A Southern District of Alabama grand jury indicted four individuals on federal charges in connection with the investigation of a major cockfighting pit in Citronelle, Alabama. The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested the suspects, three of whom are from Alabama and one from Florida. In August 2016, the Humane Society of the United States assisted the FBI with searching the Citronelle property where they uncovered a huge arena with bleacher seating, concession stands, trophies, cockfighting paraphernalia and rental holding spaces for participants’ birds with room for more than 1,000 animals.

Chris Schindler, director of animal cruelty and fighting for the HSUS, said: “This cockfighting pit drew participants from 10 states and held thousands of bloody fights to the death. We are grateful to the FBI for pursuing the individuals associated with this despicable enterprise.”

In 2012, the HSUS filed a complaint with the Alabama attorney general’s office requesting an investigation of the Alabama Gamefowl Breeders Association, arguing that it is unlawfully masquerading as a “nonprofit” while profiting from illegal cockfights. In the indictment, an undercover FBI agent describes attending an illegal cockfighting derby at the Citronelle property on May 7, 2016, when the agent witnessed the president of the Alabama Gamefowl Breeder’s Association address the crowd about his group’s efforts to block legislation to strengthen the penalties for cockfighting in Alabama and soliciting donations. The AGBA president was not among those indicted, but its secretary was indicted for selling merchandise at the derby.

Cockfighting is illegal under federal and state law, but Alabama has the weakest anti-cockfighting law in the country. There is a maximum $50 fine for operating a cockfighting pit, and it is one of only eight states in the country where it is legal to be a spectator at a cockfight.

Cockfighting also poses a biosecurity risk to Alabama’s $15 billion poultry industry, with massive numbers of birds illegally brought into the state for the purpose of cockfighting and possibly carrying disease. Alabama has had recent outbreaks of avian influenza in four counties resulting in the depopulation of several hundred thousand birds. While Alabama law forbids bringing poultry across state lines without a certificate of veterinary inspection, there is currently no penalty for violating that law.

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