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February 4, 2009

Animal Advocates Rally at SC Capitol Urging Lawmakers to Act Against Cockfighting

The Humane Society of the United States

COLUMBIA, S.C. — More than 100 citizens from across South Carolina gathered at the state Capitol today to meet with their lawmakers and urge them to pass legislation to make cockfighting a felony. The citizen lobbyists participated in Humane Lobby Day, which is organized by The Humane Society of the United States.

"Humane Lobby Day is the first step in starting a relationship between South Carolina animal advocates and their legislators," said Jessica Feingold Lieberson, director of grassroots campaigns for The Humane Society of the United States. "It's time for South Carolina to eradicate cockfighting along with the cruelty and criminal activities associated with it."

In cockfighting, roosters with knives strapped to their legs are forced to fight to the death. In South Carolina, cockfighting is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or no more than one year of imprisonment. Cockfighting derby winners often have prizes in the tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore, penalties for the crime can be easily offset by gambling winnings.

State Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, will be introducing legislation that will impose the appropriate felony-level penalties for cockfighting. Action in the upcoming legislative session is critical so that South Carolina's misdemeanor penalties cannot be shrugged off as nothing more than the cost of doing business. Without stronger penalties, South Carolina risks being a magnet for animal fighters seeking to avoid felony penalties in surrounding states.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 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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