DUCKTOWN, Tenn. -- Tennessee's laws against cockfighting attracts business from surrounding states, according to an animal protection expert.
"(Cockfighting) is actually quite common in East Tennessee because you border Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia and all three of those states punish cockfighting as a felony, but it remains a misdemeanor in Tennessee," said John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States.
Mr. Goodwin was in Copperhill, Tenn., near Ducktown, on Saturday during the raid of a cockfighting ring that resulted in 100 citations.
"But the General Assembly can change this problem," he added, "they can bring Tennessee cockfighting law to a felony like Georgia and North Carolina and this problem would diminish."
Mike Courson who works on the weekends in a small corner store on the corner of state Highway 68 and Grassy Creek Road, said he saw a big line of law enforcement vehicles turning the street toward a property near the store at around 1:30 p.m. and leaving after 8 p.m.
"I didn't know anything about it until later on someone came and told me what was happening," said the Florida transplant who moved to the area six years ago.
Around town everyone was talking about the raid on Sunday, but no one wanted to associate themselves with it.
Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Pictured is the private property where neighbors say that people have gathered to view cockfights and dogfights. The Polk County Sheriff's Office said that 100 people were given misdemeanor citations for attending a cockfighting event in Ducktown, Tenn., on Saturday night. The nighttime raid by law enforcement officers lasted several hours, and neighbors reported that some attendees tried to escape into the wooded areas around the property. The Humane Society was called to the scene to oversee the euthanizing of the more than 150 captured roosters.
A resident who owns property near where the raid occurred said some people tried to escape through the woods toward her property.
"(The police) was chasing 40, 50 people out of the woods, I told them I didn't care what they were doing but to get off my property," she said, without wanting to identify herself.
She said her son counted 27 law enforcement vehicles, the majority from the state highway patrol.
The secluded property is owned by Steven Allen, according to a Polk County Sheriff's Office employee on the dispatch desk on Sunday who didn't want to be identified because the official release wasn't expected until today.
During the raid, 150 live birds and dead roosters were found scattered all over the property.
"The ones that hadn't been fought yet were hyped-up and ready to go, we found a lot of injectable drugs given to the animals, a lot of syringes they would use to inject adrenaline boosting drugs, blood clotting agents into the roosters, (and) those who had fought were in abysmal shape," Mr. Goodwin said.
"We found three of them who were barely alive just laying on a dish, flopping around in pain, it was a horrible thing to see," he added.
The live birds were euthanized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he confirmed.
"We hate the fact that a lot of these times these birds are having to be euthanized, but unless people come forward and adopt them there's no place for them to go," Mr. Goodwin said.
But the main thing, he added, is to shut down places like the one on Grassy Creek Road that had a large fighting pit surrounded by three smaller ones.
"I hope that they get the message this time that we are on to them and that this is an all-out war to stop cockfighting. This is a brutal form of animal cruelty and you have an alliance of law enforcement agencies, the Humane Society of the United States and other groups that want to see this done away with," he added.
He said the fights began a couple of hours before law enforcement officials arrived.
The Polk County Sheriff's Department, in conjunction with the USDA, the Humane Society of the United States, Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Internal Revenue Service conducted Saturday's raid.
Continue reading by following these links to related stories:
Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...