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Subject: Alabama Hog Dog Ban.... Pit Ban In Disguise?

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Date Posted: 13:51:47 04/23/05 Sat

Bill would round up hog-dog rodeos

AG calls popular sport "barbaric"
by Sarah Kate Sullivan
Staff Reporter
April 22, 2005

Many Alabamians hunt, fish and participate in pastimes that involve domestic and wild animals. But most have never heard of one animal sport that draws many spectators in rural parts of the Southeast: hog-dog fighting.

Considered family entertainment, residents gather from miles around at rodeo-style arenas in rural Alabama to watch as a pit-bull is released into a pen with a wild boar, often without its tusks. The "catch-dog" competes in the blood sport by biting the ears of the hog and pulling him to the ground. Many spectators bet on which dog can subdue the hog first.

But Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, hopes to make these rodeos exit Alabama with a bill that would ban the sport.

"The first time I saw it, it just made me sick," Jackson said. "It's inhumane and is not good for the community.

"I just can't understand the mentality of some people who call that entertainment."

Jackson said he did not know about the sport until TV news reporter Mike Rush of WPMI Mobile showed him a video clip of families cheering a pit-bull as it ripped off a boar's ear. Alabama has the highest concentration of known fighting pens.

Jackson's bill would strengthen animal cruelty laws, which currently carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine. The new law would allow charging anyone who hosts, promotes, watches or supplies or breeds the dogs.

Under the bill, an initial offense would carry a maximum punishment of one year in prison. A second would warrant a felony charge and a sentence of 10 years in prison, he said.

Louisiana passed legislation that went into effect in August 2004 banning the sport. Tennessee and South Carolina legislators are considering passing similar laws.

Jackson said the hog-dog brawls are part of an industry that relocates to cater to its audience.

"If it's illegal in one state, they pick up and move to another," Jackson said. "I just want them out of Alabama."

The bill has bipartisan support. Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, called the practice disgusting. "It's like a third-world country," he said.

Ward said what shocks him most is that hog-dog brawling is believed to be "nice, family" viewing. He said the sport tells kids violence is acceptable.

Ward and Jackson said they have heard from groups that support and those that oppose the bill, but that it has been received positively in the House. The Humane Society of the United States has been very vocal in its support, while groups who breed bulldogs have opposed the legislation, they said.

Attorney General Troy King said in a release that hog-dog rodeos leads to other crime such as gambling and drug abuse.

"Torturing animals for entertainment and profit is not only illegal, but barbaric and morally repugnant," King said in the statement.

Rush's undercover videotape revealed a hog-dog rodeo owned by Johnny Hayes of Clarke County, which a report by HSUS said had been ignored by that county's sheriff's department for years. Authorities raided Hayes' property after the airing of the video and arrested him in February 2004 for animal cruelty.

Hayes was convicted of a misdemeanor and served 30 days in prison. He appealed the ruling but still awaits a verdict.

Despite House support, Jackson and Ward were concerned the bill may not pass with the dwindling time left in this year's legislative session. Ward said the Senate is deadlocked over several issues and may not have time to consider the bill.

The bill has yet to pass either house, though Ward said he would support the legislation if Jackson reintroduced it next year.

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