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Michael Vick Urges Alabama Legislators to Pass Cockfighting Bill

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick issued the following statement about S.B. 175, legislation pending in the Alabama state legislature to increase penalties for cockfighting:

“Alabama has the weakest cockfighting law among all 50 states. I made a mistake by getting involved in animal fighting and we need to prevent other people from going down the same path I did. Animal cruelty is wrong, whether it is with dogs or birds. I am urging Alabama lawmakers to strengthen the penalties for this crime so it’s not just a slap on the wrist.”

State Sen. Cam Ward, R-14, has introduced S.B. 175 which would upgrade Alabama’s penalty for illegal cockfighting to a class A misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $6,000. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee early in the session, but the Senate Rules Committee has refused to bring the bill up for a vote.

The maximum $50 fine for cockfighting in Alabama was set in 1896 and has never been upgraded. Since cockfighters may win tens of thousands of dollars gambling at a single event, the existing fine is viewed as nothing more than the cost of doing business and fails to deter criminal behavior.  Forty other states have felony-level penalties for cockfighting, including bordering states Florida and Georgia.

A November 2009 Mason-Dixon poll found that 75 percent of Alabama voters supported increased state penalties for cockfighting with only 11 percent opposed. The remaining voters were undecided.

About Cockfighting:

•    Common cockfighting practices include drugging birds to heighten aggression, and fitting their legs with deadly weapons — that is, razor-sharp knives or gaffs, which resemble curved ice picks.
•    Law enforcement raids across the country have, again and again, documented the connection between cockfighting and other crimes — including distribution of illegal drugs and weapons violations due to the large amounts of cash present for gambling.
•    Despite common sense and reason, children are often brought to cockfights by their parents — which may expose them to animal cruelty and rampant crime.
•    In the poll mentioned above, 625 Alabama voters were interviewed statewide by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. of Washington, D.C. from November 2 through November 4, 2009.  Margin for error is plus or minus 4 percent.

Media Contact: Katie Jarl – 301-258-2483 – kjarl@humanesociety.org

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