March 31, 2009
Alabama Animal Advocates Urge Lawmakers to Strengthen Animal Fighting, Cruelty Laws
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Citizens from across Alabama gathered at the Alabama State House today to meet with their lawmakers and urge them to pass legislation to make cockfighting a felony and to strengthen the state's animal cruelty laws. The citizen lobbyists participated in The Humane Society of the United States' Humane Lobby Day event.
"Having more than 50 advocates from all over Alabama take the time to personally lobby on behalf of animals is a great signal of the importance of protecting helpless creatures," said Mindy Gilbert, Alabama state director for The Humane Society of the United States.
At 9 a.m., Humane Lobby Day participants began the day at a legislative briefing session in which Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, delivered opening remarks. Other guest speakers included representatives from the Alabama Humane Federation and Alabama Animal Control Association.
Cockfighting is a cruel blood sport in which roosters have knives or ice-pick-like weapons called gaffs strapped to their heels and are forced to fight — often to the death — for the sake of benefiting cockfighting enthusiasts' sick sense of entertainment. Humane Lobby Day participants urged their legislators to pass S.B. 146 and H.B. 245 to strengthen Alabama's cockfighting law by making cockfighting a felony.
The Humane Society of the United States recently released its ranking of the nation's cockfighting laws. Out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Alabama was ranked dead last due to its anemic penalties, which amount to nothing more than a slap on the wrist for people engaging in this cruel activity. Cockfighters find safe haven in Alabama because the state's nominal penalties for the crime can be easily offset by gambling winnings.
Humane Lobby Day participants also urged their representatives to pass H.B. 741, a bonding and dispositions bill to amend and strengthen existing cruelty laws by adding a provision to require owners of seized animals to post bond for the care of the animals until a court hears the case. This legislation would relieve a financial burden on local agencies, including animal shelters, veterinarians and law enforcement.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. 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.