Possible Breakthrough on Illegal Animal Fighting Transports to Guam
by Wayne Pacelle
Guam Agriculture Department director Chelsa Muna-Brecht has publicly announced that the agency will develop import restrictions on the movement of fighting roosters, though the rigor of those limitations is still an open question given the agency’s close association with the U.S. cockfighting community. The move comes after Animal Wellness Action documented a massive, illegal trade in fighting animals from state-based cockfighters to the small U.S. territory in the western Pacific.
Data assembled by Animal Wellness Action revealed a total of 2,138 fighting animals were transported to Guam in 2021 — far exceeding the total numbers of birds shipped in either 2019 or 2020. Over the last five years, Animal Wellness Action documents that 11,323 fighting birds came onto the island through import permits granted by the Department of Agriculture.
The shippers intentionally mischaracterized the birds as “brood fowl” or “show fowl” rather than fighting birds in a transparent act of subterfuge to skirt the federal animal fighting law. Our investigation of Guam’s live-animal shipping records — which included a supplementary examination of industry sources, online research, and satellite imagery of farms raising roosters for fighting — makes it clear that dozens of shippers have knowingly violated federal law, as have the importers on Guam. The vast majority of birds shipped to Guam are males and fighting breeds. 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, making this volume of shipments inexplicable but for the presence of an illegal cockfighting industry on the island.
AWA called on the agency to place a moratorium on the approval of any adult roosters shipped to the island and then to adopt formal standards to be sure that exporters and importers of live animals are not involved in animal-fighting activities.
Animal Wellness Action has called on the Guam Department of Agriculture to terminate a law enforcement officer with the agency who is featured in two cockfighting videos leaked to AWA. The two videos obtained by Animal Wellness Action show the man holding a rooster with blades on his legs in the center of a cockfighting pit, with spectators seated around the center ring and calling outside bets. The man, identified as Ken 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.
All law enforcement officers of the Department of Agriculture, along with other senior officials with the agency, swear 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 move comes after Animal Wellness Action documented a massive, illegal trade in fighting animals from state-based cockfighters to the small U.S. territory in the western Pacific.