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Prosecutors: 7 charged in cockfighting, gambling operation

October 30, 2021 GMT

VERBENA, Ala. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say seven people face animal cruelty and conspiracy charges in connection with a large-scale cockfighting and fighting bird breeding operation.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the charges Friday. Federal prosecutors said the defendants over the last three years maintained a cockfighting arena or “pit” with stadium seating for approximately 150 people and several rings to host cockfights. Some of the defendants are accused of running breeding operations to produce and sell birds to fight.

Cockfighting is a violent contest in which roosters are forced to fight until one of them dies.

The seven Verbena residents face charges that include violating the Animal Welfare Act and conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business. If convicted of conspiracy, Animal Welfare Act violations, or operating an illegal gambling business, the defendants each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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A Washington-based animal welfare group that has called for federal probes of cockfighting operations because of weak state laws praised the arrests.

“The arrests today by federal authorities send an unmistakable signal to every major cockfighting operator that there is no more business as usual when it comes to involvement in the barbaric practice of cockfighting,” Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, said in a statement.