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Animal Groups Call for Action on Cockfighting

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader

Warren County

Two animal wellness groups have asked U.S. Attorneys to investigate nine Tennesseans for involvement in cockfighting.

The nine includes a McMinnville man. Animal Wellness Action accuses Danny Mullins of McMinnville of shipping fighting birds illegally. The group allege that Mullins showed pictures of a U.S. Postal Service box marked reportedly containing live chickens. Section 26 of the Animal Welfare Act forbids use of the postal service for transporting fighting animals.

State Senator Jon Lundburg of Bristol is a leader in efforts to stiffen cockfighting penalties. He said he faced opposition when he introduced legislation in 2015 to make cockfighting a Class A misdemeanor.

“It was a vicious debate both in public and behind the scenes,” Lundburg said. “I had a lot of folks that said cockfight was a part of their culture and they don’t want to change that. Well, there was a lot of things that were part of our culture that we don’t do anymore. Frankly, for that, I thank God.”

Possessing and shipping birds for cockfighting have been banned under federal law since 2002 and has been a felony since 2007, when President George W. Bush signed the enhanced penalty provisions into law and also criminalized the sale of cockfighting implements.

The group sent letters to lawmakers this week calling on U.S. Attorneys to enforce laws on cockfighting. Tennessee is only one of eight states without felony-level penalties for cockfighting, despite a long history of illegal animal fighting.

The FBI shut down two major cockfighting complexes in Cocke County in 2005, asserting that local law enforcement there had been corrupted and cockfighting was tied together with prostitution, narcotics, chop shops, and gambling by children. Some years later, there was a series of other cockfighting pits raided but the fighting and the possession of animals for fighting thrives, and prior law enforcement actions have not been sufficient to deter the crimes.


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