Activists nationwide amplify voices of fed-up communities
LONDON, Kentucky––“The cockfight at Charlie’s Pit is over,” exulted Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] in a January 23, 2022 email to supporters.
“Thank you to everyone who called,” the email continued, referencing SHARK activists who contacted Kentucky State Trooper Post 9 in Pikeville and Post 11 in London, responding to a January 22, 2022 alert to members.
“Thank you for your help yesterday for Laurel Creek and today for Charlie’s Pit. Your calls had an effect,” the SHARK email said.
“We are trying to pull together more information” the email added, “and will have an update, hopefully within 48 hours.”
Trooper Posts 9 & 11 issue warnings
Forty-eight hours later, the update has yet to materialize, but ANIMALS 24-7 was informed that only two gamecocks were fought at one of the two notorious cockfighting venues and none at the other, after State Trooper Post 11 failed to intervene against a cockfight at yet another notorious venue, CJ’s Pit in London, earlier on January 22, 2022.
Attendees at both impending cockfights were said to have been warned that arrests would result if there was any repetition.
Charlie’s Pit, in Tomahawk, Kentucky, was allegedly the scene of a cockfight on Boxing Day, December 26, 2021, that SHARK informed State Trooper Post 9 about, while maintaining drone surveillance to ensure that the event was actually underway.
Kentucky State Police Post 9 demonstrated no more urgency about raiding Charlie’s Pit, then, however, than Post 9 has in the past to calls about other alleged cockfights in progress at sites identified as Hawk’s Nest in Pinsonfork, Pike County, and Blackberry Pits, in Blackberry, Pike County, just south of Martin County.
“I will go to Laurel Creek myself if police won’t do their job”
January 23, 2022 however, was apparently––for whatever reason––a different story.
And so was the second “game” of the January 22, 2022 cockfighting doubleheader in Laurel County, after SHARK founder Steve Hindi told supporters that “I will go to the Laurel Creek pit myself if the police won’t do their job.”
Hindi said little to ANIMALS 24-7 beyond emphasizing that the Showing Animals Respect & Kindness campaign against cockfighting in Kentucky, conducted with funding help from the Humane Farming Association, has been underway for several years now because ordinary Kentuckians have asked for SHARK help.
Hindi explained that SHARK has discovered and exposed the activities at cockpit after cockpit by responding to countless tips from law-abiding citizens throughout Kentucky who have become fed up with the crime and corruption associated with cockfighting, have become afraid to call authorities who have historically done little or nothing in response to calls about cockfights, and have in some instances suffered apparent retaliation from cockfighters after sharing information with police that was supposedly given in confidence.
Cops caught “cavorting with cockfighters”
The Laurel Creek Game Club in Manchester, Kentucky, has long been among the best-known cockfighting sites in the state.
Also within the jurisdiction of Kentucky State Trooper Post 11, along with CJ’s Pit, are alleged cockfighting venues known as Big H and Bald Rock Pits on the Les Arnold Road near London, the Steel Hollow Pits near Corbin, and Honest Abe’s in Pine Knot.
SHARK exposure in June and July 2020 caused the Pine Knot, Honest Abe’s, and Laurel Creek Game Club cockfighting venues to cancel scheduled cockfighting tournaments, Hindi said then, but no arrests were made.
At the Laurel Creek Game Club earlier, Hindi said, SHARK undercover operatives videotaped sheriff’s deputies “cavorting with cockfighters while multiple fights went on,” the same scenario that Humane Society of the U.S. undercover videographers documented at the same location in 2010.
Cockfighting always deplored by law-abiding Kentuckians
Cockfighters, pro-cockfighting Kentucky politicians, and even some Kentucky law enforcement officers have long balked at enforcing the state law that makes cockfighting a misdemeanor, arguing that it is an entrenched aspect of the Appalachian culture.
But media coverage accessible at NewspaperArchive.com indicates that cockfighting has always been deplored by law-abiding Kentuckians, and has never appeared to be as “culturally accepted” as now.
Many individual community ordinances banning cockfighting were in 1893 consolidated into a single statewide ban. Cockfighters then sought to evade the ban by moving their activities across the Ohio River.
Reported the Maysville Evening Bulletin of December 27, 1893, “Another big cocking main occurred last night. This time the boys sought Ohio soil, and spent the night in a barn on the Joe Roth farm opposite the fairgrounds watching the brutal sport.
“Abut 200 were present, Paris, Lexington, Georgetown, Louisville, Covington, Newport, Maysville and other cities being represented, according to the information at hand. Further information could not be obtained, except that several Maysville birds were among the winners,” the Maysville Evening Bulletin continued, not naming any individuals within Kentucky jurisdiction but clearly sharing leads with law enforcement.
“The steamer M.P. Wells was chartered for the occasion,” the Maysville Evening Bulletin mentioned. A relatively small vessel, the M.P. Wells made two trips to deliver the cockfighters to the Joe Roth farm.
“An effort was made some days ago to charter the ferryboat Laurance to convey the crowd to the scene of last night’s fight,” the Maysville Evening Bulletin said, “but Captain Conrad Phister promptly informed the party who approached him that his steamer could not be chartered for such purposes.”
Similar events continued for several years, actually moving out into the Ohio River after Ohio law enforcement joined Kentucky law enforcement in raiding cockfights.
On February 10, 1897, the Maysville Daily Public Ledger, a rival to the Evening Bulletin, noted that “Several of the ‘sports’ who fled from Monday night’s cockfight when officers raided the floating arena came up from Cincinnati last night on the 7:45 train. They must have swam or walked to the city.”
Post 11 once busted cockfights––often
Mentions of cockfighting thereafter almost disappeared from Kentucky media, before sporadic raids on cockfights made headlines in the 1970-1990 time frame.
After that, Kentucky State Trooper Post 11 was involved in almost every cockfighting bust reported by Kentucky media for the next 17 years, including on Hale Road, London, in 1987; at Laurel Lake, 16 miles west of London, in 1988; near Somerset, Pulaski County, in 1989; at Ape Yard in 1990, a former railway whistle stop named after a brothel featuring Afro-American women; and a 1995 raid near London.
The Corbin Times Tribune reported that the 1995 raid was “The first large cockfighting raid since the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled the activity illegal” in December 1994.
But law enforcement efforts against cockfighting in Kentucky, including by Post 11, all but stopped thereafter.
“Quit kowtowing to the good old boys”
A rare bust in Montgomery County in 2005 brought a judicial ruling that the state law against animal fighting could not be used to prosecute cockfighters because it applies only to “an event where a four-legged animal is caused to fight for pleasure or profit.”
Editorially responded the Maysville Ledger Independent and the Corbin Times Tribune on August 27, 2005, “The time has come for Kentuckians to get serious about animal cruelty issues. That makes it time for state lawmakers to put some enforceable laws on the books and quit kowtowing to the ‘good old boys’ lobby for passing vague laws which are impossible to enforce.
Drugs & gambling
“Animal cruelty is not the only issue here,” the Maysville Ledger Independent and Corbin Times Tribune editorialists continued. “Cockfighting is often associated with drug activity and illegal gambling, two problems the state has worked hard to eradicate. Allowing them to flourish by condoning a companion activity seems totally outrageous.
“If Kentucky wants to maintain its image as a backwoods state,” the editorialists finished, “then by all means let the cockfighting continue. But if it wants to promote itself and its people as intelligent, industrious, and ready to move into the 21st century, then the General Assembly should be the first to step forward by admitting its members and all Kentuckians know that chickens have two, not four legs.”
Deputy: “To me it’s cruelty to animals”
But cockfighting did not again became a public issue in Kentucky until the series of incidents in January and February 2009 when undercover operatives for the Humane Society of the U.S. videotaped two uniformed law enforcement officers attending cockfights at the Laurel Creek Game Club.
Volunteer Clay County sheriff’s deputy Duane Hess, who was then running for local office, identified himself, telling the Corbin Times Tribune that he was present only to try to apprehend a fugitive he had been told would be there.
Hess endorsed legislation to make cockfighting a felony in Kentucky, as in the rest of the U.S.
“No matter how you look at it,” Hess said, “to me it’s cruelty to animals.”
Kevin Johnson, then commander of State Trooper Post 11, identified the other uniformed officer videotaped by the Humane Society of the U.S. as one Greg Hill.
Another long lull in Kentucky law enforcement against cockfighting followed, until the SHARK campaign debuted in 2020.
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