Although Louisiana is one of the last two states where cockfighting is legal, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator had nonetheless cited cockfighters since November 2003 under the parish’s animal cruelty law. In early February, however, state Judge Charles Scott ruled that Prator must cease enforcing the local animal cruelty statute where it is in conflict with the state statute, meaning the cockfights must be allowed to go on.
Scott said the case was not about whether or not cockfighting was barbaric, but rather whether local animal cruelty statutes could trump the state statute. In his decision, Scott wrote,
Some may call it barbaric. Some may call it sport. Others may call it business. Whatever your view, this case is about whether persons in Caddo Parish may rely on state law, which does not prohibit cockfighting, or whether they are subject to fine and/or jail under the parish ordinance.
When citizens of this state, and those visiting from outside this state, cannot rely on state law to govern their conduct but must instead be fearful of criminal penalties from a parish ordinance which is in conflict with state law, the residual police power of the state has been abridged by the conflicting ordinance and cannot stand.
Prator said that his office would immediately end its efforts to block a couple of local cockfighting arenas. Prator told the Shreveport Times,
We were just awaiting the judge to tell us which law to enforce, and so now we’ve got that and we’ll act accordingly. Our job is not to determine the morality of an activity, but to enforce any and all laws applicable to that activity. In this case the judge says we should not enforce the parish law and therefore we won’t. It doesn’t really ruffle my feathers.
Humane Society of the United States’ Wayne Pacelle had attended the hearing when the judge heard from both sides and said he was disappointed by the outcome. “We’re disappointed that the judge is going to allow this animal cruelty to continue in Caddo Parish,” Pacelle told the Shreveport Times. “It seems a clear matter of law that the parish can decide for itself to outlaw instigated fights between animals.”
Judge: Caddo sheriff can’t stop cockfights. Don Walker, Shreveport Times (Louisiana), February 4, 2004.
Judge’s ruling allows cockfighting in Caddo Parish. Associated Press, February 3, 2004.