A corrupt Department of Agriculture has allowed shipments of more than 11,000 fighting animals from cockfighters from the states
Washington, D.C. — Today, Animal Wellness Action released video footage that, according to informants, documents illegal cockfighting by a law enforcement agent working at the Guam Department of Agriculture– an explicit violation of the federal law forbidding staged fights between animals. The non-profit organization has presented the video and other supporting information to personnel with the U.S. Department of Justice and has urged them to open an investigation and to pursue criminal charges. Animal Wellness Action is also calling on the Guam Department of Agriculture to terminate the employee once an independent review confirms his identity in these unmistakably illegal acts.
The June 2021 video shows the man, identified by key sources as Ken San Nicolas, at the center of a cockfighting pit, holding a rooster with blades on his legs, with spectators seated around the center ring and calling outside bets. The birds are simultaneously let loose at the prompt of a referee and the fight lasts no longer than 30 seconds, with the winning bird slashing and apparently mortally wounding his vanquished adversary. Mr. San Nicolas is a Commodity Inspector with the Guam Department of Agriculture, one of a handful of trained and sworn law enforcement officers within that division.
During the approximately five years San Nicolas has worked for the agency, the Department of Agriculture has approved imports of 11,323 fighting animals onto Guam, with Agriculture Director Chelsa-Muna Brecht (2019 – present) asserting that her responsibilities do not include applying the federal law against animal fighting in any practical way. Upon assuming her senior government position, however, she swore an oath to “…faithfully support the Constitution of the United States…and the laws of the United States applicable to Guam….” Four federal courts have ruled that the United States has the authority to ban staged animal fighting on Guam and in all other jurisdictions of the country. In a recent order, the U.S. Supreme Court cemented those decisions by denying a certification for appeal.
“The oath of office has been violated with every illegal shipment of fighting birds approved by the Department of Agriculture,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “It’s been violated by a sworn law enforcement officer staging fights between animals. Some officials within the Guamanian government have aided and abetted this criminal conduct and allowed it to flourish on the island. This is government corruption in action.”
Along with the footage, Animal Wellness Action is releasing the latest shipping records obtained from the Guam Department of Agriculture. The data reveal a total of 2,138 fighting animals transported to Guam in 2021 – far exceeding the total numbers of birds shipped in either 2019 or 2020. The top shippers to Guam, based on the latest batch of reports, are John Bottoms (249 roosters) and Bill McNatt (272) of Oklahoma and Domi Corpus (151) of California – who together account for a large percentage of all fighting birds sent to the island.
The shippers typically mischaracterized the shipped birds as “brood fowl” or “show fowl” rather than fighting birds in a transparent act of subterfuge to try to skirt the federal animal fighting law. Our investigation — which included examination of industry sources, online research, and satellite imagery of farms raising roosters for fighting — makes it clear that dozens of shippers knowingly violate federal law, as have the importers on Guam. The vast majority of birds shipped to Guam are males and are fighting breeds of birds – tell-tale signs of fighting operations.
Animal Wellness notes there is no commercial poultry industry to speak of on Guam, and there are no competitions for show birds of any consequence on the island.
“It is time for the Director of the Department of Agriculture to step down or to recuse herself from any decision-making when it comes to live-animal imports onto Guam,” adds Mr. Pacelle. “She’s demonstrated that she will do little or anything to ensure that the anti-cruelty laws of the United States are adhered to in Guam.”
Under Section 26 of the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. 2156, it is a crime to:
- Knowingly sponsor or exhibit in an animal fighting venture;
- Knowingly attend an animal fighting venture, or knowingly causing an individual who has not attained the age of 16 to attend an animal fighting venture;
- Knowingly buy, sell, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an animal fighting venture;
- Knowingly use the mail service of the U.S. Postal Service, or any “written, wire, radio televisions or other form of communications in, or using a facility of, interstate commerce,” to advertise an animal for use in an animal fighting venture, or to advertise a knife, gaff, or other sharp instrument designed to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture, or to promote or in any other manner further an animal fighting venture except as performed outside the U.S.;
- Knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver in interstate or foreign commerce “a knife, a gaff, or any other sharp instrument” designed or intended to be attached to the leg of a bird for us in an animal fighting venture.
Penalties for each violation of any one of these provisions allows for a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for perpetrators, except for an adult attending an animal fighting venture. Penalties for adult attendance are 1 year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The ban on transporting fighting birds to Guam has been in place since 2002, and a felony since 2007. The ban on anyone staging an animal fighting took effect in December 2019, and that, too, is a felony, along with operating a cockfighting facility.
Animal Wellness Action seeks additional tips on illegal cockfighting at firstname.lastname@example.org. The organization maintains the website, www.endcockfighting.org, a comprehensive resource about the subject and an action center for citizens who want to help combat these animal cruelty crimes.
Animal Wellness Foundation and the Center for a Humane Economy are partner organizations also centrally involved in the national campaign to end cockfighting.