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June 07, 2010

S.C. Cockfighting Bust Shows Need for Felony Laws

Yesterday our Animal Cruelty and Fighting campaign was in South Carolina assisting the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office in a raid on what is perhaps the largest operational cockfighting pit in that state. Sheriff’s deputies charged 85 people with illegal cockfighting and seized $15,854 in gambling money. Authorities also seized nearly 200 roosters, who were likely to be maimed and killed in the fights.

The HSUS and Greenville County Sheriff's Office raided one of the largest cockfighting rings in South Carolina
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
See a slideshow of images from the raid.

During the raid HSUS staff officials came across a grisly discovery. About 100 yards behind the cockfighting pit was a deep hole filled with the carcasses of scores of roosters in various states of decomposition. HSUS animal fighting experts hadn’t seen anything quite like it, and they were particularly sickened by the find.

While cockfighting is a federal felony, it is still punished as a misdemeanor in 11 states, including South Carolina. Thirty-nine of the individuals apprehended yesterday reside in states with felony-level penalties, such as Georgia and North Carolina. They shop around for the jurisdictions with the weakest penalties, in the hopes that authorities will look the other way. This raid reinforces the point that weak laws in the misdemeanor states act as magnets for cockfighting enthusiasts. Legislation has been held up for years to upgrade penalties in the Palmetto State, and it’s now time to finish the job.

Our thanks to the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office for sending a clear message that the cycle of violence at this location is over.

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