All fowled up

It seems no one cares about cockfighting in East Dallas

Indeed, their constant crowing is one characteristic that separates game cocks from purely domesticated roosters, which prefer to make most of their noise at sunrise. Cockfighters, in fact, appreciate a particularly noisy bird. It is one of several attributes that illustrates a rooster's "gameness"--its stamina and power. This may well be a point of pride in the cockfighting subculture, but urban neighbors usually just don't see it that way.

Buoyed temporarily by the hope that health officials could solve the problem, McAnally called the city health department with her complaint. "The woman I talked to there gave me a couple of options," McAnally says, by this time barely able to contain herself from breaking into laughter. "She said to call the Dallas County Sheriff's living livestock division. And if that didn't work, she said to call the press."

A living livestock spokesman listened patiently to McAnally's complaint. And then, she says, he calmly told her, "I'm sorry, but we don't deal with anything smaller than a goat."

Which brought McAnally to her final outlet--the press. Last week, the Observer paid a visit to the home in question. There was no response to several knocks on the door. A trip to the unpaved, trash-strewn alley behind the house, however, was met with a loud cacophony of greetings from the suspicious roosters. A couple of battle-scarred tomcats sauntered past the high fence surrounding the property.

The back yard--seen through a gap in the fence--was strewn with a curious mix of children's toys and bikes and wire pens stocked with more than a dozen silken-plumed roosters, unquestionably of the fighting variety. The yard also had a small section devoted to "exercise" equipment--a crudely fashioned balance beam and perch typical of equipment cockers use to condition their birds for fighting.

McAnally says she has yet to witness another cockfight, which one longtime animal cruelty investigator says is imperative if the activity is to be seriously attacked. "It's really unfortunate no one responded to her first call when the fighting was going on," says Reed Young, an investigator for the Humane Society of Fort Worth. "Eyewitnesses are very important in these cases, or video of the fighting. It's often very difficult to get there while a fight is in progress. These guys are real pros. Usually they have a couple of lookouts posted and escape routes planned out."

Deputy Dallas Police Chief Frank Hearron is commander of the Central Patrol Division, territory which includes McAnally's neighborhood. He says he is not familiar with the house McAnally has complained about, but that cockfighting "is not something that is reported to us a whole lot. It often comes to us after the fact, and that makes it a little harder to take care of."

After hearing, however, of McAnally's unsuccessful attempts to rid her neighborhood of the problem, Hearron said he would check into her complaints.

Meanwhile, McAnally recently received a written response to her complaint to the city's Animal Control Division. The letter, dated January 15, 1997, arrived at McAnally's home one month after she called to complain. Larry Tryon, supervisor of Street, Sanitation and Code Enforcement Services of the Animal Control Division, wrote that "we have, without identifying you, made the resident aware of your concern." The department has also warned the resident that allowing any animal to make "unreasonable noise (for more than 15 minutes or above the acceptable sound level of .56 decibels) near a private residence is a violation of the Dallas City Code.

"We have encouraged the person to monitor the animal(s) in question to insure compliance with city ordinance," the letter states.

Tryon, who did not return a phone call from the Observer by deadline, also wrote that McAnally may file an outside complaint with the city prosecutor's office if the noisy animal problem continues.

The problem, of course, has continued. McAnally says sometimes the birds crow so loudly she can hear them over her stereo. They crow day and night. And yes, at the break of dawn, too.

McAnally says she's considering whether to follow this fight to its logical conclusion, though she has no idea what that will be. "I work every day, and I haven't been able to get time off to go down to the prosecutor's office and file a formal complaint.

"I won't say I've completely given up yet," she says, "but I'm getting more resigned to just living with it.

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