The Laws Against Cockfighting

There are three main pieces of statute law which create criminal offences in relation to cockfighting. The major and best known is the Protection of Animals Act 1911.

Protection of Animals Act 1911
(1 & 2 Geo. 5, c.27)

1.Cruelty.-(1) if any person shall

(a)   shall cruelly beat, kick, ill-treat, over-ride, over-drive, over-load, torture, infuriate, or terrify any animal, or shall cause or procure, or, being the owner, permit any animal to be so used, or shall, by wantonly or unreasonably doing or omitting to do any act, or causing or procuring the commission or omission of any act, cause any unnecessary suffering, or, being the owner, permit any unnecessary suffering to be so caused to any animal; or

(b)   shall convey or carry, or cause or procure, or, being the owner, permit to be conveyed or carried, any animal in such manner or position as to cause that animal any unnecessary suffering; or

(c)  shall cause, procure, or assist at the fighting or baiting of any animal; or shall keep, use, manage, or act or assist in the management of, any premises or place for the purpose, or partly for the purpose of fighting or baiting any animal, or shall permit any premises or place to be so kept, managed, or used, or shall receive, or cause or procure any person to receive, money for the admission of any person to such premises or place; or

(d)   shall wilfully, without any reasonable cause or excuse, administer, or cause or procure, or being the owner permit, such administration of, any poisonous or injurious drug or substance to any animal, or shall wilfully, without any reasonable cause or excuse, cause any such substance to be taken by any animal; or

(e)   shall subject, or cause or procure, or being the owner permit, to be subjected, any animal to any operation which is performed without due care and humanity; such person shall be guilty of an offence of cruelty within the meaning of this Act -  Penalty, upon summary conviction not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale; or alternatively, or in addition thereto, imprisonment for any term not exceeding three months.

(2)    For the purposes of this section, an owner shall be deemed to have permitted cruelty within the meaning of this Act if he shall have failed to exercise reasonable care and supervision in respect of the protection of the animal therefrom:
        Provided that, where an owner is convicted of permitting cruelty within the meaning of this Act by reason only of his having failed to exercise such care and supervision, he shall not be liable to imprisonment without the option of a fine.

(3).  Nothing in this section shall render illegal any act lawfully done under the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876, or shall    apply –

(a)   to the commission or omission of any act in the course of the destruction, or the preparation for destruction, of any animal as food for mankind, unless such destruction or such preparation was accompanied by the infliction of unnecessary suffering; or

(b)   to the coursing or hunting of any captive animal, unless such animal is liberated in an injured, mutilated, or exhausted condition; but a captive animal shall not, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to be coursed or hunted before it is liberated for the purpose of being coursed or hunted, or after it has been recaptured, or if it is under control, and a captive animal shall not be deemed to be coursed or hunted within the meaning of this subsection if it is coursed or hunted in an enclosed space from which it has no reasonable chance of escape.

(2)   Destruction of animal. - Where the owner of an animal is convicted of an offence of cruelty within the meaning of this Act, it shall be lawful for the court, if the court is satisfied that it would be cruel to keep the animal alive, to direct that the animal be destroyed, and to assign the animal to any suitable person for that purpose; and the person to whom such animal is so assigned shall, as soon as possible, destroy such animal, or cause or procure such animal to be destroyed, in his presence without unnecessary suffering.       Any reasonable expenses incurred in destroying the animal may be ordered by the court to be paid by the owner, and thereupon shall be recoverable summarily as a civil debt:

       Provided that, unless the owner assent, no order shall be made under this section except upon the evidence of a duly registered veterinary surgeon.

(3)     If the owner of any animal shall be guilty of cruelty within the meaning of this Act to the animal, the court, upon his conviction thereof, may, if they think fit, in addition to any other punishment, deprive such person of the ownership of the animal, and may make such order as to the disposal of the animal as they think fit under the circumstances:

5.    Entry by constable to knacker's yard

7.    Animals in pounds

8.    Poisoned grain and flesh, etc.

9.    Using dogs for draught

10.  Traps. -  Any person who sets, or causes or procures to be set, any spring trap for the purpose of catching any hare or rabbit, or which is so placed as to be likely to catch any hare or rabbit, shall inspect, or cause some competent person to inspect, the trap at reasonable intervals of time and at least once every day between sunrise and sunset, and, if any person shall fail to comply with the provisions of this section, he shall be liable, upon summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale

11.   Injured animals

12.   Powers of constables.

13.   Production of drivers or animals

14.   Appeal

15.   Except the context otherwise requires, or it is otherwise expressly provided-

(a)   the expression “animal” means any domestic or captive animal;

(b)  (domestic animal)

(c)   the expression "captive animal" means any animal (not being a domestic animal) of whatsoever kind or species, and whether a quadruped or not, including any bird, fish, or reptile, which is in captivity, or confinement, or which is maimed, pinioned, or subjected to any, appliance or contrivance for the purpose of hindering or preventing its escape from captivity or confinement;

(d) to (f) further incidental definitions.

Cockfighting Act, 1952

The second relevant law is the Cockfighting Act 1952. If this law had been passed as originally drafted it would have made it an offence to possess dubbed birds, but opponents of the measure pointed out that ordinary breeders also dubbed gamefowl to prevent them injuring each other accidentally. Today this might seem a pretty thin excuse, but it was enough to prevent the section being passed.[5] One wonders how many sympathisers with cockfighting were to be found in the House of Commons at the time. There must have been more than a few.

Cockfighting Act 1952

(15 & 16 Geo 6& 1 Eliz 2, c.59)

1     Possession of appliances for use in fighting of domestic fowl rendered unlawful. (1)   If any person has in his possession any instrument or appliance designed or adapted for use in connection with the fighting of any domestic fowl, he shall, if the court be satisfied that he had it in his possession for the purpose of using it or permitting it to be used as aforesaid, be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to a fine not exceeding [level 3 on the standard scale], or to both such imprisonment and such fine.

(2)   Where any person is convicted of an offence under this section, the court may order any instrument or appliance in respect of which the offence was committed to be destroyed or dealt with in such other manner as may be specified in the order:   Provided that such an order shall not take effect until the expiration of the period of 21 days within which notice of appeal may be given by virtue of ....(Crown Court Rules).... and if notice of appeal is given within that period, the order shall not take effect unless and until the appeal is dismissed or withdrawn.

The Town Police Clauses Act
1847, Section 36

The third relevant law is Section 36 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847. This Act was originally designed for urban areas only, but was later extended to cover the whole country.

36.      Penalty on persons keeping places for bear-baiting, cock-fighting, etc. - Every person who within the limits of the special Act keeps or uses or acts in the management of any house, room, pit, or other place, for the purpose of fighting, baiting, or worrying any animals shall be liable to a penalty of not more than level 1 on the standard scale, or, in the discretion of the justices before whom he is convicted, to imprisonment for a time not exceeding one month; and the authority may, by order in writing, authorize the police to enter any premises kept or used for any of the purposes aforesaid, and take int custody all persons found therein without lawful excuse, and every person so found shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale, and a conviction for this offence shall not exempt the owner, keeper, or manager of any such house, room, pit, or place from any penal consequences to which he is liable for the nuisance thereby occasioned.

When originally passed the ‘authority’ concerned were the Special Commissi6ners.It is the opinion of the authors of the standard Magis­trates Courts’ textbook, Stones Justices Manual , that the function of these commissioners has now passed to the police authority, and ‘police’ now means the Chief Constable. The effect of this is that the section gives the police a power of entry to a place where they suspect cockfighting is taking place without the need to obtain a warrant under any other legislation. Of course, it does not mean that they can freely enter premises to search for evidence of cockfighting, or cockfighting intent.

Old English Game are bred in many Colours

These birds are a 'Fig Pudding' Hen and a Yellow BirchenCock both very rare.
From a painting by Herbert Atkinson

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