By Eugenia Jones
An animal protection group that visited McCreary County last summer to investigate alleged cockfighting in the county has, in the last month, publicly released the locations of eight places allegedly known to have been cockfighting operations throughout Kentucky. Honest Abe’s on Low Gap Road in Pine Knot is one of the eight locations listed by the non-profit, Illinois-based, animal protection group, SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK). The Humane Farming Association (HFA) joined SHARK in publicly releasing the list of alleged cockfighting operations.
SHARK President Steve Hindi said the group decided to release the list of locations at this time because cockfighting season, which starts in late November and ends in late July, has just begun. Hindi said SHARK and HFA are ready to move against any and all cockfights located in Kentucky or elsewhere across the country. The two groups have names, addresses, and Google map locations for the alleged operations.
According to the group’s recent press release, SHARK has provided information to KY State Police, who allegedly have already told at least one owner of a fighting operation in London, KY to not re-open. In Kentucky, cockfighting is a misdemeanor under Kentucky’s animal cruelty statute.
In addition to concerns about the welfare of the animals involved in fighting, there are other concerns in regard to cockfighting.
“It is important to understand that each cockfighting pit is a major criminal operation,” Hindi stated. “Cockfighting is illegal, and there are other serious crimes associated with cockfights, including drug dealing and illegal gambling.”
“The negative effect of illegal gambling cannot be overstated,” SHARK investigator and drone pilot Stu Chaifetz noted. “Some of these fights occur in counties suffering from extreme poverty. Gambling at cockfights steals money from families and children who desperately need it. When a cockfight is shut down, everyone benefits from it.”
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is also concern about the lack of precautions taken during the mass gatherings of cockfighters and spectators who often travel to Kentucky from many different states. These gatherings (where social distancing is typically not practiced and masks are not worn) have the potential to spark a major COVID-19 outbreak or spread other types of bird flu and disease.
SHARK previously made the McCreary County location (along with three other Kentucky locations) public when they investigated and contacted the Kentucky State Police about alleged cockfighting at Honest Abe’s at the end of cockfighting season last summer. At that time, SHARK made Facebook posts of drone footage indicative of alleged cockfighting at the Low Gap location and police response to the activity. SHARK’s most recent release of alleged cockfighting locations corresponds with the group’s statement last summer that they would publicly release locations and notify law enforcement prior to the start of this November’s (2020) cockfighting season. SHARK noted they are determined the four Kentucky locations will not re-open.