People went to a cockfighting arena with stadium seating and hot dogs to watch roosters with razor spurs fight to the death, Alabama deputies said.
The ring was busted in June, and three pleaded guilty to related charges Nov. 30, according to Mobile County Corporal Lonnie Parsons.
Deputies received an anonymous tip about the operation and arrived at the Grand Bay property in marked cars, Parsons told McClatchy News in a phone interview.
A man met them there and asked the deputies if they were there for the cockfighting ring, Parsons said. He led them to the arena, where about 60 people were there for the fights, according to Parsons.
“And once we get there, we kind of start looking around,” Parsons said. “I mean, this is a pretty well put together operation.”
The arena had cushioned seats and a concessions stand, he said. People bringing their birds to fight could weigh them in and attach razor blades to their legs as spurs, Parsons said.
Roosters by the names of Steelslinger, Killer B’s and TMT were tracked on a leader board, photos show.
When deputies arrived, many scattered into the surrounding woods, but they detained about a dozen people and wrote up violations for cockfighting, Parsons said.
Two residents of Mississippi and Florida recently pleaded guilty to charges of gambling, according to Parsons, who said the operation “went from Louisiana to Mississippi to Alabama, and it would just essentially make a circuit.”
The owner of the property pleaded guilty to a charge of animal cruelty, according to Jeff Deen, the man’s lawyer.
Deen told McClatchy News his client rented his property out to others to use. He said the man didn’t get money from gambling and wasn’t involved in the cockfighting directly.
Animal control took in the 63 live birds, many of which have since been rehomed, according to Parsons. He said some had to be euthanized because they were extremely aggressive, and others were found dead at the site.
“It was a pretty organized situation,” Parsons said. “But I mean, the penalty for this is so absurd in that it’s a $50 fine.”
Alabama has some the weakest laws in the country when it comes to cockfighting, with a maximum fine of $50 that doesn’t come with jail time.
Cockfighting is illegal in the U.S. and a felony in 43 states as of 2021, according to the Humane Society.
“Even birds who aren’t killed during cockfights suffer terribly,” the Humane Society says. “Most roosters on a gamefowl farm live tied to a stake, barrel or small wooden hut.”
Parsons and animal welfare advocates have expressed concern over the state’s current penalties for cockfighting.
“This law has enabled cockfighters to have a free ride in Alabama, under state law,” Wayne Pacelle, the president of Animal Wellness Action, told WBRC. “They are taking advantage of this and running cockfighting operations from Mobile to Huntsville.”
Parsons wants people outside Alabama to help push for stricter penalties for these kinds of activities.
“I hope that change comes from this. I really do,” Parsons said.
Mobile County is in southern Alabama on the state’s border with Mississippi, about 80 miles west of Pensacola, Florida.