Despite objections from territorial delegates and governors, the ban on cockfighting in the U.S. territories is now federal law.
President Donald Trump signed the $867 billion farm bill into law Thursday in Washington, D.C. Buried within that massive bill is a provision extending the longstanding federal ban on cock and dog fighting to Guam, the CNMI, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"We are entirely supportive of banning cockfighting," said Kitty Block, the acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.
Block told The Guam Daily Post that the ban does not take effect immediately, but instead will be phased in over a period of one year.
Cockfighting, she said, is "a blood sport whose time has come and gone."
Once the ban takes full effect, those who sponsor or exhibit birds in a cockfight face a fine and a maximum prison term of five years. Attending a cockfight would be punishable by a fine and up to one year in prison.
'It's going to hurt'
"It's going to hurt a lot of people" economically, said Dee Greer, who has been selling cockfighting birds on Guam for more than 30 years.
A fighting bird typically sells for $200, Greer said. Fighting birds shipped in from off island go for more.
"It's going to slam the cockers for sure," she said, "and the people who bring in the feed."
The island is in the midst of cockfighting season right now, said Greer.
"The season begins after Thanksgiving and goes on until April, when the birds start to molt," or shed their feathers.
She believes the ban will only drive cockfighting underground.
"What happens when anything gets banned?"
And Greer questions whether anyone will ever be able to enforce the law.
"I don't see how they're going to do this because it's so embedded in the culture."
License board 'out of commission'
Ed Garrido, the chairman of the Cockpit License Board, had his own concerns.
"If it's banned, that puts us out of commission" he said, with a laugh.
The Cockpit License Board for years has been struggling, unsuccessfully, to issue cockfighting licenses and impose a measure of supervision over the widely practiced sport.
He recently told The Guam Daily Post, "There are no valid cockfighting licenses right now." He had hoped the board would meet within a few weeks "so that we can announce a bid" for licenses.
"Now there won't be a need for it," he said. Like Greer, he said he doesn't believe the federal ban will put an end to cockfighting.
"Even if its banned," he said, "I think it will go underground."
When asked how and who would enforce the cockfighting ban, Guam attorney general's spokeswoman Carlina Charfauros said, "This is a federal enforcement matter. Please seek out the U.S. Attorney's Office for answers."
Mae Blas, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said there would be no comment on the matter at this time.