At The HSUS we employ a devoted team of undercover investigators who document and expose cruelty and abuse that is hidden in the shadows, and unknown to most Americans. For more than a year, our investigations department has infiltrated numerous cockfighting pits in Texas, uncovering abuses at locations where fights are held from border towns like McAllen to cosmopolitan cities like Dallas.
Today we released shocking video footage from our investigation at the state capitol in Austin, in the company of Rep. Wayne Christian and Patricia Stepp of the Texas Animal Control Association. Together we are working to pass H.B. 1043, a bill that would close loopholes in the state's cockfighting law and bring it in line with its dogfighting law, which bans being a spectator at a dogfight, possessing a dog with intent to fight, and possessing dogfighting paraphernalia.
The cruelty we discovered at Texas cockfighting pits was severe and widespread. We sent undercover operatives into nearly 20 cockfights, and learned that approximately 100 locations statewide are host to these gruesome spectacles.
We documented numerous cruelties. Roosters were forced to fight to the death even when they were hobbled with broken legs. One rooster that lost his fight was hung upside down by his leg and clubbed with a tree branch. Injured roosters were tossed into the back of a pickup truck to die, where some cockfighters tormented them by pulling at their heads and beaks to see if they had any fight left in them.
At nearly every fight, children were present. Cockfighters seem to have no qualms about exposing young people to graphic animal abuse, desensitizing them to the suffering these birds endure for an activity that has no socially redeemable value.
This blood sport is widespread in Texas because the law is riddled with loopholes. While cockfighting can be punished as a felony in the Lone Star State, the law does not cover spectators. Time and time again, police have raided cockfights in Texas only to see hundreds of people escape with no charges because of the difficulty of proving who was there as a spectator, and who came to fight. In contrast, three of the four states that border Texas criminalize attending cockfights.
Texas law also does not prohibit the possession of fighting birds, denying law enforcement agencies a great tool in preventing cockfights before they happen. In contrast, all four states that border Texas ban either the possession of a bird with the intent to fight or training and preparing a bird to fight.
As hard as it is to believe, cockfighters flock to states with weak penalties or gaping loopholes in their animal fighting laws. Weak cockfighting laws act as a magnet, attracting not only the criminals that stage animal fights, but also setting the stage for other crimes in which cockfighters are routinely involved. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration recently pointed out that cockfights and dogfights are being used as networking opportunities for drug traffickers. Cracking down on cockfighting is a win-win for both animals and human communities.
Rep. Christian's H.B. 1043 would strengthen the cockfighting ban in Texas. We are pursuing strong cockfighting laws in other states as well, including Alabama, California, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
It takes a lot of courage to go undercover into organized cockfighting rings. Our team witnessed a great deal of suffering and death at the cockfights. We are hoping that the images captured on tape will further raise public awareness of the immorality of animal fighting, and help pass meaningful legislation that makes Texas inhospitable for cockfighters.
This post originally appeared on Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.