“We have solid evidence that fighting birds are being shipped to Guam. The government of Guam has a duty to examine our findings and no longer play a role as intermediary in these felony violations of the law.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The two top shippers of fighting roosters to Guam in 2021 – Bill McNatt (750 birds) and John Bottoms (181 birds), who account for two-thirds of animal shipments approved by the Guam Department of Agriculture, hail from Oklahoma and they are deeply immersed in the business of cockfighting. Of the 10,000 fighting birds shipped to Guam through the Department of Agriculture over the last four years, Bottoms has sold nearly 2,000 of them (20 percent), while McNatt has traded more than 1,500 birds (15 percent). Animal Wellness Action (AWA) has uncovered that the people receiving the birds in Guam are also steeped in the business of cockfighting.
AWA today answered statements by Guam Agriculture Director Chelsa Muna-Brecht indicating that her agency has no evidence that live-animal shipments approved for import to Guam are illegal. She issued that statement after AWA and the Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) last week issued a statement that the illegal movement of fighting animals from U.S. states to Guam has dramatically increased during the first six months of this year, according to shipping records from the Guam Department of Agriculture (GDOA). There was an increase in illegal shipments of fighting birds of 600 percent – from 396 animals for all of 2020 to 1340 for the first six months of the year. Cockfighters are on pace to approach the shipment of nearly 3,000 fighting roosters if this year’s pace of shipments continues.
The investigation by AWA and AWF — which included examination of industry sources, video interviews of traffickers, other online research, and satellite imagery of properties revealing mega-gamefarms where thousands of roosters tethered to A-frame huts or barrels — makes it clear that dozens of shippers knowingly violated federal law, as did the importers on Guam.
In a 24-minute interview dated May 24, 2020, Mr. Bottoms describes himself as a long-knife cockfighter and describes in detail that he makes a living training and possessing birds for fighting. Mr. McNatt was arrested at a cockfighting ring in 2007 in Oklahoma, and that arrest does not appear to have stopped him from continuing in the illegal enterprise 14 years later.
“Director Muna-Brecht, with all respect, I assure you that there are no people on Guam paying $1,000 or $2,000 for a rooster to keep the animal as a pet or to use a male animal in a commercial agricultural operation,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “There is a fighting pit in Dededo, a few Guamanian politicians demanding the return of legal cockfighting, and stateside cockfighters tout on video the ‘cutting’ ability of their birds and their participation in fights from Mexico to Guam to the Philippines. There should be no confusion that these transactions, passing through your department, are illegal and constitute felony violations for participants in these transactions.”
“The top sellers of roosters to Guam have left size-20 footprints on social media and video and in cockfighting magazines and websites that unmistakably place them in the center of the global cockfighting industry,” added Pacelle. “You wouldn’t allow people to ship thousands of pit bulls onto Guam if you knew these people were dogfighting enthusiasts and known traffickers of fighting dogs, and you shouldn’t tolerate this conduct with fighting birds either.”
Bottoms has been the top national shipper of fighting birds to Guam over the last four years, and McNatt is third. Also appearing on the list of illegal shippers is Domi Corpus (170), who ships fighting birds across the Pacific Rim and possesses and ships fighting birds raised in California. Mr. Corpus has been prominently featured in global cockfighting magazines, such as “Pit Games” and on PitGames.tv, a website devoted to cockfighting.
“There’s just no other logical explanation for shipments of adult roosters on an 8,000-mile journey to Guam except that cockfighters are selling fighting birds to other cockfighters,” added Pacelle. “They are not used for food production or for show. This masquerade has to end.”
In January 2020, AWA and AWF revealed that there were 137 individuals on Guam who imported nearly 9,000 fighting birds between November 2016 and October 2019 in more than 500 illegal shipments by U.S. mail. AWA and AWF allege that these individuals are cockfighters or “cockfighting brokers” who sold birds to others involved in the sport. The top 10 importers of fighting animals on Guam received about 60 percent of the nearly 9,000 fighting birds, with the top importer located in Dededo, receiving 1,608 roosters. The latest set of shipping records from January – June of this year to Guam put the total number of fighting birds shipped to Guam over 10,000 between November 2016 and June 2021.
It has been illegal since 2002, and a felony since 2007, to transport or sell roosters for fighting across state or territorial lines.
Here are the Department of Agriculture data on exports of fighting birds from U.S. states to Guam, including for the first six months of 2021.
Per calendar year:
- Nov – Dec 2016 total number of roosters exported: 370 (2 months in 2016)
- Jan – Dec 2017 total number of roosters exported: 3819
- Jan – Dec 2018 total number of roosters exported: 2979
- Jan – Dec 2019 total number of roosters exported: 1621
- Jan – Dec 2020 total number of roosters exported: 396
- Jan – June 2021 total number of roosters exported: 1340 (6 months in 2021)
An amendment to the 2018 Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 took effect one year after enactment, on December 20, 2019 and applied all federal prohibitions against animal fighting to the U.S. territories, where cockfighting has been openly conducted for decades. On October 1, 2020, U.S. District Court for the District of Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands rejected a legal challenge from a Guamanian who alleged the most recently enacted provisions of the federal anti-animal fighting law cannot be legally applied to Guam. In late October 2019, Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí of the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico rejected claims by Club Gallístico and other cockfighting clubs, declaring that “[n]either the Commonwealth’s political statutes, nor the Territorial Clause, impede the United States Government from enacting laws that apply to all citizens of this Nation alike, whether as a state or territory.”
Under Section 26 of the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. 2156, there are strict prohibitions on transporting animals across state or territorial lines, regardless of whether cockfighting is legal at the export destination. “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly sell, buy, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an animal fighting venture,” reads the law. And the law is specific about not using the mail service for this purpose: “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly use the mail service of the United States Postal Service or any instrumentality of interstate commerce for commercial speech for purposes of advertising an animal, or an instrument described in subsection (d), for use in an animal fighting venture, promoting or in any other manner furthering an animal fighting venture except as performed outside the limits of the States of the United States.”
AWA and AWF maintain www.EndCockfighting.org, which serves as a comprehensive resource about the subject and an action center for citizens who want to help combat animal crimes.
Animal Wellness Action has offered to provide a PowerPoint presentation to Director Muna-Brecht and other senior leaders at the Guam Department of Agriculture about its series of investigations and the depth of involvement in cockfighting by sellers of fighting roosters to the island.
See link to videos that show John Bottoms’ involvement in cockfighting and an aerial view photo of one of Domi Corpus’s gamecock farms in California: John Bottoms and Domi Corpus