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Tenn. Lawmakers Announce Legislation to Strengthen Cockfighting Law

The Humane Society of the United States

Today, State Rep. Janis Baird Sontany, D-Nashville, Sumner County Sheriff Bob Barker and Nashville Humane Association Executive Director Mary Pat Boatfield joined John Goodwin, manager of The Humane Society of the United States' animal cruelty and fighting campaign, at a press conference to announce legislation to strengthen the state's cockfighting laws which are some of the weakest in the country.

Recently, in connection with a federal drug trafficking sting, law enforcement officials shut down one of the country's largest cockfighting rings operating in Nashville. According to published news reports, those arrested face charges ranging from felony drug trafficking to gambling.

Currently, cockfighting is a misdemeanor in Tennessee. Legislators have confirmed to The HSUS they will introduce legislation to make cockfighting a felony and to increase penalties for attending a cockfight. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and State Rep. Debra Young Maggart, R-Hendersonville.

"These recent arrests dramatically illustrate the connection of animal fighting to other illegal activity such as drugs and violence," Goodwin said. "With such weak penalties, Tennessee acts like a magnet for these criminals, drawing cockfighters in from neighboring states where penalties are strong. The Humane Society of the United States thanks Senator Ketron and Representative Maggart for introducing legislation that will effectively deter people from pitting these birds in fights to the death."

About Cockfighting:

  • Tens of thousands of people are involved in cockfighting nationwide.
  • A 2005 raid on a cockfighting pit in Cocke County led to the exposure of widespread public corruption among local law enforcement, illegal gambling, men with semi-automatic weapons guarding the gate receipts and even the presence of young children at the cockfights.
  • Common cockfighting practices include breeding birds for viciousness, drugging them to heighten aggression and fitting their legs with razor-sharp knives or gaffs resembling ice picks.
  • Law enforcement officials have documented a strong connection between cockfighting and the distribution of illegal drugs.
  • Breeding and transporting fighting roosters for cockfighting is implicated in the spread of diseases such as Exotic Newcastle Disease, which can decimate the poultry industry.


The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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