Cockfighting is a violent form of animal abuse that involves placing roosters (gamecocks or cocks) into a ring and cheering them on to fight to the death. Cockfighting is known to encourage underground gambling, and owners of the birds will secure razor blades to the birds’ feet to increase the odds of their bird winning the fight.
Some owners will use steroids or other drugs in an attempt to enhance a rooster’s performance and keep them fighting even after suffering injuries such as punctured lungs and pierced eyes. Injured birds will typically be killed by their owners whether they won the fight or not.
Cockfighting rings are generally associated with other crimes including drug trafficking, gambling, racketeering, wildlife trafficking, and the possession of illegal weapons.
Is Cockfighting Illegal?
Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, and is a felony offense in 42 states and the District of Columbia. The possession of birds that are used for fighting is illegal in 39 states and the District of Columbia, and being a spectator of a cockfight is illegal in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
What is the Punishment for a Cockfighting Conviction?
The punishment for a cockfighting conviction varies with each state. It can come with steep fines, misdemeanor charges, felony cruelty to an animal, felony cockfighting charges, jail, state prison, and a permanent record. In New York, a sentence of incarceration for up to four years and a maximum fine of $25,000 may be imposed if a defendant is found guilty of cockfighting.
In some states, cockfighting itself is illegal, but it is not illegal to possess gamecocks for the sole purpose of cockfighting. In 2014, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act was passed, which carries a three year prison sentence for cockfight spectators and a $250,000 fine for individuals who bring a child under age 16 to a cockfight or dogfight.
Can I Get Sued for Cockfighting?
If you were housing a cockfighting ring on your property, especially if you are renting, you can face other serious repercussions. Your landlord can evict you for violating the terms of your lease for any of the following:
- Conducting criminal activity;
- Owning animals not allowed on the lease;
- Holding loud gatherings late at night; and/or
- Improperly disposing of animals (if dead roosters are thrown away on the property).
Aside from eviction, if cockfighting has done damage or altered the property then the landlord can sue for the cost of repairs. But keep in mind that even fi you own the property, you can still be fined for violating zoning laws if your property is not allowed to have rooster/chickens (typically referred to as “farm animals” in zoning). You can also be fined for improper disposal, if you attempted to bury or dump the killed roosters on your property.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have Been Accused of Cockfighting?
Cockfighting is a serious charge that could mean severe financial penalties and imprisonment. A criminal lawyer in your area can advise you of your rights, help you build your case, and represent your best interests in court.