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ARCHIVE - Stop Alabama's Obscene Hog-Dog Rodeos

THIS ALERT IS CLOSED. It is archived to use as a letter-writing example or for background research.
Animal cruelty or family fun?
2/15/04, By Mike Rush

CLARKE COUNTY, Ala.) February 12 - If a picture's worth a thousand words, the image of a terrified, penned pig wrestled down by a blood-thirsty dog speaks volumes. To the hundreds of people who make the trek to rural Clarke County, Alabama to attend these so called hog/dog rodeos, the words that come to mind are sport, tradition, and as one woman told NBC 15, "addictive".

Recently our NBC 15 undercover team broke into this world where watching torture and bloodshed is a family pastime for all ages. It's a game of catch. Dogs, mostly pit bulls, showing off their hunting skills. Those that latch their powerful jaws on a penned wild pig the fastest win prize money and trophies.

The day NBC 15's Mike Rush attended, he witnessed pigs screeching in pain as dogs chewed ears, a tail and a snout. The battles were over as soon as the handlers could pry the dogs off the terrified hogs.

Joseph Ebey has attended many of these rodeos. His grandson is one of the "handlers". They're the guys in the ring who control the pigs, sometimes by kicking them in the face or wrestling them to the ground.

Ebey says the events are good for the community. "They got a lot of young people around in this part of the country that don't have much to do around here and that gives them an outlet," Ebey told Mike Rush.

Our hidden cameras caught that outlet in action. In between fights, children battled each other to be the first to tackle a pig with a taped snout and, according to the announcer, a broken leg.

With music blaring from a sound system, an admission charge and bleachers, this is a business. One that Coffeeville Police Chief Frankie Crawford would like to see shut down. The fights are out of his jurisdiction, but their effects travel to his nearby town.

"People's cars getting vandalized in the parking lot, we've had complaints on dog fights in the parking lots, children getting hurt on 3 wheelers, fights," said Crawford.

These hog rodeos are anything but Clarke County's dirty little secret. They're put on by H and H Kennels who advertises their schedules in many publications, including the "Clarke County Shoppers Guide". Authorities have known about these fights for years.
spacer Dog fighting and cockfighting are outlawed in Alabama. So where does hog/dog fighting stand? NBC 15 showed our video to Clarke County's District Attorney, Bobby Keahey.

Referring to the events, Keahey told Mike Rush, "You got a prima facia case to sign a warrant for cruelty to animals."

Keahey says he first heard of the rodeos at least a couple of years ago. He's done nothing to stop them because he says the Clarke County Sheriff's Department has failed to arrest anyone. "They ask me, I'll help them. I'll go with them, I'll do anything," said Keahey.

But the sheriff has a different story. "I think it's very unfair that it should come down to me," said Clarke County Sheriff Jack Day.

Day says he tried to shut down the fights a few years ago on the basis of animal cruelty, but the district attorney, he says, wouldn't play. "I had a deputy ask him about prosecuting it and he said no, he's not going to prosecute it, it was not unlawful," Day said.

The sheriff says because of our interest, he'll ask Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor for his opinion. It's not the first time. More than three years ago, Mobile's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Mobile County's District Attorney's office asked Pryor to weigh in. The attorney general didn't get involved then and recently turned down our repeated requests to show him our video. His office stated it's a county matter.

So amidst all this political finger pointing, the pig rodeos have persisted. Crawford understands the outcome for both animals can be grim. "The ones that have been hurt pretty bad will be destroyed."

A culture of carnage that's practically challenging the law to latch on.

Since NBC 15 first spoke with Sheriff Day, he told us he's discussed the matter again with District Attorney Keahey and both agree the hog/dog rodeos are against the law.

Johnny Hayes puts on the rodeos. He did not respond to our repeated requests for an interview, but at the event Rush attended, Hayes announced another rodeo is scheduled for February 21st. If it happens, the sheriff says he'll shut it down.
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Dear District Attorney Keahey and Attorney General Pryor:

It is a sad day when bored adolescents find entertainment value in animal torture. Apparently malls and movies pale in comparison to the lure of Clarke County, Alabama's Hog-Dog Rodeos.

As disclosed in an expose´ by Alabama news station WPMI-NBC, the “family event” features penned pigs shrieking in agony as fight- trained dogs viciously gnaw on their ears, tails or snouts. In one disturbing shot, children attack a pig whose snout is sealed with tape. The pig struggles to escape on an apparently broken leg. The spectacle concludes as handlers peel their dogs off the terror-stricken pigs. Dogs who maul the fastest earn prize money and trophies.

Hog-dog rodeos violate the basic precept of compassion and ethical responsibility that separate evolved societies from barbaric ones. Equally appalling is the bureaucratic red tape that allows them to persist. The Clarke County District Attorney has failed to prosecute hog-dog organizers because the sheriff's department has neglected to arrest anyone.

Yet Clarke County Sheriff Jack Day claims past attempts to stop the fights proved futile—after the district attorney refused to prosecute offenders for actions deemed lawful. Mobile's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Mobile County District Attorney's office requested intervention from the attorney general, whose office dubbed it a “county matter.”

I respectfully ask all authorities to make hog-dog rodeos your matter. Please arrest and prosecute organizers for violations of Alabama's animal protection law. Involved parties should incur maximum penalties under the law, including jail time and fines for animal fighting as well as deliberate cruelty to animals. I hope you will take steps to ensure that all hog-dog organizers are prohibited from owning or harboring animals and that their animals are confiscated.

By itself, animal torture is worthy of jail time. In addition, please consider the irrefutable link between cruelty to animals and violent behavior toward humans. Animal cruelty is a key trait in the American Psychiatric Association's profile for conduct disorders and the FBI identifies cruelty cases as red flags along the animal-to-human violence continuum.

In most states, a person convicted of animal fighting or animal abuse faces jail time, fines and mandatory psychological treatment. Please do not make Alabama the exception.

Thank you,

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Clarke County District Attorney Robert (Bobby) D. Keahey
P.O. Box 850, County Courthouse
Grove Hill, AL 36451-0548
ph: 251-275-3144
fax: 251-275-3145
spacer Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor
Alabama State House, 11 South Union Street, Third Floor
Montgomery, AL 36130
ph: 334-242-7300
fax: 334-242-4891
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