By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
A bill to increase the fines and penalties regarding game foul cockfighting, SB 75, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) received a vote of 9-1 with only Senator Marc Keahey (D-Grove Hill) voting against.
The bill will raise the fines and stiffen penalties for any persons involved in any aspect of game foul cockfighting.
Initially there was a substitute admitted changing the words “cockfighting” to “game foul cockfighting” throughout the bill. Ward said that he had been approached by the Poultry Industry and Farmers Federation with concerns regarding people who raise chickens commercially. The language was changed to avoid any possible problems with the raising of foul not related to the sport of fighting.
Under current law, game foul cockfighting is a Class C misdemeanor “with a not less than $20 and not more than $50 fine.”
The new bill seeks to change the offenses to a Class A misdemeanor with first offense receiving “not more than a year and up to a $6,000 fine.”
Charges are to include:
Training a cock to fight
Causing a cock to fight for amusement or gain
Operating a facility for the purpose of game fowl cockfighting
Possess a device or substance intended to enhance the ability of a cock to fight
Wagering on a cockfight
Buying or selling tickets to a cockfight
Being present at a facility preparing for a cockfight
Causing a minor to be present or participate in a cockfight.
All offenders will be receive individuals counts with the exception being that when a minor is involved two Class A charges will apply.
Opponents to the law say that most of these have easy work arounds. For instance, a “substance intended to enhance the ability of a cock to fight” could include game bird feed. Wishing to remain anonymous this source said, “People will simply blend their own feeds and call it something else not related to cockfighting.” They went on to say that game foul cockfighting is a “natural instinct of roosters. It’s not like they are training them Tia Chi.”
Lawmakers want to strengthen the charges to reduce the instances of game fowl cockfighting in the state. Ward said that since Alabama’s laws are the weakest of the surrounding states, Alabama has “people coming from out of state and internationally” to hold fights knowing that the fines and penalties will be light. He said, “This will put us on par with sister states but still a little weaker than some.”
Game foul cockfighting is a felony in 39 states.
Any game foul cock used for fighting will be confiscated as contraband by law enforcement and held until the owner, trainer or possessor is cleared of charges.
In addition to the charges, those convicted of the crime will face forfeiture of any profits, as well as, real and personal property used or traceable to cockfighting.
At a press release on Tuesday, The Humane Society of the United States released its new commercial calling for stricter laws concerning game foul cockfighting.