Animal Wellness Action Opposes Proposal to Exclude US Territories From Cockfighting Ban

Guam Delegate James Moylan proposed to repeal a 2018 provision of the National Animal Fighting Law that applied to the U.S. territories, seeking to exempt them from the federal ban on cockfighting in the U.S. However, the animal rights organization Animal Wellness Action (AWA) criticized the attempt of Moylan.

According to AWA, Congress overwhelmingly strengthened the federal law against animal fighting, extending the prohibition to apply to all U.S. territories. The Farm Bill amendment had been approved nearly without any dissent in the House and Senate. Moreover, it had already been illegal for years to ship fighting roosters to Guam, possess animals for fighting, or be a spectator at an animal fighting event.

Many cockfighters in Guam have openly defied the law, continuing illegal cockfights in the nation even with the risk of felony-level penalties. Additionally, a Guam-based cockfighter sued to invalidate the law, however, the U.S. District Court judge based in Guam rejected claims, as did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Similar attempts from cockfighters in Puerto Rico also met unanimous opposition from federal judges.

“Delegate Moylan has made a political and policy misjudgment in seeking to restore legal knife fights between animals on our beautiful island. This pro-cockfighting bill is an embarrassment to Guam. Cockfighting is barbarism, closely tied to gambling crimes, narcotics trafficking, and other lawless behaviors,” said Dr. Thomas Pool, senior veterinarian for AWA and the territorial veterinarian for Guam for 17 years.

Wayne Pacelle, president of AWA, added, “I hope Delegate Moylan’s cockfighting followers understand that his legislation has zero chance of moving an inch in the Congress. In fact, Congress is expected to pass legislation to address cockfighting, but that legislation will toughen the law against animal fighting and allow private citizens to bring civil actions against people breaking our anti-cruelty laws. Cockfighters and dogfighters will now face even more legal jeopardy.”

In May, a number of U.S. Senators also introduced legislation to strengthen the federal law against dogfighting and cockfighting, titling it as the Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking (FIGHT) Act.

Seeking to amend Section 26 of the Animal Welfare Act, the FIGHT Act would enhance enforcement opportunities by banning simulcasts 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.

“For thrills and gambling, dogfighters and cockfighters place animals in pits and goad them to injure, mutilate, and kill. The FIGHT Act will provide more tools to law enforcement to root out this barbarism in the nation and prevent the spillover of violence and mayhem in our communities,” said Pacelle.

Senator Booker, who introduced the FIGHT ACT, stated, “Animal fighting is cruel, illegal, and unacceptable. It’s time we take stronger action to stop these heinous abuses against animals and protect them from being exploited for entertainment and profit. This bill will tighten enforcement to put a stop to illegal animal fighting.”

Senator Kennedy, who co-authored the Bill, also said, “When it comes to dog and cock fights, these abusers are organized and dangerous — to people as well as innocent animals. It’s illegal to hurt God’s creatures for sport, and our bill would give law enforcement more tools to end this widespread abuse.”