Cockfighting's "Days Are Numbered" in U.S.

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The association told the Las Cruces Sun-News that the group is now considering legal action to stop enforcement of the ban.

Enthusiasts say cockfighting funnels billions of dollars into the national economy and provides thousands of families with most, if not all, of their annual incomes.

"Incomes from game fowl in some instances have kept these families from relying on financial support from the government," said Jerry Leber, president of the United Gamefowl Breeders Assocation, during a U.S. House of Representatives hearing in February.

Still Practiced, Despite Bans

Though outlawed, cockfighting still thrives in some rural communities throughout the United States.

In recent weeks police raids have shut down operations in Arkansas, California, Colorado, and North Carolina.

Gambling is the norm at cockfights, with thousands of dollars exchanging hand. Law-enforcement officials also say drugs are sold at some events.

Leber of the Gamefowl Breeders Association admits criminals and drugs are present.

"However, this is more of a symptom of our culture and not tied specifically to this industry," he said.

Cockfighting involves specially bred birds, known as gamecocks. Their legs are fitted with razor-sharp steel blades, or gaffs, which look like three inch long curved ice picks.

The birds are let loose inside an enclosure where they fight to the death, which can take anywhere from several minutes to a half hour.

"These [birds] are the pit bulls of the poultry world," said John Goodwin, deputy manager of animal-fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States.

"They've been bred for many, many generations to have this artificial level of aggression against others of their own species."

Punctured lungs, broken bones, and pierced eyes are just a few of the injuries birds sustain during fights, experts say.

Phone calls to members of the New Mexico, Louisiana, and United Gamefowl Breeders Associations were either unsuccessful or not returned.

No Teeth?

It's unlikely, though, that the ban in New Mexico will stop the fights, Goodwin said.

Under the new law, a first-time offender will be charged with a petty misdemeanor and so will be punishable only with a small fine.

"The bans certainly shake out a lot of people," Goodwin said.

"But we see that, in states where it's treated as a misdemeanor—because the gambling profit can outweigh any potential fines—the law doesn't get the same respect."

In the 33 states where felony provisions are in place, however, there has been a dramatic decline in the activity, he said.

Meanwhile in Louisiana, Senator Lentini has introduced two additional bills. The first closes a loophole in the state's animal cruelty law that excludes chickens.

The other bill bans gambling at cockfights. If passed, it would effectively shut down the practice, he said.

Lentini's efforts are among the reasons the Humane Society's Goodwin sees a possible end to this struggle.

"I think the days of organized cockfighting in the United States are numbered," Goodwin said.

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