The federal ban on cockfighting will take hold on Dec. 20, outlawing the practice in Guam and other U.S. territories.
However, Guam senators – who have also not yet held a public hearing on Sen. Sabina Perez’s Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety Act – have effectively decided to ignore it.
The Legislature has determined that enforcement of the cockfighting ban must be GovGuam’s lowest priority.
Part I of Chapter XIII of the fiscal 2020 budget law states that "enforcement of the federal ban on cockfighting as enacted by the 2018 Farm Bill (U.S. Public Law 115-334) shall be the lowest priority of the government of Guam."
For her part, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero will not be enforcing a ban, according Carlo Branch, the governor's policy director.
Cultural and historical animal violence
The 2018 Farm Bill, enacted in December of that year, imposed a federal ban on cockfighting throughout the territories with a phase-in period of one year. The ban drew serious criticism from some territorial residents and public officials, who argue there is cultural and historical significance to the practice.
"No input from the people of Guam was ever received. As a result, the Guam Legislature passed an amendment that would make spending local funds to enforce this unfunded mandate as the lowest priority for the government of Guam," the Legislature announced in August through the office of Speaker Tina Muña Barnes.
Puerto Rico attempted, unsuccessfully, to challenge the ban in federal court.
A House bill promising to reverse the ban was introduced in February, with Guam Del. Michael San Nicolas signing on as a co-sponsor. But the measure has been sitting in a subcommittee since March.
Governor won’t authorize fiesta cockfights
While Leon Guerrero will not enforce the ban, she did meet with mayors to talk about the looming federal mandate.
In the past, the mayors could seek authorization from the governor to hold cockfighting events during their village fiestas. The ban makes that local legislation moot.
"We did meet with the governor last week and she did mention to us not to send ... the letter," said Mayors Council of Guam President and Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares.
"She did remind us that it is going to be against the law to do this and so she will not authorize it because she doesn't want to break the law," the mayor added.
A concern, since there will be no regulated areas for cockfighting due to the ban, is that people will begin cockfighting in their neighborhoods, Savares said.
Trump: Honor the dignity of God’s creation
On Nov. 25, President Donald Trump made animal cruelty a federal crime by signing into law the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. The law expands the definition to cover any animal that is “purposely crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury.” The bill imposes fines and carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
When signing the bill into law, the president remarked, “This is something that should have happened a long time ago. We have the responsibility to honor the dignity of God’s creation.”