Felony Animal Cruelty Charges Could End Cockfighting, New Animal Cruelty Bill Discussed
The South Carolina Senate is examining a bill that would officially make cockfighting a felony animal cruelty charge in the state. The bill would penalize not just participants in the fight – those who breed fighting roosters and allow them to battle – but also those caught observing the fight.
Gamefowl breeders and fighters are opposing the animal cruelty bill. They say that the tradition is part of the state’s history, and goes back centuries before colonists came to the US.
However, animal rights activists say that cockfighting is animal cruelty, and also breeds an “underground culture” that involves drugs, drinking, and gambling.
“Cockfighting is a horrible, horrible sport — if you can call it that,” said state Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington and a sponsor of the bill.
The Senate panel spent Wednesday, April 29th, focusing on the language of the bill to ensure that incidental fights between the birds, which could not be set up by humans, would not lead to animal cruelty charges for owners and breeders.
Although cockfighting is a felony animal cruelty charge under federal law, South Carolina currently treats it as a misdemeanor. Under SC state law, being present at a cockfight is punishable with a $1,000 fine and one year in prison for the first offense, and second and subsequent offenses increase that amount to a $3,000 fine and up to three years in prison.
South Carolina saw 46 animal cruelty misdemeanor charges for cockfighting last year, with 41 of those leading to convictions. The proposed bill would increase the penalties for game arrangers to a felony animal cruelty charge on the second offense, with up to five years in prison. Spectators would get a felony animal cruelty charge on the third offense, with a fine of up to $5,000 and five years in prison.
Gamebreeders say they are being unfairly targeted by animal rights activists who do not understand the tradition of cockfighting. For example, Gary Dicorte, of Little Mountain, says that these types of birds will fight and kill each other anyway. “One of our biggest challenges in raising these birds is to keep them from killing each other when they mature,” he said.
However, Lt. Jamie Seales of the Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office said that the real issue with cockfighting is not so much the animal cruelty, but, as shown in one recent bust, the underground criminal nature of the sport, involving drug sales and gambling.
“To make it a spectator sport, gamble on it, to make a contest out of it, (with) entry fees and prizes, we’re not going to allow that,” said Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, who chairs the proposed bill’s committee.
The Strom Law Firm Defends Criminal Charges of Animal Cruelty
Animal cruelty charges often involve strong emotions – anyone, from the arresting officer to the jury at your criminal trial, can react emotionally because of the attachment we often develop to our pets. This may prevent a judge or jury from seeing both sides of the story, which can hurt you during a trial. The South Carolina animal cruelty and criminal defense attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. We offer one free, confidential consultation to discuss your criminal charges and see how we can help. Contact us today. 803.252.4800