– Gameness til the End
Association has fought bills in the past
Updated: Thursday, 02 May 2013, 2:30 PM CDT
Published : Thursday, 02 May 2013, 1:16 PM CDT
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WALA) – Cockfighting, the practice of forcing two gamecocks into a space to fight to the death, is illegal under Alabama law, punishable by a fine that opponents of the practice say is not a deterrent.
As Alabama lawmakers push for a bill that would increase penalties for those convicted of animal cruelty, the bill faces opposition from the Alabama Gamefowl Breeders Association.
The ALGBA, which breeds gamecocks, voiced their opinion against HB27, now SB393, as the bill was on the agenda to reach the Alabama senate floor on Thursday, May 2.
In an email sent out at the end of April, the group says the bill “will affect cock fighters even though it does not amend the cockfighting law.”
“Cock fighters cannot be prosecuted under this law, not at all,” Linda Dooley who wrote the bill, told FOX10 News.
The Code of Alabama 1975 makes fighting cocks illegal under the criminal code, Title 13A. The law surrounding cockfighting, was written in 1896.
“Any person who keeps a cockpit or who in any public place fights cocks shall, on conviction, be fined not less than $20.00 nor more than $50.00.”
– Section 13A-12-4 Code of Alabama
Though it’s illegal, Alabama’s cockfighting lobby — the ALGBA — has historically worked to block bills that affect the practice.
In 2012, a bill introduced by senator Cam Ward sought to increase the penalty from its current $50 maximum to $6,000, and increase jail time. The ALGBA lobbied against the bill.
The fight gained national attention in 2012 when NFL player Michael Vick, who was previously convicted of animal cruelty, spoke out against the “weakest” cockfighting law in the country, the AP reported. Vick, who spent 16 months in jail for his involvement with an interstate dog-fighting ring, urged Alabama lawmakers to pass Ward’s bill.
The Humane Society of the United States also wrote in support of the bill, “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.”
It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee early in the 2012 session, but the Senate Rules Committee refused to bring the bill up for a vote.
Surrounding states have made cockfighting a felony-level crime, including Florida and Georgia.
Opposition to 2013 bill
The ALGBA says SB393, Dooley’s bill, is also a threat to cockfighting, although it doesn’t mention the practice specifically, FOX10’s Paige Malone reported.
“Here is how they get to cockfighting: Defining ‘torture’ by excluding everything that this law considers “legal” leaving whatever is not included in the exclusion as ‘torture’. In other words cockfighting is not protected for being considered ‘torture’.” The ALGBA says.
The email says the group is worried that the law could affect those who cockfight because it does not exclude the practice from the bill. ALGBA cites paragraphs 1 and 3 of the law as the offending statutes.
That section of the bill reads, “A person commits the crime of cruelty to animals if, except as otherwise authorized by law, he or she intentionally or, recklessly or with criminal negligence: Subjects any animal to cruel mistreatment or… Kills or injures without good cause any animal belonging to another.”
“This law will allow a person not only to be charged with cockfighting which is a specific separate statute but also under this statute specifically for ‘cruelty’ as a result of ‘torture’ of an animal as defined by this law by precluding cockfighting from protection,” the group says.
A statement released to FOX10 by the ALGBA maintains that “[SB393] is designed to regulate the liberty and property of a specific group which is already on the books as a cock fighting statute.”
SB393, scheduled for discussion on the house floor on May 2, would increase the penalties for those convicted of animal cruelty, making it a Class A misdemeanor for violators.
It would also make it a Class C felony to commit aggravated animal cruelty, or the “act of cruelty or neglect involved infliction of torture to the animal.”