Dozens arrested on cockfighting, animal cruelty charges in South Carolina

The Associated Press

FLORENCE, S.C.- Authorities arrested more than 60 people on cockfighting and animal cruelty charges after receiving a tip.

Police seized roosters and cockfighting equipment on Saturday as well as thousands in cash and two pounds of marijuana.

"It's very trashy, very nasty and bloody," Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker said of the scene. "It's very unsanitary, very depressing when you see all those dead chickens lying on the ground."

Authorities said the arrests followed two years of investigation. "We've been made aware of cockfighting activity in this area, but have been unsuccessful in finding the location until today," Parker said.

He said 60 to 80 people were arrested and some fled on foot and are being sought.

The South Carolina House approved legislation this spring that would raise the state's cockfighting penalty from a maximum fine of $100 and 30 days in jail to $1,000 and as much as a year prison for a first offense. A third conviction could bring a $5,000 fine and five years.

The legislation, now in a Senate committee, also would let police seize property tied to animal fighting.

Animal fighting grew into a big issue during the past year after the state's agriculture commissioner was charged in a federal crackdown on a cockfighting ring.

In January, Charles Sharpe gave up his office and pleaded guilty to lying to a federal officer and taking a $10,000 bribe to protect a cockfighting ring. He began serving a two-year prison sentence in June.

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