ASPCA Assists Union County Sheriff’s Office in Animal Cruelty and Fighting Case

More than 100 animals removed; Convicted dogfighter arrested for drugs, animal fighting and neglect
June 28, 2017

Lake Butler, Fla.—At the request of the Union County Sheriff’s Office, the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is assisting with evidence collection and the removal of approximately 100 roosters and hens allegedly involved in an animal fighting operation in Lake Butler, Fla., approximately 30 miles north of Gainesville. Seven dogs were also seized from the property based on alleged cruelty.

A search warrant was executed Tuesday, where investigators discovered animals living in deplorable conditions on the property, many of them exhibiting signs of neglect with no access to food, water, or shelter. Animal fighting paraphernalia was also discovered on the property.

Eric S. Cox, 50, of Lake Butler was arrested by the Union County Sheriff’s Office on numerous drug charges stemming from the search warrant of his property, and multiple animal fighting and cruelty charges are pending based on evidence collected with the assistance of ASPCA personnel. Cox was charged and convicted of dogfighting in 2011 in a case involving the seizure of more than a hundred animals.

“Animal fighting is a despicable crime that has plagued our country and become both an animal welfare and public safety issue,” said Adam Leath, Southeast director of Investigations for ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “We’re grateful to the Union County Sheriff’s Office for actively pursuing this case to send a clear message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in the community.”

The animals will be transported by the ASPCA to a temporary shelter in an undisclosed location, where they will be cared for by a local agency until custody is determined by the court. The ASPCA is providing additional assistance, including behavior assessments conducted by its Anti-Cruelty Behavior team, as well as legal support provided by its Legal Advocacy department to ensure the best legal outcome for these animals.

In Florida, animal fighting, the possession of animals for fighting and being a spectator at a cockfight or dogfight are all third degree felonies, with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison. Misdemeanor animal cruelty is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment. For more information on the ASPCA’s efforts to tackle animal fighting and what the public can do to help, please visit