Legislation increasing penalties for cockfighting offenses advanced in a Tennessee Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Wednesday.
Subcommittee lawmakers agreed on a voice vote to pass state Rep. Jon Lundberg’s bill establishing a minimum misdemeanor fine for any cockfighting offense at $500, while a second offense would be a felony punishable with up to six years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $3,000.
Lundberg, R-Bristol, was unable to advance an anti-cockfighting measure last year.
Cockfighting is a felony in 39 states, but not in Tennessee, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
In a typical cockfight, two roosters fight each other to the death while people place bets. Rooster owners let the birds suffer untreated injuries or throw them away like trash afterward, according to the HSUS.
HSUS commended the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office for recently raiding a large cockfighting operation, but those arrested faced only a misdemeanor offense.
Under present Tennessee law, it is a misdemeanor offense to own a cockfighting rooster and use the animal in a cockfight.
The state’s top Class A misdemeanor offense carries a jail term up to 11 months, 29 days and a $2,500 fine.
Under Lundberg’s bill, being a spectator at any type of animal fight would also be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor and face a mandatory minimum $500 fine.
The state’ Fiscal Review Office said there has been an average of nearly four animal fighting convictions per year over the last four years.
For more go to www.capitol.tn.gov. Lundberg’s bill is HB 132.