March 10, 2009
Cockfighters Lobbying to Keep Penalties for their Bloodsport Weak in Alabama
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — H.B. 245, a bill by Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, to strengthen Alabama's penalties for illegal cockfighting, is scheduled to be heard before the House Agriculture Committee this Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Although there will be a public hearing, the request for a committee vote made by Rep. Ward is at risk of being denied.
The opponents of the legislation, a cockfighting group called the Alabama Gamefowl Breeders Association, have hired Montgomery lobbyist Greg Jones to help prevent the bill's passage and keep Alabama's anti-cockfighting statute the weakest in the nation. In an e-mail to one of her members that posted on a cockfighting Web site, D'Renda Lewis, executive secretary of the AGBA, expresses her opinion of this important legislation and a recent raid of a cockfighting event in Randolph County:
"Yeah, the bill was rewritten and now has a misdemeanor fine of $10,000 for a first offense. The Ag dept swears they didn't sell us out, and they did get some of the things in the original changed to help us, but the HSUS added a hell of a lot more to hurt us. It does look bad but for the moment we've got it held up. Now if everyone will just behave themselves (there was a raid in Randolf County [sic] last weekend) we might scrape by. Twenty legislative days left to go."
Cockfighting is currently a felony in 38 states, with Alabama's law being the weakest in the entire U.S. Because other states have enacted stronger laws, Alabama is now attracting cockfighters who wish to escape the tougher penalties in other states — as proven in last week's Randolph County raid where only 34 of the 150 arrested were from Alabama.
"It is quite a shame that once again Alabama has the distinction of ranking on bottom of an activity that could only be called backwards. This is a cruel, inhumane and illegal activity that is a threat to public health and Alabama's legitimate poultry industry. This is a black mark on our state, and it will be a great disappointment if this bill is buried by those supporting the Alabama Gamefowl Breeders Association. I would like to encourage the media to attend this and other hearings on this bill and bring this issue to light," Rep. Ward said.
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.