Congress members' letter calls out shipment of fighting roosters to Guam

FIGHT: Roosters are seen after a cockfight in 2017. The Guam Legislature has stated enforcement of the cockfighting ban is not a top priority. Reuters

Cockfighting was officially illegal on Guam and other territories Dec. 20.

The bill banning the practice became law in 2018 though its effective date was set for this year.

The Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) and Animal Wellness Action (AWA) "urge cockfighters to obey the law," according to a press release.

“We know that feelings run deep in the cockfighting community about their sport,” said Wayne Pacelle, founder of AWA. “But let’s be clear: Continuing to engage in staged fighting is dangerous because the federal felony-level penalties are so severe.”

AWA and AWF said investigators will be on the ground to document illegal cockfighting.

Recently, AWA and AWF announced a rewards program to run for an indefinite time that provides a $2,500 reward for any individual who provides critical information that results in a successful federal prosecution of an individual or set of individuals who violate the federal law against animal fighting (7 U.S.C. § 2156). The rewards program is mentioned on the new campaign website, www.endcockfighting.org, which will serve as a comprehensive resource about the issue and call citizens to action to help.

AWA and AWF obtained hundreds of shipping records from the Guam Department of Agriculture that reveal shipments of birds to the island from known cockfighting operators in the states.

“All of this – the shipments of fighting birds into Guam, the shipment of fighting birds from Guam to other territories and countries, the staged fights at established arenas, the backyard fights, the raising of fighting animals – must end as both a legal and moral imperative,” Pacelle said. “The overwhelming majority of people on Guam and the United States Government oppose staged fights between animals."

The organizations had a local survey done, which found that about 2 out of 10 Guamanians favor cockfighting while 60% of those surveyed oppose it.

Additionally, only 7% of Guamanians have been to a cockfight in the last year. And about 90% of those surveyed believe animal cruelty laws on Guam should be strengthened.

The release notes that under the federal anti-animal fighting law, it is a crime to:

• Knowingly sponsor or exhibit in an animal fighting venture;

• Knowingly attend an animal fighting venture, or knowingly cause 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 use 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.; or

• 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.

The animals rights organizations note that cockfighting seems to be winding down, stating the cockfighting dome in Dededo will no longer be hosting fights.

Additionally, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has said villages should not apply for permission to host cockfights at village fiestas, which has been a part of the annual events for many years.

"She has also said, even though she opposes the federal fighting prohibition, that cockfighters should observe the law. The Guam Cockfighting Licensing Board has disbanded. And this week, a District Court Magistrate Judge on Guam recommended denying a motion for preliminary injunction filed by a local cockfighting enthusiast seeking to enjoin enforcement of the law," the press release states. "That comes two months after a U.S. District Court Judge in Puerto Rico rejected similar legal maneuvers by cockfighting clubs in that U.S. territory."

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