(NASHVILLE, TN), March 26, 2013 — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation today which strengthens penalties against spectators and participants of cockfights. The bill, sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), also closes a loophole in existing law that allows for spectators of cockfights to be treated with greater leniency than those who attend dog fights.
“Cockfighters routinely go jurisdiction shopping for states with the weakest penalties and go to those states to commit these crimes,” said Senator Ketron. “Tennessee has some of the weakest cockfighting laws in the Southeast and is becoming a destination of choice for animal fighters. These events are also magnets for other criminal activities, including illegal gambling and drug trafficking.”
Currently, those who are charged with owning, possessing, keeping or training a rooster in Tennessee for cockfighting purposes face a Class A misdemeanor offenses which carries up to $2,500 in fines and a maximum of 11 months, 29 days in jail. This bill sets the fine at a minimum of $500. The legislation increases the penalties for the owners, trainers and promoters of cockfights upon a second or subsequent offense to a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.
On the spectator side, currently it is a Class B misdemeanor to attend a dog fight and a Class C misdemeanor to attend a cockfight. This bill closes a loophole in existing law used by offenders to avoid prosecution by increasing penalties for being a spectator at any type of animal fight to a Class A misdemeanor, with a minimum $500 fine.
Animal fighting is now illegal in all 50 states and is a felony offense in 40 states.
“Cockfighting attracts such criminal elements as the Mexican drug cartel that ran multi-ton quantities of meth and heroine through cockfighting pits in our state. Federal investigations have revealed intricate gambling operations with millions of dollars changing hands illegally.”
“Children are routinely in attendance at these events where they are exposed to a host of criminal activities and animal cruelty,” added Senator Ketron. “I am pleased this bill has received committee approval and am hopeful we can pass it this year.”