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House considers stricter cockfighting laws

Posted March 30, 2011
Updated March 31, 2011

The state House is considering a measure that would make it illegal to breed gamecocks for fighting purposes or to possess cockfighting equipment.

Cockfighting itself is illegal under current state law, but authorities can only charge people caught in the act, usually during a raid. In the meantime, said sponsor Rep. Dan Ingle, R-Alamance, “Breeders openly raise fighting roosters, knowing animal control can’t do anything about it.”

Johnston County Animal Services Director Ernie Wilkinson says breeding is going on in almost every county in the state. Because North Carolina doesn’t outlaw it, he told the committee, “We almost serve as a breeding community for states around us.”

“Bloodsports and crime and social ills go together,” Wilkinson said.“We need this tool in our toolbox out in the field.”

Iredell Animal Control Supervisor Randy Grannaman brought a bag full of cockfighting paraphernalia seized in a raid last year. He showed the committee a narrow, ornate wooden chest, holding a drawer of “slashers” – sharpened metal knives tied onto the birds’ feet before they’re put into the pit to fight.

“They’re made to puncture the birds’ skulls or hearts,” he explained, adding that he collected 200 knives at that raid alone.

Grannaman also showed lawmakers “muffs” used to cover the birds’ natural spurs during practice, and a bottle of a stimulant he says owners buy online and inject into the birds before they fight. “It’s like speed for a chicken,” he said.

House Bill 395 would make it a felony to make, possess, buy, sell or transport “slashers” or “gaffs,” another ice-pick-like weapon commonly attached to fighting birds’ heels, or any other “device intended to enhance an animal’s fighting ability.”

The measure would also make it a felony to breed, possess, sell or train a fighting bird “with the intent” of using the bird for fighting purposes. And that has some rooster breeders worried.

Former state Rep. Nurham Warwick now represents the North Carolina Gamefowl Breeders Association. He says hobby and show breeding of gamecocks is a $50 million industry in North Carolina, and he’s concerned about how “intent” will be defined out in the field.

“Some people just raise them in the backyard for the kids,” he said. "A lot of people show them at the State Fair." 

Morganton gamecock breeder Gerald Allen agreed. “Our biggest fear is for law enforcement to come on our yard and destroy our birds for show purposes,” he said.

Allen said he’s afraid officials will euthanize birds they believe are being bred for the fighting ring. “Where’s the humane in that?”

The bill is expected back in House Judiciary Committee next week, when it could come up for a vote.

4 Comments

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  • kcameel Apr 1, 7:33 p.m.

    Speaking from a 2 year experience, I hope with my entire being this bill passes and is ENFORCED. We have lived around shall we say "south of the border" neighbors...5 families, all of whom raise and fight these poor birds. Between the families, there are over 50 roosters. Those of you who don't have neighbors with this hobby are sooooo very lucky. The crowing begins around 4:30 EVERY morning. One starts and the other join in ALL 50 of them. Then the crowing goes on for I would say 90% of the day. We live above one such "family". I have watched them train their roosters, then let them fight. Let me tell you, it is sickening to watch and even more sad to hear the things cry out in pain and eventually one of them lay dying on the ground all bloody, and all the while the men cheering and laughing. These are very SICK people with a VERY SICK SPORT. THEY should be treated in the same manner as these roosters and then I would cheer. I'm not fond of chickens or roosters, but I do feel sad in t

  • oldrebel Mar 30, 4:36 p.m.

    Again, the long arm of the government reaches onto the property of citizens to restrict and criminalize activities that have a long, time honored tradition in our country.

    Intent? Please tell me how the law will ascertain the "intent" of someone who is raising game chickens for whatever purposes.

    If the legislature wants to do something positive for a change, roll back the prohibitions of clockfighting and simply tax those who participate.

    (Can't repeat the word this is openly used in the story, but the GOLO AutoCensor frowns on)

  • wrs Mar 30, 4:07 p.m.

    Wow. Way to go. I am sure that like myself many other citizens appreciate the fact that our legislators are focused on the most important problems that confront all of us. Male Chicken fighting has been the center of discussion for my family for several months. The media has completely ignored this problem. Thanks for nothing.

  • pdavis201 Mar 30, 1:54 p.m.

    I can do nothing but sit here and laugh after reading the topics up for discussion today. No wonder we are in the mess we are in.