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May 12, 2011

Texas House Votes to Close Loopholes in Cockfighting Law

Bill Awaits Action in Senate Criminal Justice Committee

The Humane Society of the United States commends the Texas House of Representatives for passing HB 1043, sponsored by Rep. Wayne Christian, R – District 9, Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D – District 38, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D – District 51, and Rep. Bill Zedler, R – District 96. This legislation will close major loopholes in the state’s cockfighting law by prohibiting individuals from attending cockfights, possessing birds with the intent to fight, and the manufacture and sale of the razor sharp weapons that are designed to increase the bloodletting in cockfights. 

“This vote by the Texas House of Representatives brings us closer to stopping these cruel spectacles where roosters fight to the death with knives tied to their legs,” said Nicole Paquette, Texas senior state director for The HSUS. “The fate of these animals now rests in the hands of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.”   

In 2010, an HSUS investigation into cockfighting in Texas showed that this crime is widespread throughout the state. Undercover investigators attended cockfights at nearly 20 pits throughout Texas and documented about 100 locations where cockfights are regularly held. Investigators used hidden cameras to document severe acts of animal cruelty as well as the presence of young children, widespread illegal gambling, and prostitution.  

Late last month, The HSUS investigations team worked with ESPN E: 60 to go undercover into a cockfighting ring in Gunter, TX. The exposé follows local law enforcement as they raid the illegal cockfighting ring in Gunter and also highlights the weak Texas laws that make it possible for spectators to walk away without charges.   

While cockfighting is pervasive in Texas, the crime is in decline in all the neighboring states. All four states that border Texas have outlawed the possession of a bird with the intent to fight. Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma have outlawed being a spectator at a cockfight, because it’s the spectators who finance these illegal operations through their admission fees and gambling wagers.  Closing these loopholes is essential to cracking down on the entire cast of characters involved in cockfighting. 

Facts 

  • Cockfighting is outlawed in all 50 states and is punished as a felony in 39.
  • Texas can punish cockfighting as a felony, but state law does not ban being a spectator at a cockfight. This makes it difficult for law enforcement to charge most people caught in cockfighting raids as participants routinely abandon their birds and claim they were only present to watch the fights.
  • Every state that borders Texas bans the keeping or training of roosters for the purposes of fighting them. Texas will continue to be the destination of choice for cockfighters in the region so long as the Lone Star state has more loopholes for this bloodsport than any other southwestern state.

**Video footage of undercover cockfights in Texas available for download upon request. 

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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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