published Monday, June 28th, 2010

Tennessee laws draw cockfighters

Cockfighting punished as felony in nearby states

Audio clip

John Goodwin

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.

  • photo
    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:

Article: Polk cockfight nets 100 arrests

Article: Cockfighting pit in Union County reported

Free Press Editorial: The lure of illegal cockfighting

about Perla Trevizo...

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 ...

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truthhurtz said...

How disgusting! Total bunch of dirty Rednecks.

June 28, 2010 at 10:43 a.m.
BOOBOO99 said...

The Tennessee law should be changed to felony if caught cockfighting or watching the fight...This is animal cruelty...Michael vick got cpl of years in jail for doing the same with dogs...I think if your caught raising roosters to fight their should be a law up to 5 years on first offense and if ya caught watching and probably gambling on cockfights you should get up to 3 yrs in prison..Make tough laws then you want have this problem in tennessee...

June 28, 2010 at 12:35 p.m.
waa said...

I agree that the laws related to cockfighting be strengthened. Tennessee as a state should not be linked to illegal activity related to fighting roosters or any other animal. This is not humane treatment of animals and the citizens of Tennesee deplore such activity.

June 28, 2010 at 1:44 p.m.
frantzracing0 said...

There is a difference between dog fighting and gamefowl. Dogs were created by humans to be companions to us, game fowl are breed from red jungle fowl. Jungle fowl still alive in the wild will fight to the death when two roos go near each other. These birds live to fight, they die to fight. I am an avid cockfighter who will hold on to the tradition till they pry it from my dead hands. George Washington, Honest Abe, many many of our nations founders practiced this SPORT. No birds are forced to fight, you simply set them down and let them go. I myself travel to your state all the way from pa to take part in our national tradition

December 16, 2010 at 12:37 p.m.
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