This week, the FBI with assistance from The HSUS raided one of the biggest cockfighting pits in the United States, in Citronelle, Alabama—a facility that, while empty when the raid occurred, had multiple pits and enough satellite sheds to house more than 1,000 fighting roosters awaiting their turn to slash other birds to death, or to be killed themselves.
I’m always amazed that the people who run these operations, and the people who attend them, think they can get away with this crime in this day and age. Yes, Alabama has the weakest anti-cockfighting law in the nation. But Alabama is part of the United States, and there is a federal law, which The HSUS has worked to strengthen four times during the last 15 years. In fact, it’s a felony not only to fight the birds, but to possess birds for fighting, to traffic in the knives and gaffs that perpetrators attach to the birds’ legs, or to bring a minor to a fight. It’s a misdemeanor even to spectate.
The FBI worked with informants to penetrate this operation, and the agency sought our assistance in making the case and in working to document evidence found at the site. We also had fabulous cooperation with law enforcement officials in Alabama. They’ve worked with us on dogfighting raids and have shown a zero-tolerance policy for malicious cruelty like this.
It’s a great example of how overlapping federal and state laws for animals interact to provide protections. While a few well-positioned lawmakers have stymied our repeated efforts to bring Alabama’s 19th century law into the 21st century, they’re really doing no favors for their constituents and donors who are cockfighters. They are just guaranteeing that when these individuals do get arrested, it is under the forceful penalty provisions of federal law. In fact, earlier this year, we worked with the U.S. Sentencing Commission to establish a legal framework to crack down on organized animal fighters.
Yes, the cockfighters are organized—as in organized criminals. It’s not a solitary sport. It takes many more than two to tangle. When hundreds of people get together to conspire to participate in a blood sport like this—including the owner of the facility, dozens of enthusiasts who enter six or seven birds into a derby, and then the spectators who come to gamble or watch the spectacle—that’s organized crime. In this case, the parking lots were full when the FBI’s undercover informant penetrated the operation. An FBI agent who signed an affidavit “observed license plates from the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and Kentucky”—grounding the federal interest in this case.
The HSUS works through so many channels to crack down on animal abusers. If a state legislature won’t take action, we’ll work with the Federal Government to bring justice for the animals. Best to just stop abusing animals, follow the law, and maintain your freedom.