CLAY COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – A group that has gone after cockfighting in Kentucky all summer is calling on the FBI to investigate and Gov. Andy Beshear to pursue action.
Last June, animal protection groups Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) and the Humane Farming Association launched what they call an “on-the-ground campaign against illegal cockfighting operations” in the Kentucky counties of Clay, Butler and McCreary.
The group went undercover ad in a few weeks, recorded video that ultimately forced four places to shut down as attention was focused on the locations and local law enforcement.
The video included a June 20 fight at Laurel Creek Game Club in Manchester where two Sheriff’s deputies were see watching the fights and talking casually with those attending the fights.
As part of its undercover work, SHARK submitted public records requests to the sheriff’s office to find out what officers knew about the cockfight.
The results suggested law enforcement from state trooper Logan Wolfe to Clay County Sheriff Patrick Robinson knew about the fights. Law enforcement tended to claim ignorance of the law as part of the reason. Robinson said the same thing i July in an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, saying his deputies weren’t aware it was a criminal offense.
“I said we all have a black eye no matter what we do. He [the owner of the cockfight venue] asked me if it was illegal, and what to do. He more or less wanted to know what we could do to continue to let him fight chickens…he said we’ve done it for years, and always gotten away with it. He led the conversation to believe that the SO [Sheriff’s Office] and KSP [Kentucky State Police] has let him do it. Now, that’s true. We don’t stop it, because no one knows for sure what the crime is. Other than gambling,” Wolfe said in a text exchange handed over as part of the records request and shared by SHARK.
Law enforcement weren’t always nice in talking about the SHARK undercover work either, according to the texts, at times disparaging them.
Referring to some of the comments, SHARK President Steve Hindi said he plans to “take appropriate legal action” in a instance where a Clay County officer suggests a SHARK worker “might go missing.”
“Law enforcement officials have acknowledged allowing a major criminal enterprise to operate unimpeded,” states HFA National Director Bradley Miller. “Shockingly, they also make threatening and incriminating statements about the lives of SHARK investigators. We believe the FBI should immediately investigate local law enforcement involved for possible criminal acts and civil rights violations.”
SHARK also said, “It is important to note that the records obtained appear to have either been doctored and/or had important conversations deleted. SHARK and HFA have retained Louisville law firm Batey Brophy to obtain records that might have been withheld or scrubbed from the request.”
Gov. Andy Beshear’s office did not respond immediately for a request for comment concerning the Kentucky State Police involvement in the incidents, including video that appears to show KSP troopers coming to shut down a cockfight, only to pull aside and let more than 30 cars leave.