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January 27, 2009

Mississippi Cockfighting Bust

The HSUS helps dismantle massive, suspected cockfight operation

The Humane Society of the United States


  • Hens from the suspected cockfighting operation were saved and sent to sanctuaries. John Goodwin

Authorities seized 225 birds on Friday, as The Humane Society of the United States joined the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department to shut down a suspected cockfighting operation in Olive Branch, Miss.

Ninety-five hens and chicks seized from the property are on their way to sanctuaries in Va., Md. and N.C. The fighting cocks were humanely euthanized at the location due to their high levels of aggression. The birds were bred and trained to fight, and the birds had their combs cut off and their spurs sharpened or cut off—all typical of fighting operations.

A Collaborative Effort

"With this collaborative action with The Humane Society of the United States, the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department successfully put this suspected cockfighter out of business. We are enormously grateful to Sheriff Bill Rasco and his staff for taking a strong stand against cockfighting and exhibiting such professionalism," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

"Mississippi has an anemic cockfighting law, and it is past time to strengthen the law to eradicate this cruel and unacceptable activity."

Mississippi has the second weakest cockfighting law in the nation with a fine of no more than $100 and/or up to 100 days of imprisonment. Such weak penalties do little to deter cockfighters, who stand to win thousands of dollars in gambling profits at a single "derby." There is no state ban on possessing or breeding fighting birds. There is, however, a strong federal law that makes fighting, breeding and possessing fighting animals a felony.

A Legislative Fix

In the 2009 legislative session, Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, introduced legislation to make cockfighting a felony, as it is in 37 other states. Unfortunately, the bill died when it failed to come up for a vote before the legislature adjourned.

"Stronger laws are still needed to send the message that the residents of DeSoto County will not tolerate the cruel and illegal cockfighting industry," said Desoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco.

Felony cockfighting legislation has also been introduced in neighboring Ark. and Tenn. The Ark. state Senate unanimously passed S.B. 77, a cruelty bill that includes felony cockfighting language and has bright prospects of passing in the Ark. House of Representatives. In Tenn., Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Debra Young Maggart, R-Hendersonville, introduced felony cockfighting bills.

What You Can Do

Ask your legislators to support legislation to bring Mississippi in line with 37 other states that have made cockfighting a felony offense.

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