Cracking Down on Cockfighting and Calling Out Enforcement Weaknesses
National Communications Coordinator
In May, Animal Wellness Action and its partner, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), called on Delaware law enforcement to follow through with an investigation into illegal cockfighting after SHARK droned a fighting derby in progress in Felton, Delaware that had attracted more than 70 participants. It was the biggest cockfighting event in recent memory in this state.
Cockfighting and associated activities (e.g., possessing fighting animals or cockfighting paraphernalia and attending a cockfight) are felony offenses under state law. It is also a federal felony to operate a cockfighting venue, to possess fighting animals, to bring a minor to a fight, and to participate in animal fighting activities.
“It was a missed opportunity that state police did not respond with the law enforcement personnel needed to arrest the entire cast of characters committing felony offenses against animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “That said, there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against the operators of this illegal fighting venue and to shut it down for good, so no animals are hacked to death in this barn in the future.”
Driven by concerns for the barbarism of animal fighting, mass shootings and other crimes comingled with staged animal combat, U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives introduced bipartisan bills, H.R. 2742 and S. 1529, to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation crafted by Animal Wellness Action is entitled the Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking (FIGHT) Act.
The FIGHT Act, amending Section 26 of the Animal Welfare Act, would enhance enforcement opportunities by banning simulcasting of and gambling on animal fighting ventures; halting the shipment of mature roosters (chickens only) through the U.S. mail (shipping dogs by mail is already illegal); creating a private right of action against illegal animal fighters; and allowing for forfeiture of property assets used in animal fighting crimes.
In April, Animal Wellness Action along with 50 other animal welfare organizations called on Kentucky’s Gov. Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron to stop ignoring the problem of a vast organized criminal network involved in animal cruelty, illegal gambling, bribery, narcotics trafficking, and other illicit activities.
The organizations provided a litany of examples where highly credible intelligence-gathering had uncovered plans for forthcoming cockfighting derbies at established brick-and-mortar fighting arenas, many with bleacher seating for hundreds, and some Kentucky State Police posts repeatedly ignored these reports of impending criminal gatherings. The letter, sent earlier this week to the Governor and Attorney General, also addressed Public Safety Secretary Kerry Harvey, asking that government leader to uncover why there has been a consistent failure to act on illegal activity.
“With the detailed information we have gathered — showing massive cockfighting complexes violating state and federal anti-cruelty and anti-gambling laws — there’s no excuse for these arenas to host even a single additional fight,” said Steve Hindi, president of SHARK. “My message to Kentucky State Police and to Governor Beshear: uphold the law as you are sworn to do and stop the mayhem and criminality that fester at these animal fighting spectacles.”
For more than two years, Animal Wellness Action has identified major cockfighting breeders throughout the state and released a report showing their illegal cockfighting trafficking activities. You can access Animal Wellness Action’s Kentucky report here.
“It’s bad enough that vicious animal cruelty occurs at cockfights,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “But these are major illegal gambling houses, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in entry fees and illegal wagering at stake. We also know that cockfighting derbies are hotbeds of money laundering, narcotics trafficking, and human-on-human violence.”
We continue to feed law enforcement information about cockfighting, working with SHARK and other organizations to root out the illegal enterprises. Meanwhile, there was a mass shooting on April 15 in the Honolulu area, revealing again the tangle of crimes and violence associated with staged animal fighting. There was a person shot at a Dallas cockfight in March, and numerous other outbursts of violence at cockfights.
Driven by concerns for the barbarism of animal fighting, mass shootings and other crimes comingled with staged animal combat, U.S. Senators and Representatives introduced bipartisan bills to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation crafted by Animal Wellness Action is entitled the Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking (FIGHT) Act.