of sub-committee. In 2006 I went to the sub-committee meeting in Columbia. The sub-committee meeting is the only time that the public can speak before the legislators at a committee meeting. When the Attorney General of the state spoke, he was ridiculed by one of the senators. Half of the room was occupied by cockfighters. There certainly were more cockfighers in the room than there were those in favor of making it a felony.

  2. David Bernazani says:

    Perhaps now something will be done in SC to bring their cockfighting laws up to standard. Please help spread the word on this, everyone, and put pressure on SC politicians to do their job!

  3. jeri swan says:

    the parents who bring kids are lower than any animal on this earth. They should have been arrested for child abuse. I would like to know if you rescued that poor momma dog and her babies. I certainly hope so. Let me know their outcome please

  4. carol burton stafford says:

    Cockfighting and dogfighting should be felonies. Animal abuse is horrific and
    barbaric. Why any state would want this legally allowed in their state! It leads people to think that your state is very much behind the times.

  5. Angela dreooy says:

    I urge the stop of animal fighting for pleasure

  6. BarbG says:

    The room filled with cockfighters sounds a lot like what has always went on in states that wanted to keep horse slaughter going until the temporary ban on funding is keeping it under control. I may be wrong but cockfighting has been banned in some states but the politicians are the ones allowing it to go on year after year with palms greased under the table. I doubt it can ever be wiped out in the southern states.

  7. Patti Brower says:

    This is great news. I’ve been praying about weakening as many slaughterhouses that can be affective in the same way. one at a time i say. yes!!! Thank you so much for the signature.

  8. J M says:

    Animal cruelty is a felony and this includes all animals. Read the link.

  9. P D says:

    Animal fighting of any kind needs to stop!!! This is barbaric. I usually don’t support mandatory sentencing but I do in this case.

  10. js says:

    Animal Abusers ARE Human Abusers Stop Protecting Abusers And Start Protecting Victims. Abusers belong in JAIL FOR LIFE they DON’T CHANGE. It is the Only way to Protect Victims

  11. howard williams says:

    I just wonder what happens to all the poor animals that the hsus takes I never hear of adoptions or that the animals are cared for just rescued then they seem to disappear.WHERE HAPPENS TO THEM ???

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi Howard, I am the editor of A Humane Nation. As it states in the article, the birds rescued here have been transferred by law enforcement to the care of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue. The HSUS has a program called the Emergency Placement Partner Program made up of shelters and rescues that are willing to assist in placing animals from the cases we do.

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