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Group offers $5,000 reward for information leading to animal fighting arrests, convictions

Jar with dollar bills on wooden desktop

Alabama has a long history of cock fighting, even though that has been illegal in the state since 1896. On Tuesday, the Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) and Animal Wellness Action (AWA) announced that they are offering a $5,000 reward for information resulting in the successful prosecution of any individual(s) for violating the federal law (7 U.S.C. § 2156) against animal fighting.

Last week the groups released a report claiming that Alabama is a global leader in the sport of cockfighting investigation.

They are requesting that the U.S. Attorneys for the Northern and Middle districts launch investigations into allegations of the massive trafficking of fighting animals from Alabama to foreign countries.

“Cockfighting breeds a cesspool of other illegal activities, such as gambling and drug use,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action and a native Alabamian. “These are not the values held by Alabamians, and this lawlessness should not be tolerated. We hope the Dept. of Justice will review the results of the Animal Wellness investigation, and we are also asking members of the public to come forward with information that could help root out this activity in the Yellowhammer State.”

Under the federal anti-animal fighting law, it is a crime to: knowingly sponsor or exhibit in an animal fighting venture; knowingly attend an animal fighting venture, or knowingly cause an individual who has not attained the age of 16 to attend an animal fighting venture; knowingly buy, sell, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an animal fighting venture; knowingly use the mail service of the U.S. Postal Service, or any “written, wire, radio televisions or other form of communications in, or use a facility of, interstate commerce,” to advertise an animal for use in an animal fighting venture; advertise a knife, gaff, or other sharp instrument designed to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture, or to promote or in any other manner further an animal fighting venture except as performed outside the U.S.; or knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver in interstate or foreign commerce “a knife, a gaff, or any other sharp instrument” designed or intended to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture.

The penalties for each violation of any one of these provisions allows for a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for perpetrators, except for an adult attending an animal fighting venture. Penalties for an adult attendee are one year in prison and a $5,000 fine. The state law, which took effect in 2003 after voters approved an initiative, bans fighting and possession and allows for up to 10 years in prison for violators.

“Federal agencies and officers have a duty to enforce our laws against the barbaric practices of cockfighting and dogfighting,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “But their good works depend on the cooperation and alertness of citizens. We ask people who know about illegal animal fighting activities to help us stop these forms of cruelty.”

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Federal prosecutors have actively gone after dog fighting rings in the state but have not prioritized ending chicken fighting.

The groups are asking that anyone with information about illegal cockfighting activities to send that information to [email protected]. Residents can also contact the appropriate U.S. attorneys, the state attorney general, or county sheriffs or district attorneys.

The modern broiler and laying industries have long ago developed specialized bloodlines with birds with the genetics to excel as meat animals or as laying hens. Gamecocks are bred for fighting and long ago the three bloodlines separated into their own specialties. Some breeders of modern games claim that they raise the birds as show birds. Alabama is the number one state for broiler production. Some in the industry argue that the proliferation of gamecocks in the state and those birds being transported across the southeast for fighting competitions; potentially puts our multi-billion-dollar legitimate poultry farming businesses in jeopardy due to the possibility of a disease such as avian influenza.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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