GRAYSON COUNTY, TX-A bill designed to put an end to cockfighting in Texas is one step closer to becoming law Thursday. Supporters said there were too many loopholes in the current laws and they're trying to close them.
Under current Texas law, putting on a cockfight is a felony, but it's not illegal at to be a spectator. Thursday, house bill 1043 passed the house by a huge margin and if it becomes law, more of the people involved in cockfights will be breaking the law. Not only will it be a crime to run cockfights, it will also be illegal to attend a fight, raise birds for fighting or even sell the sharp weapons the birds use to kill each other. State representative Larry Phillips said the legislation will also raise the current penalties to a state jail felony.
"It brings us more in line with the states around us so that we're not a haven for these. It also basically brings the cockfighting statute in line with the dog fighting statute," he said.
Maura Davies with the Texas S.P.C.A. said cockfighting is different from other gambling activities because it's a blood-sport.
"Cockfighting is a brutal and horrific thing, it occurs all over Texas. It's usually very hidden, it occurs in areas that are hard to get to. The only way that law enforcement finds out about situations like this is because someone has become an informant," she said.
Just a few days ago, Gunter police chief Bryce Kennedy headed "Operation Free Bird" after he got tip from ESPN about an illegal cockfighting ring in his city. During the raid, 42 people were arrested and 55 roosters were seized. The chief said the house's decision sends a message that cockfighting doesn't belong in Texas.
"I think it sends a clear and concise message to people who are thinking about engaging in this type of criminal activity that the state of Texas does not support it. They do not condone it and it has sent a message that it's outlawed," he said.
While it doesn't guarantee the illegal activity will decrease, Kennedy said the new bill will give police the tools they need to go after spectators as well as promoters.
"I sure hope it does and if it doesn't, it will give law enforcement and district attorneys more power to actually go out and investigate and prosecute these crimes," he said.
The bill now goes to the state senate.
On Monday, here will be a hearing for the owners of the 55 roosters that were seized in Gunter over the weekend. The judge will decide whether the animals will be turned over to S.P.C.A.