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Why won’t lawmakers stiffen cockfighting penalties?

Staff Report • Mar 26, 2012 at 8:20 AM

Tennessee lawmakers are once again turning a blind eye to an effort to make cockfighting a felony and to strengthen penalties for attending a cockfight.

Despite a number of cockfighting arrests in Tennessee in recent years (including a 2009 federal drug trafficking investigation that uncovered the country’s largest cockfighting ring in Nashville), the state has the weakest cockfighting laws in the nation.

Efforts to stiffen those penalties have stalled annually in the state General Assembly. Remarkably, legislators have declined to get tough on cockfighting even after hearing testimony from federal agents who say Tennessee is part of the infamous “Cockfighting Corridor,” where criminals who engage in this blood sport flock to ply their despicable trade.

An FBI agent also told legislators a few years ago that the operator of a busted cockfighting pit in Cocke County boasted that he bribed a state lawmaker nearly 20 years ago to lower the penalty for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor.

There’s an obvious link between cockfighting and interstate gambling. And if that is not enough illegal activity to justify the attention of state lawmakers, how about drug trafficking and contraband? Both animal welfare groups and law enforcement officials say there is a direct link between cockfighting and trafficking in meth and crack cocaine.

It’s clear cockfighting is not a harmless diversion. It’s a barbaric crime that deserves more of a penalty than a slap on the wrist.

The Humane Society of the United States pays a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of cockfighters.

To report a cockfighting pit in your neighborhood, call (202) 452-1100 or go to www.humanesociety.org/cockfighting to learn more.

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