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January 27, 2010

Poll Shows Ky. Voters Overwhelmingly Favor Tougher Penalties for Illegal Cockfighting

An overwhelming majority of Kentucky voters want tougher penalties for cockfighting, with 72 percent in favor of making cockfighting a felony crime, according to a new survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc.

"These survey results confirm what we have long known: Kentucky residents won't tolerate the cruelty of cockfighting or its association with gambling, drugs and other illicit crimes," said Pam Rogers, Kentucky state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "An anemic penalty for such a serious crime is out of step with the mainstream values of Kentucky voters. We need a legislative remedy to set meaningful penalties and provide a real deterrent."

Kentucky has one of the nation's weakest cockfighting laws. While the blood sport is a felony in 39 states, in Kentucky it is just a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $500 penalty. That's just a minor cost of doing business for cockfighters who gamble large sums at these cruel events. Conflicting language in the existing statute further complicates prosecution.

The Mason-Dixon Poll found that regardless of race, gender or political affiliation, substantial majorities of Kentucky respondents supported tougher penalties for cockfighting. The complete poll results are available here.

Seventy-nine percent of voters agree that cockfighting is animal cruelty and should be a felony crime, while only 12 percent say cockfighting is a tradition and should be preserved — a smokescreen often voiced by criminals who back cockfighting. By a 9-to-1 margin, voters say they are more likely to support a political candidate who backs stronger penalties for cockfighting.

The statewide survey of 625 Kentucky voters was conducted Jan. 7-8, 2010, and the margin for error is plus or minus four percentage points.

H.B. 169, introduced by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, will set meaningful penalties for this crime as well as provide law enforcement with additional tools to identify and prosecute all forms of animal fighting.

"Increasing the penalties for cockfighting in Kentucky is not only the humane thing to do, but it is good government," Rep. Jenkins said. "The economic cost of cockfighting to county governments and law enforcement agencies is significant. Gambling and narcotic convictions associated with cockfighting increase financial pressure on our jails and our local and state government budgets."

Cockfighting Facts

  • Tens of thousands of people are involved in cockfighting nationwide.
  • In a cockfight, two roosters fight each other to the death while people place bets on the outcome of the fight.
  • 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 raids across the country have revealed that cockfights, which are frequently attended by children, involve illegal gambling and — as a result of the large amount of cash present — firearms and other weapons are also often present.
  • Law enforcement agencies have documented a strong connection between cockfighting and the distribution of illegal drugs.

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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 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.

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